Sampo - James Baldwin

The Smithy

As the Minstrel journeyed onward the road gradually became broader and there were more signs of travel. Wainamoinen remembered every object; he knew every shrub and tree and every hummock and bog-hole. A sunny smile overspread his face, and his eyes twinkled for joy; for was he not again in his own dear home land, and would he not soon grasp the hands of his kinsmen and friends whom he had not seen for many months?

At every turn in the road the country became more open, and little by little the forest gave way to the fields. Then in the distance thin wreaths of smoke could be seen rising above the crest of a hill—and the Minstrel knew that at the foot of that hill his own little village of Wainola was nestling in peace and quietude. His heart beat fast and his hands trembled as he thought of the welcome that was waiting for him there.

Suddenly, as he rounded a turn in the road, he came in full view of a grove of poplar trees in the middle of a field. He drove forward slowly, cautiously. He approached the field and paused quite near to the grove, listening, smiling as though he expected something. Then suddenly, from among the poplars, came well-remembered sounds—the sound of a hammer, cling-clanging upon an anvil, and the melodious tones of a manly voice singing in unison therewith. The Minstrel had heard that song a thousand times before; nevertheless, it seemed strangely new to him, and he leaned forward to listen to the words:

"Cling, cling, clinkety cling!

With Iron I labor, of Iron I sing;

I heat it, I beat it, I make it ring, ring,

I scold it, I mould it—my hammer I swing—

Cling, cling, clinkety cling!

"Ding, ding, dinkety ding!

O honeybee, hasten, come hither and bring

Your sweets from the wildwood, the flowers of spring,

Help make of this Iron some beautiful thing—

Ding, ding, dinkety ding!

"Cling, cling, clinkety cling!

Beware of the hornet, beware of his sting,

Beware of the evils he surely will bring;

In all things be gentle, O Iron, my king—

Cling, cling, clinkety cling!"

The Minstrel from his sledge could see the smithy from which the music came—a long, low building of logs in the very centre of the grove. It was dark and dingy and begrimed with smoke, but through the open door the fire of the forge glowed brightly, lighting up the whole interior and revealing even the smallest object; and there, before his anvil, stood the Smith, swinging his hammer and twirling his tongs and thinking only of his pleasant work.

Wainamoinen leaped from his sledge and ran forward; he stood in the doorway and called loudly to his busy friend: "Hail, ho, Ilmarinen! Hail, dearest brother!"

The astonished Smith dropped his tongs; he threw his hammer down; he ran to greet his unexpected visitor.

"O Wainamoinen!" he cried. "Wainamoinen, prince of minstrels, wisest of men, best of friends—welcome, welcome! How glad I am to see you!"

"And how sweet it is to grasp your hand again," said the Minstrel warmly. "Oh, what joy to see home and comrades and country once again!"

Ilmarinen led the Minstrel into the smithy; he made him sit down on the edge of his workbench; and all the time he kept his arm around his neck in loving, brotherly embrace. Each gazed into the other's eyes, and for a time not another word was spoken—the hearts of both were so full of joy.

At length the Smith made out to stammer, "Tell me, my brother, where have you been these many months?"

"Far away from home, Ilmarinen—yes, very far," answered the Minstrel. "I have been tossed on the sea; I have been in many countries; I have seen the whole vast world."

"Tell me about it," said the Smith. "You were gone so long that we gave you up as lost. Where have you been these many weeks, these long, long months? Tell me all about it."

Then, in a few words wisely spoken, the Minstrel told of his shipwreck, and how for eight days—yes, for nine long, wearisome days—he had been carried hither and thither on the crests of the waves.

"I see! I understand!" said the impatient Smith. "Hard, indeed, was your lot, and fraught with danger. Tell me quickly, how did you escape from the seething waters? To what place did the mad waves carry you? On what savage shore were you cast?"

"Have patience, brother, and I will tell you all," answered the Minstrel. "Never did I think that Fate would carry me to the cold and misty shores of Pohyola, the Frozen Land; but it happened even so. There, for three months—yes, for four long and dismal months—I was forced to tarry. I learned wisdom from the Mistress of that land; and indeed it was she who snatched me from the jaws of the sea and nursed me to health and strength. Never saw I a wiser woman, although she is not strikingly fair. I sat by her fireside; I listened to her words; I ate at her table. On her snowshoes I skimmed hither and thither over her cheerless land. In her boat I went fishing in the quiet inlets of the shore. But no matter where I went, no matter what I did, my heart was always sick for my home land; I sighed for the dear friends I had left behind me."

"O great Wainamoinen!" cried the Smith, embracing him again. "O cunning magician, sweetest of singers! Tell me now about your escape from that dismal land. Tell me about your journey homeward. I am anxious to hear."

"There is not much to say," answered the Minstrel. "The journey homeward was easy—it was delightful. As for my escape—well, I escaped by promising to send you to the Frozen Land, my dear brother."

"What do you say?" cried the Smith in wonder. "Send me to the Frozen Land! Never will I go—no, not even to please my best friend."

"Indeed, you must  go," said the Minstrel curtly and decisively. "I have promised, and you know the penalty of a broken promise."

"Nay, nay, great Wainamoinen!" said the Smith. "Is this your love for me, that you cause me to perish in order to save yourself?"

"Calm yourself, young brother," said the Minstrel soothingly. "You shall not perish. I have arranged it all. You are to do some skilful blacksmithing—use a little of your wondrous magic—and your reward shall be the loveliest wife in the world. The Mistress of Pohyola has promised."

The Smith spoke quickly, angrily: "You may make bargains for yourself, not for me. I want no wife. My own mother is queen of my house, and none other shall enter my door. Our dear village of Wainola is my home; it is the place of all places; I will never leave it."

"But if you could know how lovely she is— this Maid of Beauty—you would do as I desire, you would go to Pohyola," said the Minstrel with increasing earnestness.

"Never! never!" shouted the Smith, trembling with anger.

"Yes, I am sure you would go," said the cunning Minstrel. "There is no other maiden like unto this daughter of the Frozen Land. She is wise, industrious, brave. Her face is fairer than the moonlight on a midsummer eve; her eyes are like two suns; her lips are like twin berries, red and luscious; her voice is sweeter than the song of the meadow lark. All the young men in the countries of the North have sought to win her."

"And win her they may!" shouted the Smith. "Now say no more about her; change the subject; tell me a new story. I am sick of such twaddle."

"Come, come, dear brother!" said the Minstrel gently, as though conceding all. "Let us not quarrel. You are wise, your judgment is good, and I love you. Forgive me if I have offended you. Come and sit by me again, and we will talk of other things."

The Smith forgot his anger; he threw his arms about the Minstrel's neck and burst into tears.

"There! there!" said his old friend kindly, coaxingly. "Think no more of my words. I was hasty; I was rash. Come now and let us hasten home, for I long to see my own dear fireside—to hear the voices of my kinsmen."

"Yes, let us go," said the Smith joyfully; and he hastened to cover the fire in his forge, to put his tools in their places, to remove his sooty apron.

"We will ride together in my birchwood sledge," said the Minstrel. "My reindeer steed will carry us briskly over the hill. But I wish first to drive back to the end of the causeway and show you a wonderful tree that I saw standing there."

"I will go with you willingly, gladly," answered the Smith, "but I know every tree in the forest and the fen, and I call none of them wonderful. Indeed, I passed by the end of the causeway yesterday, and I saw only whispering pines and dwarf oaks and a few stunted poplars."

"Well, but the tree which I saw there is the most wonderful sight in the world," said Wainamoinen. "Its topmost branches brush the sky. It is full of gorgeous flowers. The white moon sits on one of its branches; and the seven stars of the Great Bear play hide-and-seek among its leaves and blossoms. I saw it all with my own eyes not an hour ago."

The Smith laughed loudly, merrily. "Oh, my wise and truthful brother, tell me a story, two stories tell me! Travellers' tales are wondrous, pleasing; but only fools believe them."

They climbed into the birchwood sledge; they sat down on the furs; they talked of this thing and of that as the reindeer drew them swiftly back towards the fen and the long causeway. The road seemed short to both, and both were surprised when they found themselves in the grove of pine trees beside the green and magic circle.

"Wonderful! wonderful!" cried the astonished Smith as he gazed upward at the flower-crowned tree of magic. "Forgive me, my best of friends, sweetest of minstrels. You spoke the truth; you always speak the truth. I will believe whatever you say, I will do whatever you bid—only, I will never go to Pohyola."

"Well then," said the cunning Minstrel, "let us make what we can of this wonderful tree; for it may disappear as suddenly as it came. I am old, my legs are stiff, my arms rheumatic. It is long since I climbed a tree. But you—you are young and nimble, strong and supple, and spry as a squirrel when the nuts are ripening. You can climb and never grow tired."

"Yes, dear Minstrel, but why should I climb?" asked Ilmarinen.

"To gather those gorgeous blossoms," answered Wainamoinen; "to pick the rare fruit which you see; and, most of all, to bring down the white-faced moon and the seven golden stars that are playing among the branches. O Ilmarinen, skilfulest of men, if you are not afraid, climb quickly up and fetch down those matchless treasures."

"I am not afraid," cried Ilmarinen; and he began at once to climb the tree of magic.