The Kalevala - Rune XI

written by

« Reload image


This the time to sing of Ahti,
Son of Lempo, Kaukomieli,
Also known as Lemminkainen.
Ahti was the king of islands,
Grew amid the island-dwellings,
At the site of his dear mother,
On the borders of the ocean,
On the points of promontories.
Ahti fed upon the salmon,
Fed upon the ocean whiting,
Thus became a mighty hero,
In his veins the blood of ages,
Read erect and form commanding,
Growth of mind and body perfect
But alas! he had his failings,
Bad indeed his heart and morals,
Roaming in unworthy places,
Staying days and nights in sequences
At the homes of merry maidens,
At the dances of the virgins,
With the maids of braided tresses.
Up in Sahri lived a maiden,
Lived the fair and winsome Kulli,
Lovely as a summer-flower,
From a kingly house descended,
Grew to perfect form and beauty,
Living in her father's cottage,
Home of many ancient heroes,
Beautiful was she and queenly,
Praised throughout the whole of Ehstland;
From afar men came to woo her,
To the birthplace of the virgin,
To the household of her mother.
For his son the Day-star wooes her,
But she will not go to Sun-land,
Will not shine beside the Day-star,
In his haste to bring the summer.
For her son, the bright Moon wooes her,
But she will not go to Moon-land,
By the bright Moon will not glimmer,
Will not run through boundless ether.
For his son the Night-star wooes her,
But she will not go to Star-land,
Will not twinkle in the starlight,
Through the dreary nights in winter.
Lovers come from distant Ehstlaud,
Others come from far-off Ingern,
But they cannot win the maiden,
This the answer that she gives them
"Vainly are your praises lavished
Vainly is your silver offered,
Wealth and praise are no temptation;
Never shall I go to Ehstland,
Never shall I go a-rowing
On the waters of the Ingern,
Shall not cross the Sahri-waters,
Never eat the fish of Ehstland,
Never taste the Ehstland viands.
Ingerland shall never see me,
Will not row upon her rivers,
Will not step within her borders;
Hunger there, and fell starvation,
Wood is absent, fuel wanting,
Neither water, wheat, nor barley,
Even rye is not abundant."
Lemminkainen of the islands,
Warlike hero, Kaukomieli,
Undertakes to win the maiden,
Woo and win the Sahri-flower,
Win a bride so highly honored,
Win the maid with golden tresses,
Win the Sahri maid of beauty;
But his mother gives him warning:
"Nay," replies his gray-haired mother,
"Do not woo, my son beloved,
Maiden of a higher station;
She will never make thee happy
With her lineage of Sahri."
Spake the hero, Lemminkainen,
These the words of Kaukomieli:
"Should I come from lowly station,
Though my tribe is not the highest,
I shall woo to please my fancy,
Woo the maiden fair and lovely,
Choose a wife for worth and beauty."
This the anxious mother's answer:
"Lemminkainen, son beloved,
Listen to advice maternal:
Do not go to distant Sahri,
To her tribe of many branches;
All the maidens there will taunt thee,
All the women will deride thee."
Lemminkainen, little hearing,
Answers thus his mother's pleading:
"I will still the sneers of women,
Silence all the taunts of maidens,
I will crush their haughty bosoms,
Smite the hands and cheeks of infants;
Surely this will check their insults,
Fitting ending to derision!"
This the answer of' the mother:
"Woe is me, my son beloved!
Woe is me, my life hard-fated!
Shouldst thou taunt the Sahri daughters.
Or insult the maids of virtue,
Shouldst thou laugh them to derision,
There will rise a great contention,
Fierce the battle that will follow.
All the hosts of Sahri-suitors,
Armed in thousands will attack thee,
And will slay thee for thy folly."
Nothing listing, Lemminkainen,
Heeding not his mother's warning,
Led his war-horse from the stables,
Quickly hitched the fiery charger,
Fleetly drove upon his journey,
To the distant Sahri-village,
There to woo the Sahri-flower,
There to win the Bride of Beauty.
All the aged Sahri-women,
All the young and lovely maidens
Laughed to scorn the coming stranger
Driving careless through the alleys,
Wildly driving through the court-yard,
Now upsetting in the gate-way,
Breaking shaft, and hame, and runner.
Then the fearless Lemminkainen,
Mouth awry and visage wrinkled,
Shook his sable locks and answered:
"Never in my recollection
Have I heard or seen such treatment,
Never have I been derided,
Never suffered sneers of women,
Never suffered scorn of virgins,
Not in my immortal life-time.
Is there any place befitting
On the Sahri-plains and pastures,
Where to join in songs and dances?
Is there here a hall for pleasure,
Where the Sahri-maidens linger,
Merry maids with braided tresses?"
Thereupon the Sahri-maidens
Answered from their promontory.,
"Room enough is there in Sahri,
Room upon the Sahri-pastures,
Room for pleasure-halls and dances;
Sing and dance upon our meadows,
Be a shepherd on the mountains,
Shepherd-boys have room for dancing;
Indolent the Sahri-children,
But the colts are fat and frisky."
Little caring, Lemminkainen
Entered service there as shepherd,
In the daytime on the pastures,
In the evening, making merry
At the games of lively maidens,
At the dances with the virgins,
With the maids with braided tresses.
Thus it was that Lemminkainen,
Thus the shepherd, Kaukomieli,
Quickly hushed the women's laughter,
Quickly quenched the taunts of maidens,
Quickly silenced their derision.
All the dames and Sahri-daughters
Soon were feasting Lemminkainen,
At his side they danced and lingered.
Only was there one among them,
One among the Sahri-virgins,
Harbored neither love nor wooers,
Favored neither gods nor heroes,
This the lovely maid Kyllikki,
This the Sahri's fairest flower.
Lemminkainen, full of pleasure,
Handsome hero, Kaukomieli,
Rowed a hundred boats in pieces,
Pulled a thousand oars to fragments,
While he wooed the Maid of Beauty,
Tried to win the fair Kyllikki.
Finally the lovely maiden,
Fairest daughter of the Northland,
Thus addresses Lemminkainen:
"Why dost linger here, thou weak one,
Why dost murmur on these borders,
Why come wooing at my fireside,
Wooing me in belt of copper?
Have no time to waste upon thee,
Rather give this stone its polish,
Rather would I turn the pestle
In the heavy sandstone mortar;
Rather sit beside my mother
In the dwellings of my father.
Never shall I heed thy wooing,
Neither wights nor whisks I care for,
Sooner have a slender husband
Since I have a slender body;
Wish to have him fine of figure,
Since perchance I am well-shapen;
Wish to have him tall and stately,
Since my form perchance is queenly;
Never waste thy time in wooing
Saliri's maid and favored flower."
Time had gone but little distance,
Scarcely had a month passed over,
When upon a merry evening,
Where the maidens meet for dancing,
In the glen beyond the meadow,
On a level patch of verdure,
Came too soon the maid Kyllikki,
Sahri's pride, the Maid of Beauty;
Quickly followed Lemminkainen,
With his stallion proudly prancing,
Fleetest racer of the Northland,
Fleetly drives beyond the meadow,
Where the maidens meet for dancing,
Snatches quick the maid Kyllikki,
On the settle seats the maiden,
Quickly draws the leathern cover,
And adjusts the brichen cross-bar,
Whips his courser to a gallop.
With a rush, and roar, and rattle,
Speeds he homeward like the storm-wind,
Speaks these words to those that listen:
"Never, never, anxious maidens,
Must ye give the information,
That I carried off Kyllikki
To my distant home and kindred.
If ye do not heed this order,
Ye shall badly fare as maidens;
I shall sing to war your suitors,
Sing them under spear and broadsword,
That for months, and years, and ages,
Never ye will see their faces,
Never hear their merry voices,
Never will they tread these uplands,
Never will they join these dances,
Never will they drive these highways."
Sad the wailing of Kyllikki,
Sad the weeping flower of Sahri!
Listen to her tearful pleading:
"Give, O give me back my freedom,
Free me from the throes of thralldom,
Let this maiden wander homeward,
By some foot-path let me wander
To my father who is grieving,
To my mother who is weeping;
Let me go or I will curse thee!
If thou wilt not give me freedom,
Wilt not let me wander homeward,
Where my loved ones wait my coming,
I have seven stalwart brothers,
Seven sons of father's brother,
Seven sons of mother's sister,
Who pursue the tracks of red-deer,
Hunt the hare upon the heather;
They will follow thee and slay thee,
Thus I'll gain my wished-for freedom."
Lemminkainen, little heeding,
Would not grant the maiden's wishes,
Would not heed her plea for mercy.
Spake again the waiting virgin,
Pride and beauty of the Northland:
"Joyful was I with my kindred,
Joyful born and softly nurtured
Merrily I spent my childhood,
Happy I, in virgin-freedom,
In the dwelling of my father,
By the bedside of my mother,
With my lineage in Sahri;
But alas! all joy has vanished,
All my happiness departed,
All my maiden beauty waneth
Since I met thine evil spirit,
Shameless hero of dishonor,
Cruel fighter of the islands,
Merciless in civil combat."
Spake the hero, Lemminkainen,
These the words of Kaukomieli:
"Dearest maiden, fair Kyllikki,
My sweet strawberry of Pohya,
Still thine anguish, cease thy weeping,
Be thou free from care and sorrow,
Never shall I do thee evil,
Never will my hands maltreat thee,
Never will mine arms abuse thee,
Never will my tongue revile thee,
Never will my heart deceive thee.
"Tell me why thou hast this anguish,
Why thou hast this bitter sorrow,
Why this sighing and lamenting,
Tell me why this wail of sadness?
Banish all thy cares and sorrows,
Dry thy tears and still thine anguish,
I have cattle, food, and shelter,
I have home, and friends, and kindred,
Kine upon the plains and uplands,
In the marshes berries plenty,
Strawberries upon the mountains
I have kine that need no milking,
Handsome kine that need no feeding,
Beautiful if not well-tended;
Need not tie them up at evening,
Need not free them in the morning,
Need not hunt them, need not feed them,
Need not give them salt nor water.
"Thinkest thou my race is lowly,
Dost thou think me born ignoble,
Does my lineage agrieve thee?
Was not born in lofty station,
From a tribe of noble heroes,
From a worthy race descended;
But I have a sword of fervor,
And a spear yet filled with courage,
Surely these are well descended,
These were born from hero-races,
Sharpened by the mighty Hisi,
By the gods were forged and burnished;
Therefore will I give thee greatness,
Greatness of my race and nation,
With my broadsword filled with fervor,
With my spear still filled with courage."
Anxiously the sighing maiden
Thus addresses Lemminkainen:
"O thou Ahti, son of Lempo,
Wilt thou take this trusting virgin,
As thy faithful life-companion,
Take me under thy protection,
Be to me a faithful husband,
Swear to me an oath of honor,
That thou wilt not go to battle,
When for gold thou hast a longing,
When thou wishest gold and silver?"
This is Lemminkainen's answer:
I will swear an oath of honor,
That I'll never go to battle,
When for gold I feel a longing,
When I wish for gold and silver.
Swear thou also on thine honor,
Thou wilt go not to the village,
When desire for dance impels thee,
Wilt not visit village-dances."
Thus the two made oath together,
Registered their vows in heaven,
Vowed before omniscient Ukko,
Ne'er to go to war vowed Ahti,
Never to the dance, Kyllikki.
Lemminkainen, full of joyance,
Snapped his whip above his courser,
Whipped his racer to a gallop,
And these words the hero uttered:
"Fare ye well, ye Sahri-meadows,
Roots of firs, and stumps of birch-trees.
That I wandered through in summer,
That I travelled o'er in winter,
Where ofttimes in rainy seasons,
At the evening hour I lingered,
When I sought to win the virgin,
Sought to win the Maid of Beauty,
Fairest of the Sahri-flowers.
Fare ye well, ye Sahri-woodlands,
Seas and oceans, lakes and rivers,
Vales and mountains, isles and inlets,
Once the home of fair Kyllikki!"
Quick the racer galloped homeward,
Galloped on along the highway,
Toward the meadows of Wainola,
To the plains of Kalevala.
As they neared the Ahti-dwellings,
Thus Kyllikki spake in sorrow:
"Cold and drear is thy cottage,
Seeming like a place deserted;
Who may own this dismal cabin,
Who the one so little honored?"
Spake the hero, Lemminkainen,
These the words that Ahti uttered:
"Do not grieve about my cottage,
Have no care about my chambers;
I shall build thee other dwellings,
I shall fashion them much better,
Beams, and posts, and sills, and rafters,
Fashioned from the sacred birch-wood."
Now they reach the home of Ahti,
Lemminkainen's home and birthplace,
Enter they his mother's cottage;
There they meet his aged mother,
These the words the mother uses:
"Long indeed hast thou been absent,
Long in foreign lands hast wandered,
Long in Sahri thou hast lingered!"
This is Lemminkainen's answer:
"All the host of Sahri-women,
All the chaste and lovely maidens,
All the maids with braided tresses,
Well have paid for their derision,
For their scorn and for their laughter,
That they basely heaped upon me.
I have brought the best among them
In my sledge to this thy cottage;
Well I wrapped her in my fur-robes,
Kept her warm enwrapped in bear-skin,
Brought her to my mother's dwelling,
As my faithful life-companion;
Thus I paid the scornful maidens,
Paid them well for their derision.
"Cherished mother of my being,
I have found the long-sought jewel,
I have won the Maid of Beauty.
Spread our couch with finest linen,
For our heads the softest pillows,
On our table rarest viands,
So that I may dwell in pleasure
With my spouse, the bride of honor,
With the pride of distant Sahri."
This the answer of the mother:
"Be thou praised, O gracious Ukko,
Loudly praised, O thou Creator,
Since thou givest me a daughter,
Ahti's bride, my second daughter,
Who can stir the fire at evening,
Who can weave me finest fabrics,
Who can twirl the useful spindle,
Who can rinse my silken ribbons,
Who can full the richest garments.
"Son beloved, praise thy Maker,
For the winning of this virgin,
Pride and joy of distant Sahri
Kind indeed is thy Creator,
Wise the ever-knowing Ukko!
Pure the snow upon the mountains,
Purer still thy Bride of Beauty;
White the foam upon the ocean,
Whiter still her virgin-spirit;
Graceful on the lakes, the white-swan,
Still more graceful, thy companion:
Beautiful the stars in heaven,
Still more beautiful, Kyllikki.
Larger make our humble cottage,
Wider build the doors and windows,
Fashion thou the ceilings higher,
Decorate the walls in beauty,
Now that thou a bride hast taken
From a tribe of higher station,
Purest maiden of creation,
From the meadow-lands of Sahri,
From the upper shores of Northland."

© Elias Lönnrot