Ilmatar (English)

Itkin / Weep

I spent a year weeping, then another, then a third –
three, four, five years. I cried my lustrous eyes out,
I lost my pretty looks. I only wish I could last another year:
hold on through this one summer into autumn, ease through winter.
Poor little me, I’ll go into the autumn night and walk moonward
with my troubled mind. I’ll leave my tears behind and disappear
into the murky night’s embrace, a dark cloud over my head.
My tears flowed, the teardrops trickled down my cheeks.
Who will dry my tears, who will wipe them from my face?
I can’t believe that it’s all true, and I can’t convince myself,
since I won’t go and see it with my own eyes. All my hopes have
come to nothing, what I dreaded has come true. I waited so long,
but it all turned out to be a lie. But I won’t cry in front of others,
won’t complain with people around. My weeping I keep to myself,
my crying I do at home. Why do I cry for no reason, why do I lament?
I cry over each sorrow, and each worry makes me sigh.


Käppee / Feeble

The old wives around here have hatched an evil plot.
Yes, those long-haired, idle crones are scheming against me:
they’re going to make sure I’ll never ever find the kind of man I want.
So they threw this ragged fellow at me, dumped a real down-at-the-heels
bum on me. Oh me and oh my, a no-account good-for-nothing.
He’s weak, this fellow they got me, weak, and a wild drinker besides.
He’s useless, unpredictable, and has a bad temper. Oh me and oh my,
what a no-account, feeble fellow.


Laiska / Lazy

I’m a lazybones, born to sing, born with fingers made for playing,
wont to spend my nights alone, singing sleeplessly till dawn.
I just let the songs keep coming, put my servants here to work,
and the music floods my fingers, trickles right down to my hips,
making me keep vigil with the moon, singing alone in the night.
I can’t tell what so inspired me – something set my heart aflame.
And whoever overheard me thought I was a drunkard ranting well,
I’ll holler drunk or sober, I would whistle without liquor.
The songs burn my breast, the words smoke in my mouth.
Even ice will never cool them; these are words that can’t be quenched.
I’m a lazy, ill-born sort; all that I can claim as mine are these
chains of song that hold me, like a stout rope round my neck.
Nights I sense a strange discomfort, feel uneasy in my cabin:
squalls of wind keep blowing bits of tales and phrases through
my walls.



I want a man to be my match, a man who pleases me.
I want him to be handsome; he needs to have the looks to walk beside me.
But I can’t find a lover, can’t be satisfied.
I found a bird-cherry twig and a sappy green sprig,
but I can’t find a lover, can’t be satisfied.
I met a crow in the marshes, a magpie on the fence;
I found a block of alder and an aspen log,
I found a pine stump by the road and a juniper in the woods;
I found a fencepost where the field ends and a cone beneath a stone.
But the one I accepted was a destitute fellow,
and the one I fell in love with walked in worn-out shoes.
Now, whatever could I have been thinking,
who was I really wishing for, who did I hope would come?
I never found a sweetheart to walk hand in hand with me.



I hear a rustle in the birches and I feel the wind rising,
rising on these open meadows, on the long lakeshore.
The breezes sing for my baby, rocking the cradle,
lulling my little bird to sleep.
And the hushabye wish that they made for the child
was that the moon might rise golden to watch over it.
I hear the birches rustling, I feel the wind rising;
many a rain has yet to fall, many a breeze is yet to come.
Yes, I can hear the birches rustling: the gentle rustling
of the birches, the soft whisper of the grass.


Äijö / Old man

There was a cranky old coot lived in the village, bowlegged
and weak in the head. One night he was out in the pines;
crowing and screeching, carrying firebrands that scorched
his palms; alone in the night, exhausted.
Now on that chilly hillside he kept snakes, one at the top
and two lower down. And then he was bitten in the palm,
a stinging wound, a load of venom.
Alone in the night he trudged along, lurking by the porch
waiting for the snake to appear, wanting to put that wily
devil’s head on the block, to take an axe to its slithery neck.
The old man was weary, he’d already had more than many
a stronger man could have taken.
To heal the snakebite he washed it with liquor, poured proof spirit
over it, took some resinous wood and made the sauna steaming hot,
went round the garden reading charms and incantations.
And there was much speculation about his doings: all that trudging
and stumbling, the crookback snakes and their strange antics,
that cranky old coot wheezing and crowing alone in the night.

Äijö’s Spell

Treacherous and cold-skinned viper,
slithering and slit-eyed fiend,
heather-colored belly-crawler,
learn now of your contemptible extraction,
hear and know your lowly provenance:
Earth it was who first uncoiled you,
as it did much crawling vermin,
even many-colored serpents.
As for what your proper hue be
I can’t say, nor does it matter
if you were nine different colors,
whether you are black or greyish
or perchance a shade of copper.
Evil, stinging devil’s minion,
never shall my blood refresh you,
nor my flesh sustain your body.
Hissing ghoul with jagged backside,
long-fanged, vicious, wicked creature,
find a hillside in the forest,
hide amongst the tender willows,
slink into a stony hollow,
creep, black worm, into a burrow
and take my affliction with you,
carry off the pain I suffer
to those killing fields of battle,
to the very sites of warfare.
Cleanse the grievous wound you gave me,
rid my veins of this your venom.
Henceforth do not hasten thee hither,
never wend your winding way here,
be, foul thing, forever banished.



The Goddess of Pain has a kettle, the Daughter of Evil a pot;
and in it she’s cooking a mess of pain, stirring a bothersome broth.
Kivutar, the devious maiden of Woeville sits there on Hurt Hill,
on top of a boulder in Woeville.
Wearing a burning shift, she gathers grief, picks out pains,
picking and choosing among them, out in the wrathful rain.
And high on Hurt Hill lies a stone, a boulder of various hues:
she digs up ailments from under it, silently stooping to choose.
She simmers and stirs her grievous stew, cooking up hurt on the hill.
While up there on Misery Ridge roams a pack of suffering dogs;
dogs the color of frost, howling in pain on the hill,
suffering and whimpering.


Linnunmieli / A bird’s mind

Would that I could flutter like a birch leaf,
soar like a little bird, under the heavens,
above the winds, over the blue of the ocean.
But I was never meant to fly nor flit:
the vast wilderness is my home,
the juniper’s boughs are my shelter.
I walk by the lakeside, I tread the footpaths,
I clamber through fences skirting the fields.
But I was never meant to fly nor flit;
my garden is as long as the cloud’s rim,
my doorstep is as cold as the seething rapids,
here in these mossy chambers
beneath the flowering fir-top.


Sanat / Words

Please spare me your words, please reprieve me from your foul speech,
all the dour words I’ve had from you, let alone those insults.
Your mouth spouts words that fall on me, too many by half,
words that should not be spoken at all, and not now.
Your mouth should be clamped shut, your tongue tied firmly down
to keep you from talking, put an end to your bluster.
Please spare me your words, reprieve me from the harsh language
I’ve been hearing from you, spoken without joy.
Your tongue is sorely ailing, your tone downright sick,
your utterances unacceptable, like dark spells. –
No, speaking out is not for you, nor trying to be so frank;
you never get your words right and your logic goes astray.
You simply should not open your mouth thoughtlessly,
shouldn’t say what’s better left unsaid, better kept deep down,
at the bottom of your mind.


Meri / Sea

These are things that haunt my mind:
a boat riding the waves, sails aflutter in the wind.
My mind drifts away on the ocean, on the churning, foaming water.
Now, why should I praise the sea?
Many good men have perished at sea; many children have been lost.
I have no love of the waterfront:
the sea took my own father, and my only brother, too.
Those that were my father’s thoughts are now billows in the sea;
the waters are my brother’s very blood.
Why should I be spared, poor child, why not pull me under?
No, I will not praise the sea. Nor do I love the waterfront.
I care nothing for these shores.

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