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Kalevala II. Väinämöinen's Sowing.
Väinämöinen chooses Pellervoinen to sow seeds throughout the world. The plants flourish until a giant, Tursas, rises from the ocean. Tursas tramples all of the plants, and, after a fire has burned through everything, he plants an acorn in the ashes. The oak tree that grows is evil and blocks out the sun and stars. Väinämöinen calls for help from the sea to destroy the tree. A pygmy appears, turns into a giant, and chops down the oak tree. All of the plants then grow back, except for barley. Väinämöinen gets special instructions from a titmouse on how to get the barley to grow.


Then arose old Väinämöinen,
With his feet upon the island,
On the island washed by ocean,
Broad expanse devoid of verdure;
There remained be many summers,
There he lived as many winters,
On the island vast and vacant,
Well considered, long reflected,
Who for him should sow the island,
Who for him the seeds should scatter;
Thought at last of Pellervoinen,
Firstborn of the plains and prairies--
When a slender boy, called Sampsa--
Who should sow the vacant island,
Who should scatter the forest seeds.

Pellervoinen, thus consenting,
Sows with diligence the island,
Seeds upon the lands he scatters,
Seeds in every swamp and lowland,
Forest seeds upon the loose earth,
On the firm soil, sows the acorns,
Fir trees sows he on the mountains,
Pine trees also on the hilltops,
Many shrubs in every valley,
Birches sows he in the marshes,
In the loose soil sows the alders,
In the lowlands sows the lindens,
In the moist earth sows the willow,
Mountain ash in virgin places,
On the banks of streams the hawthorn,
Junipers in hilly regions;
This the work of Pellervoinen,
Slender Sampsa, in his childhood.

Soon the fertile seeds were sprouting,
Soon the forest trees were growing,
Soon appeared the tops of fir trees,
And the pines were far outspreading;
Birches rose from all the marshes,
In the loose soil grew the alders,
In the mellow soil, the lindens;
Junipers were also growing,
Junipers with clustered berries,
Berries on the hawthorn branches.

Now the hero, Väinämöinen,
Stands aloft to look about him,
How the Sampsa-seeds are growing,
How the crop of Pellervoinen;
Sees the young trees thickly spreading,
Sees the forest rise in beauty;
But the oak tree has not sprouted,
Tree of heaven is not growing,
Still within the acorn sleeping,
Its own happiness enjoying.
Then he waited three nights longer,
And as many days he waited,
Waited till a week had vanished,
Then again the work examined;
But the oak tree was not growing,
Had not left her acorn dwelling.

Väinämöinen, ancient hero,
Spies four maidens in the distance,
Water brides, he spies a fifth one,
On the soft and sandy seashore,
In the dewy grass and flowers,
On a point extending seaward,
Near the forests of the island.
Some were mowing, some were raking,
Raking what was mown together,
In a windrow on the meadow.

From the ocean rose a giant,
Mighty Tursas, tall and hardy,
Pressed compactly all the grasses,
That the maidens had been raking,
When a fire within them kindles,
And the flames shoot up to heaven,
Till the windrows burned to ashes--
Only ashes now remaining
Of the grasses raked together.

In the ashes of the windrows,
Tender leaves, the giant places,
In the leaves he plants an acorn,
From the acorn, quickly sprouting,
Grows the oak tree, tall and stately,
From the ground enriched by ashes,
Newly raked by water maidens;
Spread the oak tree's many branches,
Rounds itself a broad corona,
Raises it above the storm clouds;
Far it stretches out its branches,
Stops the white clouds in their courses,
With its branches hides the sunlight,
With its many leaves, the moonbeams,

And the starlight dies in heaven.

Väinämöinen, old and trusty,
Thought awhile and well considered,
How to kill the mighty oak tree
First created for his pleasure,
How to fell the tree majestic,
How to lop its hundred branches.
Sad the lives of man and hero,
Sad the homes of ocean dwellers,
If the sun shines not upon them,

If the moonlight does not cheer them
Is there not some mighty hero,
Was there never born a giant,
That can fell the mighty oak tree,
That can lop its hundred branches?

Väinämöinen, deeply thinking,
Spoke these words, soliloquizing:
"Kape, daughter of the Ether,
Ancient mother of my being,
Luonnotar, my nurse and helper,
Loan to me the water forces,
Great the powers of the waters;
Loan to me the strength of oceans,
To upset this mighty oak tree,
To uproot this tree of evil,
That again may shine the sunlight,
That the moon once more may glimmer."

Straightway rose a form from oceans,
Rose a hero from the waters,
Nor belonged he to the largest,
Nor belonged he to the smallest,
Long was he as man's forefinger,
Taller than the hand of woman;
On his head a cap of copper,
Boots upon his feet were copper,
Gloves upon his hands were copper,
And its stripes were copper colored,
Belt around him made of copper,
Hatchet in his belt was copper;
And the handle of his hatchet
Was as long as hand of woman,
Of a finger's breadth the blade was.

Then the trusty Väinämöinen
Thought awhile and well considered,
And his measures are as follow:
"Art thou, sir, divine or human?
Which of these thou only knowest;
Tell me what thy name and station.
Very like a man thou lookest,
Hast the bearing of a hero,
Though the length of man's first finger,
Scarce as tall as hoof of reindeer."

Then again spoke Väinämöinen
To the form from out the ocean:
"Verily, I think thee human,
Of the race of pygmy heroes,
Might as well be dead or dying,
Fit for nothing but to perish."

Answered thus the pygmy hero,
Spoke the small one from the ocean
To the valiant Väinämöinen
"Truly am I god and hero,
From the tribes that rule the ocean;
Come I here to fell the oak tree,
Lop its branches with my hatchet."

Väinämöinen, old and trusty,
Answers thus the seaborn hero:
"Never hast thou force sufficient,
Not to thee has strength been given,
To uproot this mighty oak tree,
To upset this thing of evil,
Nor to lop its hundred branches."

Scarcely had he finished speaking,
Scarcely had he moved his eyelids,
Ere the pygmy full unfolding,
Quick becomes a mighty giant.
With one step he leaves the ocean,
Plants himself, a mighty hero,
On the forest fields surrounding;
With his head the clouds he pierces,
To his knees his beard extending,
And his locks fall to his ankles;
Far apart appear his eyeballs,
Far apart his feet are stationed.
Farther still his mighty shoulders.

Now begins his axe to sharpen,
Quickly to an edge he whets it,
Using six hard blocks of sandstone,
And of softer whetstones, seven.

Straightway to the oak tree turning,
Thither stalks the mighty giant,
In his raiment long and roomy,
Flapping in the winds of heaven;
With his second step he totters
On the land of darker color;
With his third stop firmly planted,
Reaches he the oak tree's branches,
Strikes the trunk with sharpened hatchet,
With one mighty swing he strikes it,
With a second blow he cuts it;
As his blade descends the third time,
From his axe the sparks fly upward,
From the oak tree fire outshooting;
Ere the axe descends a fourth time,
Yields the oak with hundred branches,
Shaking earth and heaven in falling.

Eastward far the trunk extending,
Far to westward flew the treetops,
To the South the leaves were scattered,
To the North its hundred branches.
Whosoever a branch has taken,
Has obtained eternal welfare;
Who secures himself a treetop,
He has gained the master magic;
Who the foliage has gathered,
Has delight that never ceases.

Of the chips some had been scattered,
Scattered also many splinters,
On the blue back of the ocean,
Of the ocean smooth and mirrored,
Rocked there by the winds and waters,
Like a boat upon the billows;
Storm winds blew them to the Northland,
Some the ocean currents carried.

Northland's fair and slender maiden,
Washing on the shore a headdress,
Beating on the rocks her garments,
Rinsing there her silken raiment,
In the waters of Pohjola,
There beheld the chips and splinters,
Carried by the winds and waters.

In a bag the chips she gathered,
Took them to the ancient courtyard,
There to make enchanted arrows,
Arrows for the great magician,
There to shape them into weapons,
Weapons for the skilful archer,
Since the mighty oak has fallen,
Now has lost its hundred branches,
That the North may see the sunshine,
See the gentle gleam of moonlight,
That the clouds may keep their courses,
May extend the vault of heaven
Over every lake and river,
Over the banks of every island.

Groves arose in varied beauty,
Beautifully grew the forests,
And again, the vines and flowers.
Birds again sang in the treetops,
Noisily the merry thrushes,
And the cuckoos in the birch trees;
On the mountains grew the berries,
Golden flowers in the meadows,
And the herbs of many colors,
Many kinds of vegetation;
But the barley is not growing.

Väinämöinen, old and trusty,
Goes away and well considers,
By the borders of the waters,
On the ocean's sandy margin,
Finds six seeds of golden barley,
Even seven ripened kernels,
On the shore of upper Northland,
In the sand upon the seashore,
Hides them in his trusty pouches,
Fashioned from the skin of squirrel,
Some were made from skin of marten;
Hastens forth the seeds to scatter,
Quickly sows the barley kernels,
On the brinks of Kalew waters,
On the Osma hills and lowlands.

Hark! the titmouse wildly crying,
From the aspen, words as follow:
"Osma's barley will not flourish,
Not the barley of Vainola,
If the soil be not made ready,
If the forest be not levelled,
And the branches burned to ashes."

Väinämöinen, wise and ancient,
Made himself an axe for chopping,
Then began to clear the forest,
Then began the trees to level,
Felled the trees of all descriptions,
Only left the birch tree standing
For the birds, a place of resting,
Where might sing the sweet voiced cuckoo,
Sacred bird in sacred branches.

Down from heaven came the eagle,
Through the air he came a-flying,
That he might this thing consider;
And he spoke the words that follow:
"Wherefore, ancient Väinämöinen,
Hast thou left the slender birch tree,
Left the birch tree only standing?"
Väinämöinen thus made answer:
"Therefore is the birch left standing,
That the birds may lie within it,
That the eagle there may rest him,
There may sing the sacred cuckoo."

Spoke the eagle, thus replying:
"Good indeed, thy hero judgment,
That the birch tree thou hast left us,
Left the sacred birch tree standing,
As a resting place for eagles,
And for birds of every feather,
Even I may rest upon it."

Quickly then this bird of heaven,
Kindled fire among the branches;
Soon the flames are fanned by north winds,
And the east winds lend their forces,
Burn the trees of all descriptions,
Burn them all to dust and ashes,
Only is the birch left standing.

Väinämöinen, wise and ancient,
Brings his magic grains of barley,
Brings he forth his seven seed grains,
Brings them from his trusty pouches,
Fashioned from the skin of squirrel,
Some were made from skin of marten.
Thence to sow his seeds he hastens,
Hastens the barley grains to scatter,
Speaks unto himself these measures:
"I am sowing the seeds of life,
Sowing through my open fingers,
From the hand of my Creator,
In this soil enriched with ashes,
In this soil to sprout and flourish.
Ancient mother, thou that livest
Far below the earth and ocean,
Mother of the fields and forests,
Bring the rich soil to producing,
Bring the seed grains to the sprouting,
That the barley well may flourish.
Never will the earth unaided,
Yield the ripe nutritious barley;
Never will her force be wanting,
If the givers give assistance,
If the givers grace the sowing,
Grace the daughters of creation.

Rise, O earth, from out thy slumber,
From the slumber land of ages,
Let the barley grains be sprouting,
Let the blades themselves be starting,
Let the verdant stalks be rising,
Let the ears themselves be growing,
And a hundredfold producing,
From my plowing and my sowing,
From my skilled and honest labor.

”Ukko, thou O God, up yonder,
Thou O Father of the heavens,
Thou that livest high in Ether,
Curbest all the clouds of heaven,
Holdest in the air thy counsel,
Holdest in the clouds good counsel,
From the East, dispatch a cloudlet,
From the Northeast, send a rain cloud,
From the West, another send us,
From the Northwest, still another,
Quickly from the South a warm cloud,
That the rain may fall from heaven,
That the clouds may drop their honey,
That the ears may fill and ripen,
That the barley fields may rustle."

Thereupon, benignant Ukko,
Ukko, father of the heavens,
Held his counsel in the cloud space,
Held good counsel in the Ether;
From the East, he sent a cloudlet,
From the Northeast, sent a rain cloud,
From the West, another sent he,
From the Northwest, still another,
Quickly from the South a warm cloud;
Joined in seams the clouds together,
Sewed together all their edges,
Grasped the cloud, and hurled it earthward.
Quick the rain cloud drops her honey,
Quick the raindrops fall from heaven,
That the ears may quickly ripen,
That the barley crop may rustle.

Straightway grow the seeds of barley,
From the germ the blade unfolding,
Richly colored ears arising,
From the rich soil of the fallow,
From the work of Väinämöinen.

Here a few days pass unnoted
And as many nights fly over.
When the seventh day had journeyed,
On the morning of the eighth day,
Väinämöinen, wise and ancient,
Went to view his crop of barley,
How his plowing, how his sowing,
How his labors were resulting;
Found his crop of barley growing,
Found the blades were triple-knotted,
And the ears he found six-sided.

Väinämöinen, old and trusty,
Turned his face, and looked about him,
Lo! There comes a springtime cuckoo,
Spying out the slender birch tree,
Rests upon it, sweetly singing:
"Wherefore is the silver birch tree
Left unharmed of all the forest? "

Spoke the ancient Väinämöinen:
"Therefore I have left the birch tree,
Left the birch tree only growing,
Home for thee for joyful singing.
Call thou here, O sweet-voiced cuckoo,
Sing thou here from throat of velvet,
Sing thou here with voice of silver,
Sing the cuckoo's golden flute notes;
Call at morning, call at evening,
Call within the hour of noontide,
For the better growth of forests,
For the ripening of the barley,
For the richness of, the Northland,
For the joy of Kalevala."

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Next: III. Väinämöinen and Joukahainen

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Finnish mythology

This is an on-going project of mine to node the public domain text of the Kalevala, translated by John Martin Crawford in 1888. Once all of the individual parts are complete, I'll be adding a table of contents with a note on the public domain work.

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