Poem 1: The Creation of the World

Team Louhi sort-of-not-quite translates the Finnish Kalevala into English, with a particular emphasis on meter and alliteration. Introductory notes on Team Louhi are here; the original Kalevala poem can be found here.


Image credit: Björn Landström (?)

you and I such long-lost bothers
siblings long-since sea-span parted
joined this day like time had not passed
as though lived our dearest elders
like our mothers still could sing us
fathers could in daily labours
teach us trochees, metres, iambs
when fell feet and flowed our free verse
telling legends everlasting:
heroes, treasure, golden ages.

further topics, songs and poems
sprung from silence, born from cold thoughts
versing with our cheepskate cousins
off our own steam lyrics riddled
all alone sought sonnets, lim’ricks
lone in night-time, lone in day light
lone as was born ancient Väinö
from the world’s first mother figure
chaste and precious dearest Airlet

long were days of lonely living
uneventful, dull and quiet
even for that airborn goddess:
Airlet, Ilma, everlasting.

so descended into deep seas
seeking something from the seafoam
but the meanest of the old winds
interfered in Ilma’s swimming
called a storm to stir the seafoam:
waves were woken, ocean swollen

Ilmatar felt something stirring:
womb now woken, stomach swollen!
heavy with her body’s burden
– Ilma, woman, weary, wombful –
year on year on waiting, yearning
gods declining aid deliv’ry

diving duckling, aythya, equal
searching for some place for nesting
spies the knee-crease of dear Airlet,
Ilma, woman, almost-mother:
duck-eggs laid now on this island
six were golden, seventh iron

on the third day, end of nesting
shifted Ilma, moved the woman
eggs slipped downward, shells fell waveward
from these splinters sprung forth all things
yolk made daylight, white made moon beams
splintered shell made earth, made heaven

undelivered still is Ilma
burning in her body’s torments
every movement making more earth
molding features, bays and islets

Väinämöinen, sage yet unborn
carried now for years too many
thirty summers, thirty winters
thirty passings of each season
spoke some true words, wanted birthing
prayed to sun light, prayed to moon beam
neither shifted, neither aided
so did Väinö stretch his own hand
thrust his digits, toes did offer
unlocked bone gate, left his womb nook
freeing Ilma, mother nature
in this long-delayed deliv’ry

sage eternal floated freely
five six seven years he floated
washed on island tree-bare, barren:
here he stood, our Väinämöinen
spotting moon and spying starlight
daylight ever after shining
so was born old Väinämöinen
ancient sage of air-born Ilma

(initially performed at Voicebox Fremantle, September 2016)

Continue to Team Louhi: Poem 2 (The Sewing of the World)

4 thoughts on “Poem 1: The Creation of the World

  1. Pingback: Poem 2 – sanna peden

  2. Pingback: What is Team Louhi? i.e. Notes on Not-Translating – sanna peden

  3. Pingback: What is Team Louhi? i.e. Notes on Not-Translating

  4. Pingback: #TeamLouhi and #Suomi100: together at last! – sanna peden

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