The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 6


Old reliable Vainamoinen
Now declared that he was going
Yonder to that cold north village,
To that gloomy Pohjola.

5 So he took his straw-hued stallion,
Took his pea-stalk colored1 racer,
Put a bit in his darling's mouth,
Bridle on his dear one's head.
Sat himself upon its back,
Quickly with his thighs astride; 10
Rides on at an easy pace
As he measures off the distance,
Trotting on his straw-hued stallion,
On his pea-stalk colored racer.

13 Crossed the glades of Vainola
And the heaths of Kalevala:
Ran the racer, hurried onward,
Home behind him, journey shortened.
Then upon the sea he rode,
Out upon the open ocean- 20
Not a single hoof was wetted,
Not a hock was even dampened.

23 There young Joukahainen waited,
He the lanky lad of Lapland,
Still retained a hot resentment,
Long enduring jealousy,
Jealousy of Vainamoinen,
He, the great eternal singer.

29 He had made a swift new crossbow-
And so beautifully Grafted. 30
The bow he fashioned out of iron
And the back he cast of copper,
Beautifully ornamented,
Gold inlaid, adorned with silver.

35 Where to get a bowstring for it,
Find a tendon tough enough?
From the devil's flaxen rope,
Sinews of the demon's elk.

39 When he got the bow adjusted
Then the crossbow was quite ready. 40
What a handsome bow it was!
And it cost a goodly sum:
On the back a horse was standing,
On the shaft a colt was running,
On the bow a maid reclining,
And a hare beside the trigger.

47 Then he whittled out the arrows,
Heap of triple-feathered arrows.
All the shafts he made of oakwood
And the heads of pitchy pine. 50
As he whittles out the shafts
He then feathers each in turn
With the swallow's little feathers
And tailfeathers of the sparrow.

55 Next the points with fire he hardened
And he made them deadly-biting
With the black juice of the worm
And the venom of the viper.

59 Got his club-head bolts in order,
Strung his bow-and then he waited, 60
Waited for old Vainamoinen,
For the man of Quiet Water:
Watched at evening, watched at morning,
Watching even through the mid-day.

65 Long he watched for Vainamoinen,
Waited long, but did not tire,
Sitting looking out of windows,
Keeping vigil at the stair top;
Listening stealthily at lane ends,
Staring round the open meadows, 70
With his quiver on his back
And his bow beneath his arm.

73 Then he waited farther off
Over by another homestead
On the tip-end of a headland
In a narrow cape-land's curving,
On the brink of foaming rapids
Close upon the sacred river.

79 So upon a certain day,
After waiting many a morrow, so
He was gazing round to northwest
When he glanced about to southward;
Seemed to see a dark spot floating,
Something blue upon the billows.
"Could it be a cloud to eastward
Or the dawn-glow from the northeast?"

87 It was not an eastward cloud
Nor the dawn-glow from the northeast.
It was staunch old Vainamoinen,
Vainamoinen, poet immortal, 90
On his way to Pohjola,
Travelling to that land of darkness,
Riding on his straw-hued stallion,
On his pea-stalk colored racer.

95 Now at once young Joukahainen,
He, the lanky lad of Lapland,
Got his swift new crossbow ready,
Snatched the handsome bow and aimed it
At the head of Vainamoinen,
To kill the man of Quiet Water. 100

101 But his mother interrupted,
Just in time she got to ask him:
"Whom can you be aiming at,
Aiming with your iron bow?"

105 And the young man boldly answered:
"This is whom I'm aiming at,
Aiming with my iron bow:

At the head of Vainamoinen,
To kill the man of Quiet Water.
I will shoot old Vainamoinen, 110
Eternal singer, so immortal,
Through the heart, through the liver,
Through the muscles of his shoulder."

115 But his mother tried to stop him,
Firmly speaking she forbade him:
"Do not shoot our Vainamoinen,
Kill the man of Kalevala.
He is of a mighty clan
Related through my brother-in-law.

121 "If you shoot down Vainamoinen, 120
Kill the man of Kalevala,
From this world all joy will vanish,
On this earth all music cease.
Joy is better in this world,
Singing better suits this earth
Than it does the Underworld
In the shades of Tuonela."

129 At these words young Joukahainen
Tried to think the matter over
And it stopped him for a while: 130
His hands are undecided now,
One says "go", the other "no",
Till his finger muscles ache.

135 Finally he made his mind up
And expressed his rash decision:
"Let all the joys of this world vanish,
Let them vanish two times over -
Yea, let all the music cease!
I will shoot, no holding back."

141 So he set his fire-swift crossbow, 140
Pulling up the copper roller
Firmly braced against his left knee,
Right foot holding down the bow.
Drew an arrow from his quiver,
Quiver made of triple shank skin;
Took the finest feathered shaft,
Chose the fastest-flying arrow;
This he fitted to the groove,
Notched it to the flaxen bowstring.

151 Straightening his swift new crossbow, 150
Raised it to his lean right shoulder,
And aligned it for the shot,
Aimed to shoot old Vainamoinen.
To his bow addressed these words:
"Strike out now and strike with power,
Bended birch and hard-backed pine.
Sling it far, my flaxen bowstring!
If my hand is too low down,
So far let the arrow rise;
If my hand goes up too high, 160
So far drop the arrow lower."

163 With a flick he loosed the trigger,
Shot the first one of his arrows.
But it flew up far too high,
Overhead up to the heavens,
Up among the scattered clouds
To mingle with the circling cloudlets.

169 He shot but did not hit the mark.
Then he shot the second arrow,
But it flew down far too low, 170
Down into our Mother Earth-
She, wishing for the Underworld,
As the gritty ground was splitting.

175 Right away he shot the third one,
And the third one found its mark
In the withers of the blue elk4
Under ancient Vainamoinen -
Jouko shot the straw-hued stallion,
Hit the pea-stalk colored racer
Through the flesh of his left shoulder iso
In a spot behind the foreleg.

183 Headlong Vainamoinen tumbled-
Fingers foremost in the sea
And his hand turned in the wave,
As in the foam his fists were fumbling -
Tumbled from the blue elk's back,
From the pea-stalk colored racer.

189 Then a mighty wind arose,
Blew the sea to angry billows
And it bore old Vainamoinen 190
Drifting farther out to sea,
On those far-extending waters
Out upon the open ocean.

195 Then young Joukahainen boasted,
Boasted with a bragging tongue:
"Never again, old Vainamoinen,
Never with your living eyes -
Never, never, forever never -
Never in the golden moonlight
Will you walk Vainola's clearings 200
Or the heaths of Kalevala.

203 "Bubble there for six long years,
Soak around for seven summers,
Bob about for eight full years
On those far-extending waters
Out upon the open ocean.
Drift for six years like a fir log,
Seven like a hollow pine,
Eight years like a sawed-off stump."

211 Then the young man went inside 210
Where his mother straightway asked him:
"Have you now shot Vainamoinen,
Killed the son of Kaleva?"

215 Thereupon young Joukahainen
Answered in these boastful words:
"Yes, already I have shot him,
Killed the son of Kaleva.
Threw him in to comb the sea,
Sweep the waves along the ocean.
Right into the sea he went- 220
There all mixed up in the billows
Went the old man, fingers foremost,
On his palms he pivoted,
Twisted over on his side,
Then he settled on the surface
Riding on the restless rollers,
Tumbling on the tossing tides."

229 Cried his mother in distress:
"You did evil, wretched boy,
When you shot down Vainamoinen, 230
Slew the chief of Kalevala,
That great man of Quiet Water,
Dearest of the Kalevalanders."


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