ELEGY

Lyrics based on the Kanteletar, a collection of Finnish folk poetry
(compiled by Elias Lönnrot, 1840)

BETTER UNBORN
Better it would be for me
And better it would have been
Had I not been born, not grown
Not been brought into the world
Not had to come to this earth
Not been suckled for the world

If I’d died a three-night-old
Been lost in my swaddling band
I’d have needed but a span of cloth
A span more of wood
But a cubit of goof earth
Two words from the priest
Three verses from the cantor
One clang from the bell

(Kanteletar, I:46)

AGAINST WIDOWS
The Devil weds a widow
Death another’s leftovers
Better to lie on a willows
Rest on alder boughs
Then upon a widow’s bed
On a used woman’s pillow

Sweeter the side of a fence
Than a widow’s flank
Softer the side of a grove
Than a widow’s beside is

The Devil weds a widow
The grave one twice wed
A widow’s hand is rougher
Than a dry spruce bough
With which she strikes the playful
Grabs the one who laughs
A widow has had her games
And spent a merry evening

(Kanteletar, II:248)

THE ORPHAN
The calloo’s spirits are low
Swimming on the chill water
But the orphan’s are lower
Walking down the village street

The sparrow’s belly is chill
Sitting on the icy bough
But my belly is more chill
As I step from glade to glade

The dove’s heart is cold
As it pecks the village rick
But I’m colder still
As I drink the icy water

(Kanteletar, I:26)

ON RICH AND POOR
Old folk remember
And those today learn
How before their time
Life was different here:

Without the sun people lived
Groped about without the moon
With candles sowing was done
Planting performed with torches

At the time we lived
Without the sunshine
Who had covered up our sun
And who had hidden our moon?

Without the moonlight stumbled
With our fists fumbled the land
With our hands we sought out roads
With hands roads, with fingers swamps

We could not live without the sun
Nor manage without moonlight
Who would seek out the sun
Who spy out the moon?
Who else if not God
The one son of God?

MY KANTELE
Truly they lie, they talk utter nonsense
Who say that music reckon that the kantele
Was fashioned by a god
Out of a great pike’s shoulders
From a water-dog’s hooked bones:
It was made from the grief
Moulded from sorrow

Its belly out of hard days
Its soundboard from endless woes
Its strings gathered from torments
And its pegs from other ills
Truly they lie, they talk utter nonsense

So it will not play, will not rejoice at all
Music will not play to please
Give off the right sort of joy
For it was fashioned from cares
Moulded from sorrow

(Kanteletar, I:1)

CARES
Many rocks the rapid has
A lot of billows the sea
More plentiful are my cares
Then cones on a spruce
Beard moss on a juniper
Gnarls upon a pine bark
Knobs upon a fir
Husks on a grass-top
Boughs on a bad tree

Drag my cares away
Carry off my griefs
For no horse can draw
No iron-shod jerk
Without the shaft-bow shaking off
The cares of this skinny one
The sorrows of this black bird

(Kanteletar, I:54)

SONG OF THE TROUBLED ONE
What the thrush toils at
The partridge asks for
The hapless one takes
The troubled one steals
Puts upon a spade
Sets on a runner
Hides under a door
Shields with a bath-whisk

The farmer hammers
And tempers his spears
Marries off his sons
Hands out his daughters
In boots clogged with clay
In fancy mittens

The sea-swell rumbles
And the winds it blows
And the king hears it
From five miles away
From six directions
From seven back woods
From eight heaths away

(Kanteletar, I:219)

WEEPER ON THE SHORE
In the vale where I once listened out for the light
Where the little birds warble
The ptarmigans babble
And my heart looked for some rest from its trouble
I cast my eyes downward upon the seaside

And a fair young girl on the shore I espied
Who was sitting and weeping
To see the waves leaping
And over the skyline sad vigil was keeping.

O why are you weeping alone on the shore?
Now still from your eyes I can see the tears pour
What sorrow and smart
So pierces your heart
That even at midnight it will not depart?

(Kanteletar, Preface:19)

ELEGY
Long evenings full on longing
Low-spirited my mornings
Full of longing too my nights
And all times the bitterest
‘Tis my lovely I long for
It is my darling I miss
My black-browed one I grieve for

There’s no hearing my treasure
No seeing my marten-breast
No hearing her in the lane
Driving below the window
Chopping the wood by the stack
Clinking outside the cook-house:
In the eart my berry lies

In the soil she’s mouldering
Under the sand my sweet one
Beneath the grass my treasure
The one I grieve for

(Kanteletar, II:53)