The Herald of Peace Estonia 052

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Listen to the Story

My telling is the storytelling version. Here is the poetic version of the story, from the Estonian national epic, Kalevipoeg:


THE HERALD OF WAR

TO the Finnish Bridge when driving
On the west wind’s path of copper,
On the pathway of the rainbow,
With the king’s note in my wallet,
And his mandate in my bosom,
And upon my tongue defiance,
What was that which came to meet me,
And what horror to confound me?

Nothing but an ancient corbie,
Aged crow, a wretched creature;
With his beak he sniffed around him,
And his nostrils snuffed the vapour;
He had smelt the war already,
When his nostrils snuffed the vapour,
That he might discern the message
Which I carried in my pocket;
He had smelt the war already,
And the scent of blood allured him.

To the Finnish Bridge when driving
On the west wind’s path of copper,
On the pathway of the rainbow,
Swift I hastened as an envoy,
With the king’s note in my wallet,
And his mandate in my bosom,
In my charge the leader’s orders,
And upon my tongue the secret
That the flags in breeze should flutter,
And the lance-points smite in battle,
And the swords should do their duty.
What was that which came to meet me,
And what horror to confound me?

’ Twas an eagle came to meet me,
Eagle fierce with beak hooked sharply;
With his beak he sniffed around him,
Through the mist he pushed his nostrils,
By the scent he sought to fathom
What was in the envoy’s message.
He had smelt the war already,
And the scent of blood had reached him,
And he went to call his comrades.

To the Finnish Bridge when driving
On the west wind’s path of copper,
On the pathway of the rainbow,
Swift I hastened on as envoy,
With the king’s note in my wallet,
And his mandate in my bosom,
And upon my tongue the secret
And the leader’s secret orders
That the flags should now be waving,
And the spear-points should be sharpened,
What was it I there encountered,
And what met me there to vex me?

’ Twas the raven’s son that met me,
’ Twas a carrion-bird that met me;
With his beak he sniffed around him,
And his nostrils snuffed the vapour,
That the meaning of my message
With his nose he thus might fathom.
He had smelt the war already,
And the scent of blood had reached him,
And he went to call his comrades.

To the Finnish Bridge when driving
On the west wind’s path of copper,
On the pathway of the rainbow,
While I hastened as an envoy,
With the king’s note in my wallet,
And his mandate in my bosom,
And upon my tongue the secret,
And the leader’s secret orders,
What was that which came to meet me,
And what horror to confound me?
’ Twas a little wolf that met me,
And a bear that followed closely;
With their snouts they sniffed around them,
Through the mist they pushed their nostrils,
Seeking thus to probe the secret,
And the letter to discover;
They had smelt the war already,
And the scent of blood had reached them,
And they ran to spread the tidings.

To the Finnish Bridge when driving
On the west wind’s path of copper,
On the pathway of the rainbow,
While I hastened as an envoy,
With the king’s note in my wallet,
And his mandate in my bosom,
And upon my tongue defiance,
With the leader’s secret orders
That the flags unfurled should flutter,
And the spear-points do their duty,
And the axes should be lifted,
And the swords should flash in sunlight,
What was that which came to meet me,
And what horror to confound me?
It was Famine met me tottering,
Tottering Famine, chewing garbage;
With her nose she sniffed around her,
That the meaning of my message
With her nose she thus might fathom;
For she smelt the war already,
And the scent of blood had reached her,
And she went to call her comrades.

To the Finnish Bridge while driving
On the west wind’s path of copper,
On the pathway of the rainbow,
While I hastened as an envoy,
With the king’s note in my wallet,
And his mandate in my bosom,
On my tongue the secret orders
That the flags unfurled should flutter,
And the spear-points do their duty,
And the axes and the fish-spears
All should do the work before them,
What was that which came to meet me,
What unlooked-for horror met me?
’ Twas the Plague I there encountered,
Crafty Plague, the people’s murderer,
Of the sevenfold war-plagues direst;
With his nose he sniffed around him,
And his nostrils snuffed the vapour,
Seeking thus to probe the matter,
And the letter to discover;
He had smelt the war already,
And the scent of blood had lured him
And he went to call his comrades.

After this my horse I halted,
Yoked him with a yoke of iron,
Fettered him with Kalev’s fetters,
That he stood as rooted firmly,
From the spot to move unable,
While I pondered and considered,
Deeply in my heart reflecting
If the profit of my journey
Were not lost in greater evil
For the war brings wounds and bloodshed,
And the war has throat of serpent.
Wherefore then should I the battle,
Whence springs only pain and murder,
Forth to peaceful homesteads carry?


Let a message so accursed

In the ocean-depths be sunken,
There to sleep in endless slumber,
Lost among the spawn of fishes,
There to rest in deepest caverns,
Rather than that I should take it,
Till it spreads among the hamlets.

Thereupon I took the mandate
Which I carried in my wallet,
And amid the depths I sunk it,
Underneath the waves of ocean,
Till the waves to foam had torn it,
And to mud had quite reduced it,
While the fishes fled before it.
Thus was hushed the sound of warfare,
Thus was lost the news of battle.


Kalevipoeg, Canto 9, lines 769-925. Neus, Ehstnische Volkslieder, pp. 305-311. The manner in which the gathering symbols of the horrors of war, each more terrible than the last, are successively brought upon the scene in this poem is very fine.


Please share your response to the story of The Herald of Peace with me. As the teller, I wonder the story was heard… by You. Thanks!