The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 50


Marjatta, the beautiful,
For a long time grew at home
In her high-born father's house,
In her loving mother's chambers.
Five fine key chains she wore out,
And she wore out six good key rings
Of her father's many keys
Shining, jingling from her girdle.

9 And she wore out half the doorsill
With her brightly colored skirt hem, 10
Half the lintel overhead
With her smooth and silken ribbons,
Half the door jambs with her sleeve ends,
And the floorboards with the heels
Of her shoes with fancy uppers.

17 Marjatta, the beautiful,
She the little, dainty maiden,
Kept her virgin state untarnished
And her beauty all unblemished.
Always ate the nicest fish 20
And the softest pine bark bread;
Would not even taste of hen's eggs,
Hens that chanticleer had mounted;
Would not eat the flesh of ewes,
Any ewe a ram had mounted.

27 Even though her mother asked her,
She refused to do the milking,
And she said so in these words:
"No girl such as I would do it,
Touch the teats of any cow, 30
Any cow a bull had mounted -
It can't be unless the calves
Or the heifers trickle milk."

35 When her father ordered her
To hitch the stallion to the sleigh,
She would not hitch up the stallion.
When her brother brought a mare,
She said: "I won't hitch a horse,
Any mare a stud has mounted-
It can't be unless the foals 40
Or the month-olds do the pulling."

43 Marjatta, the beautiful,
Always living as a virgin,
As a slender bashful maiden
Lovely with her braided hair,
Had become a shepherdess
With a flock of sheep around her.

49 On the hill the sheep were grazing,
On the ridge the lambs were playing,
While she, roaming in the clearings, 50
Brushing lightly through the alders,
Heard a golden cuckoo calling,
Silver cuckoo sweetly singing.

55 Listening, she gazed about her,
Sat down in a berry patch,
Resting on the sunny hillside.
There she calls back to the singer:
"Sing, O sing, you golden cuckoo,
Call out loudly, silver cuckoo,
Let your clear-voiced notes ring out. 60
Saxon strawberry, tell me, tell me:
Shall I long go woolly-headed,
Long time as a shepherdess
On these wide and open clearings,
In these vast and leafy woodlands;
Summers two, or five, six summers,
Maybe even for ten summers,
Or perhaps it will be sooner?"

73 Marjatta, the beautiful,
Stayed a shepherdess too long. 70
It is hard to be a shepherdess,
Overmuch for any girl-child.
Snakes are slithering in the grasses,
Lizards wriggling here and there.

79 There's no slithering snake, no lizard,
But a berry calling from the hillside,
Lingonberry from the heath:
"Come, good maiden, come and pluck me,
Rosy-cheeked one, come and reap me,
Clear-voiced maiden, come to pick me, so
You, the copper-belted, choose me,
Now before a slug devours me,
Ere the black worm comes to eat me.
A hundred come to look me over,
A thousand just to sit beside me,
A hundred girls, a thousand women,
And the children without number -
None would touch me, no one pick me."

95 She went up to see the berry,
Pick the reddish lingonberry, 90
Pluck it with her dainty fingers,
With her slender hands so lovely.

101 She found the berry on the hill,
Red lingonberry on the heath.
It's a berry in appearance,
Lingonberry by the shape,
On a tree too high for picking
Yet too low to climb up after.

107 From the heath she snatched a stick,
With it knocked the berry down. 100
Then the berry started climbing
Up onto her lovely shoe top,
From her shoe top to her knee,
From her white knee to her apron.

115 Then it moved up to her waistband,
From the waistband to her bosom,
From her bosom to her chin,
From her chin up to her lips.
Then it slid into her mouth,
Tumbled quickly to her tongue, 110
From her tongue into her throat,
From her throat into her stomach.

123 After that she was contented,
And she felt herself fulfilled.
Then she put on weight, grew stouter.

127 So she let her waistband out,
Lounged about without a belt;
Went in secret to the sauna,
Doing hidden things in darkness.

131 And her mother pondered, wondered: 120
"What is wrong with our Marjatta,
With our good, home-loving chicken,
Since she let her waistband out,
Started dressing without a belt;
Going in secret to the sauna,
Doing hidden things in darkness?"

139 Here a child began to speak,
A little infant to explain:
"This is wrong with Marjatta
This indeed the matter with her - 130
She roamed as a shepherdess too long,
Lived too long among the cattle."

145 She bore her hard womb, her full belly,
Carried it for seven, eight months,
Bore it altogether nine months,
And, according to the old wives,
Halfway through into the tenth month.

151 So upon the tenth month then,
The virgin's birth pangs came upon her;
The contractions of her womb 140
Wrack her in an aching anguish.

155 She asked her mother for a sauna:
"O my mother, my beloved!
Make a warm place ready for me,
Warm room for a maiden's refuge,
Room for a woman's safe confinement."

161 But instead her mother burst out:
"Woe to you, you whore of Hiisi!
Tell me whose bed partner are you,
Married man or unmarried?" 150

167 Patiently the maiden answered:
"Neither married man nor unmarried.
I went berrying on the hill,
Went to pick a lingonberry.
Eagerly I took the berry;
Next I put it on my tongue
And it slid into my throat
And slipped down into my stomach.
That contented and fulfilled me,
And from that my womb was full." 160

179 She asked her father for a sauna:
"O my father, my beloved!
Make a warm place ready for me,
Small room for a weak one's refuge,
Where a girl may bear her birth pangs."

185 But her father answered curelly:
"Go away, you whore, you hussy,
Shameless hussy fit for hellfire
To the rocky caves of bruin,
Stony chambers of the bear; 170
There, you whore, to do your birthing,
Yean your young, you hell's own hussy."

193 She replied, thus prophesying:
"I'm no whore fit for hellfire,
I'm the bearer of the Great One,
Deliverer of the Sacred Birth,
Man-child who will rule the rulers,
Even rule old Vainamoinen."

201 Now the girl was in dilemma,
Where to go, where find refuge, 180
Whom to askabout a sauna?
Then she said to her small handmaid:
"Piltti, smallest of my maids,
Best of all my hired helpers,
Go and find a sauna for me;
Ask the villagers of Sedgebrook
Where a weak one may find comfort
And a girl may bear her suffering.
Go on quickly, hurry, hurry,
For the utmost speed is needed." 190

213 Said the little serving maid:
"But of whom shall I inquire,
Beg to give you this good comfort?"

217 Said Marjatta: "Ask of Ruotus
Living on the edge of Sedgebrook."

221 Piltti-ready to obey,
Willing without any urging,
Nimble with no need of orders -
Went out like a whiff of mist,
Like a puff of smoke outdoors; 200
Picked her hem up in her hand,
Held her clothing in her fist
As she ran and hurried on
Toward the home of ugly Ruotus.
Hills were ringing as she went,
Mountains quaking as she climbed them,
Pine cones bouncing on the moorland,
Gravel flying on the marshes.
She arrived at Ruotus' house,
Went into his log-built cabin. 210

237 Ugly Ruotus sat at table,
Eating, drinking like the great ones,
Dressed up in a linen shirt,
In a shirt of purest linen.

241 Ruotus grunted from his feeding,
Snarled .out from behind his dish:
"What are you saying, you mean creature,
Running round here for, you wretch?"

245 And the little Piltti answered:
"I am asking for a sauna, 220
Sauna from the Sedgebrook village
Where a poor girl might find comfort,
And the help is badly needed."

251 The ugly wife of ugly Ruotus
Comes in with her arms akimbo,6
Flounced about where the floorboards meet
In the center of the floor
As she questioned little Piltti:
"Who's the one you want the bath for,
Who is it you're sniveling for?" 230

259 And the little Piltti answered:
"I am asking for our Marjatta."

261 Said the ugly wife of Ruotus:
"There's no sauna here for strangers
At the mouth of sedgy brook.
There's a bath on Burntover Hill
In a horse barn in the firwood
Where the whore of Hell may lie-in,
Bad one go to bear her child.
When the horse blows out its breath, 240
Let her take her sauna there."

271 Little Piltti ran back home
And repeated what was told her:
"There's no bathhouse in the village,
No sauna there at sedgy brook.
Ruotus' mistress said these words:
'There's no sauna here for strangers,
At the mouth of sedgy brook.
There's a bath on Burntover Hill
In a horse barn in the firwood 250
Where the whore of Hell may lie-in,
Bad one go to bear her child.
When the horse blows out its breath,
Let her take her sauna there.'
So it is, that's what she said,
Ifs all the answer I received."

289 Marjatta now broke down weeping:
"I must go now as a hireling,
As a boughten slave of yore
Yonder to Burntover Hill, 260
To the clearing in the firwood."

297 Then she gathered up her skirt,
Holding up her hem for running;
Took a slapper for some shade,
Lovely spray of leaves for shelter.
On she ran despite her pains
To the horse barn in the firwood,
To the barn on Tapio's hill.

305 She says these words, these sentences:
"Come, Creator, be my refuge, 270
Be my help, thou Merciful,
In these toils, these times of sorrow.
Come relieve me from my labor,
Free a woman from her womb-ache
Lest she sink beneath her burden,
Perish in her painful labors."

315 When she got there to the horse barn,
She besought the good horse meekly:
"Let your breath blow over me,
Puffing vapor on my belly; 280
Breathe out sauna heat to warm me
That this weak one may be strengthened,
For my need is very urgent."

323 Then the good horse breathed on her,
Draft colt breathes out in deep puffs,
Puffed out sauna vapor on her,
On the belly of the sick one.
Where the good horse huffed out heavily,
Vapor rose, as wlien thrown water
Hits the hot stones in a sauna. 290

329 Marjatta, the lowly maiden,
She, the holy little maiden,
Took that sauna bath with pleasure
As the vapor soothed her belly.
She brought forth a little infant,
Bore a sturdy little man-child
On the soft hay of the manger,
In the manger of the long-mane.

337 Then she washed and swaddled him,
Took the man-child on her knees, 300
Held her son upon her lap.

341 But she hid him from the people,
Cared for him, her lovely one,
Golden apple, staff-of silver.
At her breast she suckled him,
In caressing hands she held him.

347 Set the babe upon her knees,
Held the infant on her lap.
She began to stroke his head
And to smooth his infant hair. 310

351 From her knee he disappeared,
From her lap the child had vanished.

353 Marjatta, in agony,
Rushes out to search for him,
Her little boy, her precious one,
Golden apple, staff of silver,
Searching under milling millstone,
Even under running runner,8
Underneath the sifting sieve,
Underneath the carrying bucket. 320
She went searching everywhere,
Shaking trees and spreading hay,
Picking through the slender haystalks.

365 Long and everywhere she sought him,
Sought her little son, her dear one;

Searched on hills and through the pine groves,
Under stumps and through the heather,
Over every heathery moorland,
Brushing through the undergrowth,
Digging under junipers, 330
Even straightening out tree branches.

373 She is pondering as she goes,
As she wanders here and there.
On her way Star comes upon her;
Bowing down to Star she says:
"Oh Star, Jumala's creation!
Do you know my little boy,
Where he is, my golden apple?"

381 Star responded to her meanly:
"If I knew I would not tell you. 340
It is he himself who made me
For these trying times of evil,
To shine out in the cold up here
And to twinkle through the darkness."

387 She is pondering as she goes,
As she wanders here and there.
On her way Moon comes upon her;
Bowing down to Moon she says:
"Oh Moon, Jumala's creation!
Do you know my little boy, 350
Where he is, my golden apple?"

395 Moon knew how to answer her:
"If I knew I would not tell you.
It is he himself who made me
For these trying times of evil,
Put me here to keep night vigil
And to sleep away the daytime."

401 She is pondering as she goes,
As she wanders here and there.
On her way Sun comes upon her; 360
Bowing down to Sun she says:
"Oh Sun, Jumala's creation!
Do you know my little boy,
Where he is, my golden apple?"

409 sun responded to her kindly:
"Certainly I know your son.
It is he himself who made me,
Created me for these good times,
Put me here to jingle golden,
Shed my showers of tinkling silver. 370

415 "Certainly, unhappy mother,
Well I know your little man-child.
But your son, your golden apple,
Has, alas, encountered evil:
Sunken waist-deep in the swamp,
To his armpits on the heath."

421 Marjatta, the lowly maiden,
Searches for him in the swamp;
There she found him in the fen9
And from there she brought him home. 380

425 He was growing up so handsome,
Beautiful son of Marjatta.
No one knew what name to give him,
Knew the proper name to call him.
Mother would call him Little Flower,
Others call him Good-for-nothing.

431 So they hunted for a christener,
Looked for someone to baptize him.
An old man came forth to do it,
Virokannas10 to baptize him. 390

435 But the old man then objected:
"I won't christen one possessed,
Will not baptize this poor wretch,
Not until he's well-examined
And a judgement has been given."

441 Who should be the one to judge him,
To examine and to judge him?
Old reliable Vainamoinen,
Eternal knower, he was chosen
To examine and to judge him. 400

447 Vainamoinen gave his judgement:
"Since the boy came from a fen,
Sired by a berry of the earth,
Let him be put in the earth
There beside the berry patch,
Or then taken to the swamp,
Hit on the head there with a club."

455 But the boy, the half-month old one,
Fortnight infant, cried out boldly:
"O you miserable old man, 410
Miserable old man, you stupid,
What a muddle you have made
Of both judgement and the law:
Not for greater crimes committed
Nor the stupidest wrongdoing
Were you taken to a fen,
Hit on the head there with a club
When you yourself as a younger man
Pledged the daughter of your mother"
As a ransom for your own head 420
Just to save yourself from danger.

469 "And again you were not punished,
Were not taken to a fen
When you as a younger man
Drove those gentle girls distracted
To their deaths beneath the waves
On the black ooze of the bottom."12

475 So the old man baptized him,
Gladly christened this good child,
King and lord of all Karelia, 430
As the guardian over all.

479 Vainamoinen, shamed and angry,
Walked away down to the seashore.
There he sang his last enchantment:
Conjured up a copper boat,
Closed-in vessel decked with copper.

487 There he sat, steering seaward
Out upon the clear sea surface.
As he sailed he went on speaking,
And he said as he was leaving: 440
"Let the rope of time run out-
One day go, another come-
And again I will be needed.
They'll be waiting, yearning for me
To bring back another Sampo,
To invent another harp,
Set a new moon in the sky,
Free a new sun in the heavens
When there is no moon, no sun
And no gladness on the earth." 450

501 So old Vainamoinen sailed,
Sailed out in his copper vessel,
In his winged copper boat,
To the upper worldly regions,
To the lowest levels of the heavens.

507 There he halted with his vessel,
Rested weary in his boat.
But he left his harp behind,
Graceful instrument to Finland,
Joy eternal to the nation 460
And the great songs to its children.


513 Now I ought to shut my mouth
And tie my tongue up tightly,
Stop the singing of the song
And the echoing of my voice.
Even a horse will lose its breath,
Winded by too long a journey,
And a scythe will lose its sharpness
After cutting hay all summer;
Water wearies of long running 470
Through the windings of the river,
And an ember will die out
After burning all night long.
So why should a poem not weary,
Fragile verses tire of tinkling
Through the long delights of evening,
From the songs at set of day?

529 So I've heard it as a saying,
But there is a different version:
'Not even the swiftest rapids 480
Ever runs out all its water,
Nor does any expert singer
Ever pour out all his wisdom.
To hold back a song is better
Than to cut it short halfway.'

537 So I'll cease and stop and end it,
In a ball I'll wind my verses,
Twist them in a tangled skein;
Put them in the storehouse loft,
Bolted there in bony locks 490
That they cannot be released,
Never, never be untangled
Till the bones themselves are loosened,
Teeth pulled out and jaws pried open
And the tongue be freed once more.

549 What of it then if I warble,
Babble out a string of verses,
If I sing in every valley,
Wail about in every firwood?
My mother's dead, my own one sleeping, 500
So my dear one is not listening ,
Nor my loved one here to teach me.
Only fir trees listen to me,
Only pine boughs left to teach me;
Tenderness I get from birch leaves
And caresses from the rowan.

561 I have been without a mother-
As a little boy I lost her -
Like a lark on stone abandoned,
Like a small thrush on a cairn; 510
Left to sing there as a lark bird,
To complain there like a thrush
In the cold care of a stranger,
Mercy of a mean stepmother:
Put me out, a helpless orphan,
On the wind side of the house,
Coldest corner of the cabin
For cold Ahava to take me,
For the wind to blow away.

575 Like a lark I strayed afar, 520
Like a wayward bird I wandered,
Hovered about here and yonder,
Felt the bite of every wind,
Learned to know each raging gale,
Shivering, crying in the cold.

583 Now indeed there's many a one,
Many a one who scolds at me,
Speaks to me in angry accents,
Sharply in a voice unfriendly.
Someone finds fault with my voicing, 530
Someone curses out my accent;
Someone says I'm out of rhythm
And my singing's out of tune,
That I sang too much and badly,
That my verse is badly turned.

593 Do not think it odd, good people,
That a child should sing too much,
Such a little one pipe badly.
I have never been instructed
Nor have learned in wizard lands, 540
Borrowed charm-words from outsiders
Nor my spells from far-off places.

601 All the others learned from teachers,
But I could not leave my home;
As my mother's only helper,
Could not leave her there all lonely.
So at home I learned my lessons
Under the rafters of our workroom,
There between my mother's distaff
And my brother's pile of whittlings, 550
Even that when I was little,
Small boy in a ragged shirt.

611 But however that may be,
I have skied a trail for singers,
Skied the trail, snapped the brush tips,
Broke the branches, showed the way.
That way now will run the future,
On the new course, cleared and ready
For new poets of greater power,
Singing songs of mightier magic 560
For the rising younger people,
For the new and growing nation.

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