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Kalevala


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Nordic Verse

The Kalevala is an ancient meter of the folk verse of Finland. It is believed that the oral tradition dates back to before the 12th century. The writers of the folk verse are unknown though the poetry was preserved by singers who were referred to as Runi Singers. There is no written evidence of this rich heritage until the mid 19th century when the Finnish playwright and novelist Elias Lönnrot put together a collection of thousands of folk verse many in the kalevala meter. The collection was titled Kalevala, published in volumes and is considered Finland's national epic.

The elements of the Kalevala are:

  1. metric, trochaic tetrameter.
  2. rhymed couplets which can extend into mono-rhymed quatrains
  3. composed using alliteration and parallels.

    Here is the preamble of Runo or Canto I found at Kalevala, Land of Heroes The English translation by William Forsell Kirby stays true to the trochaic tetrameter meter of the Kalevala meter. Note that although the English translation is not rhymed, the Finish version is written in rhymed couplets. In fact the piece begins with a rhymed couplet followed by 2 mono-rhymed quatrains.

    Runo I Tells a Finnish creation story. The Virgin of the Air descends into the sea where she is fertilized by the wind and waves to become Water-Mother. Her eggs fall out of the nest and break, becoming the earth, sky, sun moon and clouds. She also gives birth to Väinämöinen, the first man, the mythical hero of Finland and the main character of the Kalevala. For a long time he is thrown about by the waves but finally he reaches land in this first song.
          Runo I L1-L10

          Mieleni minun tekevi,
          Aivoni ajattelevi
          Lähteäni laulamahan,
          Saa'ani sanelemahan,
          Sukuvirttä suoltamahan;
          Lajivirttä laulamahan;
          Sanat suussani sulavat,
          Puhe'et putoelevat,
          Kielelleni kerkiävät,
          Hampahilleni hajoovat.                                                         
Translation: (W.F. Kirby)

I am driven by my longing,
And my understanding urges,
That I should commence my singing,
And begin my recitation,
I will sing the people's legends,
And the ballads of the nation.
To my mouth the words are flowing,
And the words are gently falling,
Quickly as my tongue can shape them,
And between my teeth emerging.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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