Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Index 
Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Kalevala, by John Martin Crawford, [1888], at



WAINAMOINEN, ancient minstrel,
Long reflecting, sang these measures:
"It is now the time befitting
To awaken joy and gladness,
Time for me to touch the harp-strings,
Time to sing the songs primeval,
In these spacious halls and mansions,
In these homes of Kalevala;
But, alas! my harp lies hidden,
Sunk upon the deep-sea's bottom,
To the salmon's hiding-places,
To the dwellings of the whiting,
To the people of Wellamo,
Where the Northland-pike assemble.
Nevermore will I regain it,
Ahto never will return it,
Joy and music gone forever!

"O thou blacksmith, Ilmarinen,
Forge for me a rake of iron,
Thickly set the teeth of copper,
Many fathoms long the handle;
Make a rake to search the waters,
Search the broad-sea to the bottom,
Rake the weeds and reeds together,
Rake them to the curving sea-shore,
That I may regain my treasure,
May regain my harp of fish-bow
From the whiting's place of resting,
From the caverns of the salmon,
From the castles of Wellamo."

Thereupon young Ilmarinen,
The eternal metal-worker,
Forges well a rake of iron,
Teeth in length a hundred fathoms,
And a thousand long the handle,
Thickly sets the teeth of copper.
Straightway ancient Wainamoinen
Takes the rake of magic metals,
Travels but a little distance,
To the cylinders of oak-wood,
To the copper-banded rollers,
Where be finds two ships awaiting,
One was new, the other ancient.

Wainamoinen, old and faithful,
Thus addressed the new-made vessel:
"Go, thou boat of master-magic,
Hasten to the willing waters,
Speed away upon the blue-sea,
And without the hand to move thee;
Let my will impel thee seaward."

Quick the boat rolled to the billows
On the cylinders of oak-wood,
Quick descended to the waters,
Willingly obeyed his master.

Wainamoinen, the magician,
Then began to rake the sea-beds,
Raked up all the water-flowers,
Bits of broken reeds and rushes,
Deep-sea shells and colored pebbles,
Did not find his harp of fish-bone,
Lost forever to Wainola!

Thereupon the ancient minstrel
Left the waters, homeward hastened,
Cap pulled clown upon his forehead,
Sang this song with sorrow laden:
"Nevermore shall I awaken
With my harp-strings, joy and gladness!
Nevermore will Wainamoinen
Charm the people of the Northland
With the harp of his creation!
Nevermore my songs will echo
O'er the hills of Kalevala!"

Thereupon the ancient singer
Went lamenting through the forest,
Wandered through the sighing pine-woods,
Heard the wailing of a birch-tree,
Heard a juniper complaining;
Drawing nearer, waits and listens,
Thus the birch-tree he addresses:
"Wherefore, brother, art thou weeping,
Merry birch enrobed in silver,
Silver-leaved and silver-tasselled?
Art thou shedding tears of sorrow,
Since thou art not led to battle,
Not enforced to war with wizards?
Wisely does the birch make answer:
"This the language of the many,
Others speak as thou, unjustly,
That I only live in pleasure,
That my silver leaves and tassels
Only whisper my rejoicings;
That I have no cares, no sorrows,
That I have no hours unhappy,
Knowing neither pain nor trouble.
I am weeping for my smallness,
Am lamenting for my weakness,
Have no sympathy, no pity,
Stand here motionless for ages,
Stand alone in fen and forest,
In these woodlands vast and joyless.
Others hope for coming summers,
For the beauties of the spring-time;
I, alas! a helpless birch-tree,
Dread the changing of the seasons,
I must give my bark to, others,
Lose my leaves and silken tassels.
Men come the Suomi children,
Peel my bark and drink my life-blood:
Wicked shepherds in the summer,
Come and steal my belt of silver,
Of my bark make berry-baskets,
Dishes make, and cups for drinking.
Oftentimes the Northland maidens
Cut my tender limbs for birch-brooms,'
Bind my twigs and silver tassels
Into brooms to sweep their cabins;
Often have the Northland heroes
Chopped me into chips for burning;
Three times in the summer season,
In the pleasant days of spring-time,
Foresters have ground their axes
On my silver trunk and branches,
Robbed me of my life for ages;
This my spring-time joy and pleasure,
This my happiness in summer,
And my winter days no better!
When I think of former troubles,
Sorrow settles on my visage,
And my face grows white with anguish;
Often do the winds of winter
And the hoar-frost bring me sadness,
Blast my tender leaves and tassels,
Bear my foliage to others,
Rob me of my silver raiment,
Leave me naked on the mountain,
Lone, and helpless, and disheartened!"
Spake the good, old Wainamoinen:
"Weep no longer, sacred birch-tree,
Mourn no more, my friend and brother,
Thou shalt have a better fortune;
I will turn thy grief to joyance,
Make thee laugh and sing with gladness."

Then the ancient Wainamoinen
Made a harp from sacred birch-wood,
Fashioned in the days of summer,
Beautiful the harp of magic,
By the master's hand created
On the fog-point in the Big-Sea,
On the island forest-covered,
Fashioned from the birch the archings,
And the frame-work from the aspen.
These the words of the magician:
"All the archings are completed,
And the frame is fitly finished;
Whence the hooks and pins for tuning,
That the harp may sing in concord?"

Near the way-side grew an oak-tree,
Skyward grew with equal branches,
On each twig an acorn growing,
Golden balls upon each acorn,
On each ball a singing cuckoo.
As each cuckoo's call resounded,
Five the notes of song that issued
From the songster's throat of joyance;
From each throat came liquid music,
Gold and silver for the master,
Flowing to the hills and hillocks,
To the silvery vales and mountains;
Thence he took the merry harp-pins,
That the harp might play in concord.
Spake again wise Wainamoinen:
"I the pins have well completed,
Still the harp is yet unfinished;
Now I need five strings for playing,
Where shall I procure the harp-strings?"
Then the ancient bard and minstrel
Journeyed through the fen and forest.
On a hillock sat a maiden,
Sat a virgin of the valley;
And the maiden was not weeping,
Joyful was the sylvan daughter,
Singing with the woodland songsters,
That the eventide might hasten,
In the hope that her beloved
Would the sooner sit beside her.

Wainamoinen, old and trusted,
Hastened, tripping to the virgin,
Asked her for her golden ringleta,
These the words of the magician.
"Give me, maiden, of thy tresses,
Give to me thy golden ringlets;
I will weave them into harp-strings,
To the joy of Wainamoinen,
To the pleasure of his people."

Thereupon the forest-maiden
Gave the singer of her tresses,
Gave him of her golden ringlets,
And of these he made the harp-strings.
Sources of eternal pleasure
To the people of Wainola.

Thus the sacred harp is finished,
And the minstrel, Wainamoinen,
Sits upon the rock of joyance,
Takes the harp within his fingers,
Turns the arch up, looking skyward;
With his knee the arch supporting,
Sets the strings in tuneful order,
Runs his fingers o'er the harp-strings,
And the notes of pleasure follow.
Straightway ancient Wainamoinen,
The eternal wisdom-singer,
Plays upon his harp of birch-wood.
Far away is heard the music,
Wide the harp of joy re-echoes;
Mountains dance and valleys listen,
Flinty rocks are tom asunder,
Stones are hurled upon the waters,
Pebbles swim upon the Big-Sea,
Pines and lindens laugh with pleasure,
Alders skip about the heather,
And the aspen sways in concord.

All the daughters of Wainola
Straightway leave their shining needles,
Hasten forward like the current,
Speed along like rapid rivers,
That they may enjoy and wonder.
Laugh the younger men and maidens,
Happy-hearted are the matrons
Flying swift to bear the playing,
To enjoy the common pleasure,
Hear the harp of Wainamoinen.
Aged men and bearded seniors,
Gray-haired mothers with their daughters
Stop in wonderment and listen.
Creeps the babe in full enjoyment
As he hears the magic singing,
Hears the harp of Wainamoinen.
All of Northland stops in wonder,
Speaks in unison these measures:
"Never have we heard such playing,
Never heard such strains of music,
Never since the earth was fashioned,
As the songs of this magician,
This sweet singer, Wainamoinen!"

Far and wide the sweet tones echo,
Ring throughout the seven hamlets,
O'er the seven islands echo;
Every creature of the Northland
Hastens forth to look and listen,
Listen to the songs of gladness,
To the harp of Wainamoinen.
All the beasts that haunt the woodlands
Fall upon their knees and wonder
At the playing of the minstrel,
At his miracles of concord.
All the songsters of the forests
Perch upon the trembling branches,
Singing to the wondrous playing
Of the harp of Wainamoinen.
All the dwellers of the waters
Leave their beds, and eaves, and grottoes,
Swim against the shore and listen
To the playing of the minstrel,
To the harp of Wainamoinen.
All the little things in nature,
Rise from earth, and fall from ether,
Come and listen to the music,
To the notes of the enchanter,
To the songs of the magician,
To the harp of Wainamoinen.

Plays the singer of the Northland,
Plays in miracles of sweetness,
Plays one day, and then a second,
Plays the third from morn till even;
Plays within the halls and cabins,
In the dwellings of his people,
Till the floors and ceilings echo,
Till resound the roofs of pine-wood,
Till the windows speak and tremble,
Till the portals echo joyance,
And the hearth-stones sing in pleasure.
As he journeys through the forest,
As he wanders through the woodlands,
Pine and sorb-tree bid him welcome,
Birch and willow bend obeisance,
Beech and aspen bow submission;
And the linden waves her branches
To the measure of his playing,
To the notes of the magician.
As the minstrel plays and wanders,
Sings upon the mead and heather,
Glen and hill his songs re-echo,
Ferns and flowers laugh in pleasure,
And the shrubs attune their voices
To the music of the harp-strings,
To the songs of Wainamoinen.

Next: Rune XLV. Birth of the Nine Diseases