The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 7


Staunch old Vainamoinen swam
Out upon the open deeps,
Drifted like a fallen fir log,
Wallowed like a hollow pine stump.
Six long summer days he drifted
And for six nights in a row.
Before him flowed the liquid deep,
Behind him shone the empty heaven.

9 Yet for two more nights he drifted,
Swam for two more weary days. 10
So it was upon the ninth night,
At the end of eight days swimming,
He begins to feel the strain
As he aches all over sorely.
He has even lost his toenails
And his fingers have no joints.

17 Thereupon old Vainamoinen
Put it into words himself:
"Oh, what a miserable man I am,
What a son of sad misfortune 20
To have left my land so lightly,
All those fruitful fields at home,
To drift beneath the open sky,
Be forever on the move,
Rocked along by every wind,
Tossed about by every billow
On these far extending waters,
Out upon the open ocean.
It is cold for me to be here,
Very painful to remain here so
Always living on the seawaves,
On the surface of the sea.

33 "Now I do not even know
How to live or how survive,
In these dreadful days of evil,
In this last and fleeting age.
Must I make my home in wind,
Build my walls upon the water?
"If in the wind I make my home,
In the wind there's no support. 40
If I build upon the water
It will wash away my labor."

43 Out of Lapland flew the bird,
From the northeast soared the eagle -
Not the biggest of the eagles
Nor the smallest eagle either;
One wing grazed the sea below,
The other swept the sky above,
And its tail-tip brushed the water
While its great beak splashed the skerries. 50

51 It flies about, it soars about,
Looks about, hovering over.
Then it saw old Vainamoinen
Struggling on the blue sea surface:
"What, the man is in the sea?
Why, good fellow, in the billows?"

57 From the sea old Vaino answered:
"This is why the man is here,
In the dangers of the deep:
Went to get a girl from Northland, 60
Bring a virgin out of Darkland.

63 "I was driving in a hurry
Out along the open ocean
When upon a certain day
On a certain morning I had
Reached the Bay of Luotola
Where Jouko's river waters run.
There my horse was shot beneath me,
Though the death was meant for me.

71 "So I fell into the water 70
Diving in with fingers foremost
To be wind-rocked, wave-tossed hither.

75 "From the northwest blew a wind,
From the east an angry gale,
And it bore me far away,
Drove me farther from the land.
Many a day now I have drifted,
Many a long night I've been swimming
On these far-extending waters
Out upon the open ocean. 80
Now I have no way of knowing
Nor even any way of guessing
Which of two fates will befall me,
Which will overcome me first:
Dying slowly of starvation
Or drowning underneath the water."
89 Said the eagle, bird of air:
"Let that not dishearten you;
From my wing-tip climb up here
Till you're settled on my shoulder. 90
I will take you from the sea
Wherever you may want to go.
I remember a certain day
In that earlier happy time
When you cut down Osmo's clearing,
Burned off the woods of Kaleva.
You had left a birch tree standing,
Such a graceful tree uncut
For the birds to rest upon,
For myself a perching place." 100

103 Thereupon old Vainamoinen
Raised his crown above the water;
Out of the sea the man arose
Climbing from among the billows
To the wing-tip of the bird,
To the shoulder of the eagle.

109 So the eagle, bird of air,
Soaring up with Vainamoinen,
Took him on the windward way,
On Ahava, the cold spring wind, 110
To the far back fields of Northland,
Up among the fogs of Sedgeland.
There he dropped old Vainamoinen,
And soared back up to the sky.

117 There old Vainamoinen wept,
There he wept and there lamented,
Alone upon an unknown shore
In a place without a name;
On his flanks a hundred wounds,
A thousand windburns on his shoulders, 120
With his beard badly worn
And his long hair in a tangle.

125 He lamented two nights, three nights,
And as many days lamented;
Did not know what road to follow,
What direction he should take,
How to go to get back home
To those dear familiar landscapes,
Places known to him from birth,
Those dear harvest fields of home. 130

133 The tiny serving maid of Northland,
Woman very fair complected,
Made a compact with the sun,
With the sun and with the moon,
All to waken at the same time
And to get up all together,
But she was up before the others,
Before the moon, before the sun,
Before the crowing of the cock,
Before the singing of the cockerel.

143 Five full fleeces she had sheared
And from six sheep clipped the wool,
And the wool she wove to homespun,
All of it to cloth had woven
Long before the day was breaking,
Long before the sun had wakened.

149 Then she washed the long board tables
And she swept the large, wide floor,
Swept it with a sauna slapper,
With that leafy little broom. 150
Then she gathered up the sweepings,
Put them in a copper basket;
Carried them out through the door,
To the field beyond the yard,
To the very rearmost field,
To an opening in the fence.
By the rubbish heap she stood,
Listening, turning here and there;
Hears a moaning from the sea
Over the rippling of the river. 160

163 Running, she whisked off to tell it,
Tell it in the common room.
She related when she got there,
She announced upon her coming:
"I heard a moaning from the sea
Over the rippling of the river."

169 Louhi, mistress of Pohjola,
She the sparse-tooth dame of Northland,
Instantly ran out-of-doors
To the gateway of the farmyard, 170
Where she cupped her ear to listen.
Then she murmured to herself:
"That cry is no childish crying
Nor a woman's shrill complaining;
That cry comes from a bearded mouth-
Some hair-chin must be wailing."

179 She pushed a boat out in the water,
A three-planker on the billows.
She herself began to row,
Started rowing in a hurry, 180
Rowing out to Vainamoinen,
Close up to the crying fellow.

185 There he wept, old Vainamoinen,
Suitor come from Quiet Water,
By a scraggy willow brook
In a clump of chokecherry trees.
His mouth was moving, beard wagging -
But his chin, it did not quiver.

191 Said the old dame to him teasing:
"Oho, you old duffer you, 190
Now you're really in a strange land."

195 He raised his head at this and answered:
"That much I already know,
That I'm in a foreign country
Utterly unknown to me.
I was better off at home,
More respected in my homeland."

203 Louhi, mistress of Pohjola,
Now began to probe the stranger:
"May I take the liberty, 200
Have permission to inquire,
As a man just who are you,
Of what standing as a person?"

209 Vainamoinen answered mildly:
"I was somewhat celebrated,
Well-accounted in my time,
As an evening merrymaker,
As a singer in the valleys,
There on Vainola's burned clearings,
On the heaths of Kalevala. 210
Now I scarcely know myself,
My condition is so wretched."

219 Then the old dame urged him up:
"Get up, man, from that wallow,
Turn your mind to nearer matters
Such as telling me your troubles,
Stories of those odd adventures."

225 So she stirred him from his weeping,
Turned the fellow from his wailing.
Then she led him to her boat, 220
Seated him there at the stern.
She herself took up the oars
As she set herself to rowing,
Rowed across to Pohjola,
Took the stranger to her house.

233 There she fed the hungry stranger,
Dried the wet one and massaged him,
Rubbed him down and poulticed him
Till she brought him back to health
And the fellow had recovered. 230
In the meantime she was hinting
Till she put the final question:
"Why were you crying, Vainamoinen,
Moaning, man of Quiet Water,
Yonder in that awful place,
On the shore there by the sea?"

245 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Said a word and spoke out thus:
"Cause enough there is for weeping,
Troubles enough for this complaining. 240
Far too long I swam the seas,
Shovelling there among the rollers
On the far extending waters,
Out upon the open ocean.

253 "This is why I'll grieve forever,
Sorrowing my whole life long
That I ever left my country,
Deserted dear familiar places
To end up at alien doors,
Homesick at the gates of strangers. 250
Every tree is snapping at me,
All the spruces lashing at me;
Every birch tree bruises me,
Every alder cuts at me.
Only the wind is known to me,
And the sun I've seen before
In these far-off foreign lands,
At these utterly strange doors.

267 Louhi, mistress of Pohjola,
Put the matter into words: 260
"Do not weep now, Vainamoinen,
Moan, you man of Quiet Water.
Living here should be a pleasure;
Pass your time in easy comfort,
Feast on salmon from a platter
With a dish of pork beside it."

275 Thereupon old Vainamoinen
Gave his answer in a proverb:
"However well one dines with strangers,
That's no healing for the homesick. 270
A man is better off at home,
More respected in his homeland.
May the good God in his mercy
See me safely to my country,
Those dear harvest fields of home.
Water's better drunk at home,
Even from a birchbark shoe,
Than honey mead from golden bowls
At a stranger's sumptuous table."

289 Louhi, mistress of Pohjola, 280
Said a word and spoke out thus:
"So, what will you give me then
If I see you safely home,
See you to your homeland meadows,
Even to your very sauna?"

295 Vainamoinen answered shrewdly:
"What then will you want of me,
If you see me safely home,
See me to my homeland meadows,
To the singing of my cuckoo, 290
Where my lucky bird is calling?
What of a peaked hat full of gold,
Felt hat full of silver pieces?"

303 Louhi, mistress of Pohjola,
Said a word and spoke out thus:
"Oho, you wise old Vainamoinen,
You, all-knowing seer eternal!
I'm not asking for your gold,
Nor desirous of your silver;
Gold is good for children's gewgaws, 300
Silver fit for jingling horsebells.
Can you hammer out the Sampo,
Make it with its ciphered cover,
Make it from a swan's quill point,
From the milk of farrow cow,
From a single barleycorn,
From a single fleece of ewe?
Then I'll let you have my daughter,
Give the maiden as your payment,
And I'll see you safely home 310
To the singing of your cuckoo,
Where your lucky bird is calling
In your home fields far away."

323 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Said a word and spoke out thus:
"I can't hammer out the Sampo
Nor inscribe the ciphered cover.
If you send me to my country,
I will send you Ilmarinen
Who can hammer out your Sampo 320
And inscribe the ciphered cover.
He's the man to please a maiden
And to satisfy your daughter.

333 "He's a smith extraordinary,
The most skillful of all craftsmen,
Who hammered out the vault of heaven,
Forged the sky-lid there above us
Without leaving mark of hammer
Or a trace of tongs upon it."

339 Louhi, mistress of Pohjola, 330
Said a word and spoke out thus:
"I will only give my daughter,
Promise my own child to him
Who will hammer out the Sampo
And inscribe the ciphered cover,
Make it from a swan's quill point,
From the milk of farrow cow,
From a single barleycorn,
From a single fleece of ewe."

349 Then a colt she harnessed quickly, 340
Hitched the brown horse to a sleigh,
Led old Vainamoinen to it,
Sat him there behind the stallion.
Then she put it into words
As she firmly cautioned him:
"Keep your head down as you travel,
Do not even lift your crown up
Lest your stallion get exhausted
And the night come on too quickly.
If indeed you raise your head, 350
Even show the crown of it,
Some disaster will befall you
And an evil day come on you."

363 Thereupon old Vainamoinen
Whipped his stallion to a gallop
Till its flaxen mane was flying
As he rattled off and away
From the murky shades of Northland,
From the foggy fields of Sedgeland.


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