The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 8


Oh! She was fair, that northern maiden,
Famed afar on land and sea!
Sat upon the rainbow's rim,
Shimmered on the shaft of heaven,
Radiant in her washen raiment,
In her white and shining raiment,
Busy weaving cloth of gold,
Carefully the silver threading,
Weaving with a golden shuttle
And a weaver's reed of silver. 10

11 Swooped the shuttle to and fro,
Bobbed the bobbin back and forth,
With the brazen heddles humming
And the silver batten squeaking
As she wove the cloth of gold,
Carefully the silver threading.

17 Old and steady Vainamoinen,
Coasting homeward in his sleigh,
Coming from dim Pohjola,
From the foggy fields of Sedgeland, 20
Drove a stretch and drove on farther.
Overhead he heard a humming,
Heard the whirring of a shuttle.

25 He lifted up his head and looked,
Stared up at the sky above:
How beautiful the bow in heaven!
On the bow a maiden seated;
She is weaving cloth of gold,
Nimbly weaving cloth of silver.

31 Old and steady Vainamoinen 30
Suddenly whoa'd his horse and halted;
There he put it in these words,
He himself spoke out and said:
"Come into my sleigh, good maiden,
Down here in my little sled."

37 In these words the maiden answered,
And herself replying asked him:
"Why a maiden in your sleigh,
Girl into your little sled?"

41 Old and steady Vainamoinen 40
Parried that with this reply:
"This is why I want a maiden,
Virgin in my little sled:
Why? To bake the honey bread,
Be the brewer of my beer,
Make music with me on the benches
And to gladden all the windows
On the farms of Vainola,
The estates of Kalevala."

51 But to that the maiden answered, 50
She herself spoke out and chatted:
"I went to the field of madder,
Skipping on the yellow heather
Yesterday at set of sun,
In the evening, in the twilight.
In a grove a bird was singing,
Fieldfare3 warbling from a thicket,
And it sang of daughter wishes
And of daughter-in-law desires.

61 "So I worded my dilemma, 60
And I asked the bird this question:
'O you fieldfare, little darling!
Chirp your secret in my ear:
Which is better, more respected,
For a daughter to remain
With her father, or to be
A daughter-in-law beside her husband?'

69 "First the titmouse4 gave his knowledge,
Then the fieldfare called out chirping:
'Summer days are happy days 70
But girlhood days much happier;
The iron frost is cold, yet colder
Still the lot of daughter-in-law.
A daughter in her father's house
Is like a berry in a garden;
A daughter-in-law beside her man
Is like a hound dog on a leash.
Rarely slaves receive affection,
But a daughter-in-law, never."

81 Old reliable Vainamoinen 80
Brushed this off disdainfully:
"Nonsense all that tomtit tattle,
Silly all the fieldfare chirping!
A daughter is a child at home,
A woman only when she's wedded.
Come into my sleigh, good maiden,
Down beside me in my sled!
I am not a worthless man
Nor less capable than others."

91 Skillfully the damsel answered 90
As she spoke these wily words:
"Then I'd know you for a man,
Take you for a worthy fellow,
If you split a horsehair neatly
With a knife without a point,
Tie an egg into a knot -
And the knot invisible."

99 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Split the horsehair, split it neatly
With a knife without a point, 100
Without a point of any kind;
Tied an egg into a knot,
In a knot invisible.
Asked the girl into his sleigh,
Called her to his little sled.

107 Cunningly the girl replied:
"Maybe I will come when you
Peel off birchbark from a stone,
Break a fence rail from an iceberg
Without splitting off a splinter, 110
Without cracking off a crumb."

113 For the wizard Vainamoinen
This was no great trick at all:
Peeled the birchbark from a stone,
Broke a fence rail from an iceberg
Without splitting off a splinter,
Without cracking off a crumb.
Asked the girl into his sleigh,
Down into his cozy sled.

121 Cunningly the maiden answers 120
And she says it in these words:
"I would only go to someone
With the skill to build a boat"
From the splinters of my spindle,
Crumblets of my carding comb;
Move the boat into the water,
Launch the new boat on the waves
Without the push of knee against it
And without a hand upon it,
Not an arm to turn it round, 130
Nor a shoulder to direct it."

133 Then old Vainamoinen boasted:
"There is no man on this earth,
None beneath the lid of heaven,
Who can match me as a shipwright,
Build a better boat than I!"
139 With the splinters of the spindle,
Crumblets of the carding comb,
Old reliable Vainamoinen
Now set out for Steely Mountain, 140
For the iron-bearing cliffs,
There to build the wondrous boat
And construct the hundred-planker.

145 Boastfully he built the boat,
Wooden vessel arrogantly:
Carved a day, carved a second,
Even on the third day carving,
Since his ax has struck no stone,
Bit not cracked against the cliff.

151 Then it happened on the third day: 150
Demon Hiisi turned the knob,
And the devil bumped the ax-bit,
Bad One slid the blade aside.
Then the ax-blade stmck the stone
And it clanged against the cliff,
Caromed off and struck the flesh,
Struck the splendid fellow's knee,
Struck the toe of Vainamoinen.
Lempo laced it to the flesh
Hiisi hitched it to the veins: 160
Then the blood began to flow,
Till it was one gush of gore.

165 Said Vainamoinen, knower eternal:
"O, you up-nosed axe of mine,
You straight-bladed killer you!
Did you mean to bite the wood,
Maybe hew a high old fir tree,
Hit an old and hollow pine
Or perhaps a slender birch
When you slashed into my flesh, 170
Cut into my very veins?"

177 Then began his conjurations,
Rose the rhythmic incantations;
Recited origins in order,
Wizard words in magic form.
But he cannot quite recall
The spells to exorcise the iron
Which might bolt the barrier,
Shut the gate against the flood,
Close the sluices opened up 180
By the steel-blue bite of iron.

187 Still the blood ran like a river,
Poured down like a cataract
Till it swamped the berry bushes,
Hid the heather on the heath-
Not a single tussock left
Which it did not overflow
With the great excessive blood,
With that hot and steaming gore
Gushing from the sturdy knee, 190
From the toe of Vainamoinen.

197 Then the staunch old Vainamoinen
Ripped the lichens off the rocks,
Snatched the mosses from the swamps,
Tore the tussocks from the ground
For a poultice on the wound
To close the gate against the flood;
But they do not staunch the bleeding,
Do not hold it back at all.

205 Now the pain has turned to torment 200
And he suffers great distress;
Old reliable Vainamoinen-
Even he begins to weep.
Puts his young horse into harness,
Hitches Browny to the sleigh;
Flings himself into the sled,
Settles down to ride away.

213 Whacked the racer with a whip,
With the beaded lash a-jingle:
Ran the racer, hurried onward, 210
Slid the sled, journey shortened.
Soon a village comes in sight
Where three roadways come together.
219 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Drives along the lowest road
To a house beside the way
And he asks across the doorsill:
"Is there anyone in this household
Who can close the cuts of iron,
Healer of the hurts of man, 220
A reliever of the wounded?"

227 From a baby on the floor,
From a small boy on the stove-bench,
Came the answer to the question:
"There is no one in this household
Who can close the cuts of iron,
Healer of the hurts of man;
No one who can hold down pain,
No reliever of the wounded.
There's one at the other house; 230
Drive up to the house above."

237 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Smacked his racer with a switch
And went coasting on his way.
Drove along the middle road-
It was just a little way-
And approached the middle house
Where he asked across the doorsill
And implored beneath the window:
"Is there anyone in this household 240
Who can close the cuts of iron,
And restrain the bloody rain
And the rapids from my veins?"

249 An old woman in her cloak,
An old gossip on the stove-bench
Grumbled out a snarling answer
With her three teeth all click-clacking:
"There is no one in this household
Who can close the cuts of iron,
Or who knows the birth of blood, 250
No one who can hold down pain.
But there is one at the next house;
Drive up to the house above."

259 Old reliable Vainamoinen
Smacked his racer with a switch
And went coasting on his way,
Drove along the upmost road -
It was just a little way-
And approached the upmost house.
From behind a porchway pillar 260
Over the doorsill he inquired:
"Is there anyone in this household
Who can close the cuts of iron,
Who can dam this bloody river
And confine the dark blood flowing?"

271 On the stove an old man rested,
Graybeard underneath the rooftree.
From the stove the old man grumbled
And the graybeard thus orated:
"Greater things have been confined, 270
Mightier forces overcome
By three words of the Creator,
Sanctioned by the holy birth:
River mouths and lake-heads blocked,
Rivers at their angry narrows,
Flooded harbors at the headlands,
By the narrowest of necks."


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