The Kalevala (4)

By: James Parker
April 22, 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 The Kalevala, Rune 31, lines 215–225]

To fatherless Kullervo
a baby was entrusted.
Oh woe to the bouncing baby
for Kullervo was maladjusted.

When he was two, Kullervo,
they stuffed him in a box,
and carried it down to the shore
and pushed it off the rocks.

And there the neutral billow
Kullervo did sustain,
lifting him up and setting him
back on the shore again.

When he was three, Kullervo,
they built a massive pyre,
burned all the wood they possibly could,
and shoved him into the fire.

The fire burned down, and what was left?
Kullervo, for heaven’s sake!
Glowing slightly, but smooth and whole,
and grooming the ash with his rake.

When he was four, Kullervo,
they hung him in a tree.
Two months later they took him down
alive as alive could be.

And so he grew sebaceous
and turned into a teen
with a honk in his mouth like geese
      going south
and eyes of acetylene.

“Be nice to this baby, Kullervo.
Keep him warm and dry.
Feed him, rock him, let him be
the apple of your eye.

Be nice to this baby, Kullervo.
Keep him warm and dry.
Wash his diapers in the stream.”
And Kullervo said “I’ll try.”

But the darling little baby
was a thing to him remote.
Cold, cold Kullervo,
unable to emote!

It lay on its back, it clucked and quacked,
it smiled at the sky above.
The wriggling of its little limbs
petitioned the world for love.

“Love is the thing I’m without,”
      said Kullervo.
“Love is what I’ve none of.
They’ve killed me with air and water
      and fire
and a dead man I’m the son of.”

“Oh no, Kullervo,” the baby said.
“I fear you’ll do me harm.
Oh no, Kullervo, look what you’ve done —
you’ve pulled off my little arm.”

Said Kullervo: “You don’t care where
      you end
and everything else begins.
And the law of non-paternity
compels me to do you in.”

“Oh no, Kullervo,” the baby said.
“Kullervo, you’re making me cry.
Oh no, Kullervo, look what you’ve done —
you’ve gouged out my little eye.”

On the third day, from his book of diseases
Kullervo summoned a spore.
The baby fizzed, went stiff,
turned purple and died for evermore.

To fatherless Kullervo
a baby was entrusted.
Oh woe to the bouncing baby
for Kullervo was maladjusted.


Series banner contributed by Rick Pinchera.

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”.

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.


Poetry, Read-outs