Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/111

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

pean nations, their notions concerning the gods continued to be nebulous, and altogether wanting in firmness of outline. Their deities are passionless and without sociability, poetical images rather than actual personalities.

The epic and lyric poetry of the Finns is a direct offshoot of the magic song. Nothing but their subject-matter distinguishes them. All three possess the same form and metre, including parallelism and alliteration. The magic song, which is genuine poetry, and quite different from that of other peoples, is the creation of the tietäjä or wizard. At first it was little more than metrical prose, but finally, between the eighth and eleventh centuries, it assumed the stable and constant form which is common to Finnish poetry. Though this evolution took place only after long contact with European peoples, it is no direct copy of any Scandinavian or other metre. It was spontaneous and national, the outcome of the surviving shamanistic ideas. This abiding memory of the power of the Shaman is reflected in Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen, who are but personifications and types of the wizard under two different aspects. As the poets were wizards who held aloof from foreigners, there is no mention in the Kalevala of foreign nations, kings, princes, courts, or fair ladies. All such notions were entirely beyond their purview. And further, the national epic is as devoid of historical reminiscences as it is of any symbolism of sun and storm, of summer and winter. It is pure poetic myth developed after the Finns had been permeated by ideas belonging to a superior civilisation, yet without imitation of any foreign original, and without severance from the early shamanistic belief.

Though one may fully assent to Professor Comparetti's conclusions as just and reasonable, a slight difference of opinion may be entertained with regard to his premises. He seems to me to attribute to the Shaman an influence hardly warranted by what we know of Shamanism in Siberia from Radloff (Aus Siberien, ii, pp. 1-67) and Castrén.