The Kalevala or National epos of the Finns
By Edward Taylor Fletcher
[Originally published by the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in Transactions, New Series, No. 5 (1867)]
There are few, perhaps none, among us who have not in by-gone days enjoyed the luxury of perusing some of those wondrous fairy tales, which have been the delight and solace of childhood, in every age and clime. Who is there, who, in his earlier school-days, on a holiday afternoon, has not betaken himself, book in hand, to some shady nook, and conned with rapt attention the stories of old romance, till daylight failed and darkness gathered around ? Many of these tales, warm with sunshine and bright with kaleidoscopic hues, are manifestly the product of Eastern lands : others, of giants and lonely castles and gloomy forests and ogres, are of Western growth. In these latter the giants seem to be a reminiscence of those grim old feudal barons, robbers perched on every hill, and viewed through the magnifying medium of popular hate and terror ; but the ogres have a far older origin. Few, possibly, have cared to enquire into the derivation of the word. It comes, most probably, from the term Ugrian : the Ugrian Lapps and Finns having long been objects of fear and aversion to the intrusive Germanic races.
It was the theory of the celebrated Arndt, who was employed by the Empress Catherine of Russia to superintend the compilation of that vast lexicon of Russian dialects which has made her name famous, that before the Celtic times, all central and northern Europe was overspread with one homogeneous population of Scythian Or Mongolian type, the progenitors of the modern Lapps. Throughout the old kingdom of Denmark have been discovered barrows or graves of unknown antiquity, belonging to that remote period which has been named, from the material of the weapons and implements, the " stone" age, as distinguished from the later ages of " bronze" and of "iron." These divisions are also synchronous, or nearly so, with the great changes which have taken place in the vegetation of Europe. In the oldest period, that of stone, the Scotch fir, the pinus sylvestris, covered the interminable wastes with its sombre foliage. In the bronze age, the fir was succeeded by the oak, and this again in the iron age was followed by the beech, the latest growth of the forests of Denmark. The theory of Arndt derives confirmation from the fact that the crania, or skulls, in these ancient barrows, appear to be small and round, with a prominent ridge over the orbits of the eyes, and seem to have belonged to a race of small stature, with round heads and overhanging eyebrows, like the Lapps. Farther south, in the lowest layer of the delta formed by the Tiniere, a torrent which flows into the Lake of Geneva, a human skeleton has been discovered, having a small, round, and very thick skull. Some additional facts have also been gleaned from those singular shell-heaps on the Baltic relics of the stone age, containing the bones, food-refuse and rubbish-sweepings of those primeval times ; and also from the old lake-dwellings, in the Swiss lakes and in Northern Italy, habitations built on piles and surrounded by water, where the sweepings are of the same character and belong to the same age. The revelations thus obtained are, indeed, most curious. We see the food which these oldest dwellers of Europe lived on; their ornaments of amber; their hatchets of serpentine and greenstone ; their arrowheads of quartz; their canoes, made of a tree hollowed by fire ; nay even the very cloth they wore, which seems to have been of flax, not woven but plaited. Among the food-refuse of the Swiss lakes, the bones of the fox are plentiful ; it appears to have been their favorite repast : but there is only one single fragment of the bones of a hare. Perhaps they abstained from this animal from a superstition similar to that which still prevails among the Laplanders. On the Baltic, the shell mounds abound with the bones of deep-sea fish, and also with oyster-shells. Doubtless they enjoyed an oyster much as we do. But this one circumstance shews the great remoteness of the time. The " ostrea edulis" cannot live at present in the brackish waters of the Baltic. These waters must formerly have been salt. In a period antecedent to all history, the ocean probably had free communication with the Baltic through the peninsula of Jutland.
A strange life, indeed, must have been that of these primeval men. They subsisted mainly by fishing. In their monoxyla, or hollow wooden canoes, they ventured out upon the great deep, to catch the herring, the cod, and the flounder. Thousands of auks or penguins watched them from the wave-worn rocks. Flocks of capercailzies, feeding on the pine-buds, swarmed on the uplands ; and large white swans floated majestically down the estuaries, or rushed screaming through the air. Landward, the pine forests were tenanted by the bear, the wild-cat, the wolf, and the fox. Huge tortoises crawled in fen and glade. The fallow deer, the stein-bock, and the chamois roamed over the snow-covered hills : with his rude quartz-headed arrows, the hunter slew not only the game of the mountains, but also the Lithuanian bison of the low lands, and the bos primigenius, the wild bull, or " urus" of Cœsar, which he describes as very fierce, swift and strong, and scarcely inferior to the elephant in size. The bones of these animals are all there in those refuse heaps ; they were used as food, and the large bones have been split lengthwise to get at the marrow. The temperature of the air must have been cold and chilly, almost glacial, if it be true that the erratics or boulders of Upsala belong to this era. Fogs and rains shrouded the earth for months together, the Atlantic beating incessantly on the dank and oozy rocks, and thundering in through the gates of the Baltic, where now are green fields and dry land. Volcanoes, now extinct, then vomited and roared. Along the lofty plateaux of Sweden and Norway, glaciers crept slowly on to the shore edge, as now in Greenland, and then toppled over " with burst of thunder" into the deep, the fragments becoming huge icebergs, hat drifted slowly along the Northern sea. In this time of cold and darkness, the sun and moon must have been objects of peculiar affection ; and in later times, the legendary Lapp songs are replete with allusions to these beneficent luminaries.
Then there came a change. The throes of the glacial period abated. The air, we may believe, grew softer and the skies brightened. The great Lapp family became divided. Part remained North of the Baltic and retained their hunter state ; the remainder, dwelling Southward, began by slow degrees to pasture cattle and to cultivate the soil. These latter were known as the Finns, or people of the fen country, and as the line of demarcation became stronger and more definite, they looked with peculiar aversion on their former brethren. The Lapps were to them sorcerers and magicians ; they dwelt in pohiola, a land of darkness and privation ; and an antagonism arose which became permanent and characteristic through all after time.
We may recall to memory, in relation to these incidents, that throughout the lands of Western Europe there are hints and evidences of a pre-Celtic occupation. The island of Great Britain possesses many remains of a pre-Kymric people ; and the Irish bards tell of a nation of necromancers, who came from Denmark and Norway, the era of whose invasion preceded that of the Milesian immigration.
So passed a long interval of time. Then, as the civilization of social life humanized the Finn, he felt at length the sacred thirst of song. He lived in a world of wonders and adventures. There was much to kindle the imagination and warm the feelings. And after the toils of day, when the night came on and the doors were barred and the fire blazed broadly on the hearth, thrice welcome was he who could sing to the harp the songs that told of oldest times, of the world and its beginning, of the growth of glade and forest, of the heroes of their race of their contests and victories, and all the incidents and vicissitudes of a life of boundless activity and fascinating romance. Thus, as some vast cathedral of the middle ages, the growth of many centuries, the product of many workers, the Kalevala came into being. Diverse in composition, yet possessing an essential unity ; digressive and irregular, yet never straying beyond reach ; including within its vast compass of twenty-three thousand lines all styles and subjects, from the wooing of a Lapp maiden to the converse of a God ; not dazzling and sublime like the old Homeric songs, but often bald, childish, and full of iteration, yet possessing at times a certain grandness of outline ; not artistic or polished, but thoroughly subjective, and containing within itself the pictured reflex of a rustic people with all their mythic history and legends, their loves, hates, joys and aspirations ; such is the story of Kalevala, the national epos of the Finns.
Before speaking farther of the poem itself, I should like to say a word or two on the dialect in which it is written : and the more so as there exists I believe, no English book giving any special information on the subject. The Swedes and Germans seem to have done most in this department. The Finnish language is from one of the oldest stocks in Europe. It closely resembles its congener the Esthonian, and in a lesser degree the Lapp. The nouns are well developed, having fifteen cases. They are inflected wholly by affixes ; prepositions and deflective particles being very sparingly used. These cases have been arranged in triads by Eurèn, the Swede. Thus, there is first the Nominative, the Infinitive, and the Genitive, of which the Nominative is the definite subject, and the Infinitive the indefinite. The second triad comprises the Inessive, the Elative, and the Illative, as olen huonessa, I am in the room ; tulen huonesta, I come out of the room ; menen huoneesen, I go into the room. The third triad, the Adessive, Ablative, and Allative, relate to locality in relation to the surface of something, asistuu kalliolla, he sits on the mountain ; nousee laattialta, he rises up from the floor ; laskee laattialle, he sits down on the floor. The Abessive, Prolative, and Translative, make up the fourth triad. The Abessive denotes the want or loss of something, as kirijata, without a book (from the stem kirja, a book). The Prolative expresses an extension along something, as rannatse, along the shore ; and the Translative denotes a changing to something, as muulipelton niitaksi, he changed fields into meadows. Finally, the Essive case ending in na, denotes a mere present being or condition, as on tuomarina, he is acting as judge ; the Comitative, ending in ne, expresses companionship, as mies vaimoneja lapsine, the man with wife and child; and the Instructive, ending in n, answers to the Sanscrit instrumental ending in ena, and denotes the means whereby something is done, as miehen, by means of one man.
The Lapp is older than the Finsk. It has a dual, which the Finsk has discarded. Its declensions are more simple, and want the numerous shades and ' nuances' of meaning possessed by the latter. The conjugation of the Finnish verb has some similarity to the Latin. Thus, from muuta, to change, we have the present indicative :
which is not very unlike the Latin muto, mutas, mutat, mutamus, mutatis, mutant. It would almost seem as if the Finsk received its final elaborate form after the intrusion of the Aryan languages, the Lapp preserving the pre-Aryan types. Some other peculiarities are worthy of note. The auxiliary verb ' to have' is altogether wanting in Finnish. The conception is otherwise expressed ; sometimes by the genitive, as minun on nälkä, j’ai faim ; but more generally by the adessive, as minullu on kirjoja, apud me sunt libri, ' I have books.' Again, when the verb is conjugated negatively it is the negative particle which is inflected ; the verb remains unchanged. Compound nouns are hardly to be found. Conjunctions are rare ; and prepositions still more so ; what appear to be such are in reality nouns, and follow the object they modify, as will perhaps be found to be the case in other languages. Home Tooke and his “ Diversions of Purley” doubtless, occur to many ; he derives " through" (anciently thorough) from the Teutonic 'thurah, 'a door,' the conjunction 'if from the Gothic ' gifan,' ' to give,' and so forth. There are many resemblances to the Hebrew ; how originating, it is hard to say. The likeness consists in the affixed possessive pronouns, in the causative or hiphil mode of verbs and in various idiomatic forms, as, hän on janoisansa, literally, he is in his thirsts ; that is, he is very thirsty. The younger Rudbeck has collected in his " Atlantica niustrata," some fifty or sixty words which closely resemble their Hebrew equivalents. It is noteworthy, too, that among the four Ugrian families of the Baltic, the Finns, Esthonians, Lapps, and Liefs of Livonia, as well as among the Tcheremisses of the Dnieper, the word expressing the Deity is the same,—jum or jumala. It is possible that this in its remote origin was the Hebrew jam, "the day." Unquestionably, to a savage people, the opening day, the splendor and magnificence of the early dawn, must have been most impressive. The darkness dissolved in light, the stars vanishing at the touch of the rosy-fingered dawn, the arrowy rays of the yet unrisen sun, the gloom and mist and horror of the time rolled back in golden floods of fire, and all things kindled into life by this new-born day that now " stands tip-toe on the misty mountain tops," all this, to the uncultivated Ugrian, must have been a most striking symbolism of the unknown Creator, the hidden force and energy of the Universe. But to the Hebrew was vouchsafed a higher revelation ; and he, leaving jôm to signify the day, advanced onward to the conception of a personal deity.
The exoteric history of the poem before us may be disposed of in few words.
So long ago as 1582, the learned Daniel George Morhof, in a work published at Kiel, introduced to the German world a specimen of the popular poetry of the Finns, the " Song of the Bear," accompanied by a free German translation. Some interest seems to have been excited, and in the following century we find the illustrious Goethe re-producing a Finnish love-song. In Finland itself, the celebrated Professor Porthan was the first to bestow on this subject an adequate and undivided attention. Ganander and Lencquist gave their co-operation. Many collections were made. In 1820, Professor Von Becker, in a Finnish periodical published at Abo, made an attempt to bring together all the songs relating to Wäinämöinen, the Finnish hero. Between the years 1822 and 1836, five volumes of fragmentary poetry appeared, under the editorship of Doctor Zacharias Topelius. These examples appear to have excited in Dr. Lonnrot, the learned Swede, the idea of combining the yet existing songs on Wäinämöinen, Ilmarinen, and Lemminkäinen in one epos. With this view he made several journies into Finland proper, or Savolax ; thence extending his researches to the Government of Archangel or Karelian Finland. In 1835, appeared the Kaleyala in its first arrangement. It contained over 12,000 verses in 32 runes or rhapsodies. The importance of this collection was immediately recognized. An article by Jacob Grimm on the Finnish epos appeared in Hoefer's Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft der Sprache. A Swedish translation was produced by Alexander Castren and a French version by Léouzon LeDuc. Finally, in 1849, after renewed researches by Dr. Lonnrot, the Kalevala came forth in its present form^ in fifty songs or runes, containing in all 22,793 lines. This last edition is that which I have had before me. It has been carefully translated into German, line for line, by Anton Schiefner ; and as my knowledge of the Finsk is by no means sufficient to enable me to read it with ease, I have throughout had constant reference to Schiefner's literal version.
The Kalevala, then, is composed in trochaic dimetric measure, like Professor Longfellow's Hiawatha. I have endeavored to translate portions of the poem literally, and in the same metre. It begins somewhat as follows :
From the air I am incited,
From the inward thought am driven,
That for singing I prepare me,
That for speaking I make ready,
That I sing the ancient tribe song
Handed down through many ages.
Golden friend, beloved brother,
Who with me was born and nurtured,
Come with me to join in singing,
Come with me to join in speaking,
We who now have met together,
Coming here by paths divergent:
Seldom may we come together,
Each the other haply greeting
In the wilderness ungracious,
In the bare, unfavored Northland.
Let us now with hands united
Sing our eldest, worthiest rune-song :
So that all our dear ones listening,
Sires and children, all may hear it :
Let them hear the rhythmic sayings,
Let them hear the song, once borrowed
From the belt of Wäinämöinen.
From the forge of Ilmarinen,
From the sword of Kaukomieli,
From the bow of Joukahainen,
From the border of the Northland,
From the fields of Kalevala.
These in old times sang my father,
What time he his axe was swinging :
These things did my mother teach me,
While her distaff' she was tending.
The poem then goes on to narrate the creation of all things. The daughter of air descends from sky to ocean. A vast water-bird builds its nest upon her knee. The eggs of the mythic bird roll into the sea and are broken ; from their fragments arise earth, heaven, sun, moon and slars. At the touch of the great mother emerge promontories, bays, shore land, the deeps and shallows of the sea.
And the ages rolling swiftly,
Months and years revolving always,
With the sun's resplendent shining,
And the moon's more gentle splendor ;
Swam the mother of the waters,
She, the air's all-graceful daughter,
Through the waves that calmly slumbered,
Through the flat of fogs and vapors :
Broad the sea lay stretched before her,
At her back the sunlit heaven.
Then, when nine long years are over,
And the tenth midsummer passes,
From the sea her head she raises,
Lifts her forehead from the waters,
Sets her mind to form and fashion,
Making all things on the ocean,
On the flood's unending surface.
Where her hand she forth extended,
There arose the rocky forelands ;
Where she dived below the waters,
There the ocean-depths grew deeper ;
Where her side was seen emerging,
There the plains grew broad and level ;
Where her head she turned to landward,
There were fashioned bay and inlet ;
Resting, floating, downwards reaching,
Formed she cliffs below the surface,
Reefs of rock unseen, unnoticed ;
Where the long ships break asunder,
And the seaman finds destruction.
Then, in beauty, isle and islet,
Floated upwards : stony ridges
Deep in ocean sank their pillars ;
Inland stretched the fields and meadows,
Fair with flowers and green with verdure,
Richly dressed with tree and blossom.
Last of all is born Wäinämöinen, the hero of the North. He is the Finnish Hercules, but somewhat older, wiser, and more crafty. With him, throughout the poem are associated the cheerful Leminkäinen, a Northern Mercury, and Ilmarinen the Smith, a sort of Vulcan These are from Kalevala, i.e., the land of Kaleva, who himself is the mighty progenitor of all the Finnish heroes.
The work of creation is now nearly complete. But grain is still wanting for the food of man :
Now the groves were clad in splendor,
Now the woods their arms extended,
Leafy trees, and plants more lowly ;
Birds were singing in the branches,
Cheerful thrashes whistled gaily,
And the cuckoo filled the pauses.
On the ground were berries growing,
Herbs and simples meek in shadow,
Oue thing only, grain of barley,
Would not flourish, would not prosper.
Wäinämöinen, old and truthful,
Goes, in deeply-troubled thinking,
To the border of the ocean,
To the mighty flood's beginning :
There he finds six corns of barley,
Even seven barley seedlings,
On the mighty ocean's border,
On the dry and sandy land-strip ;
Hides them in a skin of marten,
In a skin of summer-squirrel.
Then to sow the land he hastens,
Goes the precious seed to scatter,
Near the spring of old Kaleva,
Near the field of ancient Osmo.
Then behold, out spake the field-mouse,
Osmo's barley may not flourish,
Nor the seed-corn of Kaleva,
If the soil be not made ready,
If the forest be not lightened,
Cleared away with fire and hatchet.
Wäinämöinen, old and faithful,
Made an axe, with edge well sharpened.
Then began, with mighty sinews,
All the trees to fell about him ;
Left alone a birch tree standing,
Where the birds might find a resting,
Where the cuckoo's note might echo.
Then from Heaven came the eagle,
Slantwise through the air descending,
Came the matter to consider,
' Wherefore stands the birch unfallen ?,
' Why its slender stem uninjured ?’
Wäinämöinen gave for answer,
' Therefore was it left unfallen,
' That the birds might rest upon it,
' With the eagle here reposing.'
Said the eagle, bird of heaven,
' Good in truth the care thou shewest,
' Leaving thus the birch-tree standing
' That the birds might rest upon it,
' With the eagle here reposing.'
Quickly then the bird of heaven,
Sent the fire along the forest,
Roaring, burning, with the North wind,
Burning all to dust and ashes.
Wäinämöinen, old and faithful,
Promptly from his bag of marten
From his skin of summer squirrel
Fetches now his seven corn-seeds.
Going then the seed to scatter,
To himself these words he utters,
' Lo ! I cast these seeds of promise,
' Far and wide to grow and ripen,
' From the ground to grow and ripen.
' Aged one, in earth deep dwelling,
' Sacred mother, nurse of all things,
' Give the sod its power of bursting,
' Give the earth its mystic impulse.
' Thou, oh earth, arise from slumber,
' Wake, the fair, the fresh created,
' Let the corn stem rise in vigour,
' Let the corn stalk grow in greenness,
' Thousand ears therefrom depending,
' Hundred-fold its kind producing,
' Through the plowing, through the sowing,
' Though the labour, offered humbly.
' Thou, oh Ukko, God above us,
' Thou, oh father in the heavens,
' Thou, of clouds the king and ruler,
' Thou, of sunshine lord and master,
' Hold good counsel in the heavens,
' Hold good counsel in the cloudland ;
' Send, oh send, a cloud from eastward,
' From the north-east send it hither,
' Yet another send from westward,
' Others, too, from southward hither :
' Send the bounteous rain from heaven,
' Let the clouds drop honey-sweetness,
' That the ears of corn may prosper,
' And the seed spring forth in gladness.'
Swift, then, Ukko, he above us,
Held his counsel in the cloudland,
Held good counsel in the heavens,
Sent the clouds from eastward, westward,
Trooping from the south, and north-west,
Sent the rain like drops of honey,
So the seeds were burst and riven,
Rose the stalks, the ears expanded,
From the moistened earth, assisted
By the toil of Wäinämöinen.
One day passed, and then a second,
Days and nights, they came and vanished,
When a week had fully ended,
He, the thoughtful Wäinämöinen,
Wanders forth to see the corn-land,
Goes to see how fares his sowing,
And behold, the grain had prospered,
Stalk and ear were large and thriving,
Waving golden in the sunshine.
Wäinämöinen, old and faithful,
Looked around him, glad in spirit ;
And the cuckoo, bird of spring time,
Came and saw the slender birch-tree :
—' Wherefore stands the slender birch-tree
' Thus alone ?' And Wäinämöinen,
Old and faithful, gave for answer,
—' Therefore was it left unfallen,
' That its boughs abroad extending,
' Birds thereon might sing and carol :
' Here repose, oh welcome cuckoo,
' Here with throat in song distended,
' Charm us thou, with voice of silver ;
' Call aloud at morn and even,
' Call aloud when noon-tide cometh,
' Call for blessings on the cornfields,
' On the shores and on the meadows,
' On the woods, and on the waters,
' So shall all things wax and prosper,
' Hundred-fold their increase yielding.'
The third Rune tells how Joukahainen, a Lapp, contended in singing with Wäinämöinen. The former is vanquished and plunged in a morass. In the following cantos Wäinämöinen woes the sister of Joukahainen. The maiden leaps into the sea and escapes. The wooer, crest-fallen, is counselled by his mother to go to the Northland. On his way thither, while journeying by the sea-side, he is waylaid by Joukahainen, who wounds his horse with an arrow and Wäinämöinen falls into the sea. A storm-wind arises : he floats for many days upon the deep. Then an eagle, mindful of his old services in leaving the birch-tree standing, bears him on his back to the Northland.
He is now received by a rather mysterious personage, Louhi, the hostess or witch of the North who gives him a hospitable welcome. After a time, however, he becomes homesick. In his own words, he fancies that " water is better out of an old shoe in his own country than out of a golden cup in a strange land." Louhi promises to send him home, if he will perform some smith's work. He undertakes to send his brother Ilmarinen, the smith, the divine artificer who has forged the sky,—the roof of heaven,—with such skill that the mark of the hammer is nowhere visible. She consents. He mounts his steed, and, thundering along the path, flies in hot haste :
From the Northland, never cloudless,
From the gloomy Sariola.
On his way home, he meets with the Northern maiden, who consents to wed him, if he, the powerful master of magic, will make a boat out of the spindle with which she is weaving. In doing so, he cuts his knee with an axe. The blood flows; he is lamed. He seeks a magician to cure him. The magic words are pronounced, and the cure is effected. Ilmarinen, the smith, is sent Northward to Pohiola, and forges ' Sampo,' a jewel, or some exquisite production of art, the precise nature of which is unknown, out of the metal which the hostess of the North has inclosed in a mountain of stone. He then returns home.
The eleventh Rune or Canto introduces to us the sprightly Lemminkainen, the third of the heroic triad. He also is a wooer of the daughter of Louhi. His mother seeks to restrain him, and warns him that if he persists he will find destruction. Lemminkainen, who happens to be brushing his hair at the time, flings the brush down in anger, and departs exclaiming that blood will come from that brush when he himself is in peril.
He goes Northward to the gloomy Sariola. On his way he engages in a contest of skill with a houseful of Lapp wizards, and treats with contempt the pretensions of an old blind herdsman who had presumed to enter the lists with him. The aged Louhi will only receive him as her son-in-law, on Condition of his performing three tasks. The first is to catch the mighty reindeer of Hiisi, the evil one. He chases the deer over hill and valley, and is just on the point of capturing it, when his snow-shoe breaks. He succeeds at length with the aid of certain incantations. The second task imposed on him is to bridle the fire-breathing steed of Hiisi. This also he performs. The third is to shoot the white swan that floats on the dark stream of Tuoni, the river of the dead, or Northern Cocytus. With bow on his shoulder, and quiver on his back, he treads the long downward way. But alas ! the old herdsman, whom he had treated with rudeness, lay in wait for him. Many days had he waited anxiously in his covert. Now at length he hears him coming,—hears the rattling of his quiver, as he strides along the bank of Tuoni, at the edge of a boiling waterfall. He casts at him a black snake snatched from the waves. It pierces like a poisoned arrow, passing under the left arm-pit. Lemminkainen drops lifeless, and is cast into the seething whirlpool.
The scene now changes to the household of his aged mother. After many days of doubt and anxiety, she is at length made aware, by the warning which her son had. promised, that he is in imminent peril, if not already dead. Hasting to the world of shadows, she summons all things,— the forest pines, the moon, the sun, the witch of the North herself, to reveal the mode of his death. Moved with compassion, the sun informs her ; and guided by these directions, she seeks and finds his body in the waters of Tuoni. Addressing herself to the task, she brings him to life again. The charms, incantations, and magical salves by which this is effected bring to mind the witches of Macbeth or the Frankenstein of Mrs. Shelley. At length the last charm is complete, and the final words are pronounced :
" Rise, oh rise from out thy slumber,
" Wake, oh wake from icy swooning,
" Come, oh come from night and darkness."
Then he wakens from his sleeping,
Lifts himself with eyes half opened ;
Slowly, slowly looks around him,
Stares in silent dull amazement ;
Speaks with utterance thick and heavy :
" Truly have I long been sleeping,
" Long I must have idly slumbered,
" Sunk in silence, sunk in darkness,
" Deeply, deeply sunk in slumber."
Saith his mother, " long and longer
" Wouldst thou still have lain in slumber,
" Sunk in silence, sunk in darkness,
" But for me, for me thy mother."
In the next Rune, Wäinämöinen determines to make himself a magical boat. He deputes Sampso Pellervoinen, a forest deity, to cut down the timber for his undertaking. The trees forthwith begin severally to make excuse. One is too frail, another is crooked, another is worm-eaten. At length an oak is found who confesses to be without fault, and is forthwith brought low. The boat is made ; but three words, necessary to complete the incantation, have been forgotten. The hero descends to the lower world to learn them, but attempting to deceive as to the object of his visit, sinks in the river Tuoni. To prevent his escape the river is then covered with an iron net, the work of an aged witch. In the guise of a serpent, however, he passes through the meshes of the net and speedily regains the realms of light.
At length, his boat completed, the missing words having been acquired from Wipunen, an underground Gnome, he steers again to the North to renew his courtship. The old lady rather likes him, but the daughter declines. She accepts in preference, Ilmarinen the jolly smith ; the latter performs sundry hard tasks which are then set him, and a lengthened description follows of the splendours and festivities of the wedding. Wäinämöinen is invited, and charms the company with his singing. The women laugh ; the men stare and smile : all are enraptured. The entire description is very naive and graceful. The old men making speeches from the chimney-corner, the steaming of the viands, the noble Wäinämöinen, the centre of the group of guests ; the bride, smiling, weeping, laughing, and blushing, all in a breath ; the jolly smith himself, large, rubicund, and radiant with happiness ; the preparations for parting, the mother embracing her child, the respectable female friend with words of counsel and comfort ; all this is charmingly natural, and might have been written by Miss Mitford herself, for her Village Tales. Finally, the stalwart Ilmarinen lifts his fair bride right lovingly and tenderly into the gaily adorned sleigh, the horses paw the snow-path, the lash whistles in the air ; they are off fleeter than the wind ; and Ilmarinen the smith has carried off the fair maid of Lapland.
The lively Lemminkainen next appears upon the scene Angry at not having been invited to the wedding, he departs for Pohiola, despite his mother's remonstrance, and announces himself to Louhi with the words, " the bidden guest is welcome, but more welcome still the unbidden one." The old lady replies curtly, " I am sorry to see you. It were better you had come a day earlier or a day later." Nothing daunted, he calls for viands and drink. Offended by his free and easy manner, she invokes a heavy stream of water to overflow the room and drown him. He calls up an ox to drink the water. She calls up a wolf to tear down the ox. He calls up a white hare for the wolf to eat instead of the ox. She calls up a dog to eat the hare. He calls up a squirrel to sit on the dog's tail. Tired of this, Louhi finds a champion, and proposes swords. They fight on a cow-hide, and Lemminkainen cuts off the head of the Lapp champion at a single blow. A yell from the old lady brings down upon him all the host of Pohiola. Wizards, magicians, and sorcerers, old and young, clad and unclad, all make a rush at him. Leaping on his horse, he flies, like Tam o' Shanter, pursued by a legion of witches. Reaching his mother safely, she sends him to a remote island, to remain there for ten years.
The scene now shifts to Ilmarinen, his mining, his seeking for gold and silver, his forging, his smith work. With wonderful Dædalian skill, he produces a sword, then a steed, then a yellow-haired maiden. This latter, with quaint jocularity, he sends to the discarded Wäinämöinen.
Wäinämöinen and Ilmarinen now agree to go by water to Pohiola to obtain Sampo, the mysterious treasure. On their way they pass a promontory, where Lemminkainen is sitting disconsolate ; they consent to take him with them. The old Wainamoinen steers. They come to a waterfall. He prays the maiden of the waterfall to let the boat pass safely. However, it grounds, not on a stone or a sand bank, but on a huge pike, which is forthwith captured. Out of its teeth Waino. makes pegs for his harp, a fir-tree supplies the frame, and the harp-strings are of horse-hair. None can play it but himself. The great master strikes the chords. The birds, the beasts of the forest, all come to listen. The wolf awakes, and the bear. The eagle flies down, and the hawk from the clouds. The salmon and dog-fish rise to the surface. The sun and moon listen. The music " wailing like a god in pain" fills all earth and heaven. There is silence everywhere, and all living things weep. Wäinämöinen weeps himself, and from his tears are produced the pearls of ocean.
The witch of the North, angered by the defeat of her champion, sends sickness to Kalevala. Wäinämöinen heals the sick ; sooths and comforts them with divine sympathy. She sends a bear to ravage his people's flocks. He kills the bear ; and there is great feasting in Kalevala.
As a last effort of her art, the northern witch seizes the sun and moon, shuts them within a mountain and steals the fire from the land of Kaleva. Darkness lies everywhere. There is no longer fire on the hearth nor sunshine in the fields. The labours of the husbandman are stopped, and the fishing on the lakes. Silence and gloom settle down on all the land, nay extend even to the mansions of the gods. As in Lord Byron's poem :
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air.
Astonished at the obscurity, Ukko, the supreme deity, starts from his seat to learn the cause. He traverses the vast mansion of the Gods. The floor of heaven, paved with stars, creaks and bends as his chariot rolls onward :
The steadfast empyrean shook throughout,
All but the throne itself of God.
Striking fire from his sword, he deputes the daughter of air to convey it to the earth. Descending with the lightning spark, she trembles, loses courage, and allows it to fall carelessly. The result is the shrivelling up of the clouds, the destruction of human dwellings, and the burning of large tracts of forest land :
" Corripiiur flammis ut quaeque altissima tellus."
The story of Phaeton is re-written, and our old friend Ovid appears before us in Northern garb. I cannot but think this canto incomparably the finest in the poem. The breadth and simplicity of style with which these grand and striking incidents are treated, render it in the highest degree poetic and effective.
At length the hostess of the North, terrified by the impending hostility of the gods, liberates the sun and moon, which again take their places in the firmament. Illmarinen is at his forge, and looking out at the door, hails the welcome apparition, and goes to Wäinämöinen :
' Oh thou ancient Wäinämöinen,
' Master of all spells and wisdom,
' Come, behold, the moon is shining,
' Come, the sun is in the heavens.'
And the ancient Wäinämöinen
Stood with light about him streaming,
Raised his face to highest heaven,
Spake with words of solemn greeting,
' —Hail, oh moon, with sheen of silver,
" Day divine, again returning,
' Sun, with silent step on moving :
' —Twin born spirits ! freed from durance,
' From your dark and stony prison,
' Like the golden bird of morning,
' Like the silver dove of even,
' Have ye risen, upwards flying
' To your ancient seats in heaven,
' To your old accustomed places,
' To your wonted paths of splendour,
' Never more to cease your shining,
' Never more to fail or leave us.
' —Rise, oh sun, henceforth and ever,
' Still with every morn returning :
' Bring a blessing to our homesteads,
' To our hunting, to our fishing,
' To our planting, and our sowing ;
' And, at eve, on clouds of crimson,
' Rest, reposing as a warrior,
' As a hero after battle,
' Crowned with praises, crowned with honor,
' Round thee all the sunset's glory,
' All the grateful earth beneath thee.'
Here the epic may properly be said to close, the lines which follow being manifestly the work of a later hand.
So much for the poem. Had time permitted, I should like to have told you something of the people. I should like to have told you of their simplicity and good faith, and of the kindly feelings which lie hid under that calm and usually impassive exterior. I should like to have said something of the hardy seamen and brave soldiers among them ; of the famous buff regiment of the great Gustavus, made up of genuine Finns, whom he used to call his lads of Savolax ; or of Sven Dufva, a young Finn of gigantic build and stature, a volunteer in the war with Russia, at the commencement of the present century. Poor Sven, though strong and brave as a lion, was a very child in learning the military drill. Nothing could be made of him. Always stolid, smiling and patient, he seemed bent on making every blunder that could be made, and after passing through the hands of a score of corporals and sergeants, who began by swearing and ended by laughing, it was given up in despair, and decided that poor Sven was to be allowed to serve as a sort of irregular auxiliary. Now it so happened that a party of Finns, to which Sven was attached, were on one occasion under the necessity of falling back before the Russians, who were advancing in force. Sven, however, either not hearing or not heeding the command
to retire, marched boldly on, bringing his firelock to the charge and meeting the enemy just as a turn of the road brought them to the crossing of a narrow bridge. In a moment they were about him, and the brave Finn, exerting all his herculean strength, swept them right and left like flies. The main column of Finns, under General SandeJs, were now approaching, and from a detour in the road on the heights, became witnesses of this strange contest. The effect was irresistible. Uttering a wild ' hurrah,' they rushed with fixed bayonets downwards on the Muscovites and drove them back with heavy loss. It was the last success of a doomed though gallant people. The excitement was intense. The sun, obscured all day, shone out, now, in cloudless splendor. Again and again the hill-side reverberated the strains and acclamations of victory, and many of the wounded and dying raised themselves for a moment, with one supreme effort, to join in the cheers of their comrades. But where was Sven ? Where was the brave man who had shewn them how to strike for Finland ? Alas, poor Sven his troubles were over now. After brief search he was found dead on the bridge, a bullet wound in his breast ; and his old friends and comates gathered round, with bated breath, to look reverently, and for the last time, on the rustic hero who had died so nobly. I have heard too, of a certain shipwreck in the Gulf of Bothnia, on which occasion the sole survivor was an infant of English parentage which was left upon the sands ; and how the kindly Finns took the child and reared it as their own, and how the little girl throve and grew up " fair exceedingly," and became the darling of the tribe, and how it was with much lamentation, and many tears, that the simple-hearted people at length gave her up to her relatives. But I must pause. I have sometimes thought that these Finns, in many salient points of character resembled the peasantry who surround us here. But the comparison were perhaps unnecessary. The untutored son of nature is everywhere the same. To him, as to the Hebrew of old, God still speaks in thunder, and smites with the bolt of flame. Around him the immutable processes of nature ebb and flow unceasingly. The seasons come and depart, all things perish and are renewed, and he himself with unfaltering consciousness of duty, falls into his place, as a link in the endless chain. He stands in connection with all things visible, nay, is watched and guarded by agencies imperceptible to sense. His faith kindles all around him, streams, mountains, forests, into living personalities, and the unseen world outweighs that which is seen. It is better so. Better the simplicity that believes than the science which doubts. It is with such wine as this that the old age of the world may yet be renewed and re-invigorated, Already, on every side, we see nations sinking, thrones shaking to their fall beneath the assaults of popular fury, a belief in nothing, a distrust of all things. Seen, through the mists of public opinion, oppressed by the tyranny of the many, and by the pitiless law of the majority, all living truth and earnestness seem dim, distorted, dead. Yet in the latter times, as once and again of old, it may be that the decaying frame of society shall assume new life by transfusion of northern blood; and in the simplicity and faith of these herdsmen and peasants may yet be found a balm to heal, a cunning virtue to save, and a leaven to leaven the nations.