Monthly Archives: November 2012

Eeva Kilpi – Love is Rest

Love is rest.
Actually, the only rest humans have.
And nothing is as exhausting.
And it is freedom.
And yet, nothing binds us as securely.
Therein lies love’s paradox.
Without love, it is as if one carried a burden
All the time and was prisoner to his loneliness,
No matter how free he is in his aloneness. 


Rakkaus on lepo. 
Oikeastaan ainoa lepo mitä ihmisellä on. 
Eikä mikään ole niin rasittavaa. 
Ja se on vapautta. 
Eikä kuitenkaan mikään sido niin paljon. 
Siinä on rakkauden paradoksi. 
Ilman rakkautta ihminen kantaa kuin taakkaa 
koko ajan ja on yksinäisyytensä vanki, 
niin vapaa kuin yksin ollessaan onkin.

– Eeva Kilpi –

Kalevala: Aino and the spring cuckoo bird

Poor Aino. She was promised to an old wizard by her foolish brother, and rather than help to protect her, her mother gives her gifts to make her even more beautiful, telling her to go to this old man. Her mother tells her:

There is no cause to be glum
no reason to be downcast
God’s sun also shines
elsewhere in the world —
not at your father’s windows
your brother’s gateway.
There are berries on a hill
and in glades strawberries too
for you, luckless one, to pick
further afield, not always
in your father’s glades, upon
your brother’s burnt-over heaths.

But Aino has no interest in going, can’t stand the thought having to care for such a decrepit man, so she runs away. She runs to the ocean, where she is lured into the water to bathe and soon  drowns in the water.  She is a little like Ophelia, though not shunned by love, she has been forced to relinquish herself to another without her own consent.

In her mother’s grief  she weeps three rivers and sprouting from these rivers rise three peaks and upon each peak sit a cuckoo bird. The cuckoo birds each call out their own message: love, love for the loveless Aino; bridegroom, bridegroom for the lonely Väinämöinen; and joy, joy to the mother who weeps all her days.

When the cuckoo is calling
my heart is throbbing
tears come to my eyes
waters down my cheeks
flow thicker than peas
and fatter than beans:
by an ell my life passes
by a span my frame grows old
my whole body is blighted
when I hear the spring cuckoo

I have heard the call of the cuckoo bird, calling from the woods near my grandmother’s house in Metsäkylä. It was almost a whisper, not something that jars you to attention, like a crow or magpie. When I heard it I thought of the passage of time, the cuckoo call reminding me of clocks marking the hour. I like the idea of Aino’s mother marking time with the cuckoo’s refrain — joy, joy.

Time for a winter epic: Kalevala

In 2005, I visited the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki and found a collection of impressionist works all conveying scenes from the Kalevala; scenes with Aino and the swans, maidens and heros. They were beautiful but I knew I was missing something as I had never studied the Kalevala. Flashforward seven years, and I find myself looking for archetypes and myths that have informed some of the references to Finland and Finns in books that I loved. For example, Ondaatje includes a scene early in In the Skin of Lion that is pivotal to the multicultural tone of the novel; Patrick (the narrator) watches as Finnish workers from a nearby logging camp skate on a frozen lake in the dark of night, carrying torches to light their way. The scene is one of my favourite (I can recreate the cold, the whites of the snow and the men, and bright orange of their torches at a moment’s notice – Ondaatje knows how to engage the senses); it was the first time I found a Finn in something I was reading.

Now I found myself wondering how would a knowledge of the Kalevala change my reading of those Finnish night skaters? Maybe not at all, but after years of studying the myths, sagas and cultural icons of the English literature, I think its time to take on the Finnish epic.

This summer I bought a translation of the Kalevala (Oxford World Classic 1989 Edition, translated by Keith Bosley). I am on page 15 of 666. Here is what I found so far:

Of the egg that created the world:

“The bits changed into good things
the pieces into fair things:
an egg’s lower half
become mother earth below
an egg’s upper half
became heaven above;
the upper half that was yolk
became the sun for shining
the upper half that was white
became the moon gleaming;
what in an egg was mottled
became the stars in the sky
what in an egg was blackish
became the clouds of the air.”