The Kalevala (2)

By: James Parker
February 26, 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.


             AINO ENDS IT ALL
             [being a bastardization of Rune 4 of
                  The Kalevala, lines 300–416]

             The sky is an orgy, with clouds of
             spraying sunset from melted
             And in a clear voice,
             at the edge of a dramatically
                  empurpled pool,
             someone is singing:

             I hung my heart from the branch of
                  a tree
             Too heavy, too heavy
             It fell down on me
             I tied my heart to the tail of a cat
             Too heavy, too heavy
             It broke the cat’s back

             The pool gulps down a tumbled
             and then it gulps down a girl,
             a girl who sinks with spreading hair
             and silver antlers of trapped air.

             Oh Aino.
             There you go.
             Down down down
             where daylight’s fingery probing
             and squid-ink darkness
             Better travel to the bottom, globular
                  with sorrow,
             than be wedded tomorrow
             to that sorcerous old bastard,

             “Let guilt squeeze my brother’s
             and sleeplessness infest his bed.
             He gave me away like a slave, to
             a wizard whose testicles hang by his

             Poor Aino!
             So she speaks, so she curses,
             with bitter enunciation, thorny
             but by the time it gets to the surface
             it’s all vowels.

             “I’ll miss them — the farm, and the
                  meads of my birth,
             where moles like waiters serve
                  platefuls of earth.
             But swallow me, waters, for I am
             to a warlock who gets up five times
                  a night.”

             And deeper and
             dreamily deeper she goes,
             slo-mo plummeting
             down a liquid shaft.

             The animals are watching this,
             each bird and beast solemnly
             as after a minor fuss of bubbles
             the pool reseals itself
             and resumes its infatuation with the

             “Well,” says Raven at last,
             “someone will have to take this
                  news to North Farm.
             Any volunteers?”

             Bear lumbers hopefully forward.

             “Not you, big paws.
             You’re too gauche and sweaty.
             You’d swipe somebody’s head off by

             Wolf presents himself, minimally.

             “Not you, strange eyes.
             We need some empathy here.
             We’re talking about a human
                  tragedy, after all.”

             Fox signals his gingery interest.

             “Not you, curly-wurly.
             You’re very ironic.
             I doubt they’d believe you.”

             Raven looks around.
             “Where’s Hare?”

             Hare, at the edge of the gathering,
             absorbed in fanatical grooming,

             “Hare, I think you can do this.
             Why? Because you’re in and you’re
             You live on the threshold.
             You sleep in shallow scoops,
             don’t even dig a hole.
             You run unhinged and clattering,
             a flying ribcage,
             and when you stop, wham,
             everything around you,
             the fields and the buzzing hedges,
             the whole world-canopy of Kaleva,
             flexes upon you like a lens.”

             Hare twitches.

             “Go!” says Raven.
             “Go and tell them about Aino.”
             And Hare, in spike-eared voltaic
             takes off.


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.