Home  »  library  »  poem  »  The Proem

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Proem

By The Kalevala

Translation of John Martin Crawford

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 folk-song,

Handed down from bygone 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 not unwilling.

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 roamings.

Seldom do we come for singing,

Seldom to the one, the other,

O’er this cold and cruel country,

O’er 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 folk-lore,

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 Wåinåmoinen,

From the forge of Ilmarinen,

From the sword of Kaukomieli,

From the bow of Youkahainen,

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 o’er Louhi,

Sampo growing old in singing,

Louhi ceasing her enchantment.

In the songs died wise Wipunen,

At the games died Lemminkåinen.

There are many other legends,

Incantations that were taught me,

That I found along the wayside,

Gathered in the fragrant copses,

Blown 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 day-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, Wåinåmoinen,

The renowned and wise enchanter,

Born from everlasting Ether

Of his mother, Ether’s daughter.