Friday, 28 October 2016

Song of the Sampo: The Song of Creation - Elias Lönnrot

The Lapp with the crooked back
Fostered an ancient feud,
A spite from long past time
Against old Väinämöinen.
On the sea a dark spot spied he,
A blue speck on the crest of the billows1.
The Lapp with the crooked back
Quickly bended his bow2,
Quickly near to his hut,
Far as his right hand reached.
Once with his arrows shot he,
Aimed he too high;
Again with arrows shot he,
Aimed he too low ;
A third time tried he,
And at length he struck
Of the azure oak the flank.
Then fell Väinämöinen,
With his fingers in ocean fell he,
With his hands through the waves he rolled;
There went he six years wandering,
Roaming for seven summers.
Where'er beside the shore the sea-ground touched he,
There he created a fishing place3,
Let hollow fishy caverns.
Whenever in the midst of ocean stayed he,
There he created ridges of rock,
He caused skerries to grow up,
Upon which ships are hurled,
Where merchants lose their lives4.

The goose, the bird of air,
Flying, hovering, roams,
Seeking a spot for her nest.
Then ancient Väinämöinen
From ocean heaves his knee,
Like to a grassy hillock,
Like a paddock with sweet grass.
The goose, the bird of air,
Is scooping a place for her nest,
Is scooping a nest of grass,
Scratched in her nest of heather
On the knee of Väinämöinen:
Six eggs she laid,
An egg of iron the seventh.
The goose, the bird of air,
Kept rubbing, sat hatching
On the knee of Väinämöinen.

And ancient Väinämöinen
Felt then his knee to burn,
Felt then the joint grow hot.
Shook he his knee.
Into ocean rolled the eggs;
Broke on the rocks of ocean.
Old Väinämöinen spake:
"Let the egg's lower part
Earth's base become,
Let the egg's upper part
Become the sky above,
Let the egg's yellow yolk
Become the radiant sun
In the firmament above;
What the egg has of white
Let it be the moon far-shining
In the firmament above.
Let every bit of skin5
Become a star in the sky."

And the wind rocked him,
The sea-breeze made him float
As far as gloomy Pohjola6,
To the unknown gates,
To the strange abodes,
To lands without a priest,
To countries unbaptised.

"Behold me tossed, poor wight,
Tossed on a rolling tree,
Tossed on a weltering trunk;
Now feel I ruin upon me;
The day of dole hangs o'er me!"
There six years went he wandering,
For eight years was he harried,
Like a sprig of fir went wandering,
Like the top of a pine trunk wandered.
To himself then spake he words:
The branch is a hindrance in the water,
The poor man in the road of the rich!
Bring hither a boat, O maiden!
Across the river of Pohjola
From the infernal land of Manala7!"

Elias Lönnrot (1802 - 1884) Finland
NB: Elias Lönnrot did not actually write this (which comes from the epic poem The Kalevala), but he was the first to record the oral tradition in writing. The text here comes from Vuonninen, a village very rich in songs in the government of Archangel. It was sung in this form to Sjogren in 1825 and to Lönnrot in 1833 by the singer Ontrei.
Translated by Isabella M. Anderton
Source: Traditional Poetry of the Finns, by Domenico Comparetti, Longman, Green, and Co., 1898

  1. Väinämöinen clad in blue riding along the sea-shore. Väinämöinen is a god, hero and the central character in Finnish folklore; the main character in the national epic Kalevala. His name comes from the Finnish word väinä, meaning stream pool.
  2. Literally: the bow of fire near the hut of fire
  3. Produced by magic, with magic words (siunata).
  4. Literally: their heads
  5. Literally: bone (luun). 
  6. Pohjola sometimes just Pohja, is a location in Finnish mythology.  Pohjola's main function is to be the home of women whom the male heroes, from the land of Kalevala, seek as wives.
  7. Abode of the dead. 
Väinämöinen,  by Mjud M. Mečev, 1956
Väinämöinen, by Mjud M. Mečev, 1956

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