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ALL living beings gathered round Vanemuine on the Hill of Taara, and each received his language, according to what be could comprebend and retain of the song of the god. The sacred stream Ema had chosen for her language the rustling of his garments, but the trees of the forest chose the rushing of his robes as he descended to the earth. Therefore do we feel the presence of Vanemuine most nearly in the woods and on the banks of the murmuring brooks, and then are we filled with the spirit of his lays. The loudest tones are heard in the wind. Some creatures preferred the deep tones of the god’s harp, and others the melody of the strings. The singing birds, especially the nightingale and the lark, deemed the holy songs and melodies of the god to be the most beautiful. But it fared very badly with the fishes. They stretched their heads out of the water to p. 82 the eyes, but kept their ears under. So they saw well how Vanemuine moved his lips, and they imitated him, but they remained dumb. Only man could learn all notes and understand everything; therefore his song moves the soul most deeply, and lifts it towards the throne of God. Vanemuine sang of the grandeur of heaven and the beauty of earth, of the banks of the Ema and her beauty, and of the joy and sorrow of the children of men. And his song was so moving that he himself began to weep bitterly, and the tears sank through his sixfold robe and his sevenfold vest. Then he rose again on the wings of the wind, and went to the abode of God to sing and play.
Long did his divine song linger in the mouths of the sons and daughters of Esthonia. When they wandered in the leafy shades of the holy forest, they comprehended the gentle rustling of the trees, and the rippling of the brooks filled them with joyous thoughts. The song of the nightingale melted their hearts, and the whistling of the larks lifted their minds to the abodes of God. Then it seemed to them as if Vanemuine himself wandered through the creation with his harp. And thus he did; and when the bards of the whole country assembled p. 83 together to sing, Vanemuine was always among them, though they did not know him, and he ever kindled afresh in their bosoms the true fire of song.
It came to pass, at one of these festivals, that a strange old maid took her place among the singers. Her face was full of wrinkles, her chin trembled, and one foot was supported by crutches. The old woman began her song in a grating voice. She sang of her beautiful youth, the happy days in the house of her parents, and the pitiful ways of the present, when all joy had vanished. Then she sang of her lovers, who came in hosts to woo her, and how she had repulsed them all. She concluded her song with the words—
|“Sulev’s son came here from Southland,|
Further Kalev’s son had wandered;
Sulev’s son would fain have kissed me,
Kalev’s son my hand had taken;
But I smote the son of Sulev,
And in scorn the son of Kalev,
I the fairest of the maidens.”
Scarcely had the old woman finished her song, when there arose a loud shout of laughter among the people, which sounded far over the plain and was echoed back from the forest. The people sang the p. 84 old woman’s last words in derision, and their laughter was unceasing till the eldest of the company stopped it with stern interference. All was still around. Then an old man on a decorated seat began a magnificent song, which filled all around with holy joy. But suddenly they heard a voice behind him, which took up the witch’s song afresh. Laughter again arose among the ranks of people. Again the elder sternly commanded silence, and those who were gathered round the old man and had heard his song likewise commanded silence. Then the people were quiet once more.
The old man on the throne of song now raised his voice, and the people listened to him with delight. It was a genuine song, for it met with a response in all hearts, and moved their nobler being to heavenly thoughts. But again a loud voice rose in the throng, which took up the ugly chant of the old woman, and again loud laughter echoed through the assembly. Then the old man on the throne grew angry, gazed wrathfully down on the foolish throng, and immediately vanished from their eyes. Only a mighty rushing and clanging was heard, so that all trembled, and their blood froze in their veins. Who was the hoary singer? p. 85 Was it not Vanemuine himself? Where had he vanished to? They talked and asked each other. But the singer remained invisible, and no one saw him again.
This was Vanemuine’s last farewell to the Esthonian people. Only a few minstrels now enjoy the happiness of listening to his singing and playing in the far distance, and such minstrels only are able to move their brothers with the divine voice of song.