By: James Parker
May 23, 2017

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 34, lines 1–82]

Great Ilmarinen, mighty midwife of metal,
scowling with concentration in his fire-
      festering forge,
drags from the core of earth, across the hot
      womb’s hearth,
a horseshoe, a rake, the blade of a scythe,
some kind of sword-handle thing,
hoisting it clear with refulgent forceps,
and then — DONG! — letting it drop.
It settles, clanging, on the floor of his

He’s distracted.
Something’s bothering him.
A noise. Outside in the yard.

What is it?
It niggles and it needles.
It whickers and it wheedles.
A high, trivial, accentless air.
Devoid of meaning, devoid of care.
Not birdsong, or the cry of a child,
but an idiot ditty, piping wild.

Bloody Kullervo, on the heath, with his tin

This noise he makes is not music.
Not tuneful, not nice.
It has nothing to commend it.
One wishes he would end it.
But he is Kullervo. And so —
on and on and on it goes.

Ilmarinen steps out,
ready to remonstrate,
ready to bounce his hammer off Kullervo’s
And then he sees —

a shoe,
an entrail,
a swatch of a dress,
some half-chewed jewellery,
a finger (with a ring on it),

and he feels the air still quivering with

“Oh no,” he says. “Ah me,
I know what this is.
These spatterings, these gory scatterings,
are the remains of my Mrs.
Her parts to me so dear,
look, there’s one here, and another one

He’s right.
Kullervo’s wolves and bears,
those messy eaters,
in chewing up the smith’s wife,
have created a kind of blast radius of

“My bride’s insides are all over the hedges,”
observes Ilmarinen.
“Now blacken, my heart, and curl up at the

Kullervo, on the heath, kicks at a thistle
and tootles his little whistle.
“Goblins of the heath, sleep tight,” he sings,
“The blacksmith’s world has turned to shite!”
Pleased to have caused such a rumpus,
he shifts about the compass,
goes North, goes South,
until melancholy overtakes him.

“Poor Kullervo! Where can I go?
I was not uttered whole,
by God’s lips rounded in the shape of a
a single, swelling, lambent, unkillable
No! The wind made me to hiss at
and the rain to piss at,
the stones to knock against,
lightning to shock against,
earth to choke and gorse to poke,
and hail to throw at,
and every frigging thing to have a go at.”

He sits down, lost, adoring his self-pity.


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