Kalevala : the Epic Poem of Finland — Volume 01 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Kalevala .

An additional proof of the originality and independent rise of the Kalevala is to be found in its metre.  All genuine poetry must have its peculiar verse, just as snow-flakes cannot exist without their peculiar crystalizations.  It is thus that the Iliad is inseparably united, and, as it were, immersed in the stately hexametre, and the French epics, in the graceful Alexandrine verse.  The metre of the Kalevala is the “eight-syllabled trochaic, with the part-line echo,” and is the characteristic verse of the Finns.  The natural speech of this people is poetry.  The young men and maidens, the old men and matrons, in their interchange of ideas, unwittingly fall into verse.  The genius of their language aids to this end, inasmuch as their words are strongly trochaic.

This wonderfully versatile metre admits of keeping the right medium between the dignified, almost prancing hexameter, and the shorter metres of the lyrics.  Its feet are nimble and fleet, but yet full of vigor and expressiveness.  In addition, the Kalevala uses alliteration, and thus varies the rhythm of time with the rhythm of sound.  This metre is especially fit for the numerous expressions of endearment in which the Finnish epic abounds.  It is more especially the love of the mother for her children, and the love of the children for their mother, that find frequent and ever-tender expression in the sonorous lines of the Kalevala.  The Swedish translation by Castren, the German, by Schiefner, and the Hungarian, by Barna, as well as the following English translation, are in the original metre of the Kalevala.

To prove that this peculiar and fascinating style of verse is of very ancient origin, the following lines have been accurately copied from the first edition in Finnish of the Kalevala, collated by Dr. Lonnrot, and published in 1835 at Helsingfors, the quotation beginning with the 150th line of the 2nd Rune: 

Louhi Pohjolan emanta
Sanan wirkko, noin nimesi: 
“Niin mita minulleannat,
Kun saatan omille maille,
Oman pellon pientarelle,
Oman pihan rikkasille?”
Sano wanha Wainamoinen: 
“Mitapa kysyt minulta,
Kun saatat omille maille,
Oman kaën kukkumille,
Oman kukon kukkluwille,
Oman saunan lampimille?”
Sano Pohjolan emanta: 
“Ohoh wiisas Wainamoinen! 
Taiatko takoa sammon,
Kirjokannen kirjaëlla,
Yhen joukkosen sulasta,
Yhen willan kylkyesta,
Yhen otrasen jywasta,
Yhen warttinan muruista.”

As to the architecture of the Kalevala, it stands midway between the epical ballads of the Servians and the purely epical structure of the Iliad.  Though a continuous whole, it contains several almost independent parts, as the contest of Youkahainen, the Kullervo episode, and the legend of Mariatta.

By language-masters this epic of Suomi, descending unwritten from the mythical age to the present day, kept alive from generation to generation by minstrels, or song-men, is regarded as one of the most precious contributions to the literature of the world, made since the time of Milton and the German classics.

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Project Gutenberg
Kalevala : the Epic Poem of Finland — Volume 01 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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