THE KALEVALA (16)

By: James Parker
August 24, 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.

kalevala_bastardized

*

THE VOYAGE OF THE SEA-HARE (Part One)
[being a bastardization of The Kalevala, Rune 30, lines 120–188]

The surf it spins, the spume it plays,
the stars come pattering out.
The fingers of God
pop the moon from its pod
and the helmsman gives a shout.
Hurrah!

It’s Lemminkainen, stimulated,
steering his longship,
his boon companion Wulfi at his side.

“Out to sea, out to sea,
where the albatross ungainly dives
and the cunning anchovy thrives!
We’re raiding again, Wulfi.
Just like the old days!”

“Nice boat,” says Wulfi. “Good movement.”

Says Lemminkainen:
“I named my ship the Sea-Hare,
for I do reverence that animal
above all others.
I love his withered warlike face,
his whiskers strong as wire.
His legs I so admire.
He’ll run for weeks!
And how I love
the speed-streaks on his cheeks.”

“Very fast, the hare,” observes Wulfi.

And as the hare half-hides
in the after-harvest stalks,
his mad dented ears sticking up
from the white stubble,
so does Lemminkainen’s longship
crouch behind the dark swell,
its mast-tip poking over.

A cloud blows moonlight like a silver
      trumpet.

“Wulfi, rattle your memory.
Not so difficult, is it?
Old Grimli, down by Drop Head Wood,
how we paid him a little visit?

We turned him out, we burned him out.
Just for a laugh, you said.
But I was up for robbery,
for the ingots under his bed.

We knocked on his door with our
      axe-blades.”

“That we did,” says Wulfi.

“We examined his seashell collection
with our feet.
The views he aired from the upper stair
I’d rather not repeat.

We overhauled his décor.
For that we got no thanks.
He fled through the trees in his nightgown,
flashing pale shanks.”

“Yup,” says Wulfi.

And she goes, she goes, the Sea-Hare,
over the twanging world-canopy,
between the drumming tarps of sea and
      sky,
and the bulge in her sail is the roundness
of the hare’s eye.

Out to sea, hums Lemminkainen, out to
      sea

But look, there’s someone watching him.
On the horizon, at the ocean’s rim,
from her edge-of-it-all abode
she gapes like a cosmic toad.
Tilt the blue disc of the sea
but one degree
and down her gullet it would go,
leaving but a bare basin,
a doomsday patio.

Oh NO.

It’s the Witch of North Farm.

In her whirlpool, her private vortex,
her cauldron of drifting wrecks,
she brews up a hex.
She dips her witch’s fingertip:
numbness spreads in a flat ring,
at blast velocity,
and little Jack Frost comes clattering across
the hard surface of the suddenly solid sea.

He giggles.
He won’t behave.
His tin heels clang
down in an ice-hollow,
his toecaps knell
in the ice-dell,
then scrape upwards
as he climbs this new form in nature,
the stammer of a stalled wave.

Wulfi squints. “Could be a problem.”

Enchantment. Blue-white glare.
These noises edged with terror
in the dead air.
The lithe longship is locked in, blocked in.
The Sea-Hare
is going nowhere.

***

Series banner contributed by Rick Pinchera.

ALL INSTALLMENTS: 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 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 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 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 (118–284): “The Cows Come Home” | RUNE 34 (1–82): “The Pipes of Kullervo”.

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.

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