The selected poems of Kalevala


Runo 9


Thereupon old Vainamoinen,
He himself rose from the sleigh,
Rose up from the sled unaided,
Got up without being lifted;
Thence he walked into the house,
In beneath the farmhouse ceiling.

7 There they brought a silver pitcher,
Golden can to catch the blood in,
But it held so very little
And could not contain a fraction 10
Of the flow from Vainamoinen,
From the noble singer's wound.

13 Growled the old man from the stovetop,
And the greybeard boomed it out:
"As a man what ranking have you,
What distinction as a person?
Seven boatfuls and eight vats
Of blood are on the floor already,
Flowing from your knee, poor man!
Other charms I can remember 20
But the first ones do not come
Of the origin of iron,
Out of what poor bog-ore grew."

25 Then old Vainamoinen answered:
"I myself know iron's birth,
I can say the start of steel:
Air's the first one of the mothers,
Water, oldest of the brothers,
Iron, youngest of the brothers,
Fire, the brother in the middle. 30

33 "Ukko, thou the high Creator,
And the lord of all the heavens,
Thou hast parted air from water
And the water from the land.
Still poor iron is unborn,
Still unborn, still unformed.

39 "Ukko, lord of heaven above,
Rubbed his palms, then pressed them down
Both together on his left knee,
This gave birth to three young maidens, 40
All of them creation's daughters,
Mothers to the ore of iron,
Begetters of the blue-bite metal.

47 "Lightly swaying went the maidens,
Walked the virgins on a. cloud rim,
With their full breasts overbrimming
As their nipples ached for milking.
Sprayed their milk upon the earth,
Milked their teats most copiously -
Milk on highland, milk on lowland, 50
Milk upon the quiet waters.

55 "Thus the first one milked out black milk,
She the oldest of the maidens;
And the second spilled out white milk,
She the second of the maidens;
And the third one sprayed down red milk,
She the youngest of the maidens.

61 "It was from the black milk milker,
Out of her bar iron was born;
From the one who spilled out white milk, 60
Out of her the steel was started;
From the one who sprayed out red milk,
Out of her the iron ore.

67 "After a little time had passed,
Iron yearned to meet his brother,
Meet his elder brother, fire,
And to get acquainted with him.

71 "Fire began behaving wildly,
Soon was altogether frightful:
Was about to burn the wretch, 70
Wretched iron, his own brother.

75 "Frightened, iron hid himself,
Hid away and saved himself
From the blazing hands of fire,
From his angry flaming jaws.

79 "Henceforth, iron stayed in hiding,
Hiding from his brother's fury
In a bog of bubbling fountains,
Or lying out in fear upon
The biggest of the fenland ridges, so
Or a bald and barren fell
Where the swan hens lay their eggs
And the hissing goose comes brooding.

87 "Iron idled in the bogland,
Loitered in the oozy muck.
There he hid a year, a second,
Even hid away a third year
In between two stubby stumps
Underneath three birch tree roots.
But he did not get away 90
From the blazing hands of fire,
For he had to go again,
Venture to this house of fire
To be hammered into weapons,
Beaten into steely sword blades.

99 "On the fen a wolf was running
And a bear upon the moorland;
Under the wolf the bog was quaking
And the moor beneath old bruin.
There the iron ore arose 100
And the bars of steel grew up
In the clawprints of the wolf,
In the heelprints of the bear.

107 "Ilmarinen had been born,
Born and grown to manhood too,
Born upon a hill of charcoal,
Grew up on a cindery heathland,
In one hand a copper hammer,
In the other his tiny tongs.

113 "In the night the smith was born, 110
On the next day built his smithy.
Sought a spot to set his forge,
Open place to work the bellows;
Saw a narrow neck of fenland,
Bit of marshland not too soggy;
Went to look it over closely,
To examine it more nearly.
There he set his bellows up,
There he firmly set his forge.

123 "Now he came upon the wolf tracks 120
And the heelprints of the bear,
Saw a sprouting crop of iron
With some clinging lumps of steel
In the wolfs enormous footprints,
In the palmprints of the bear.

129 "Looking at them he exclaimed:
'O you miserable iron you!
What a dreadful state you're in,
Living in so low a lodging
On a marshland in the wolf tracks, 130
Always in the bear's footprints.'

135 "Then he wondered, and he questioned:
'What would happen, come of it,
If I put it in the furnace,
If I temper it in fire'

139 "Then poor iron was affrighted,
Was affrighted and afflicted
When he heard the fire speaking,
When he caught the fiery meaning.

143 "But smith Ilmarinen soothed him: 140
'Don't you worry about all that.
Fire won't burn an old acquaintance,
He won't injure his own tribesman.
When you come to the house of fire,
To the burning barricade,
You will grow more beautiful
In the flashing of the blades,
Sword blades in the hands of swordsmen,
Ornaments on women's garments.'

153 "And indeed from that day onward 150
Iron was quarried from the bog,
Grubbed up from the soggy sod
And transported to the smithy.

157 "This the smith shoved in the fire
To the bottom of the forge;
Pumped his bellows one time, two times,
And a third time fanned the fire.
Iron melted, soft as porridge,
Heaved up like a bit of slag,
Stretched as thin as wheaten gruel 160
And as malleable as rye dough
In the big blaze of the smithy,
In the power of raging fire.

167 "Then the tortured iron whimpered,
'Oh, oh, good smith Ilmarinen,
Do please take me out of here
From this torment of red fire!'

171 "Said the good smith Ilmarinen:
'If I take you from the fire
You may grow to be a terror 170
And commit all kinds of outrage,
Even carve up your own brother,
Cut to chips your mother's child.'

177 "Then the miserable iron promised,
Swore an oath most solemnly
By the forge and by the anvil,
By the hammers and the sledges,
And he says it in these words,
Speaks it in these sentences:
'There's wood enough for me to bite, 180
Hearts of stone enough to chew on
So that I'll not carve my brother,
Cut to chips my mother's child.
Better would it be for me,
Better to behave more friendly,
Just to be a good companion,
And to be a useful instrument,
Than to gnash at my relations
Or to injure my own tribesmen.'

193 "Then the good smith Ilmarinen, 190
The eternal hammerer,
Snatched the iron from the fire,
Laid it ready on the anvil,
Worked it soft and malleable,
Shaped it into keen-edged tools,
Into spears and into axes,
Into every kind of tool.

201 "Yet some little thing was wanting,
Iron needed something more;
Tongue of iron is not boiling 200
And the mouth of steel unborn:
Iron won't be tempered ever
Till it's quenched in tempering liquid.

207 "So the craftsman Ilmarinen
Ponders on it, thinks it over,
Then he steeped some lye and ashes
To prepare a proper leach,
As tempering liquid for the steel,
As a hardener of the iron.

213 "On his tongue he tasted it, 210
Tasted it to assure himself.
Then he voiced his disappointment:
'No, this does not satisfy me
As a proper quench for steel,
for the toughening up of iron,'

219 "From the ground a bee sprang up,
Flew a blue-wing from a tussock.
There it flits about and hovers,

Buzzing round the craftsman's smithy.
223 "Ilmarinen thus addressed it: 220
'Honeybee, my nimble fellow!
Bring me mead upon your wings,
Fetch me honey on your tongue
From the blossoms of six flowers,
And from seven haytips bring it
For the making of steel objects,
For preparing tools of iron.'

231 "But the hornet, bird ofHiisi,
Looks about and listens keenly,
Gazing from the very roof edge, 230
Peering from beneath the birch bark*
At the shaping of the iron
And the making of the steel.

237 "Then he flew and buzzed about
As he hurled down Hiisi's horrors,
Spewed the venom of the viper
And the black blood of the adder,
Then the acid of the ant,
Hidden hatreds of the toad5
Into the tempering quench of steel, 240
Hardening liquid for the iron.

245 "Then the craftsman Ilmarinen,
The eternal hammerer,
Is deceived and soon imagines
That it is the honeybee
Returning with the wanted honey,
Carrying the honey to him,
And he speaks with that impression:
'Look there, those are good for me
In the tempering quench for steel, 250
Hardening liquid for the iron.'

255 "Into this he plunged the steel,
Into this he dipped poor iron
As he brought it from the fire,
As he took it from the forge.

259 "This put steel in evil mood
And poor iron went quite mad;
Broke his word, the wretched creature,
Ate his honor like a dog:
Cut his brother, bit his kin, 260
Made the blood flow everywhere,
Gushing in a stream of gore

267 From the stove the old man cackled,
Sang the graybeard, nodding greatly:
"Now I know the birth of iron,
And perceive the ways of steel.

271 "Oho, you wretched iron you,
Miserable bog heap-and you, steel,
By some evil charm possessed!
Was it from this you were born, 270
Why you turned out such a terror,
Overgrew yourself so bigly?

277 "Time was when you weren't so great,
Not so very great nor small
And not very handsome either,
Not so fierce and arrogant;
When you were nothing more than milk,
Nothing more than sweet milk lying
In the nipples of a maiden,
Growing in a virgin's armpit, 280
On a cloud rim in the sky
Underneath the plane of heaven.
287 "Also you were not so great,
Not so very great nor small
When as oozy muck you lay
Or you stood as still, clear water
On the highest ridge of swamp land,
On the crown of barren fell
Where you turned to soggy soil,
Then to rusty soil transmuted. 290

295 "And again you weren't so great,
Not so very great nor small
When, lying under soggy sod,
You were trodden by the elks,
Beaten by the hoofs of reindeer;
When the wolf claws padded on you,
And the hear paws pounded over.

301 "Once again you weren't so great,
Not so very great nor small
When they dug you from a bog, 300
Dug you up from muddy muck;
Took you to smith Ilmarinen's
Where he shoved you in the forge.

307 "Lastly, you were not so great,
Not so very great nor small
When as bits of slag you howled,
Splashed about there as hot water
In the power of flaming fire -
When you swore that solemn oath
By the forge and by the anvil, 310
By the hammers and the sledges,
On the blacksmith's standing place,
On the very forging floor.
317 "Why are you so great right now,
Acting up so arrogantly,
Even went hack on your vow,
Ate your honor like a dog,
When you ravaged your own clan,
Turned your teeth against your kin.

323 "Who has urged you to such deeds, 320
Put you up to all this badness?
Was it your father or your mother,
Or your oldest brother was it,
Or perhaps your youngest sister-
Or some other great relation?

329 "Not your father, nor your mother,
Not the oldest of your brothers
Nor the youngest of your sisters
Nor any other great relation.
You yourself have done the evil, 330
Have cut loose the graveyard horrors.

335 "Come now, face up to your crimes
And amend your evil ways,
Now, before I tell your mother,
Go complaining to your parent.
Heavy is the mother's burden,
Keen the anguish of the parent
When a son behaves so badly,
Works some imbecile destruction.

343 "Now then, blood, stop your bleeding, 340
And you, gore, stop your gushing,
Spattering out all over me,
Even on my very chest!
Stand as sturdy as a wall,
Stay as steady as a fence,
As the sword-grass in the sea,
As a sedge among the mosses,
As a boulder in a meadow,
As a rock in racing water.

353 "If you're still inclined to run, 350
Move about, then please move quickly,
Circulate inside the flesh,
Also slide within the hones!
Better for you to be inside,
Prettier underneath the skin
Circulating through the veins,
Also sliding through the hones,
Than leaking out upon the ground,
Dripping down into the dust.

363 "You should not, milk, spill to earth, 360
Guiltless blood down on a meadow,
Joy of man upon a hay field,
Wealth of mankind on a hummock.
In the heart your proper place,
Underneath the lungs, your cellar;
Thither hasten your returning,
Hurry to arrive in time.
You are not a running river,
Nor a pond that's seeping out,
Not a swamp spring bubbling over 370
Nor are you a boat that's leaking.

375 "Cease now, precious, from your dripping,
Red one, stop your flowing out-
If not, then just dry away.
Once the Finmark Rapids dried,
Even Tuonela's dark river -
Dried the ocean and the sky,
In that great drought year of fires,
Fires against which we were strengthless.

383 "If you do not heed this now, 380
I can make up other spells,
New contrivances invent:
I can call for Hiisi's cauldron
In which blood and gore are boiled
Without bubbling out a drop,
Without a drop of red escaping,
Not a stain upon the ground,
Not a gout of gore releasing.

393 "But if I'm not man enough
Nor an old man's son the person 390
To be stopper of this torrent,
Conqueror of the cataract,
There's a father still in heaven,
He, the God above the clouds,
Who beyond the ablest men,
Or the cleverest of fellows,
Can lock up the mouth of blood,
Put a stopper on a hemorrhage.

403 "O thou Ukko, high Creator,
Jumala, thou heavenly father, 400
Come, O come where thou art needed,
Come, O come where thou art called:
Put your mighty hand upon it,
With your great thumb pressed upon it
As a plug to close the deep wound,
Patch upon the evil bloodgate.
Lay the lover's leaf upon it,
Slip the golden water lily
As a block against the bleeding,
As a stopper for the flood 410
So that it can't splash my beard
And drip down upon my tatters."

417 And with that he closed the wound,
Barred the way against more bleeding.
Sent his son into the smithy
To concoct the needed nostrums
Made up of those sheaths of grass
And the thousand-headed yarrow,
From the plants that drip with nectar
And distilled from honeydew. 420
425 So the lad went to the smithy,
Went to make the needed nostrums.
On the way he met an oak tree,
And the lad asked of the oak tree:
"Any honey on your branches,
Honeydew beneath your bark?"

431 Cleverly the oak replied:
"It was only yesterday
Honey sprinkled on my branches,
Nectar misted on my crown- 430
Sprinkled from the clouds above,
Misted from the scattered cloudlets."

437 Then he gathered up some oak chips,
Took some broken bits and pieces;
Plucked the choicest of the hay tips,
Many herbs of all descriptions
Which in this land are not seen
Growing widely everywhere.

443 Put the cauldron on the fire,
Brought the contents to a boil, 440
Where the bits of oak bark mingled
With the choicest of the herbs.

447 Thus the boiling pot was popping
Through the whole of three long nights,
Through the whole of three spring days.
Then he tested the concoction:
Are the ointments fit for healing,
Magic nostrums quite reliable?

453 No, they are not fit for healing,
Ointments not yet quite reliable. 450
So he added haytips to it,
Many different looking grasses
Brought here from far distant places,
From beyond a hundred pathways,
From nine wizards, from eight seers.

461 Then for three more nights he cooked them,
For nine spring nights altogether;
Took the kettle off the fire
And once more he tested them:
Are the ointments fit for healing, 460
Magic nostrums quite reliable?

467 On the border of a meadow
Grew a many-branching aspen;
This the rascal broke off roughly,
Split it totally asunder,
Annointed it then with these ointments,
Treated it with these new nostrums.
As he did so, he recited:
"If this holds some healing virtue,
Worthy to apply on lesions, 470
To be smeared on injuries,
Then good aspen, heal together
And be sounder than before."

479 And the broken parts grew whole,
Aspen sounder than before,
Handsome in its upper branches,
Altogether sound below.
483 Once again he tried the ointments,
Put them to a final testing:
Tried them on the cracks of rock, 480
Tested them on broken boulders.
Stone healed to stone and rock to rock
And the boulders healed together.

489 Then the boy, back from the smithy,
Back from making up the ointments,
Mixing up the new concoctions,
Gave them to the old man saying:
"There are now your nostrums ready,
Magic medicines, powerful potions-
Even if the mountains split, 490
These will close them cliff to cliff."

497 On his tongue the old man tried them,
Tasted in his moisty mouth -
Felt the ointments to be good,
Nostrums quite reliable.

501 Anointed Vainamoinen with them,
Badly injured man he treated,
Salved the wicked wounds all over,
Above, below and in the middle.
Then he put it into words, 500
Summed it in these sentences:8
"It is not with my own muscles
But the muscles of my maker
That I go about this healing,
Not by virtue of my own strength,
Only by the power almighty.
There is no word in my mouth
But it comes from Jumala's mouth."
If indeed my mouth is sweet,
Jumala's mouth is far sweeter; 510
If indeed my hand is skillful,
Jumala's hand is far more skillful."

517 When the salve had been applied,
Magic ointment all rubbed in,
Vainamoinen halfway fainted,
Writhing in an agony;
Turning, twisting, this way, that way
Without finding any easement.

523 Then the old man exorcised,
Drove away the agonies 520
To the center of Pain Mountain,
To the Mountain of Diseases,
There to wrack the rocks asunder,
Break the boulders into bits.
529 Now he took a bolt of silk,
Cut up strips of proper width,
Cut them up to fitting lengths.
With these silken strips he bandaged
Vainamoinen's knee and toes.

537 As he bound them he was chanting 530
Telling out a magic spell:
"May the silk ofJumala,
Creator's mantle be protection
On the knee of this good man,
On these toes so innocent.
Let thy countenance shine on us,
Shield us, merciful Creator,
That no evil come upon us,
That no injury befall us."

547 And at once old Vainamoinen 540
Felt a genuine relief,
And he soon regained his vigor
As his flesh healed handsomely,
Beneath the skin completely sound,
Painless in the body's core
And uninjured in the flanks,
With no scar upon the skin -
Handsomer than ever before,
Healthier, stronger than of yore.

557 Now his feet could bear him walking 550
And his knees could bend in rhythm;
There was not the slightest weakness,
Not a thing to grieve about.

561 Vainamoinen lifts his eyes
To the heavens overhead,
Gives all thanks to Jumala:
"Always mercies come from there,
Friendly guidance from the skies,
From the all-creating power.

571 "Be thou thanked, O Jumala, 560
Praised alone, O thou Creator,
For the aid thou gavest me,
For thy guardian fellowship
In those awful agonies
Of iron's brutal torment."

577 Then old Vainamoinen added:
"Do not, people of the future,
You, the growing generation,
Ever build a boat with bragging
Or a boat rib arrogantly. 570
God determines every course,
And the end is in his hand -
Not in skill of human powers,
Not the strongest of the strong."


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