peter kislinger  / exercise

european kalevala


imagine the creation of europe. imagine you are the storyteller. write the beginning of europe's story. write 10 lines following the formal pattern of the kalevala-metre (finnish national epic containing 22 795 verses).

note: playfulness is more important than academic accuracy.


the birth of europe

fragments of a
mock-heroic poem
trochaic tetrameter (mostly)

peter kislinger
(30 june - 2 july 2006)

rune I. the nascency of europe

europe - did she see the end ab ovo?
was she busy texting messages,
dreaming of connecting people,
not yet smiling: typing smileys?
was she flirting with the curvature of gherkins?
was she fearing passing pisa?
was she pissed not passing pisa?
was she having premonitions
of coffee gulping, ice-cream licking,
biscuits munching, record breaking finns,
winning contests, winning tests,
champion students of all classes?

in europe´s vision was euro vision
song contest already won by lordi?
in her cradle, was she changing
shily shillings into €,
leary lira into €,
fleshly finnmarks into € ?
in her cradle, was she texting
messages on how to fight corruption,
how to squash this monster of the monsters?
was she pond´ring how to end it?

everybody must post verses
in trochaic tetrameter,
then the necessary volume
constituting a real saga
will be sown from many sources.
see! i ceaséd this squit sample
well within the space allotted
for responding to eede´s email.

now i end my measured singing,
bid my weary tongue keep silence,
leave my songs to other singers.
many men that live to murmur,
many women live to censure,
many speak with evil motives;
many they with wretched voices
curse me for my wretched singing,
blame my tongue for speaking wisdom,
call my ancient songs unworthy,
blame the songs and curse the singer.
be not thus, my worthy people,
blame me not for singing badly,
unpretending as a minstrel.
be this as it may, my people,
this may point the way to others,
to the singers better gifted.
thus i end my little ditty
with a dotty puny puzzle:
europe´s born, not finnished yet!

for your preparation

mieleni minun tekevi,
aivoni ajattelevi
lähteäni laulamahan,
saa'ani sanelemahan, sukuvirttä suoltamahan,
lajivirttä laulamahan. sanat suussani sulavat,
puhe'et putoelevat,
kielelleni kerkiävät,
hampahilleni hajoovat.

i have a good mind
take into my head
to start off singing
begin reciting
reeling off a tale of kin
and singing a tale of kind.
the words unfreeze in my mouth
and the phrases are tumbling
upon my tongue they scramble
along my teeth they scatter.

(the kalevala, translated from the finnish by keith bosley, oxford university press, new york 1989)