Kalevala: Väinämöinen Goes Fishing (cont.)

This story is part of the Kalevala unit. Story source: Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot, translated by W. F. Kirby (1907).

Runo 5: Väinämöinen Goes Fishing (cont.)
(see previous page for audio)

Said the aged Väinämöinen,
"Wherefore didst thou then come hither?"

"Therefore 'tis that I have sought thee:
In thine arm like dove to nestle,
By thy side to sit for ever,
On thy knee, as consort sitting,
To prepare the couch to rest thee,
And to smooth thy pillow for thee,
Keep thy little room in order,
And to sweep the flooring for thee,
In thy room to light the fire,
And to fan the flames up brightly,
There large loaves of bread to bake thee,
Cakes of honey to prepare thee,
And thy jug of beer to fill thee,
And thy dinner set before thee;
I am not a water-salmon,
Not a perch from deepest water,
But a young and lovely maiden,
Youthful Joukahainen's sister,
Whom thou all thy life hast longed for,
Whom thou hast so long desired:
O thou pitiful old creature,
Väinämöinen, void of wisdom,
Thou hadst not the wit to hold me,
Vellamo's young water-maiden,
Me, the darling child of Ahto!"

Said the aged Väinämöinen,
Head bowed down, and deeply grieving,
"Sister thou of Joukahainen,
Once again return, I pray thee."

But she never more came near him,
Ne'er again throughout his lifetime,
For she turned away, and, diving,
Vanished from the water's surface
Down among the rocks so varied,
In a liver-coloured crevice.

Väinämöinen, old and steadfast,
Pondered deeply, and reflected,
What to do, and what was needful;
Quick he wove a net all silken,
And he drew it straight and crossways,
Through the reach, and then across it,
Drew it through the quiet waters,
Through the depths beloved by salmons
And through Väinölä's deep waters,
And by Kalevala's sharp headlands,
Through the deep, dark watery caverns,
And the wide expanse of water,
And through Joukola's great rivers,
And across the bays of Lapland.

Other fish he caught in plenty,
All the fishes of the waters,
Only not the fish he sought for,
Which he kept in mind for ever,
Never Vellamo's fair maiden,
Not the dearest child of Ahto.

Then the aged Väinämöinen,
Bowed his head, lamenting deeply,
With his cap adjusted sideways,
And he spoke the words which follow:
"O how grievous is my folly,
Weak am I in manly wisdom,
Once indeed was understanding,
Insight too conferred upon me,
And my heart was great within me;
Such in former times my portion,
But in days that now are passing.
In the evil days upon me,
Now my strength with age is failing,
All my understanding weakens
And my insight has departed,
All my judgment is perverted.
She for whom long years I waited,
Whom for half my life I longed for,
Vellamo's fair water-maiden,
Youngest daughter of the surges.
Who should be my friend for ever,
And my wife throughout my lifetime,
Came and seized the bait I offered,
In my boat sprang unresisting,
But I knew not how to hold her,
To my home I could not take her,
But she plunged amid the waters,
Diving to the depths profoundest."

Then he wandered on a little,
And he walked, in sadness sighing,
To his home direct returning,
And he spoke the words which follow:
"Once indeed the birds were singing,
And my joyous cuckoo hailed me,
Both at morning and at evening,
Likewise, too, in midday hours.
What has stilled their lively music,
And has hushed their charming voices?
Care has stilled their lively music,
Sorrow checked their cheerful voices,
Therefore do they sing no longer,
Neither at the sun's declining,
To rejoice me in the evening,
Nor to cheer me in the morning.
Now no more can I consider
How to shape my course of action,
How upon the earth to sojourn,
How throughout the world to travel.
Would my mother now were living,
And my aged mother waking!
She would surely tell me truly
How to best support my trouble,
That my grief may not o'erwhelm me,
And my sorrow may not crush me,
In these weary days of evil,
In this time of deep depression."

In her grave his mother wakened,
Answered from beneath the billows:
"Still thy mother lives and hears thee,
And thy aged mother wakens,
That she plainly may advise thee.
How to best support thy trouble.
That thy grief may not o'erwhelm thee,
And thy sorrow may not crush thee,
In these weary days of evil,
In these days of deep depression.
Seek thou out the maids of Pohja,
Where the daughters are more handsome,
And the maidens twice as lovely,
And are five or six times nimbler,
Not like lazy girls of Jouko,
Lapland's fat and sluggish daughters.
Thence a wife, O son, provide thee,
From the fairest maids of Pohja;
Choose a maid of fair complexion,
Lovely, too, in every feature,
One whose feet are always nimble,
Always active in her movements."

(800 words)

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