peter kislinger  / all contributions

european kalevala

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kalevala by:
duncan mcgibbon

Creator Song

“On this day, live for each other.
On this day recall our glances;
let us now embrace our author.
Song will gather us in dances.
Take us sister,take us brother.
On this day live for each other
to death's door which still grimaces
and lives on in holy places.
Let us now embrace our author.
We will go to grieve with mourners
yet our songs remain as traces.
Art will stay alive, whatever
on this day live for each other,
despite cruel death's embraces.
All our dance and all our treasure
shall live on as unseen graces.
On this day, recall our glances
let us now embrace our Author.

comment by teacher

A dark, and almost, not quite, not yet, hermetic text, with impassioned invitation (urging the reader/listeners, the faithful?) to join the Dance: The poem makes words join the round dance.
A suggestive and sensual text that doesn’t give much away, yet managing to be both excluding and including. If it is “about” Europe, then it is a dancing and singing Europe.
I admire the strong sense of, and emphasis on, form - for example, with the anaphoric beginning of lines - “on this day” - functioning as a leitmotiv, it seems.
Apart from verse, rhythm and rhymes, there is a strong visual element that binds the text together. “Visual” rhymes (brother, other, author; maybe in some regional dialects not just visual?; traces, graces embraces: cunningly binding ideas, thoughts, images that cut across the lines).
The most striking and longest run-on line reserved for quite powerful image, which also combines rhymes (-aces. –other): “On this day live for each other /
to death's door which still grimaces / and lives on in holy places.”

One may even detect traces of the Kalevala beginning. For me, there are spiritual, otr “religious” overtones – the “high” (priestly and/or prophetic?) tone in line with one aspect of the Kalevala. If there is irony, it ´s lost on me.
And the theme: “Europe”? In the beginning, it seems to say, there was art, or even: The act of birth, and survival, are brought about through art. Birth and beginning equal death and the end is already nigh? In Europe´s beginning is Europe´s end? In between – dancing and singing?
Who said that if we only knew how to begin, we might live for ever?

Who is the “a/Author? Who speaks/sings? High priest of which creed? Is the creed poetry? We have had a “poeta doctus”, now here is a “vates”.

reply to peter / blondel / 12.11.2006 12:05
The trochee is a dancing metre in English. Those who use it best such as Arnold, Browning and Auden always use it in this way.Lonnrot's compilation belongs with Longfellow and Nineteenth century reworking of aboriginal songs as a language tool designed to asert the power of bourgeois nationalism over the simpler social structures of the people who gave rise to the scattered folk songs that make up their texts. I rewrote an Aztec hymn translatd from Leon Portilla, which was part of a novel about a man keeping others under control by having them live in a fantasy world. I submitted it because I had imitated the trochee and occasional dactyls of the Kalevala and it fitted the requirements.I was very impressed with your generous interpretation.It could be a final hymn intoned by Vainamoinen for the original folksingers.In which case,the 'author'could be Lonnrot himself,except at the end the capital could refer to a deity,Marjatta's son ? Best wishes Duncan
AW: reply to peter / kalevala-en / 28.11.2006 21:12

I´d be very much interested in the novel you mentioned.

One word more:
Calling Lönnrot´s poem "compilation", well I wonder. It is a lovely understatement; and "Bourgeois" is fine as a descriptive term, but probably not meant as such...

Best wishes