By: James Parker
September 16, 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 11, lines 1–138]

Of the beauty of Kyllikki, maid of the
tingling with perfect posture in her
      high-backed chair,
braver bards than I have tried and failed
      to sing.
She was… She was… She was… She was…
She was too much. That’s the thing.

In vain did the harpist flex and shake out
      his sore harp-hand.
In vain did the poet squeeze and squeeze
      at his poetry gland.

Addressed to Kyllikki, the melodious
of the most inspired minstrel
were as bits of shitty tinsel.
Where did she get her skin?
Not from her scalded-looking mother,
Mama, the scowling menial,
religiously uncongenial.
Where did she get her bones?
Not from her grumpy, lumpy father,
Papa, the charcoal burner,
the lifelong alcoholical slow learner.
“I burn alder,” he said, “I burn oak.
I burn juniper and that’s no joke.
I make my booze from the dreaming sloes
and how I make it nobody knows.”

Ah, but Kylliki…
Of those dense peasant bodies
she was the counter-emanation.
Her beauty defied station.
An ankle so slender, an inner wrist so
a neck-nape to send you on a week-long
In her grey eyes the Milky Way
swung wide its uber-doors,
deep bass, deep space,
and in you went, in you went, you and all
      the trebley troubadours.

The Sun said:
“Marry me, Kylliki.
Together we’ll bristle up crops from the dull
and wax in the cells of gorgeous animals.”

The Moon said:
“Marry me, Kyllikki.
In my cold halls
your beauty will suffer no change
and the sea will be your mirror.”

The star said:
“Marry me, Kyllikki.
From the burning white crack of existence
I build out crystalline in every direction.”

“No,” said Kyllikki, from her high-backed
“No, and once more No.
The odor and imprint of a spouse,
be it sun, moon, or star,
is absolutely undesired in my house.”

But there was one —
the prancer, Lemminkainen the
reared on fish-oil at the head of the bay,
rosy and resinous with fish-oil and
— who would not take No for an answer.

A shagger and a dancer, with fish-oil
and a beard so fierce you could hear the
      hair growing,
in his furry boots he would stomp and rave
while the face of the fiddler grew
      mysteriously grave.
Mysteriously grave,
mysteriously grave,
the face of the fiddler, mysteriously grave,
while the fish-fed boy did stomp and rave.
The horsehair bow is in shreds, its fibres
and there’s Lemminkainen, indulged by his
knocking up girls without trying.

“I look into your grey, grey eyes, Kyllikki,”
      he said,
“I look, and what do I see?
I see a vanishing twinkle of sperm-tails
as they make their way down to your
      dearest darkness,
each blunt head embossed with the
      magical message of me.”

Ah, but he was a charmer.


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