New on Desk #93 — Kalevala Metric

I’m not nearly clever enough to plan for this sort of thing, but it just so happens that today is the birthday of Aleksis Kivi, and the National Holiday of Finnish Literature. Makes my feature topic especially apropos.

A matter of poetry

Poetry is one of these dying archaic art forms that are well on their way to being trampled over by the audiovisual cultural empires of the modern age. I enjoy occasionally dabbling in it, for all that I’m not aesthetically very in-tune with what passes for modern poetry. It could be the case that what I enjoy about poetry is in part about the historical distance between old poets and myself, and this is why modern poets generally fail to please me with their platitudes. Or maybe I just haven’t put in enough effort to understand modern poetry, who knows.

Poetry is one of those things that aren’t part of the standard curriculum anymore, so perhaps a few words of introduction are of benefit to the unfamiliar reader. This is, as I understand it, poetry in a nutshell:

Stylized storytelling: Poetry used to be a major, prestigious storytelling vehicle back in the oldentimes; you’d put your most cherished stories into poetic form, like setting them in gold. For me it’s natural to have a major interest in the story arts involved in epic poetry, but this shouldn’t be taken to be the essential nature of the form; the story is, when all’s said and done, an arbitrary content choice for the poetic medium. You can have it or not. To appreciate poetry for its own essential self is to set aside the story for now and look deeper.

Combination of music and word: Poetry in its original cultural context is an oral tradition inextricably linked with the art of music. History of music is an important context for how poetry lived in a prehistorical society, as music itself simply isn’t that old when all’s said and done; what we think of as music today, with luxuries like harmonies and ensembles and artisan-crafted novel melodies is just a couple thousand years old. The common origin of poetry and music is in the joint presentation art of the poetic resitation, an art form that plays with rhythm, stress, tone of the word. The literary poem, read in silence, is a junior form of the medium, and arguably a failure as an independent artistic medium; poetry, if it is to be a thing of its own, ever returns to humans speaking to humans, with written text merely an aid to transmission.

Play on words: Poetry is basically a synonym for “language game”, it’s just that conservative cultural esteem surrounding the poetic institution makes everything so stuffy that I absolutely won’t blame anybody for not bothering with poetry when you could instead be playing all kinds of living language games with your real friends. Still, that’s key to understanding what poets are even trying to do: they’re trying to be clever, rhetorically pleasant and impactful, playful with language. They’re trying to tickle the part of the human brain that so fluidly interprets and over-interprets human communication.

Poetic forms: The theory of poetry is just that, theory. A disservice is done to the medium when understanding of the theory is elevated as a precondition of understanding and appreciating poetry. If your poem requires your audience to understand what iambic pentameter is to be properly appreciative of how well you’re filling the form, then you are an empty vessel devoid of the real art. A poetic form that doesn’t actually lead one to create comprehensible beauty is a dead historical curiousity, not something to be worshipped.

The picture in words: The basic unit of poetry is arguably the poetic image formed into a verse. There are two component parts to this, the verbal image evoked by a choice of words, and the verse structure that constrains and limits the words and their ordering into a specific pattern. Poetic works consist of series of verses including a series of poetic images. A good poetic work has powerful images in pleasant verse phrasing. Far too often you are presented with poetry that has boring imagery (often conventional) in stilted, artificial verse phrasing.

So that’s the basic theory of what poetry is. Let’s go deeper:

A sample poem

I’ll come to why I’ve been reading this poem later, but for now, I’ll just copy Robert E. Howard’s poem Cimmeria here in its entirety. It’s public domain as far as I know. Makes for a nice consideration piece for the English-language reader.

By Robert E. Howard

I remember
The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.

Vista on vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista - hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

It was a gloomy land that seemed to hold
All winds and clouds and dreams that shun the sun,
With bare boughs rattling in the lonesome winds,
And the dark woodlands brooding over all,
Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men; they called it
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and deep Night.

It was so long ago and far away
I have forgot the very name men called me.
The axe and flint-tipped spear are like a dream,
And hunts and wars are shadows. I recall
Only the stillness of that sombre land;
The clouds that piled forever on the hills,
The dimness of the everlasting woods.
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.

Oh, soul of mine, born out of shadowed hills,
To clouds and winds and ghosts that shun the sun,
How many deaths shall serve to break at last
This heritage which wraps me in the grey
Apparel of ghosts? I search my heart and find
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night. 

You probably know Robert E. Howard, the prodigiously productive American pulp adventure author best known for stories of Conan the Cimmerian. The poem here is interesting in that it is apparently the first flash of inspiration for said story cycle: Howard wrote the poem in early 1932, only a little prior to the first Conan stories. The inspiration, according to himself, came to him while touring Texas, contemplating the natural vistas of the Rio Grande valley.

Cimmeria is written as non-rhyming metric poetry, a super-class typical of epic poetry in various languages. In English the form is particularly called “blank verse”, being bare of rhyme so usual in lyrical poetry. The blank verse is for English-language poetry a bit like the Kalevala verse is for Finnish poetry; a rhythmic verse bereft of cheap rhyming distractions, well-suited for narrating a story.

Harkening back to last week’s topic of literary criticism, I’ll make some hopefully helpful or interesting observations about my own reaction to the poem.

The Hyperborean context of course makes the poem super-charged for people with Conan in the brain, evoke as it does all kinds of ideas about the literary journey Howard was about to set on, the content of the text intermingling with the life of the man. Later literature gives heft to an early poem authored before a single Conan story.

Setting that aside, the poem is superficially set in the traditional poetry genre of “nature poetry”, which for me generally means instant condemnation into the ghetto of bourgeoisie mentality; I’m a fairly good reader, which makes it possible for me to read poetry at all, but I also have a short fuse when it comes to staid forms, and poetry is so very riddled with the conventional that my pressure bar starts to rise rather quickly when a poem starts meandering around matters of nature, feelings, or other cliches. So much poetry about nature and the human heart exists, the lot of it by and large going nowhere interesting, that encountering one more is tinged with boredom from the start.

Cimmeria begins with a heavy dash of natural description:

The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes.

So yeah, that’s some nature poetry, and it continues for another section like that. If this was all there was to the poem, just three dozen verses of nature description, well, ugh… there’s an ever-important counterpoint that comes in later on to salvage the poem, but it is fairly slow about introducing its actual theme. I wouldn’t blame anybody for parsing through the first part quite quickly; I sure did at first.

Regarding the art of poetic image, Howard’s style isn’t the worst; I rather end up liking it. In this first part, for instance, he says

The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;

which I think is a fairly neat image. It’s reasonably original — doesn’t ping as a cliche to me — yet captures the idea such that I have no difficulty visualizing what he means. The other three verses aren’t quite as good, being slightly more conventional, but they get the job done.

This is a good place to observe that I’m not very good with gauging the rhythmic qualities of English-language poetry; it’s not a native language to me, and I understand it much, much better as a written form than a spoken one. It doesn’t help that English has such drastic accents that who knows how Howard would even pronounce these words. Many of the verses flow neatly to my ear, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t very pure as iambic pentameter; the meter exists, but not very tyrannical. If I had to present this orally, I’d probably shoot for a relatively prosaic tone, letting the rhythm come to the fore only occasionally. I can imagine how I’d spend like 50 hours parsing my way through figuring out how this is even supposed to be spoken; poetry should definitely be orated by natives, I can imagine how much easier parsing this would be for somebody with a natural opinion of how these words are pronounced.

An important thematic element that was very relevant for my side project (more on that later) is that Howard’s way of discussing the Cimmerian landscape heavily parallels present-day Finnish nature lyricism. Cimmeria could easily be authored by Timo Rautiainen or one of many other Finnish rock musicians, whose view of what Finland is has since the ’90s shifted to display a similar cynicism that we get in this poem. Basically, nobody would blink an eye if you just swapped the poem’s title to Finlandia and asserted all this secrecy, darkness and stilness to the deep Finnish interior. So that’s a thing that colors my reading here.

If you actually read the poem, you noticed that Howard does the good thing that smart people do with nature poetry: he reflects the nature imagery to human condition and therefore elevates the description of the natural environment into a description on human nature, which is a fine thing to do and arguably the only thing you should ever do with nature poetry. (Want to encounter a truly dim human mind? Dig up one of those poets who feel compelled to write nature poetry without this aspect.) In the case of Cimmeria, the story is no less than a sort of origin story for the entire Hyborian cycle: Howard-the-author feels constrained and lessened by this modern age, and is thus forced to reach towards a sort of Mythago Wood of Cimmerian antiquity, the timeless state of nature and natural man that still captures the existential truths that he so yearns for.

Here’s a simple gloss of the poem’s content for the impatient, just a description of what it says part-by-part:
1) Nature stuff;
2) Nature stuff;
3) Half-verse more of the nature stuff, plus the natural geography so far depicted gives rise to a sullen and secretive nature;
4) The nature of this place hides within the manly tale of glory that we, modern humanity, cannot remember;
5) My soul is reborn of this ancient cycle, unable to let go and embrace modernity, and thus I find Cimmeria within.

This is some top-notch shit once you get past the slow start, or manage to internalize it as the integral simile that is intended, with the dark brooding woods and barren cliffs being simultaneously real geography and metaphors for the subconscious. Because doing that is basically impossible without a circular reading (reading through the text multiple times, starting again at the beginning at the end), I would argue that the poem has presentation issues, but I’m sure Howard would disagree simply because this is how poems are presented, he’s doing nothing out of the ordinary in that regard. You just gotta accept that most poetry will only make sense when you’re reading it the third time through.

My single favourite verse:

Not even lightened by the rare dim sun
Which made squat shadows out of men;

The poetic image is original and striking, and it’s full of meaning, so what’s not to like. It took me a while to realize that “made squat shadows out of men” is dual-meaning: either the Cimmerian landscape turns its people into “squat shadows”, sullen and oppressed people, or it’s a more literal description of how the sun casts a squat shadow out of man when it sits high in the sky or there’s a slope or whatever. This is a fine example of what I meant by the nature imagery being put to use in discussing human nature.

Whence the feature topic

This is a good place to explain why I’m talking poetry all of a sudden: I did a little arts and crafts project with the guys this week, and it involved doing a bit of poetry, which I found rather enjoyable. The graphic design part was cool as well. I probably should go to work for some marketing company somewhere if I like doing product development so much.

The project was a little injoke of a concept demonstration for home-brew cider labels: Antti had brewed his first-ever batch of cider (callback to the Wheel of Apples from last month!), so I had Sipi draw us some appropriate art and then did some copywriting and graphic design to whip up a funny label for Antti’s cider bottles. Printing them out and applying to the bottles was unexpectedly easy, helped along by there being just ~30 bottles. Not too much of a chore.

The pulp fantasy theme for the cider was inspired by the distinctly slavery-like conditions we suffered earlier to press the apple juice that would become the cider. I imagine that the label speaks for itself in that regard, for all that it’s in Finnish.

Part of what I wanted to do was to put in something for the drinking audience to read while enjoying the brew. What I came up with was adapting some choice verses from Cimmeria into Finnish. The conceit is that the poem’s themes harmonize well with the mindless toil of apple squeezing in the dark recesses of the Finnish wilderness, with the accompanying art helpful in conjuring interpretation. Well, judge for yourself.

I wrote the Finnish verses in the Kalevala meter, which is a bit like the Finnish equivalent of the English blank verse, when accounting for the properties of the respective languages.

Kalevala Form in a Nutshell

Because this is an educational newsletter, I just yesterday wrote some verse, and it’s Finnish Literature Day besides, I’ll go over my target length to give a short summary of the rules of form for writing Kalevala verse. The topic is traditionally a bit difficult because casual audiences are often graced with a simplified explanation, which combined with how the topic is even handled in passing in Finnish schools leads to vast, countless numbers of people having just enough of a sense for it to be wrong about it. Consider Wikipedia, for instance; it is at best correct enough to be harmful for a native attempting to write Kalevala form. In general, I wouldn’t listen to anybody on this matter unless their expertise is practical, based on actually writing poetry.

Firstly, a poetic “form” is properly a poetic theory about how to craft aesthetically appropriate verses for a specific context. A poem is of a specific form when it accords with the poetic theory, and therefore the context of use, of that form. Poetic forms are usually expressed as “rules”, but that’s just as much of a simplified exegesis for poetry as it is for grammar: the reality of the form is that a good verse is a verse that fits the poem. Only withering literary poetic forms place absolute precedence on properly following the rules; in living art exceptions are always a possibility, and outright breaking with form is absolutely an available creative option. Thus, we only ever study forms to master them, not to let them master us. “There is a mistake in the meter of this poem” is the most trivial single critique one can possibly give; at least go “this verse would be improved like this, giving it stronger meter in a context-appropriate way” if you want to talk meter rules.

Secondly, the Kalevala form is a traditional Finnic language family epic poetry format used in oral recitation (musical or not); it is attested with prehistorical origins. The form is rather concerned with issues of oration, and attempting to analyze it as “trochaic tetrameter” (its basic meter) misses much of the point. The form cannot be composed meaningfully in e.g. English, as most of its rules relate to the structural features of the Finnish language. To even begin to make use of the form you’d want a language that has syllable-length stress, trochaic word stress (stress on the first syllable of each word) and a tendency towards two-syllable words. It’s very specific because it’s very specialized towards recitation; there’s a lot going on here beyond “each line has eight syllables”.

Verse Structure

For the rules of the form, I’ll start by explaining the well-formed Kalevalaic verse. Each individual verse has a regular form, only to be broken out of for overall structural purposes of the poem at large. A proper verse is easy to remember and pleasant to the ear because it is regular. Much of your concern in authoring Kalevalaic poetry is in forming verses properly.

Here’s a graphic exegesis of how a single verse is formed. I’ll use the standard teaching verse “Vaka vanha Väinämöinen” as the example.

The traditional classification is that Kalevala verse is “trochaic tetrameter”, or a poetic verse that involves four feet (rhythm units) of the trochee type. The “trochee” is poetic jargon meaning a pair of syllables where the first syllable gets “word-stress”, which is a concept that tends to mean slightly different things in different languages. In other words: a Kalevalaic verse is a eight syllables long, with stress on the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th syllable.

The syllable-stress in Finnish is based on syllable length, somewhat similar to the classical languages of Greek and Latin, but different from English. In practice this means that for Kalevalaic poetic purposes syllables are either “strong” or “weak” depending on their length: syllables with a long vocal or closing consonant are strong, syllables with short vocal and open end are weak. Basically, the strong syllables are louder and more dominant in the auditive profile of the word due to being longer and more complex than the short, sharp weak syllables.

Because the word-stress (the emphatic privilege the speaker puts to one syllable over another) in Finnish always falls on the first syllable of the word, we come upon the fundamental rule of how to construct trochees in Finnish: if a word starts on a strong (long) syllable, it has to begin on the first, strong part of the trochee. If a word starts on a weak (short) syllable, it has to begin on the second, weak part of the trochee. That’s what causes the verse to have a poetic rhythm, the natural beat of the word-stress falling on the stylized poetic beat of the trochee.

So far this is just trochee meter basics, trochees are constructed the world over like this: figure out how the language at hand stresses syllables, place naturally emphasized syllables in the beginning of a foot. In Finnish the nature of stress just happens to involve syllable length. In some other language you’d place I don’t know, clicking or whistling sounds in the stressed parts to align the nature of the language with the artificially regular rhythm of poetry.

Epic Irregularity

The complications to the verse structure come in the form of the “irregularities” that Kalevalaic poetry tends to have in comparison to the supposed perfection of the base trochaic tetrameter format. Traditional poetics tend to analyze a range of features in Kalevalaic form as the poet making mistakes, not understanding how to construct verses. (Literary poetry is culturally really big on meter regularity, it’s considered to alpha and omega of poetry.) Based on my own experience with the form, though, there are a bunch of consistent principles in how exactly the meter gets broken, having to do with the recitative nature of the form. These tend to largely explain the embarrassment of folk tradition poetry apparently not having a grasp of its own form.

Here are the most important “meter breaks” consistently involved in Kalevala form poetry, with my explanations for why they exist:

Front phrasing in the first trochee: Kalevalaic verses often end up being longer than eight syllables, which is generally agreed to be because they have an extended length first beat. The first “syllable” of the first trochee, the strong one, can “be two or three syllables long”, as it’s usually explained. Even more radically, the first syllable of a verse does not have to follow the trochaic pattern at all: the verse is allowed to start on a weak syllable.

My own pet take is that it’s not so much that you “scrunch” two or three syllables into a single beat, but rather that the recited verse can begin non-rhytmically, pacing up as it goes. Basically, the entire first half of the verse has a weaker overall rhythm than the second half. This is often quite useful for epic poetry; I myself like to put grammatic context into the front phrasing, like start the verse with “ja”, ‘and’ to emphasize a repetition. And of course it’s a general syllabic reserve for words that simply refuse to fit into the trochaic scheme otherwise.

Contrariwise, you can also use snappy regular trochee to start a verse, the form doesn’t require the verse to start prosaically. This is very useful for creating contrasting variety in an epic work that is, after all, supposed to have content as well that should surely be reflected by the form of the piece. Epic poetry isn’t just words of appropriate length put in a long row.

The caesura in the middle: Traditional explications of the Kalevala form emphasize the idea that there is a caesura, a rhythmic “bob”, in the middle of the verse. Basically, the verse is split in two halves that are recited with a slight pause in the middle so as to emphasize the rhythm. “Vaka vanha || Väinämöinen”. A word crossing the caesura is considered an error. I am of the opinion that calling this a metric feature of the Kalevala verse is over-interpreting emergent aesthetics of certain word patterns. Basically, the reason it’s often a good idea to respect the caesura is that the second trochee ends at it, and the verse is gearing up to begin its regular part (remember, the front phrasing could be fairly irregular), so an emphasized beat at that position helps distinguish the beat. But that’s not because there’s a caesura in the middle, it’s because this is the place where the rhythm of the verse is taking hold. It’s an issue of rhythmic style, not a structural feature of the verse.

End closure in the last trochee: A Kalevalaic verse can often be just seven syllables long. I don’t actually see official serious explanations of the form mentioning this feature at all, which means that for a time I thought that I’d simply lost my mind when I encountered, and myself wrote, verses like this. Took me some time to convince myself that the standard treatises are simply incomplete in this regard, failing to recognize a legitimate stylistic option.

The “lost syllable” of the seven-syllable verse is always at the end, making the verse sound “light” or “incomplete” compared to the expected rhythm of the work at large; it’s a quite nice effect, a sort of complement to the prosaic front phrasing that’s also an option.

Stylistic Concerns

I personally think that forming verses well is at the heart of Kalevalaic poetry. Once you’ve got that down, you can do anything you want and I don’t really care. Short poems of just a couple of verses? Long epic poetry? Write your grocery lists in verse? Whatever. The metric form of the Kalevalaic verse is a fun language game to practice, and it makes for memorable lines if you ever need to memorize something.

Poetry without stylistic conceits is often fairly indistinguishable from prose language. You can speak in trochees all you want without it sounding particularly “poetic”. If you want to compose pastiche of Finnish traditional epic poetry specifically, the following basic principles of style are useful:

Don’t rhyme: Rhyming poetry is so popular ever since the 19th century that it’s become the acme of poetic style in the muggle circles to write rhyming couplets. Thinking about it, maybe this is part of why poetry itself is dying out? Doesn’t make poetry sound very clever, being all “violets are blue and so are you”. Rhyming doesn’t really belong in most epic forms, Kalevalaic poetry included; it’ll just distract from other poetic features if you try to force it in there.

Alliteration: A basic poetic effect used by Kalevalaic poetry (and interestingly, many similar forms in other languages). You’re alliterating strongly if the verse includes several words that start with the same syllable-start (“vaka vanha väinämöinen”), or weakly if there’s several vocal sounds (“aito äijä ottaa omansa”) or several of the same consonant sound (“taitava toveri tietää”). Alliteration unifies words and makes them flow smoother, which is nice, but should not be more important than content and verse form.

Repetition: This is a bit like the kenning thing in Scandinavian traditional poetry, if you’re familiar with that. The conceit is to write two verses that say the same thing using different words. It’s very much an oral recitation effect that helps emphasize the poetic image and fix it in the audience’s minds, while slowing down the pace of the story and allowing the poet some thinking time. I would recommend using it sparsely in modern poetry; traditional stuff has huge amounts of repetition, and I can appreciate the reasons, but excessive use probably doesn’t benefit reaching the modern audience.

Poetic language: Poems, including Kalevalaic poetry, often use archaic language. The reason is not necessarily a desire for archaism per se, but rather simply that the verse form forces words into specific patterns. With old poetry in particular you often can’t change the words to conform to their modern shape without breaking the verse structure. This leads to a situation that I’m sure is very familiar to the reader: poetry ends up culturally preferring archaic “poetic” language, such that one way you can recognize something as poetry is that the poet is using words that nobody in the real world uses. This can be a strength or a weakness, so consider it well.

Weird grammar: A sibling stylistic concern to poetic word choice is the way the meter encourages quirky word ordering that over time then becomes a recognized part of the style. In the case of the Kalevala form it seems to be a pretty distinct feature of the verse form that verses sound nicer if you choose to put longer words at the end of the verse, rather than beginning. Never end a verse in a single-syllable word. I think why it sounds nicer has to do with the “rising rhythm” of the verse structure: a longer word at the end of the verse is quicker to pronounce and more rhythmical.

Speak the scansion: I suppose this is sort of obvious, but I’m writing for an audience who might not have much experience with poetry, so better safe than sorry. If you want your poetry to sound like poetry, you have to read it like that, and this means appropriate emphasis on the rhythm of the text. Or sing it. Consider each verse separately, poetry in an epic form shouldn’t be read monotonously; the scansion varies line by line.

Form the poetic image: Perhaps the most important stylistic advice of all is to actually get around to forming the poetic image. Otherwise you’re just stringing words to a rhythm.

And that’s all you need to know to try your hand at Kalevalaic poetry! That, and a good grasp of Finnish or some similar language, of course.

Monday: Coup de Main #64

I don’t think that anybody else wrote a session report for this, so I’m relying on Tuomas the GM to tell the tale?

Today in adventures of Knights Temp, looting, looting and finally some more looting.

Knights Temp had a visitor in form of Rob Banks who had heard rumors of possible treasure vault in need of cracking and Rob was bit short on cash…

Rob’s one of the cornerstone characters in the campaign, Heikki’s 5th level Thief who’s surprisingly survived since the beginning. With Bob the Commoner going off-line after last session, the party brought in a big gun. Rob’s most recent trick as a mid-levels Thief is the ability to write up heist plans for heightened execution competence…

Rob lead Knights Temp in making a cunning plan to rob the vault of St. Clewd’s monastery while waiting for summer thunderstorm to pass. The plan was solid, all more amazing since Rob had never even seen the monastery.

Knights Temp proceeded to the monastery on foot since they had recently had trouble with their horses on their last visit. Roads were still bit muddy, but didn’t hinder them too much, and since there was no sight of any violent crows in the vicinity, everything looked good for Knights Temp.

All the familiar barricades had been rebuilt, but suddenly magical darkness enveloped the Knights when approaching the barricade blocking the main hall of the catacombs. After momentary confusion the darkness disappeared, and no one was wiser about what had happened.

Next, Knights witnessed two monks carrying something (a body perhaps) to an empty sarcophagus and then going back to where they came from.

I’m… I’m just going to call this, because nobody else apparently is. You guys do realize that one of you got replaced by a doppelganger here, right?

Knights proceeded to the corridor with hydra body and got to work. They need to lower the water level to figure out how to use the waterwheel and open the nearby vault doors. Everything went smoothly, they blocked the water flow, cleared the waterwheel, didn’t damage it too badly and jury rigged a fix. Everyone was hopeful and Knights set their battleline at the vault door and released the block holding the water from the water wheel…

And it broke down, completely, final chain that connected the wheel to the opening mechanism somewhere inside the ceiling snapped and fell down. The wheel happily turned in the water flow but didn’t do anything useful.

Seemed like the Knights couldn’t get the vault opening mechanism to work so they pondered for a while and concluded that brute force was always an option. Rob had a pickaxe and they started to chip away at the doors. They managed to insert couple of pitons into the door to tie ropes and other piton to guide the rope to the waterwheel. New try, and thanks to good planning the door started to move!

After some paranoia induced door jamming the Knights entered the fabled vault and started checking the place. Fifty stone chests! Coin! Screaming coins! Black velvet covered boxes that turned baby shape when touched! Silvered swords! Holy symbols! Flying holy symbols! Land deeds! Jewelry! Magic wands! Stuff!

Rob expertly went through all the chest, and everything that didn’t disappear into thin air or fly away was packed into optimist sacks and taken with the Knights. It was already late and Knights camped in the forest close to the monastery and made their merry way back to Prigworth to ponder what to do with screaming coins and black velvet babies.

I’ve seen the detailed loot lists, and the haul is indeed pretty epic! I’m particularly fond of the curse the party apparently brought with them, like they were robbing an Egyptian pyramid. I imagine we’ll see how that’ll end up next time.

Session #5 is apparently not tomorrow, I hear that Tuomas has again caught a flu. Next week, then. Hazards of living and working in the big city, there’s always a flu going. Personally, I know not the concept now that covid protocols have changed the world.

Tuesday: Coup in Sunndi #37–39

Ha ha, I actually did get my paws on a log book from the recent adventures of the Sunndi crew. As you might remember, Sipi’s been running Tomb of the Iron God for the crew during my hiatus. I understand that they’ve played three sessions of the adventure so far.

Mauri’s log is in Finnish (as is this entire campaign branch), so I think I’ll just put it here as is instead of translating. Finnish Literature Day!

Bardin karavaaniin Aihtrissa joukkojen keräys ja niitten koulutus. 14+1 miestä ja viikko ankaraa taistelukoulutusta.

Aihtrista siirtyminen rautajumalan temppelin vieressä olevalle majatalolle; yöpyminen ja huhujen kuuntelu.

Majatalolta siirtyminen r-jumalan temppelille; tiedustelu ja crude rampista sisään.

Ylhäällä patsas jota barbaari jäi tuijottamaan, mut onnistuttiin pelastamaan.

Siitä eteenpäin käytävään, käytävän päässä huone missä suuri rautajumalan patsas.

Patsaassa salaluukku josta päästiin palsamointihuoneeseen.

Päästiin tutulle käytävälle, jota pitkin meinattiin palata, mut lattia sortui ja yks mies tippui ansaan.

Evakoitiin ja jatkettiin samaa käytävää, josta vastaan lensi crude-mallinen keihäs. Keihään perään ja edestä pimeydestä kuului kimitystä ja ansan laukeaminen.

Muodostelmassa perään ja yhden oven takaa saatiin mahtava taistelu. 13 hiittä, shamaani ja päällikkö. Murhattiin ne ovelle samalla kun toista sivustaa pidettiin kilpimuurissa keihäiden varalta.

Huoneen selvittämisen jälkeen jatkettiin matkaa keihäiden suuntaan ja päästiin isoon huoneeseen, jossa nahisteltiin yhden hiiden kanssa.

Tämän jälkeen vetäydyttiin ja luutattiin keittiön kaltainen huone.

Tämän jälkeen käsissä kannettavat aarteet matkaan ja vetäytyminen majatalolle.

Tällä reissulla mukaan lähti. 125g edestä koruja, 25 kultaa, posliininen koira, 2x jalokiviä, kupari amuletti. Läjä kypäriä ja miekkoja mitkä käytettiin omien ukkojen päivitykseen. Barbaari omi ison hienon kirveen joka oli tuunattu da boss -tyyliin.

Haudattiin menehtyneet ja lähdettiin takaisin majatalolle. Paluu sujui rauhallisesti ja päästiin majatalolle.

Majatalolla lepuutettiin miehet mitä oli jäljellä ja jätettiin haavoittunut tohtorin hoiviin. Noin viiden päivän ajan. Bardi värväsi väkeä, soitteli iltaisin ja kyseli juoruja.

Yhtenä iltana saapui tummiin pukeutunut mies juttusille ja kertoi että hänen pomollaan on asiaa. Lähdimme ratsain pomon puheille.

Kenraali Krank otti tiimin vastaan ja ehdotti yhteistyötä. Hän antaa meille ratsujoukkoja ja me puhdistamme temppelin. 4+1 ratsuväkeä liittyi jakamaan aarre osuutta.

Kun värväykset ja täydennykset oli tehty seurue lähti takaisin temppelille.

10 aihtrilaista, 2 veteraania, 4 kantajaa, vankkurit ja 4 palkattua kantajaa.

Temppelille päästyä seurua leiriintyi rampin luo ja väsäsi puolustuskehän ympärille.

Seuraavana aamuna mentiin takaisin sisälle pääovista ja ramppia pitkin, peitettiin patsas varmuuden varalta, ja lähdettiin tutkimaan syvemmälle. Löydettiin varastohuone jossa oli vähän kaikkee. Löydettiin huone missä oli elävä patsas. Huone jossa oli noin 8 jättiläisrottaa. Vetäydyttiin takaisin leiriin hoitamaan haavoittuneita ja tutkimaan saalista.

Lootti tässä vaiheessa 3 tynnyriä mustaa palavaa nestettä, 2 väritöntä palamatonta nestettä, laatikko alumiinipölyä, 2 ehjää tyhjää tynnyriä, kirurgin vehkeet, 20 pussia palavaa nestettä, taikakirja, 2 rautajumalan symboliriipusta, 4 hienoo vyötä, 200 paunaa parkittua nahkaa, 15 kultaa, riipus, hopeinen juoma-astia, juomaplo, kasvin hallinta -pullo, 2 myrkkypulloo, 1 hunajapullo ja karahvi.

Kirjaa tutkittua bardille ja barbaarille selvisi et siinä on ainakin raise undead -taika ja kasvin hallinta -pullolla saa kukan kävelemään.

Seuraavana yönä hiidet hyökkäsivät leiriin.

Koska temppelin oven viereen majoittuminen on niin viisas idea.

Barbaari tappoi niiden päällikön, ja seurue sai pysäytettyä hyökkäyksen.

Yksi hiisi jäi vangiksi.

2 Miestä menetettiin.

Mites se viimesin reissu meni?

Se missä lähettiin tutkimaa lisää, molotov riehuvaan patsaaseen, party jaettu, darknesiin seikkailemaa, kuolleiden syöjä löyty, loppu kerros tutkittu ja lootattu, Pena ascendas, seurue kasaan ja leiriin?


Ja sit mentiin sinne ylös tutkimaan pohjapiirrosta ylhäältä käsin, ja nyt sipi paljasti et sen lentävän ötökän pesä on siellä.

Oli unohtanu.

Siis siellä hopea-aarrehuoneen katolla.

Ei jaloissa.

Seuraavana aamuna seurue tutki kirjaa vielä lisää ja hautasi kuolleet. Menivät takaisin luolastoon ja heittivät liikkuvan patsaan päälle DIY-molotovin, johon olivat lisänneet alumiinijauhetta. Seurue tutki loputkin siitä osaa temppeliä. Barbaari ja hevosmiehet lähtivät tiedustelemaan taikapimeyteen, ja bardi loppuseurueen kanssa toista puoliskoo temppelistä.

Kohtaamisia tosi vähän ja ainoastaan 1 kuollut ja 1 haavoittunut. Yhdessä huoneessa Pena the mään (npc) saavutti yhteyden rautajumalaan ja sai päivitetyn keihään ja jotain muuta. Seurue löysi myös hiisipäällikön huoneen, joka luonnollisesti luutattiin puhtaaks.

Barbaari löysi Ruumiinsyöjälle, jonka itse rautajumala on vanginnut, johtavan oven ja varoitusta toistavan botin.

Tämän jälkeen molemmat seurueet palasi leiriin.

Käytiin se pikku detour jolla löyettiin portaat alakertaan ja siitä leiriin.

Aarretta tarttui mukaan 150 kultaa, 2000 hopeaa, 2 keltaista nestettä sisältävää pulloo, 2 jalokivee, jadeamuletti, 100 kullan eestä koruja ja 5 parempaa miekkaa.

Seurue kiipesi viereisen kallion päälle tarkastelemaan temppeliä ylhäältä päin ja tuli siihen tulokseen, että ainakin yksi osuus piirtämässään kartassa ei täsmää jostain syystä ja siellä voisi olla tutkimaton huone.

I’m actually pretty fond of this text chat logbook style of after action report! As you’ve no doubt seen, our culture tends to default to either Forgite exegesis or prosaic adventure storytelling in these reports, so this is a nice change of pace. No bullshit, just the facts.

State of the Productive Facilities

I pretty much wrote most of CWP #29, Hex Crawling, over the week, so something certainly got done. More of that in the coming week, I hope!

2 thoughts on “New on Desk #93 — Kalevala Metric”

  1. “The literary poem, read in silence, is a junior form of the medium, and arguably a failure as an independent artistic medium; poetry, if it is to be a thing of its own, ever returns to humans speaking to humans, with written text merely an aid to transmission.”

    I agree. And as poetry is “inextricably linked with the art of music”, as you say, it seems alive and well to me — in the context of popular music. A lot of that is garbage and/or focused on the music, but great songs abound, too. There hasn’t been much of a ‘test of time’, though, so it’s an open question whether the Beatles will be as (ir)relevant as Shakespeare sonnets in a couple of centuries.

    1. Yeah, agreed there — plenty of poetry going on in what gets understood as “music” in the current paradigm. The modern poetry scene is both irrelevant and minuscule in comparison.

      Furthermore, this has arguably always been the case. The literary poetry movement of the last thousand years or so has just been pretty good about obscuring where it’s really at, what with the same people (the literati) being the ones writing the poems, and writing about the poems, and writing about the writing about the poems.

      The Kalevalaic poetry movement, for instance, is interesting in how it was part of the general 19th century Romanticist attempt at reviving folk culture as high culture to bring authenticity and energy into a moribund institution. But then, no music? OK, bold move boomer; let’s see where that one goes. (Hint: largely nowhere. Eino Leino was cool, though.)

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