Next: I. Birth of Väinämöinen

Kalevala Proem
According to Webby, a proem is a "preface; introduction; prelude," which is precisely what we have here. The Kalevala is a work handed down through oral tradition, and this section allows the singer/narrator to announce to the audience that he or she will be telling the tales of the great heroes. The heroes themselves (Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen, and Lemminkäinen) are only briefly mentioned here, but there's much more of them in the epic to follow.


Mastered by desire impulsive,
By a mighty inward urging,
I am ready now for singing,
Ready to begin the chanting
Of our nation's ancient folksong
Handed down from by-gone ages.
In my mouth, the words are melting;
From my lips, the tones are gliding;
From my tongue, they wish to hasten.

When my willing teeth are parted,
When my ready mouth is opened,
Songs of ancient wit and wisdom
Hasten from me willingly.
Golden friend and dearest brother,
Brother dear of mine in childhood,
Come and sing with me the stories,
Come and chant with me the legends,
Legends of the times forgotten,
Since we now are here together,
Come together from our travels.

Seldom do we come for singing,
Seldom to the one, the other,
Over this cold and cruel country,
Over the poor soil of the Northland.
Let us clasp our hands together
That we thus may best remember.
Join we now in merry singing,
Chant we now the oldest folklore,
That the dear ones all may hear them,
That the well-inclined may hear them,
Of this rising generation.

These are words in childhood taught me,
Songs preserved from distant ages,
Legends they that once were taken
From the belt of Väinämöinen,
From the forge of Ilmarinen,
From the sword of Kaukomieli,
From the bow of Joukahainen,
From the pastures of the Northland,
From the meads of Kalevala.

These my dear old father sang me,
When at work with knife and hatchet.
These my tender mother taught me,
When she twirled the flying spindle.
When a child upon the matting
By her feet I rolled and tumbled.
Incantations were not wanting
Over Sampo and over Louhi,
Sampo, growing old in singing,
Louhi, ceasing her enchantment.
In the songs died wise Vipunen,
At the games died Lemminkäinen.
There are many other legends,
Incantations that were taught me,
That I found along the wayside,
Gathered in the fragrant copses,
Blown to me from the forest branches,
Culled among the plumes of pine trees,
Scented from the vines and flowers,
Whispered to me as I followed
Flocks in land of honeyed meadows,
Over hillocks green and golden,
After sable-haired Murikki,
And the many-colored Kimmo.

Many runes the cold has told me,
Many lays the rain has brought me,
Other songs the winds have sung me.
Many birds from many forests,
Oft have sung me lays in concord.
Waves of sea, and ocean billows,
Music from the many waters,
Music from the whole creation,
Oft have been my guide and master.
Sentences the trees created,
Rolled together into bundles,
Moved them to my ancient dwelling,
On the sledges to my cottage,
Tied them to my garret rafters,
Hung them on my dwelling-portals,
Laid them in a chest of boxes,
Boxes lined with shining copper.
Long they lay within my dwelling
Through the chilling winds of winter,
In my dwelling-place for ages.

Shall I bring these songs together,
From the cold and frost collect them?
Shall I bring this nest of boxes,
Keepers of these golden legends,
To the table in my cabin,
Underneath the painted rafters,
In this house renowned and ancient?
Shall I now these boxes open,
Boxes filled with wondrous stories?
Shall I now the end unfasten
Of this ball of ancient wisdom,
These ancestral lays unravel?

Let me sing an old-time legend,
That shall echo forth the praises
Of the beer that I have tasted,
Of the sparkling beer of barley.
Bring to me a foaming goblet
Of the barley of my fathers.
Lest my singing grow too weary,
Singing from the water only,
Bring me too a cup of strong beer.
It will add to our enchantment,
To the pleasure of the evening,
Northland's long and dreary evening,
For the beauty of the dawn,
For the pleasure of the morning,
The beginning of the new day.

Often I have heard them chanting,
Often I have heard them singing,
That the nights come to us singly,
That the Moon beams on us singly,
That the Sun shines on us singly;
Singly also, Väinämöinen,
The renowned and wise enchanter,
Born from everlasting Ether
Of his mother, Ether's daughter.

Next: I. Birth of Väinämöinen

Back to Kalevala node

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.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.