The Kalevala (1)

By: James Parker
January 29, 2016

The Kalevala is a sequence of folkloric songs, runes and charms from the Karelia region of Finland, collected in the field and concatenated into epic form by Dr. Elias Lonnrot (1803-1884). The versions presented here are not translations or transliterations — they are respectful bastardizations, working from the 1963 English version of the Kalevala produced by the versatile and witty Francis Peabody Magoun Jr.


             [being a bastardization of Rune 4
                  of The Kalevala, lines 1-56]

             Goes a girl in the green gloom,
             in the dim arcade of the wood.
             It’s Aino, looking to left and to right,
             in the dream of her maidenhood.

             She’s looking for twig-brooms for
                  the household,
             whisks and brushes, handy sprigs
                  and bush-bunches…

             Beskirted she is, beribboned so,
             but nudely she nearly shines
             in the radiance of her modesty
             under the gloomy pines.

             Glimmering Aino, adored by weeds,
             number one with the heavy-headed

             But wait. But wait.
             Somebody’s watching.
             An ancient voice violates the
                  reverie —
             ancient, mossy.

             “I am the eyes of the wood!” it says.

             She stops, peers ahead.

             In the groin of a tree, as green
                  as lichen,
             there sits an old boy with his
                  hormones spiking.
             His white hairs are waving,
                  electric with lust,
             and the foam at his lips is forming
                  a crust.

             Who is this fellow?
             Why, it’s distinguished Vainamoinen,
             most potent of our bards!
             You know — the singer whose
                  timeless songs
             stop the boulders from butting
                  each other
             and the North from folding into
                  the South.

             “You’re mine, girleen,” he nobly
             “I won you fair and square. Ask your
                  idiot brother.”

             “Joukahainen?” says Aino.

             “That’s him. He bandied songs with
                  me so I stuffed him in a
             He said if I unburied him I could
                  marry his sister.
             And that’s you.”

             “Where is my brother now?”

             “Still picking the shitballs from
                  his hair, probably.
             Come here. I am profoundly

             Aino gasps. And from his tree-cleft
                  seductive Vainamoinen sings
                  to her:

             “Sweet are your parts,
             revealed to me
             by the expertise of my lechery.
             But sweeter still
             than the strength of your thighs
             is the NO that I see in your
                  maidenly eyes.
             For the wood will take you, Aino.
             The wood will make you, Aino.
                  (That’s right!)
             And soon, very soon,
             you’ll be sighing, you’ll see,
             for lichenous, lecherous me.”

             Aino feels it: his encroaching magic.
             His desire that lives in ditches.
             His libido that trickles and itches.
             She smells it: his old man’s breath.
             Bog-suck and the outstretched
             and the dawn leering over the

             “Once was I the forest’s favourite,”
                  she says,
             in her plain sweet butter-
                  churning voice.
             “I had thought my life would travel
             like a shepherd’s shout from a
             to ring and curve in space.
             But by the words you have spoken
                  from your grey-green perch
             I am utterly and miserably

             “The drip of the leaf is virtue’s thief,”
             says beady old Vainamoinen.

             Aino tears off her ribbons, pulls out
                  her earrings.
             She flings aside her bright bangles.
             “Of every girlish trapping I
                  divest myself.
             Fly away innocence, fly away mental

             And sobbing she rushes back to
                  the farm.

             “Aino!” calls out the suddenly weak
                  old wizard,
             the warbling tree-wizard. “Aino!
                  Be mine!
             Hold me tight and fear me not!
             Together we’ll gnaw the long night
                  to a nubbin
             and mount the wobbly trellis of
                  the stars!”

             No chance.
             He is alone.
             The weeping girl is gone from
                  the wood
             and the farmyard receives her, busy
                  with chickens.


ALL INSTALLMENTS: INTRODUCTION: Laughter in the Womb of Time, or Why I Love the Kalevala | RUNE 1: “The Birth of Vainamoinen” | RUNE 2 (departure): “Vainamoinen in November” | RUNE 3 (1–278): “Wizard Battle” | RUNE 4 (1–56): “A Failed Seduction” | RUNE 4 (300–416): “Aino Ends It All” | RUNE 5 (45–139): “An Afternoon Upon the Water” | RUNE 5 (150–241): “The Blue Elk” | RUNE 5 (departure): “Smüt the Dog Praises His Seal Queen” | RUNE 6 (1–114): “Therapy Session” | RUNE 6 (115–130): “Joukahainen’s Mother Counsels Him Against Shooting the Wizard Vainamoinen” | RUNE 11 (1–138): “Introducing Kyllikki” | RUNE 17 (1–98): “The Dreaming Giant” | RUNE 23 (485–580): “The Bride’s Lament” | RUNE 30 (1–276): “Icebound” | RUNE 30 (120–188): “The Voyage of the Sea-Hare” (Part One) | RUNE 30 (185–188): “Losing It” | RUNE 30 (departure): “Across the Ice” | RUNE 30 (departure): “Song of the Guilty Viking” | RUNE 30 (departure): “The Witch’s Dance” | RUNE 31 (215–225): “The Babysitter” | RUNE 31 (223–300): “The Screaming Axe” | RUNE 33 (1–136): “The Cowherd” | RUNE 33 (73): “Song of the Blade: Kullervo” | RUNE 33 (reworked): “The Breaking of the Blade” | RUNE 33 (118–284): “The Cows Come Home” | RUNE 34 (1–82): “The Pipes of Kullervo” | RUNE 45 (259–312, departure): “The Wizard’s Secret”.

Series banner contributed by Rick Pinchera.


MORE PARKER at HILOBROW: COCKY THE FOX: a brilliant swearing-animal epic, serialized here at HILOBROW from 2010–2011, inc. a newsletter by Patrick Cates | THE KALEVALA — a Finnish epic, bastardized | THE BOURNE VARIATIONS: A series of poems about the Jason Bourne movies | ANGUSONICS: James and Tommy Valicenti parse Angus Young’s solos | MOULDIANA: James and Tommy Valicenti parse Bob Mould’s solos | BOLANOMICS: James traces Marc Bolan’s musical and philosophical development | WINDS OF MAGIC: A curated series reprinting James’s early- and mid-2000s writing for the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix | CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM: J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT | EVEN MORE PARKER, including doggerel; HiLo Hero items on Sid Vicious, Dez Cadena, Mervyn Peake, others; and more.