Shevchenko Poetry

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Taras Shevchenko: Poetry


THE BEWITCHED WOMAN The mighty Dnieper roars and groans, The angry tempest, howling, bends Tall poplars to the very stones And down the stream great billows sends. The pale moon at that hour of night Kept peering from a cloudy bank And like a ship on waters bright In misty waves it rose and sank. No cock’s crow with the darkness strove Or hailed a sky with dawning streaked; The owls were hooting in the grove, The ash-tree without ceasing creaked. At such a time, below the hill, Beside those dark trees scowling Above the river dark and chill, Something white is prowling. Perhaps some mermaid has emerged Her mother dear to spy, Or waits some Cossack lad to snare And tickle till he die. It is no mermaid wanders here, It is a girl who strays; She has no notion what she does – Witchcraft her brain betrays. A sorceress, to cure her grief, Has brought her to this state That she might wander in her sleep At midnight, and await The handsome Cossack that she loved: Last year he rode away And though he promised to return He may be dead today. A silken cloth may not have cloaked His failing Cossack eyes; A maiden’s tears may not have washed His fair face as he dies. An eagle may have gouged his eyes In some far, foreign field; Wolves may have eaten up his flesh,– Such fate the years may yield. In vain the young maid every night – Awaits him, sick and sore; The black-browed lad will not return To greet her ever more. Her long, fair braids he’ll not undo, No kerchief tie upon her – A coffin, not a marriage-bed, Will end her maiden honour.


Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the poem The Bewitched. Taras Sevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko


Such is her fortune . . . O dear God of mine! Why art thou to the maid not more benign? Because she loved the lad with childish art For his bright eyes? Forgive her orphan heart! Whom should she love? Unparented she stands, Lone as a migrant bird in foreign lands. Pray send her better fortune – she is young, And will be jeered to death by censure’s tongue. Shall we condemn a dove who loves her mate Who in a falcon’s talons meets his fate? She sorrows, coos, of the bright world grows weary. Thinking him strayed, she everywhere makes query. Happy that bird – she flies to Heaven above And questions God himself about her love. But this poor waif – whom shall she ask of hers? Who can inform her? Who the place avers Where her love spends the night? – In some dark wood Or watering his horse in Danube’s flood? Perhaps in others’ arms he fails his duty And has forgotten her, his dark-browed beauty! If she an eagle’s wings could get, no doubt She’d fly beyond the sea to search him on! Then if he lived, his loyalty she’d save; If he were dead, she’d join him in the grave! The heart in love with no due rival lives, Nor is it reconciled with what God gives. If he she loves is lost, she wants to die. The need to grieve enhances misery. Alas, dear God of mine! This is thy will, And this her hapless fate and fortune still! She wanders on, without a word, And silence broods on Dnieper’s breast; The wind, that once the storm-clouds stirred, Lies down beside the sea to rest; While from the sky the moon shines bright Above the water and the grove, No whisper now disturbs the night . . . When out of Dnieper’s depths there rove Small, naked girls who laugh and shout. “Let’s warm ourselves!” they all cry out. “The sun has set below Earth’s edge!” (Their girlish braids are twined with sedge.) “Are you all there?” their mother cries. “Let’s find our supper, I advise, Get warm and romp beneath the moon And sing ourselves a merry tune!” “It’s cold! It’s cold! Let’s burn some straw upon the wold! My sorry mother gave me birth


But laid me, unbaptized, in earth.1 O moon most clear, Our precious dear, Come be our guest at supper here!– A Cossack lies among the reeds, Among the sedge he meets our needs; A silver ring is on his finger; Here, young and handsome he must linger,– We found him by the oak-tree’s girth. Shine longer here on open earth, That we may have our fill of mirth! While the witches still are flying, While the cocks restrain their crying, Shine for us! ... I here’s something moving Under the oak, its peace disproving! It’s cold! It’s cold! Let’s burn some straw upon the wold! My sorry mother gave me birth But laid me, unbaptized, in earth!” The unbaptized sprites in laughter broke . . . The grove re-echoed; noise awoke, As if a horde were on a spree – Then silence cloaks the ancient tree. The unchristened children stopped, and saw Something imperfectly expressed Go crawling up the oak-tree’s trunk Until it reached the topmost crest. It was the sad, enchanted maid Who had been roaming in her sleep, So strong a spell the sorceress Had cast upon her, dark and deep! On a thick upper branch she stood; Her heart was stung with bitter pain. To north, east, south and west she looked, Then climbed down to the earth again. The mermaids ringed the tree about To await her coming, fiery-eyed; Then seized upon the sorry girl And tickled her until she died. Long, long they cast approving eyes On beauty in this lifeless daughter . . . Then, as the cock proclaimed the dawn, They splashed and dove into the water. The lark begins its lay, its wings Go soaring upward now; The cuckoo has been heard to speak, Perched on an oak-tree bough; The twitter of the nightingale 1


In Ukrainian folklore mermaids, water nymphs and water sprites (rusalki) were believed to be spirits of female babies that were abandoned by their (unwed) mothers and died before they were baptized. It was believed that the sprites came out of the water at night and killed wayfarers by tickling them to death.


Throughout the woodland rings; Beyond the hill the dawn appears; To it the ploughman sings. Above the river glows the grove Where once the Poles went roaming; Above the Dnieper lofty mounds Grow bluer in the gloaming; A rustling fills the woody vale; Thick willows whisper low; The young maid sleeps beneath the oak By roads where travellers go. Her sleep were sound if she should fail The cuckoo’s voice to heed; She does not count the cuckoo’s notes– Her sleep is sound indeed. Out of the wooded vale betimes A Cossack has come riding; The coal-black horse on which he sits Is weary in its striding. “You are exhausted, comrade mine! Today we shall find rest: A young maid at a house nearby Unbars her gate with zest. Perhaps she has undone its bars To another’s feet that roam . . . Quickly, my horse! Make speed, my friend Come, let us hasten home!” The coal-black steed plods stumbling on, Weary from constant toil; The Cossack’s heart feels crushing pain, Caught in a serpent’s coil. “And here our burly oak-tree stands . . . Dear Lord! She lies a-heap! The poor dove was awaiting me And must have fall’n asleep!” He left his horse and rushed to her: “Dear God! Her face is pale!” He calls to her and kisses her . . . No, nothing will avail! “Why have they parted you and me?” His frenzied laughter broke – Then, with a rush, he battered out His brains against the oak! Young women walk a-field to reap And sing, in ancient rite, Of mothers’ sons who go to war, Of Tartar raids by night. And there beneath the green oak-tree A weary horse stands sighing And near him, with a Cossack young


A pretty maid is lying. With prying eyes (to tell the truth) They stole to fright the pair; But when they saw the lad was dead They fled in panic there! Her girl-friends all assembled And wiped their tears away; His comrades likewise gathered To dig two graves that day. The priests arrived with banners, The bells began to toll; All mourned as they were buried With customary dole. And by the roadside there they raised Two mounds amid the rye; And there was no one left to ask How they were killed, or why. Above the Cossack’s grave they set A maple and a fir, And at the maiden’s head they plant A cranberry bush for her. Sometimes a cuckoo comes to grieve; Each night a nightingale Twitters its heart out as it sings Their melancholy tale, Until at last the moon appears And up those wicked elves Come trooping from the Dnieper’s wave To warm their little selves. St. Petersburg, 1838 Translated by C.H.Andryshysen and Watson Kirkonnell The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko (The Kobzar) University of Toronto Press 1964



KATERINA To V. A. Zhukovsky in memory of April 22, 1838

I O lovely maidens, fall in love, But not with Muscovites, For Muscovites are foreign folk, They do not treat you right. A Muscovite will love for sport, And laughing go away; He’ll go back to his Moscow land And leave the maid a prey To grief and shame. ... It could be borne If she were all alone, But scorn is also heaped upon Her mother frail and old. The heart e’en languishing can sing – For it knows how to wait; But this the people do not see: “A strumpet!” they will say. O lovely maidens, fall in love, But not with Muscovites, For Muscovites are foreign folk, They leave you in a plight. Young Katerina did not heed Her parents’ warning words, She fell in love with all her heart, Forgetting all the world. The orchard was their trysting-place; She went there in the night To meet her handsome Muscovite, And thus she ruined her life. Her anxious mother called and called Her daughter home in vain; There where her lover she caressed, The whole night she remained. Thus many nights she kissed her love With passion strong and true, The village gossips meanwhile hissed: “A girl of ill repute!” Let people talk, let gossips prate, She does not even hear: She is in love, that’s all she cares, Nor feels disaster near. Bad tidings came of strife with Turks, The bugles blew one morn: Her Muscovite went off to war, And she remained at home. A kerchief o’er her braids they placed To show she’s not a maid,


But Katerina does not mind, Her lover she awaits. He promised her that he’d return If he was left alive, That he’d come back after the war – And then she’d be his wife, An army bride, a Muscovite Herself, her ills forgot, And if in meantime people prate, Well, let the people talk! She does not worry, not a bit– The reason that she weeps Is that the girls at sundown sing Without her on the streets. No, Katerina does not fret – And yet her eyelids swell, And she at midnight goes to fetch The water from the well So that she won’t by foes be seen; When to the well she comes, She stands beneath the snowball-tree And sings such mournful songs, Such songs of misery and grief, The rose itself must weep. Then she comes home – content that she By neighbours was not seen. No, Katerina does not fret, She’s carefree as can be – With her new kerchief on her head She looks out on the street. So at the window day by day Six months she sat in vain. . . . With sickness then was overcome, Her body racked with pain. Her illness very grievous proved, She barely breathed for days. . When it was over – by the stove She rocked her tiny babe. The gossips’ tongues now got free rein, The other mothers jibed That soldiers marching home again At her house spent the night. “Oh, you have reared a daughter fair, And not alone beside The stove she sits – she’s drilling there A little Muscovite. She found herself a brown-eyed son. . . . You must have taught her how! . . .” Oh fie on ye, ye prattle tongues, I hope yourselves you’ll feel Someday such pains as she who bore A son that you should jeer!


Oh; Katerina, my poor dear! How cruel a fate is thine! Where, with a fatherless young child, A haven will you find? Who’ll ask you in and welcome you, No husband at your side? Your parents now are – strangers too, It’s hard with them to ‘bide! Now Katerina’s well again; Again out on the street She gazes through the window pane, While rocks her babe to sleep; She looks in vain as days pass by.... Will it, then, never be? She’d to the orchard go to cry If people didn’t see. At sunset Katerina goes To their old trysting-spots, Her baby cuddled in her arms, And whispers as she walks: “ I waited here for him to come, And here we stood and spoke, While here ... oh here . . . my son, my son!” And then her voice is choked. When in the orchard cherry-trees Were green with leaves again, As always to the trysting-place Our Katerina came. But now her heart’s no longer light And now she sings no more, As waiting for her Muscovite She did the spring before. Now Katerina does not sing, But curses her sad fate. Ill-wishers in the meantime give Free rein to spite and hate– They are preparing evil things. What can she undertake? Her lover’d put a stop to this. . . . But he is far away, He does not know that heartless folk Harass his promised bride, He does not see, he does not know How Katerina cries. Perhaps her lover’s lying dead Beyond the Danube wide; Or maybe – back in Moscow land He has another bride! No, he’s not killed, he is alive–


It can’t be otherwise! And where another could he find With such fair face and eyes? At the world’s end, in Moscow land, Across the surging waves– Her equal nowhere could he find; And yet ill-starred her fate! ... Her mother gave her a fair face, And lovely eyes bestowed, Yet how to give her happiness Her mother did not know. But beauty without fortune is A flower in the grass– Seared by the sun, bent by the winds, And plucked by those who pass. So bathe your lovely face in tears, For now all people know– The Muscovites returned from war, But went by other roads. II Her father at the table sits A sad and stricken man; His eyes to light he does not lift, His head bowed in his hands. Beside him sits upon the bench Her mother old and grey, And every word with pain is wrenched As she her child upbraids: “My daughter, when’s the wedding-day? Where does your bridegroom rest? Where are your bridesmaids, tell me pray, And all the wedding guests? They are far off in Moscow land! So go and seek them there, And don’t tell anyone you have A mother anywhere. Be cursed the hour when you were born! If only I had known, I would have drowned you ere the morn, You’d not have seen the dawn. . . . Then you’d have been the serpent’s prey,. While now–a Muscovite’s. . . . Alas, my daughter, blossom gay! Alas, my sunshine bright! So tenderly I tended you, So proud to see you grown, Yet all my care is brought to ruin. . . . Oh dear, what have you done? So that’s your thanks! . . . You’ve made your choice, So go–in Moscow find


Your mother-’n-law, heed her advice, Since you did not heed mine. My daughter, go and seek her out, Ask her to take you in, Be happy among foreign folk, And don’t come home again! Do not come back to us, my child, From that land far away. . . . Oh who, without you, daughter mine, Will lay me in the grave? Who o’er my body will lament As but a daughter weeps? And who a guelder rose will plant There where my body sleeps? Who for my sinful soul will pray, Alas, when you are gone? My only child, my daughter dear! Now go, leave us alone, Go, go from us. . . .” With failing hand She blessed her for farewell: “May God be with you!” To the floor She then unconscious fell. . . . Her grey-haired father then found speech “What are you waiting for?” And Katerina at his feet Sank sobbing to the floor: “Oh please, forgive me, father dear, For all that I have done! My darling dad, forgive me, please, For what I did that’s wrong!” “May God forgive you,” whispered he, “May the good folk forgive; Now pray and go – for us ‘twill be Less hard, perhaps, to live.” She rose with difficulty, bowed, And ‘thout a word she went; Her father and her mother old Now all alone were left. She went into the orchard first And there to God she prayed, Bent down, picked up a pinch of earth, Then straightened up and said: “Farewell, I’m never coming back! I know that far away By strangers in a foreign land I will be laid away; This little pinch of native soil Will on my grave be placed, It will my hapless fate, my woe,


To strangers there relate. . . . Nay, let untold my tale remain When I have fled this life, Let folks forget my very name And speak no word of spite. You’ll not recount my sorry lot. ... But he–oh, he will tell That I’m his mother! Oh, my God! Where can I hide myself? Beneath the waves my hiding-place I’ll find, I am afraid, While you my sin will expiate– A roving homeless waif Without a father!” And she wept As down the village street, Her baby in her arms, she went With slow, reluctant feet. The village now was left behind – Her heart with sorrow ached; She turned to look, then like a child She stood and loudly wailed. Beside the road, a poplar tall, She stood lamenting long; Her scalding tears fell fast as falls The dew before the dawn. She didn’t see a thing for tears Were streaming from her eyes, She hugged her baby to her heart, And kissed it as she cried. The angel didn’t understand, Just felt the fond caress And fumbled with its tiny hands To find its mother’s breast. A flaming bowl, the sun went down Behind the leafy wood; She wiped her tears, then turned around And trudged along the road. . . . Then she was gone. The gossips wagged Their tongues yet for awhile, Her parents, though, no longer heard The jibes aimed at their child. . . . Such are the wrongs that people do To people on the earth! One person’s jailed, another slain, Himself destroys a third. . . . And all for what? Nobody knows. The world is large and wide, Yet some are homeless and alone, And can’t a shelter find.


Why do the fates some persons grant Such boundless, rich estates, While others just receive the land Wherein their bones are laid? Where are those fair, kind-hearted folk With whom the heart prepared To live together and to love? Alas, they’ve disappeared! On earth there is fortune – On whom does it smile? On earth there is freedom – On whom does it shine? On earth there are people – All silver and gold. They seem strong and wealthy, Yet fortune don’t know – Nor fortune, nor freedom! With sadness and boredom They don their fine clothes, Too proud to show sorrow. Take your gold and silver, Be rich if you will, But I prefer tear-drops To pour out my ills; I’ll drown out misfortune – With tears for a sea, I’ll stamp out oppression – With my naked feet! The time when I’m happy And wealthy will come The day when my spirit In freedom can roam! III The wood’s asleep, the night-owls hoot, The sky with stars is lit; In amaranth across the road The timid gophers flit. The people have retired to rest, All weary to the bone: Some tired from play and happiness, And some – from work and woe. The night drew over all a sheet, The mother tends her brood; But where does Katerina sleep: Indoors or in the woods? Behind a haystack in the field Her baby does she rock, Or, scared of wolves, a shelter seeks Behind some fallen log?


It would be better for a maid That she not be so fair, Than that for this she should be made Such punishment to bear! What fortune does the future hold? Alas, it will be bad! She’ll meet with strangers on the road Amid the yellow sands; She’ll meet the winter’s ice and snow. . But him–ah, will she meet The one who Katerina loves, And who his son will greet? If she were with him, all her ills, Her woes would be forgot: He’d speak to her with tender words And hold her to his heart. . . . Well, we shall hear and we shall see. . . And I will rest awhile, The road which leads to Muscovy From people I’ll inquire. Ah, brothers, it’s a long, long road – Alas, that road I know! My very heart is gripped with cold When I recall that road. One time I trod that road myself – Would I’d not known that trail! … About that journey I would tell, But who’d believe my tale? “The so-and-so is telling lies!” They’d say (not ito my face), “He is confusing people’s minds With silly, made-up tales.” You’re right, good people, you are right Why should you, anyway, B& made aware of things that I With flowing tears relate? What use is it? Each person has Enough of his own griefs. . . . So let’s forget it! Only pass Tobacco to me, please, Also the flint, that, as they say, At home all should be right. For if you’d hear my shocking tale, You’d nightmares have at night! So to the devil with it all! While I had better map The route our Katerina shall With tiny Ivan tramp. Beyond the mighty Dnieper’s stream, Beyond old Kiev-town,


A band of carters winds its way, Their voices blend in song. Returning from a pilgrimage, Perhaps, a woman nears, A matron young. But why so sad, Why are her eyes in tears? Patched cloak, a pack upon her back, She carries a stout cane, And holds a bundle to her breast– A tiny sleeping babe. She came up to the caravan And covered up her child: “Please tell me, where to Moscow land The highroad will I find?” “To Muscovy? This is the way. Is’t not too far, my dear?” “To Moscow. And for Jesus’ sake, Please help me to get there!” She trembled as she took the coin: Oh, it was hard to take! . . . Why should she beg? . . . But there’s the boy – Her child she can’t forsake!. . . She wept, then onward went. To rest at Brovary she stopped And for her son for what she’d begged A honey-cake she bought. A long time Katerina trudged, And ever asked the way; Full many nights beside a hedge She and her infant lay. . . . What use are eyes so beautiful – it’s clear: Beside a hedge with bitter tears to weep! So look, and mend your ways, oh maidens fair, That you some day should not be forced to seek Some Muscovite, as Katerina seeks. . . . Then do not ask why folks with anger speak And do not let you in their house to sleep. Oh maidens, do not ask them why– The people do not know; Whom God has punished in this life They also rush to stone. . . . The people sway like willow shoots Are swayed by vagrant winds. The sun shines for the orphan too (But does not warm, just shines) – The people would the sun erase And banish from the skies, That orphans be denied its rays To dry their streaming eyes, If they but could. And yet, good God!


Why such a thorny lot? What harm to people has she done? What do the people want? That she should suffer!. . . Oh my dear! Don’t, Katerina, let The people ever see your tears, Hold fast e’en unto death! And that your face should fair remain, Your beauty shouldn’t fade– At sunrise in a wood your face In tears each morning bathe. Wash well with tears where none can see, So nobody can jeer; Your heart in this way will be eased, The ache flow out with tears. Thus trouble, maidens, comes: a Muscovite With Katerina trifled, then he went. Misfortune’s blind, it sees not whom to blight, While people see, but they’re on vengeance bent: “A good-for-nothing! Let her die,” they say, “Since she to guard her virtue didn’t know!” Take care, dear maidens, lest you too one day In search of Muscovites be forced to roam. Where’s Katerina now? She slept beside the road, Each morn at dawn she rose, To Muscovy kept pressing on; Then!. . . Winter came with snow, And blizzards sweeping ‘cross the fields; But she trudged on–poor soul!– With shoes of bast upon her feet, And in a shabby cloak. Thus doggedly she onward went; When stop–what’s that she sees?. . . They’re Muscovites, they’re marching men. . . . Oh!. . . Katerina reeled. . . . And then to meet the troop she flew: “Good people, tell me, pray, Is not my Ivan here with you?” “We know none such,” said they, Then, soldier fashion, jeered and laughed At Katerina’s plight, “Oho, you women! Know our lads! We fix the girls, all right!” She looked at them with scornful eye: “And yet you’re men, you say! There, there, my baby, don’t you cry! Let come whatever may, I will not stop, I will go on. Your father I will find,


I’ll give you to him, darling son, And I myself will die.” A raging blizzard–bitter cold, The winds swept ‘cross the plain; She stood amid the whirling snow And wept without restraint. Tired out at last, the howling storm Gave way to fitful sighs; Our Katerina’d cry some more, But her tears, too, ran dry. She looked long at her sleeping son: The wee face, washed with tears, Was pink and looked as in the morn A dew-wet rose appears. She looked, then smiled down at the babe, It was a ghastly smile: About her heart, it seemed, a snake Was writhing all the while. She raised her head and gazed about: Ahead a forest loomed, And, hardly visible, ia hut Was cuddling to ‘the .wood. “Let’s go, my son, ‘twill soon be night, Perhaps they’ll let us in; And if they don’t, we’ll sleep outside. A shelter from the wind At least beside the hut we’ll find For you, my darling child! Where will you spend your nights when I No longer am alive? Outdoors with dogs, my sorry mite, Without a bed or roof! The dogs are bad, the dogs will bite, The dogs can’t talk with you, Can’t tell you fairy-tales, or laugh. . . . With dogs you’ll scrouge for food. . . . Oh, what misfortune’s come to pass! Whatever shall I do?” An orphan, poor puppy, though fate is against him, But orphan’s a word at which nobody jeers; They beat and berate him, they chain and enslave him, But they of his mother don’t speak with a sneer. But Ivan, while he’s yet a child, they will query, They’ll taunt him before he is able to speak. Who huddles ‘neath hedges in tatters and hungry? At whom do the dogs all yap on the street? Who guides the blind beggar? The bastard, poor creature. . . . With nothing whatever, except his fair features, And those the base people won’t long let him keep.


IV Where yawns a gully deep and wide At mountain foot, in quiet pride Stand ancient oaks like grand-dads old. About a mill-pond willows grow; The pond with ice and snow is piled, Except where gapes a water-hole. The wintry sun with sullen glow, A ruddy hoop, through clouds looks down, The north wind takes a breath and blows– All one then sees is whirling snow. . . . And hears the forest’s mournful moan. A snow-storm rages. Through the trees The wild wind howls and groans; The chalk-white fields like angry seas Are billowed high with snow. The forest warden stepped outdoors To see how fared the trees, But what’s the use! In such a storm What could a person see? “Oh what a din! We’ll have to let The forest mind itself! Back to the hut. . . . But wait – what’s that? Well, may they roast in hell! It looks as though the devil’s hosts Are trotting down the road. Nichipor, look! Those are not ghosts, They’re horsemen white with snow!” “What Muscovites? Where Muscovites?” “There, there, calm down, my dear!. . .’’ “Where are the Muscovites, my friends?” “See for yourself, out there!” And Katerina flew outside Just as she was from bed. “That Moscow’s sure got ‘neath her hide!” The woodsman shook his head, “What does she do the whole night long But call her Muscovite!” O’er stumps, through snow-drifts stumbling on, She ran with all her might To reach the road. Then breathless stopped, Stood barefoot in the snow. The troop drew close, at jogging trot They all on horses rode. “Oh my poor fate!” She ran ahead To meet them. . . . Then she spied The captain riding at their head: “My Ivan dear!” she cried, “My lover, you have come at last! Where were you all this while?” She ran to him. . . his stirrup grasped. . .


He looked, then turned aside And to his steed he gave the spur. “My love, why do you flee? Don’t you know Katerina more? Don’t you remember me? Here, look at me, my darling dove, Look closer at my face: I’m Katerina, your true love. Why do you turn away?” But he kept spurring on his steed As though he did not see. “Oh, wait a moment, darling, wait! D’you see – I do not weep. You do not recognise me, dear? Oh Ivan, it is true– I’m Katerina, don’t you hear!” “Let go, you silly fool! Here, men, drag this mad wench away!” “Oh God, what’s this you do? You cannot cast me of! this way – You promised to be true!” “Take her away! Why do you wait?” “Take who? Take me away? What have I done to earn that fate? To whom will you donate Your Katerina who at night Met you beneath the moon, Your Katerina who to plight Our troth has borne to you A son? Oh Ivan dear, at least Don’t you reject me too! I’ll be your slave. . . . Love whom you please, I’ll say no word to you. Make love to all. ... I will forget I ever loved you true. ... Bore you a son, became unwed A mother ‘cause of you. . . . An unwed mother. . . . What a shame! Why am I thus undone! Then leave, forget me, but I pray, Do not forsake your son. You will not leave him?. . . Oh my dear, Don’t haste away from me. . . . I’ll bring your son to you out here.” She dropped the stirrup free, Ran to the hut, then hastened back To give the precious mite To him, the father. Loosely wrapped, It wailed from cold and fright. “Here is your son, your bonny boy, Come see! Where have you gone? He’s fled!. . . The father ran away!. . . The father spurned his son!


Oh God!. . . My poor abandoned mite! Whatever shall I do? I beg you, gentle Muscovites, Take him away with you! Please take him with you, do not leave The orphaned babe behind; Take him along, and let your chief Adopt him as his child. Take him. . . . Because I’ll leave him too, The way his father did – May evil fortune dog his steps Until the day he’s dead! Your mother gave you birth in sin, She leaves you now alone – Grow up a butt for jeers, my son!” She laid him on the road. “Stay here to find your father, lad, For I already tried. . . .” The little baby cried, Abandoned in the snow. . . . The men, Unmindful, passed it by. It would have been as well; but then The woodsmen heard its cry. Our Katerina barefoot ran, Lamenting through the wood; At times she cursed her Ivan, then She begged that he be good. She left the wood behind, then saw The mill-pond down below. . . . She dashed across the ice and stopped Beside the water-hole. “O God, accept my soul, I pray, And you – my body take!” A splash!. . . Then only bubbles stayed The water’s calm to break. Young Katerina found at last What she’d been looking for! The wind puffed once –a nd e’en a trace Of footsteps was no more. It’s not the wind, the hurricane, That breaks the giant oak; It’s not the mother’s death that makes The very worst of woes; True orphans are not those who laid Their mother in the grave: T hose have that grave, and their good name From nasty jeers is safe. Ill-natured people, even, smile An orphan child to cheer; Upon his mother’s grave he cries –


His heart-ache’s eased with tears. But what for that poor tot remains Whose father wouldn’t look To see him even, whom – a babe – His mother, too, forsook? What’s harder than the bastard’s lot? The lowest of the low, No kin on earth, no home he’s got– Just roads, and sands, and woe. . . . Patrician face with eyebrows dark. . . . What for? So he’d be known! She didn’t hide the father’s mark. ... Oh, would there had been none! V Beside the road to Kiev-town A kobzar sat to rest. With him his guide, a little boy In rags and tatters dressed. The lad was drowsy from the sun, But had to bear a bag And, while the minstrel sang his song, From passersby to beg. Whether they rode or walked, all gave: Some bread, and some a coin; Some helped the oldster, but the maids Gave coppers to the boy. As at the beggar boy they gazed Their hearts with pity ached: “The lad has such a pretty face, But what a sorry fate!” Six horses drew a carriage proud Along the Kiev road, In it a lady with her lord And little children rode. In clouds of dust the coachman reined There where the beggars sat. The lad ran quickly, for the dame Had beckoned with her hand. She gave some money to the boy And watched with smiling eyes. The master glanced . . . then turned away. . . . The monster recognised To whom that boyish face belonged, Those brows and those brown eyes. . . . The father recognised his son, But coldly turned aside. The lady asked the lad his name. “Small Ivan, ma’am,” he said. “What a sweet child!” And then away In dust the carriage sped. . . .


The beggars counted what they’d got In alms so far that day, Turned to the sun to pray to God, Then went their weary way. St. Petersburg, 1838 Translated by John Weir Taras Shevchenko. Selected Works Poetry and Prose Progress Publishers. Moscow 1961

Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the poem Katerina. Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko


THE HAIDAMKS2 To V.I.Grigorovich3 in remembrance of April 22, 1838

All things must ever flow and pass away . . . Whence did they come and whither have they vanished? Nor fool nor sage an answer can convey. Things come by life, by dying they are banished. For one thing blooms; one withers now forever, Its yellowed leaves are scattered by the blast. Suns will still rise, nor cease their vast endeavour, The bright-red stars flow on as in the past; And you, O silver moon, with visage shining, Will rise and wander in the azure sky, Peering in troughs and wells with eye designing, Painting the sea with glory from on high. As once you shone on Babylon of old, You’ll light our folk in ages yet untold. Immortal Moon! ... I often have desired To speak with you as with a sister dear, Singing you verses that you have inspired. Advise me – for my sorrow’s weight I fear. Not quite alone am I, nor indigent: My heart has children,3 though their fate’s uncertain. Shall they within my soul be basely pent? Relief may lie beyond the future’s curtain If someone reads these tearful words of mine Which once my heart so fervently poured forth In secret. Nay, to hide them I decline, My soul is living and its seed has worth! Like the blue skies that without bounds extend, My soul has no beginning and no end. Where will it thrive? Vain question, idly hurled! Whoe’er you are, preserve my soul’s white ember! None without fame would gladly leave this world. Maids of my heart, do you at least remember! My soul was fond of you, my rosy flowers, And of your destiny she loved to sing. Then rest, my children, till the dawning’s hours! A proper guide4 for you I’ll seek to bring. O sons of mine, O haydamaks, The world is vast and free, –


A derogatory name applied to those rebel bands that attacked and pillaged the estates of the Polish landlords in Ukraine. When the economic oppression became more intense, and the persecution of the Orthodox Church increased, these bands were swelled by the outraged rural population (mostly serfs) and Cossacks. In this poem Shevchenko deals with the third such insurrection, which occurred in 1768 (the other two took place in 1734 and 1750 respectively). The term haydamak derives from Turkish, and means robber, pillager. The cause of the rebels being just, they considered it an honour to bear that appellative. 3 V.I.Grigorovich, of Ukrainian extraction, was the Secretary of the St. Petersburg Academy of Art. It was he more than any other who was instrumental in assisting Shevchenko to gain his emancipation on the date indicated. Having such an influential protector, Shevchenko here makes bold to ask him to protect his “children,” the haydamaks, as they (in this poem) venture among the public. 4 Grigorovich


Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the poem The Haydamaks. Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko


Go forth my sons and roam about To seek your destiny! O sons of mine, who yet are small And inarticulate! Who in this world, all motherless, Will greet your sorry state? O sons of mine, young eaglets all, Go, fly to our Ukraine! There, rather than neath alien skies, ‘Twere best to bear your pain. There, sympathetic souls you’ll find Who will not let you die; But here ... it is so hard,5 my boys! If as their guests you hie, They will but mock you when you meet. By censurers this is done, Enlightened all, with books in print, They scold the very sun:6 ‘In the wrong quarter see it rise; It shines with beams untrue; It would be better if the sun …”7 So what is there to do? We must pay heed to them because Perhaps it docs not rise As scientists have given rules. These censors must be wise! What, verses, will they say of you? Your fate will make me blench! For they will scoff and throw you down In scorn beneath a bench. “There let them lie,” they’ll say, “until A bard comes, noble-souled, To tell us in our Russian tongue About these hetmans bold. He is a fool who tells these tales In dead Ukrainian,8 And brings before us in bast shoes Some nondescript young man. A fool is he! At school he learned But little for his pain: Of Cossacks and the hetman age Only the mounds remain – And nothing else; now even these Are dug from stern to stem; And he, forsooth, would have us hear While beggars sing of them! It is quite useless, my good friend! 5

Shevchenko still is uncertain about the value of his poetic effort, and fears it may as yet be immature. Referring to the harsh treatment The Kobzar of 1840 received from the Russian critics. 7 Spoken sarcastically of the ‘learned” critics who find fault even with the best. 8 This and what follows is Shevchenko’s answer to his detractors who advised him to write in Russian and not in a “dead” language; to bring out in his poems characters worthy of being treated in such a medium, and not common, ragged rustics such as appear in The Haydamaks; and to forget the Cossack “ignoble” past and deal with “courtly” themes and subjects, such as were then cultivated in Russian literature. 6


If payment would be yours Along with certain fame to boot, You’ll sing of court amours, Of maids in love, of dogs and steeds That hunt across the lea – Glory lies there! But no, he sings About the murmuring sea, And weeps, besides; about him press Rude rustics in a throng In homespun coats. . . Quite true, ye wise! Your wisdom could be wrong! You’ve given me a sheepskin coat; Alas, it does not fit. The garment of your own wise speech Is lined with falsehood’s wit. Forgive me! Clamour as you please! I’ll heed you not at all, And shall not even ask you in, For you are wise men all And I am but a fool; I’ll sit In my own hut alone, And there I’ll sing to please myself, And like a small child moan. I’ll sing about the sea that roars And of the wind that blows, Of the dark steppe and of the mound That tells the wind its woes. And as I sing, my mind will see The high mound open wide And Zaporozhians flood the steppe In a great human tide; Otamans on their coal-black steeds Before the bunchuks9 rear, While rapids roar among the reeds Between the margins sheer And groan and sing in tones of wrath An anthem fierce and bleak! I’ll hark to them, and grieve awhile, And to the ancients speak: “Why are you grieving thus, O sires?” – “Sad are the times, my son! Dnieper is angry; our Ukraine Feels tears of anguish run. . .” I, too, must weep. In proud array With banners and with swords, The hetmans and otamans walk, And all in gold, with stride superb My cottage they salute, And as beside me there they sit Their converse is not mute, 9

Cossack commanders’ insignia: a long pole topped by a ball or arrow to the base of which was attached the hair from a horse’s mane or tail; of Mongolian origin.


Of how they built the mighty Sich10 And laid its footings fast, And how the Cossacks in their barks Across the rapids passed, And how they roamed the broad, blue sea And burned old Scutari;11 And how they lit their pipes at fires Where Poland paid the fee; And how they came back to Ukraine, And feasting turned to rout. . . . “Come, kobzar, play! Innkeeper, pour!”– Was their incessant shout. The tavernkeeper knows his job And pours without a pause; The kobzar strikes a tune up – all, With tumult of applause, Turn to a lively hopak dance That makes Khortytsia quake; The tankard makes its endless rounds, They drink without a break. “Dance, man, and cast your cloak aside! Dance like the prairie wind! Play, kobzar, play! Innkeeper, pour, Till better days we find!” With arms akimbo as they squat, All in the dance are set: “Go to it, fellows, good for you! You will be masters yet.” Otamans at the feasting talk And gravely pace the lea As if in solemn conference . . . The illustrious company At last could not forbear to dance, Their legs forgot their years; While I cast glances, look about, And smile amid my tears, – I look, and smile, and wipe my tears away: I am not lonely, here are hosts of friends! In my low dwelling, as on prairies gay, The Cossacks dance, the valley’s mirth ascends; In my low hut, the blue sea roars at play, The mound is sad, the rustling poplar bends, A maiden softly sings a love-lorn lay – I am not lonely, here are hosts of friends. There all my welfare, all my wealth, And all my glory lie! As for your counsels – many thanks 10

The Cossacks’ first permanent encampment on the Dnieper’s island of Khortytsia, beyond the rapids at what is now the city of Zaporizhia. Established in the latter part of the 16th century, the Sich was destroyed by Catherine II and the territory around it settled by German immigrants whom she favored. The word derived either from zasika (palisade or from sikty (cut, hew), Zaporozhian from za porohamy (beyond the rapids). 11 A suburb of Istanbul, on the Asian side.


For reasoning so sly! I, while I live, shall be content With speech you scorn as dead; In it I sing my grief and tears. You your own ways may tread! I go to see my children off On travels long and hard. Let them set out; perhaps they’ll find That ancient Cossack bard, Who’ll welcome these my children in With hoary tears of joy. In this I shall be satisfied: My heart shall not be coy! So, at my table as I sit I ponder for their sakes: Whom shall I ask? Who’ll lead them on? Outside the morning breaks, The moon has set, the sun’s ablaze, The haydamaks have found me, They’ve said their prayers and dressed themselves And ranged themselves around me. As sad as orphans do they stand And mutely bend their heads: “Ah, bless us, Father!” is their plea “Have pity on our deads, As into the wide world we go To seek our destiny!” – “Hold on! The world is not a hut, And you are still but wee And foolish boys. Who’ll lead you on To find a welcome due? I am in trouble, children dear, In grave distress for you! I’ve nourished you, I’ve reared you up, Now ready for your fate Out in the world, but everyone Is now so literate – Forgive me if I failed to school you. As for myself, though flayed, The flogging brought me literacy– For thus are scholars made! I know my letters, but still fail To place the accent right. What will they say to you? Come, sons, Advice we must invite! I have a spiritual sire12 (Although my own is dead); He’ll tell me what to do with you. He knows in his own stead How hard it is for orphaned waifs Forth in this world to pace; 12



Moreover, he’s a kindly soul And of the Cossack race. He’ll not disown that blessed speech In which his mother mild Sang to him as she swaddled him When he was but a child; That blessed speech he’ll not disown In which a sightless bard Sang sadly of our own Ukraine Along the hedgerows hard. He loves that idiom of truth That was the Cossacks’ glory. He loves it well! Then come, my sons, To seek his counsel hoary! If he had not once met with me Oppressed by all my woes, Men would long since have buried me Beneath these alien snows; They would have buried me and said: “He was a ne’er-do-well!” It’s hard to bear life’s heaviness Where none the cause can tell. Come, little ones, all that is past And I am still alive. If in this bitter foreign land He helped me to survive, You, too, he’ll welcome as his own: To greet you he’ll be fain; And from him, having said your prayers, You’ll set out for Ukraine!” Our greetings, Sire! At this your door We crave your fellowship. Pray bless my little offspring all To speed them on their trip! St. Petersburg, April 7, 1841

I. INTRODUCTION Poland, the land of Gentry13, lived A lady much adored,– She matched her strength with Muscovites, The Sultan, and the Horde, The Germans, too. Thus once it was . . . But all things pass away. The gentry boasted of their deeds And feasted night and day And mocked to scorn their hapless kings – It was not Stephen14 then, Nor yet Sobieski15, mighty Jan – 13

Before her third partition in 1795, Poland, although nominally a kingdom, was actually ruled by her magnates and gentried wealthy landowners (szlachta) who, by the power of their individual veto, considered their elective kings as mere puppets, and often sent them packing. 14 Stefan Batory of Hungary, king of Poland (1576-1586).


These were not common men,– But others. . . . Mute and cowed they reigned; The insults did not cease; The seyms16 and petty diets roared, While neighbours held their peace As they beheld the wretched kings Go fleeting from the realm And listened to the gentry shout In tones that overwhelm: “Ah, veto!17 veto!” With a roar Resound the gentry’s words, While magnates burn down many a home And sharpen up their swords. Year after year such riot ruled Until to Warsaw came Bold Poniatowski18 as their king And sought to end the shame. His reign began; he straightway set his mind To clip the gentry’s wings – alas, he failed: He felt – a mother towards her children – kind, Yet one great purpose in his plans prevailed. Only that one word “Veto” he desired From the mad gentry’s use to disengage, But then ... all Poland was to frenzy fired, The gentry burst out shouting in a rage: “Upon our word of honour, he’s a knave! A rogue he is, and Moscow’s hireling!” From Patz clear to Pulawski swept a wave Of trepidation like an angry Spring – A hundred fierce confederations rave. Through Poland and Volynia These factions rage amain, In Litva and Moldavia And on through vast Ukraine. They spread abroad and quite forget Man’s liberty to keep; They make the usurers their pals; All things away they sweep. Havoc and murder are their joy; Churches they burn with zest . . . 15

Jan Sobieski, king of Poland (1674-1699) who, with the substantial aid of the Ukrainian Cossacks, defeated the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1673. 16 Legislative assemblies. In the general political confusion in the middle of the eighteenth century, there existed over fifty such petty diets in Poland, each with magnified pretensions of its own. 17 All decisions in the Polish Seym and provincial diets were to be passed unanimously. A single veto was enough to nullify even the most vital one. 18 Stanislaw August Poniatowski (1764-95), the last Polish king, who in 1766 unsuccessfully attempted to abolish the nobility’s power of veto. Since he favoured closer relations with Russia, the szlachta rebelled against him by organizing themselves into so-called “confederations” whose chief purpose, at first, was to preserve Poland from Russia and, of course, their own rights and privileges in Poland. In the beginning there were three main confederations, two of which were led by Józef Puławski and Michal Patz respectively. As time went on, other groups were formed, but certainly not to the extent of one hundred as Shevchenko implies. Failing in their purpose in Poland, the rebels, lacking money and supplies, scattered through Ukraine and the neighbouring territories of Lithuania and Moldavia, and became mere predatory hordes. Hence the re-emergence of the haydamaks and the insurrection of the Ukrainian peasant and Cossack population in Ukraine, particularly in the southeastern part of Kiev region, in 1768. It was a result of this political havoc that the third partition of Poland between Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1795 was made possible.


And meanwhile all the haydamaks Have had their weapons blest. II. YAREMA “D’ye hear, Yarema? You’re a villain’s son! Go now, and get the mare! And when that’s done, Carry my wife her slippers, soft and loose, And fetch a pail of water for my use! Then sweep the floor! Bring wood in, many a piece! Throw grain out for the turkeys and the geese! Go to the stable then, to milk the cow, Quickly, you scoundrel! . . . Wait a minute, now! When you have done that, to Vilshana19 speed And tell the priest’s wife that her help I need.” Off went Yarema, mournful, stooping low. Thus early in the morning, even so, The Jew browbeat the youth, a Cossack lad, Who bent his back beneath his fortunes bad And did not realize his wings had grown That had he wished, he might to heaven have flown. Untaught, he bent his spine. God, mercy give! How hard is life, yet how one longs to live! How sweet it is to see the sunshine pouring, To hear the blue sea murmuring or roaring, A bird that chirps, a vale where rustlings move, Or a young beauty singing in a grove . . . Dear God, how sweet it is to live and love! Yarema is an orphan, waif bereft: No sister and no brother has he left! Just a Jew’s drudge, the lad untended grows, And yet he blames no persons for his woes. Why should he blame them? Do they know, perchance, Who shall be kissed or tortured in life’s dance? Let them make merry! Fortune is their lot, And a poor waif must take the fate he’s got. Often in silence he to tears will take, And not because he feels his bosom ache: But at recalling something sweet and fair . . . Then back to work: one’s fortune one must bear! Yet what are parents, or a manor’s art, Without a lass with whom to share one’s heart? The waif Yarema warmly rich appears In someone who can share his songs and tears. Lovely hazel eyes there are That like stars are shining; Dainty white arms tenderly Round his neck are twining; There’s a maiden’s lovely heart, Rare it is and good, 19

A village a few kilometers north of Kiev.


Ready still to weep or smile, Answering his mood; Ready still to smile or weep Fainting or reviving, Like a holy spirit’s gleam All his midnights shriving. Such was Yarema at that time, A waif most fortunate. And such, young maids, was I of old . . . But changed is my estate! Past are those days and vanished quite Till not a trace remains. My heart grows faint to think of them . . What cause my grief ordains? Why has my happiness not lingered on? It had been easier to weep things gone. Men stole my luck, to heap their own luck high “Why needs he fortune? Let it buried lie, He’s rich enough without it!” Yes, in patches, And in my tears – unduly dried in snatches! . . . My destiny! Where is thy tide compelling? Return to me, come to my lowly dwelling, At least in dreams . . . tears are my sleep dispelling! Forgive me now, good people! All is not sense I say, But one’s accursed misery Is always in one’s way. Perhaps we yet shall meet again While down the road I trudge And follow on Yarema’s track, And yet ... I cannot judge. Where’er one turns, misfortune lies, No shelter can be found: “Wherever fortune tends,” they say, “There one must shift one’s ground”– Must shift in silence, and yet smile That not a soul may know it – The sorrow hidden in your heart– And call on you to show it. Not even lucky ones may dream Of sharing in their favour. While orphan lads can never hope To sense its slightest savour! It’s hard to harp on such a theme, Yet mute I cannot stay. So pour it out, my tearful speech: To dry those tears away The sun’s not hot enough. I’ll share The grief that from me falls Not with a brother, sister, wife, But with my own mute walls


On alien soil . . . Meanwhile my step To seek the tavern tends And see what’s happening. The Jew Is trembling as he bends Above a wick and counts his coins Beside an ample bed. And on it, in the stifling heat, Her slim white arms outspread, A maiden lies uncovered there; A flower in a field She crimsons; and a parted blouse Her bosom has revealed; There in the downy bed she sleeps In solitude, alone; No young companion has the maid, Her converse to make known. She only whispers to herself . . . Incomparably fair The daughter is – the father seems The Devil’s greedy heir. Some filthy quilts upon the floor The Jew’s old wife enclose. Where is Yarema? With the bag, He to Vilshana goes. III. THE CONFEDERATES – “Open the door, you Jewish pup, Or you’ll be beaten! Open up! Before he comes, break down the door!” “Wait just a minute, I implore, I come at once!” – “Now, whip the cuss! Whip him! Would you make fun of us? Or what’s your game? – “In no such wise, Nay, God forbid! Just let me rise, Your Graces!” (Whispering, “Swines’ foul kin”) –”Come, Colonel, smash the door right in!” The door collapsed; the lash fell crack In stripes upon the Jew’s old back. – ‘Good evening, swine! Good evening, Jew! Hail, devil’s son, good day to you!” Thus on and on the lashing went, While the Jew stooped, his body bent. – “Stop jesting with me, gentlemen!” – “Good night to all within this den! Just lash the knave some more! . . . Enough! Excuse our call, you evil chough! And where’s your pretty daughter now?” – “My daughter, sirs, is dead, I vow!” – “Judas, you lie! Whip him again!” The lashes fall on him like rain. – “Alas, my lords, my friends so dear, I vow to you she is not here!”


– “Scoundrel, you lie!” – “God punish me if that’s not truth!” – “Not God, but we.” – “Why should I hide my daughter, sirs, If she yet lived? May God’s own curse Afflict me if I lie!” – “Hee-hee! The devil intones a litany. Now cross yourself!” – “How do you do it? I don’t know how!” – “Watch me, beshrew it! A Pole’s hand marks the Cross’s pact, And the Jew imitates the act. “Bravo!” they cry, “We’ve christened him! This miracle has pleased our whim; Let’s top if by a drink with you! Come, do you hear us, christened Jew? Give us a drink!” – “At once, at once!” The Poles are fierce with growls and grunts; They bellow loud with bestial sounds While the full tankard makes its rounds. “Poland has perished not!” they roar In lusty chorus. “More, Jew, more!” The coerced Christian limps with pain Down cellar steps and up again, And fills their glasses up perforce; While the confederates, of course, Shout: “Jew, more mead!” With steps not slow The man is ever on the go. – “Where are your cymbals? False one, play!” In lusty dance, the floor’s a-sway; Krakowiaks their mood exalts, With the mazurka and the waltz. The Jew beneath his breath salutes All with a mutter: “Gentry brutes!” – “Fine, that’s enough! A song now chant!” – “I cannot! Nay, by God, I can’t!” – “Don’t swear, you dog! You’ll not evade.” – “What would you have? ‘The Wretched Maid?’” – “There once was a Handzia, A poor, crippled creature, Who swore her sore feet Were her body’s worst feature; And so to the work in the fields Of her lord she’d not go. Instead, the young men This most cunning of lasses Would follow afield In the tall clinging grasses, Most quiet, and furtive and slow.” – “Enough! It is an ugly song:


Schismatics20 sing it all day long.” “What would you like? This one perhaps? But wait! My memory may lapse. . .” “Before the landlord, Theodore, A Jew is dancing on the floor, At times retreating, Then forward fleeting, Before the landlord, Theodore, Dancing for all he’s worth. . . .” – “Good, that’s enough! Now pay us well!” – “You’re joking, sir! The answer tell – Pay you for what?” – “For listening To hear an ugly fellow sing. I do not jest. Let’s have the gold!” – “Where can I find it? You’ve been told I’ve not a groat; my only wealth Is in Your Graces’ gracious health.” – “You lie, you dog! You must confess! Come, gentles, cease from gentleness And use our whips!” They swished with pain And Leiba’s back is crossed again. They flogged so hard without a doubt That even feathers flew about . . . – “I’ve not a kopeck, none, I swear! Though me to little bits you tear I could not find a coin! Help! Help!” – “Just wait, we’ll give you aid, you whelp!” – “ Stop! Stop! I’ll tell you of a thing . . .” – “We’re listening, we’re listening, But do not lie! If you should croak, Your lying would not stay the stroke.” – “No ... in Vilshana . . .” – “There’s your wealth?” – “No, not my money, by my health! I tried to say, amid your mocks ...” – “That in that town the Orthodox Into each house are forced to squeeze The folk of many families? We know it well; the game we’re at Has cut the rascals down to that . . .”21 – “Not that, ah no ... I beg your pardon . . . I pray your luck may never harden, Have gold in fact and in your dreams! . . . Now in Vilshana-town it seems The sacristan, within the church, Has a fine daughter, worth your search. Oxana is a maiden rare In beauty quite beyond compare. And heaps of gold! Not his, of course, 20 21

As the Orthodox Ukrainians were called by the Poles. A reference to the Polish pogroms of the Orthodox Ukrainians in the Kiev region in 1766.


But you need never ask its source!” – “Of course the cash will please our sight! Old Leiba is completely right; But to make sure he speaks the truth, He’ll guide us on our way forsooth. Get dressed.” The Poles, in hope to thrive, In ardour to Vilshana drive. Only a single Polish punk Lies underneath a bench, so drunk He cannot rise, but mutters this In ecstasies of maudlin bliss: “While life by such as we is cherished, Our Poland has not surely perished.”22 IV. THE SACRISTAN “In a lovely grove Not a breeze is pining; The moon rides high And the stars are shining. Come out, my darling – I wait for you here – Come at least for an hour My precious dear! Appear, my pigeon, And we shall coo And sorrow together: Tonight from you I leave on a journey. My dearest heart, Come, coo with me, birdie, Before we part . . . How heavy and sad Is my bosom’s smart!” Thus, as he walks along the grove, Our young Yarema sings And seeks Oxana, but the lass Seems to have taken wings. The stars are sparkling in the sky, The silver moon’s alight; The birch tree hears the nightingale Beside the well of night; Upon a bush beside the stream It pours its song out clear As if it knew the Cossack lad Awaited his young dear, While young Yarema, ‘mid that song, Can scarcely drag his feet along; He does not see or hear. “What use to me can be my handsome face 22

The first two lines of the Polish national anthem.


If I have not been blessed with fortune’s grace? My youthful years are lost; I am alone, A blade of grass amid a field of stone, Caught by the blustering wind and carried off. None know my value, and the people scoff. Do men reject me since I’m loved by none? Nay, one heart have I held, though only one, One sincere soul, and now it seems that she, Even my darling, has forsaken me!” He wept; then wiped the tears off with his sleeve. – “Farewell, then! On my journey I must leave, Either to make my fortune or beyond The Dnieper find the death of which I’m fond. For me you’ll shed no tears, without a doubt, Nor will you watch the raven pecking out Those sparkling eyes, those living Cossack eyes, That once you used to kiss with gentle sighs! Forget my tears, forget the sorry waif, Forget you swore to love me. Marry safe! I’m not your match, a coarse, grey homespun man, While you’re the daughter of a sacristan! Choose whom you will – such is my destiny! Forget me, dear, and do not grieve for me! And if you hear that in some foreign field Yarema’s shattered body lies concealed, My soul, dear heart, in all its anguish knows That you at least will pray for my repose!” Propped on his staff, he wept amid his woes. Softly he weeps . . . Then suddenly A rustle seems to greet him . . . Among the tree-trunks, weasel-quick, Oxana steals to meet him. He rushed to her; the pair embraced . . . “Sweetheart!” Their hearts grow faint. “Sweetheart!” they frequently repeat. Then silence brings constraint. “Enough, my bird!” – “A little more, Again, my falcon fair! Draw out my soul! Once more, again . . . I’m weary, I declare!” – “Then rest awhile, my fairest star! Heaven your course begat!” He spread his jacket on the ground . . . His angel smiled, and sat. – “You, too, must sit beside me here!” He stooped, and they embraced. – “Where were you shining all this while, My star, my darling chaste?” – “I have been late today because My father’s ill, you see, And all this while I’ve tended him.”


– “With not a thought for me?” – “Oh, what a cruel thing to say!” Her bright eyes brimmed with tears. – “Don’t weep, dear, it was but a jest.” – “A jest!” Her smile appears. She leaned her head against his own And seemed to fall asleep. – “Oxana, it was but a jest And you could really weep! Well no more tears, now; look at me; Tomorrow I’ll be gone: Yes, I shall be too far away For you to gaze upon! Tomorrow night, in Chihirin,23 I’ll get a blessed sword To win me gold and silver bright And glory all-adored; I’ll dress you fair, I’ll shoe you fine, And set you up to view; Enthrone you like a hetman’s spouse And then admire you . . . While I shall live, I’ll look at you.” – “Perhaps you will forget. You will grow rich and with the lords For Kiev off will set, To find yourself a noble dame. My name you’ll know no more!” – “Could any be more fair than you?” – “There may be many a score.” – “That were a sin to say, my dear, For none more fair could be Beyond the earth, beyond the sky, Beyond the deep, blue sea; No one is lovelier than you!” – “What foolish things you say! Come to your senses!” – “Nay, it’s true!” And then again they sway, Locked in each other’s arms enlaced, With sweetest nothings fed; And thus they kissed and thus embraced By perfect passion led; And still they wept and doubly swore The love that each would give. Yarema told her all his dreams Of how they both would live; How he would dress her all in gold, How his career he’d gain, And how the haydamaks would slay The Poles in fair Ukraine. 23

A provincial town, southeast of Kiev, for a time a hetman capital.


He then would his own master be, If he from war survived. Surely, young women, you’d be sick To hear such dreams contrived: – “Imagine telling us such stuff! Disgusting!” If your mother Or father were to see that you Your spirits daily smother In reading nonsense such as this, They’d cry out at the sin! And then, and then . . . But don’t you find How interesting it’s been? In spite of all, I’d like to speak About a Cossack lad Beneath a willow, by a stream, Who kissed his sweetheart sad; While his Oxana, precious dove, Still coos and kisses back, As she inclines her head to him And weeps forebodings black: “My dearest heart! My treasured one! My falcon past compare! . . .” Even the willows bent to hear The words she whispered there. What lovely speech! Ah, beauties fair, I’ll tell thereof no whit, Lest in the dark, approaching night You all should dream of it. So let the pair of lovers part As softly as they met, As gently and as lovingly, That none may see with fret The maiden’s and the Cossack’s tears Unhindered, flowing free. In this life they may meet again . . . Perhaps … we shall sec . . . Now let us to the sacristan’s repair. The windows are ablaze. What happens there? I must peer in and tell you, by that light . . . Would I had never seen so foul a sight, Nor that I had such horrors to relate! My heart is sick at what men perpetrate. See the confederates – at torture tense – These men who rise in Liberty’s defence! How they defend it! For this task before them, Curs’d be their hour of birth and she that bore them, Bringing them forth to know the light of day! See at the sacristan’s their devils’ play, Children of hell! For with the flames of Doom The stove-fire blazes, lighting up the room. There in a corner, like a pup, is trembling The cowering Jew. The Polish lords assembling, Shout to the sacristan: “Do you want to live?


Where is your money?” Not a word he’ll give. They twist his hands with rope; down to the ground They smite him; but he utters not a sound, No, not a word. – “There other tortures are: Bring on the glowing coals! Where’s boiling tar? Pour it upon him! What! Too cool for souls? Then quickly christen him with white-hot coals! Well? Will you tell us? Not a groan of hate! My, what a stubborn brute! Well, just you wait!” Into his boots the gleaming coals they shed. – “Come, drive a nail into his stubborn head!” The torture he no longer could endure But prostrate fell, without the shriving pure And blessing of the Church. Aloud he cried: “Oxana, O my daughter!” And he died. The hardened Poles, frustrated in their fun, Stopped to bethink themselves: – “What’s to be done? Come, gentlemen, let us deliberate. To cover up this fellow and his fate, Let’s burn the church down!” – “Help, now! Help, I pray, All who believe in God!” In loud dismay, A voice is crying, desperate and shrill. – “Who utters an alarm?” The Poles grow still. Oxana rushes in and screams her loss; Then falls a-swoon, her outstretched arms a cross. The Colonel motioned to his company, And all the sullen Poles, like dogs, agree And leave the room. The leader, somewhat bolder, Bore off the swooned young woman on his shoulder. Where are you now, Yarema? Look at this! But he is on his journey. Full of bliss, A martial song from other days he trolls, How Nalivayko24 fought against the Poles. The Poles have disappeared; unconscious, too, Oxana has been lost to human view. Dogs in Vilshana here and there are fain To raise a bark and then are still again. The moon is white as silver; people sleep; Likewise the sacristan, alas so deep That naught can ever wake that man devout. His dwelling’s light still burned, at last went out And as it did, a shudder shook the dead As the sad darkness closed around his head. V. THE FEAST IN CHIHIRIN 24

Severin Nalivayko, one of the Cossack leaders who at the close of the 16th century led unsuccessful rebellions against the Poles in the western parts of Ukraine. His troops were called “tailor-bands” because his trade was that of a tailor before he joined the Cossacks. He was finally captured by the Poles, who, after subjecting him to savage tortures, quartered him.


Hetmans, O haughty hetmans, if you were to rise again, If you were to rise and look at your ancient Chihirin, The town that you once erected, the seat of your former reign, You would burst into bitter tears, for you would not see therein The old-time Cossack glory but ruins upon the plain! The squares where the troops you marshalled once flowed like a mighty sea, Where they blazed at the wave of the bunchuks, red legions ripe for spoil, And the great chief on his jet-black steed would rise in rapture free, And wave his mace to the mighty waves and the sea would begin to boil, To boil and overflow its ranks, Over the steppes and up the banks, Calamity itself felt fear … But not a Cossack now is here, Why dwell on that? Their fate is clear. And when a thing has met its end, Let us not now recall it, friend, Perhaps the Muscovites might hear . . . For what avails it to recall? Your tears would patter down. Yet let us glance at Chihirin, That vanished Cossack town. From past the forest, out of mist, The moon floats high and fine; It glows with round and ruddy face, It flames but does not shine; It seems to know the Cossack folk Will soon not need its light, That conflagration’s blaze will warm And make the country bright. Then it grew dark. In Chihirin, As in a coffin black, ‘Twas very sad. (Aye, thus it was Through all Ukraine, alack, The Eve of good Saint Makoviy25 When all the swords were bless’d.) No voice was heard; at times a bat Across the square progressed, Or on the village common A lonely owl would hoot. But where are all the people? Where dark trees overshoot Upon the Tiasmin’s26 margin They’ve gathered, young and old, The rich man and the poor man, A mighty feast to hold. In a dark grove, in a green wooded pass, The fettered horses crop the after-grass; Black are the steeds, already saddled there. Where will they go? What riders will they bear? 25 26

The church feast of Maccabaeus celebrated on August 1. A tributary of the Dnieper in the Chihirin region.


Look you will see! Low hills the host engird. Mute as if dead, they utter not a word. These are the haydamaks ... at the alarm The eagles have assembled, swift to harm With blood and flame their enemies so fell . . . They will give back to Poles their gifts of hell. The valley’s shadows now conceal Great waggons filled with fish of steel:27 This gift a generous lady28 gave Who knew the way her land to save, A noble lady – let her reign!29 No need to make their purpose plain! . . . The waggons are so closely spanned, There’s not a spot where one may stand: From Smila30 and from Chihirin Cossacks and chiefs have ridden in . . . For a sure deed they gather here. The Cossacks and their chieftains dear Pace up and down in mantles black And softly talk of the attack. Their celebrations thus begin As all men gaze at Chihirin;31 A kobzar blind in sad array Sings to them now his mournful lay: “Wallachians, Wallachians! How few of you are left! And you too, O Moldavians, Of lordship are bereft. The lords that once you followed The Tartars yoke restrains, Or as the Sultan’s hirelings The toil in servile chains! Enough, cast off your worries! Offer a noble prayer, And join with us, the Cossacks, In fellowship so rare; Call back to mind old Bohdan,32 The Hetman long ago! With sharpened blades, beside us, New mastery you’ll know; With blessed blades we’ll win it, And with our own Maksim33 27

Weapons. Catherine II, who was falsely believed to have sent the weapons to the haydamks to be used against the Poles. Russia favoured any insurrection that might weaken Poland. 29 Expressed ironically. 30 A town in the southeastern part of Kiev province. 31 A brief prose dialogue is here omitted. 32 Shevchenko could not forgive Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky for signing the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654, by the terms of which Ukraine, instead of becoming Muscovy’s (Russia’s) ally (as Khmelnitsky had intended) fell under her complete sway. 33 Maksim Zalizniak, one of the leaders of the haydamaks. 28


We shall make merriment tonight And smite the Poles with vim. Our banquet will make mirth in’ hell; Earth’s shudders will be great; The heavens will be set ablaze Our feast to celebrate!”34 The Cossacks and the haydamaks Sit listening in their bivouacs, And lest the host should fall asleep They beg the bard his place to keep And stir them with another song. His mighty tones the spell prolong: “The eagle soars, the grey one soars; The sky his ardour proves – Maksim the chieftain ranges far Throughout the steppes and groves. The eagle soars, the grey one soars; His eaglets fly behind; Maksim the chieftain ranges far; Bold lads with him you’ll find. Those lads are Zaporozhians, His sons in freedoms right; He stops to think what he should do – To drink or else to fight. Perhaps to dance, then at the tune The very ground will shake; He starts a song – they sing so loud That fortunes smile will break. Brandy and mead he quaffs with joy From tankard, not from glass; If he should meet an enemy, He will not let him pass. Such, lads, is now our otaman, Our eagle grey of wing! With all his might he loves to fight And, pay the reckoning. No dwelling of his own has he, No orchard, pond, or field; The steppe and sea on which he roams Will gold and glory yield. Behave yourselves, ye knavish Poles! You raging curs must mind him; Maksim is on the Highway Black, His haydamaks behind him.”35 The mustered haydamaks were fain To hear another kobzar strain Of ancient deeds his praise might con, And so the old blind bard sang on: 34

Again a brief prose dialogue is omitted. Instead, the next six lines, which are not actually Shevchenko’s, summarize the conversation. 35 Once more a brief prose dialogue is omitted. The next four lines render its gist in verse.


“The haydamaks had passed the night Within a wooded vale; Their fettered horses, pastured well, Were saddled for the trail. The Polish lordlings passed the night In mansions broad and high; There they caroused and turned to sleep . . .” (The sound of church bells is heard.) “The bells! The bells!” they cry. The arches of the leafy grove Give back the solemn tone. “Go, say your prayers!” the kobzar said, ‘Til end my song alone.” The haydamaks pressed forward – Such zeal the chime imparts – And high upon their shoulders bore The chumaks’ heavy carts That oxen had been wont to draw. The bard resumes his tale: “The haydamaks had passed the night Within a wooded vale He mutters as he trudges on But does not sing it out. – “God’s beggar, tell another tale!” The warriors all shout As on their backs they bear the carts. – “Fine, lads, here’s one for you! Here is a tune to move your feet – Let’s see what you can do!” With waggons on their backs they dance A lusty rigadoon. The kobzar, as he wildly plays, Add words to match the tune.36 – “Stop! Stop! Have all the senses left your pate? What are you trying now to celebrate? And you, old dog, instead of prayers to shake you, Are raving drivel! May the devil take you!” In anger shouts the otaman; and they halt. Here stands a church. A cantor’s tones exalt The priests’ procession where the censers swing; The crowd grows silent from all uttering; No tinkle sounds; amid the waggons pent, The holy priests with long brush-sprinklers went; Behind them came the banners, slowly led As at the blessing of the Paschal bread. “Pray, brothers pray!” in accents high and loud The stern archpriest harangues the kneeling crowd. “Around our holy Chihirin you’ll see Great guardians from the other world will be And will not let the saint37 be crucified. 36 37

Two songs are omitted for being so colloquial as to be virtually untranslatable. The town of Chihirin, made sacred by Cossack exploits in the cause of Ukraine’s freedom.


While in Ukraine’s defence your squadrons ride, Protect your Mother,38 let that soul of hers Not perish through her executioners! From times of Konashevich39 low we lie; The burnings do not cease, our people die; In dungeons end their days, in naked woe; Our children unbaptized to manhood grow, Our Cossack children; and our maidens fair, The beauty of our Cossack land so rare, Fade, like their mothers, in the Poles’ possession, While their bared braids, beneath that dire aggression, Are white with streaks of shame; those lovely eyes Have lost their sparkle as the future dies; The Cossack’s loath his sister to unchain, Nay, he himself all unabashed will deign To bear the Polish yoke.40 Woe to our land! Pray, children! The Last Judgment is at hand For our Ukraine that Polish hands have rent, While the dark hills give back the dark lament. Recall the righteous hetmans: Can you tell Where are their graves today? And where may dwell The bones of Bohdan,41 now his glory’s done? Where is the tomb, even a lowly one, Of Ostrianitsia,42 of his meed bereft? And where is Nalivayko’s? None are left! The living and the dead the Poles have burned. Where is Bohun,43 who one great winter churned With Polish dead the waters of Inhul, Frozen with frost for battles wonderful? The Poles range far and wide. Bohdan is dead, Who once could render Zhovti Vody44 red And Ros that trims its banks with greenery. The ancient Korsun lies in sad debris And sees no soul that might its sorrow share. The Alta weeps: To live is to despair! I dry, dry up. . . Taras45 is likewise gone – Our ancient sire has lost his every son! Yet weep not brethren: for beside us stand The spirits of the saints of this our land. Archangel Michael46 moves with us today; 38

Ukraine. Petro Konashevich-Sahaydachny, hetman of Ukraine (1614-1622), who warred successfully against the Turks and the Muscovites. 40 Some Ukrainian Uniates served in the Polish ranks. 41 Polish commander Czarnecki burned and scattered Khmelnitsky’s bones in 1664 when he destroyed the Cossack church where they were buried. 42 An earlier Cossack leader who campaigned against the Poles. 43 Colonel Bohn, one of Khmelnitsky’s lieutenants, who defeated the Poles on the banks of the Inhul (tributary to the Buh River) and gutted that stream with their corpses. 44 town of Zhovti Vody – in the Ukrainian language lit. yellow waters. 45 Hetman Taras Fedorovich, known better by the surname Triasilo, which he acquired among the Cossacks, In 1630 he led his troops in rebellion against the Poles who then held sway in Ukraine and sought to Polonize the Ukrainian population by repressing the Orthodox religion and denying the people the use of their churches. There were being turned over to the Unitates (those Ukrainians who accepted the Union with the Roman Catholic Church, effected in the town of Berest, Western Ukraine, in 1596). 39


And judgment is at hand. Pray, brethren, pray!” And pray they did, as there they knelt, In simple faith serenely felt; The Cossacks did not doubt their cause But felt, like children, that the laws Of Heaven would give them victory . . . Though otherwise their fate would be – Over their Cossack graves too soon Were white funereal kerchiefs strewn. The only glory that they found Was a white kerchief on their mound. Soon disappeared that mute lament And with it all remembrance went. . . . Raising his voice, the deacon cried: “Death to the foeman! Hither stride And take the knives! They have been bless’d!” The bells broke out in noisy pealing; The heart grew chill at that request. The echo through the grove went reeling: “They have been bless’d!” And loud of breath: “Death to the Polish gentry, death!” Each took his blade; these flashed their bane To the far limits of Ukraine. VI. THE SIGNAL47 One day of butchery was still in store At the hands of raging Poles; just one day more, A day on which Ukraine and Chihirin Were plunged in sorrow by the alien’s sin. And yet it passed, St. Makoviy’s own Day, The great feast of Ukraine, did pass away – While all their enemies, with souls of mud, Made themselves drunk with brandy and with blood, Cursed the schismatics, tortured them unfeeling, And damned them when they found naught worth the stealing. Meanwhile the haydamaks due silence keep Until the villains should be all asleep. These laid them down without the least surmise That on the morrow they would never rise. The Poles now slept; the usurers’ delight Was still to count their money in the night; They, too, at last lay down upon their gold And slept an evil sleep, abhorred and cold! Meanwhile the moon sailed forth to wander free And view the sky, the stars, the earth, the sea, And watch mankind to find the way they trod And tell it in the morning all to God. The bright-faced one lights up the whole Ukraine . . . He shines, but does he see where she has lain, 46

Patron angel of Kiev. The signal to be given at about six o’clock in the morning, “at the third cockcrow,” as the episode is entitled in the original.



Vilshanas child, Oxana, sorry waif? What sort of torment does her fate vouchsafe”? Where is she tortured? Does she moan in fear? And does Yarema know? And can he hear? We shall speak later of that reckoning. Of other themes I now must play and sing: Woe, not young women, as my tale must stand; I sing the sorrow of the Cossack land; Hear, then, that you may tell it to your sons And they to theirs, while deep remembrance runs. How the fierce Cossacks smote the gentry down Because their rule brought evil of renown. Terror moved through all Ukraine, Through every field it spread; Endlessly the blood flowed forth And stained the steppes with red. Long it flowed, then dried at last. Steppes once more are green; There above our forebears’ bones Purple mounds are seen. But what avails their lofty height? It stirs no memory’s embers; For no one weeps above them now, And no one still remembers. Only the wind with gentle voice Above their summits blows; Only the dews of early morn Upon their grass repose And wash it. But the sun comes up; It heats the grave-mound dry; Descendants are indifferent; They sow their landlords’ rye! Of all their number, who can tell The place of Gonta’s48 tomb And where the blessed martyr lies After his day of doom”? Where’s Zalizniak, that soul sincere? Where does he rest at last? The times are foul! The hangman reigns, And none recalls the past. Terror moved through all Ukraine, Through every field it spread; Endlessly the blood flowed forth And stained the steppes with red. Loud outrage roars by day and night; 48

Ivan Gonta who was the commander of the “court” Cossacks who from 1757 served the Polish magnate Potocki. The latter trusted him so much that he sent him to the town of Uman to be at the disposition of the Polish Governor Mladanowicz there. For his services to the Poles he was given two nearby villages as usufruct. While with the Poles, Gonta married a Polish lady and by her had two sons who were baptized into Roman Catholicism. When the insurrection of the haydamaks under Maksim Zalizniak began, Gonta was ordered to suppress it. However, his patriotic feeling asserted itself, and he joined forces with Zalizniak. Both of them captured Uman by storm. After changing sides, Gonta’s ferocity in battle knew no bounds, and he allowed no mercy in his dealings with the Poles and their allies.


The groaning earth gives way; Sad, dire it was; but memory Makes the heart leap today. Fair moon, behind the mountain hide your light! We do not need you to make darkness bright; You would be terrified at sights of woe As Alta, Ros, and Seine49 now overflow And feed the billows of a sea of blood. What will come next? Ah, hide you from that flood, Behind the mountains, lest this reign of rage Doom you to weep in sorrowful old age! Ah, sadly, sadly through the sky Moves on the bright-faced moon. A Cossack by the Dnieper walks, Perhaps returning soon From a gay party; mournfully He scarce can drag his feet. Perhaps his sweetheart loves him not? His poverty’s complete? She loves him; though his garments scant Show patch on patch today, He’s handsome too; if he survives, Sure wealth will come his way. Why is he then so sorrowful And at the point of tears? His quick premonitory heart Some dark affliction fears. His heart’s aware, but will not tell What grief he has in store. Yet that will pass. . . . Meanwhile, it seems None live here any more. There’s not a sound of cock or dog, No voice of beast or fowl, Save that far off, beyond the grove, One hears the grey wolves howl. Heedless of them, Yarema walks – Not to his lass he goes Nor to Vilshana, party-bound, Rather, to meet his foes At fair Cherkassy.50 There hell hear Third cockcrow give the sign; Onwards he walks and musing looks On Dnieper’s wave divine: “O Dnieper, my mighty Dnieper, so vast and broad and strong, Much hast thou borne, O Sire, of blood to the mighty sea, Of Cossack blood, my friend, and more wilt thou bear ere long. Thou hast always reddened its blue and for more it has cried to thee. But at last will the sea be sated; tonight an infernal feast 49

A reference to the Night of St. Bartholomew (1572), during which the Huguenots were slaughtered in Paris by French Catholics. 50 A provincial town on the Dnieper, southeast of Kiev.


Will roar in turbulent slaughter through the length and breadth of Ukraine And blood will flow in torrents, from the veins of our foes released, The blood of the Polish gentry. And the Cossack shall rise again! The hetmans will rise once more, in their garments of cloth of gold, And liberty will be roused; and a Cossack chorus roar: The Poles, our oppressors, are dead!’ In the Steppes of Ukraine as of old Pray grant, dear Lord, that the golden mace may flash to our eyes once more!” Such were the hapless fellow’s thoughts As in patched clothes he strode And bore the blessed blade in hand Down the Cherkassy road. The Dnieper seemed to hear him speak; In heaving ranks on ranks Its great waves rose up, broad and blue, Between its reedy banks. It roars and groans and howls amain And bends the reed-beds low; The thunders rumble, lightnings flash As through the clouds they go; While young Yarema goes his way, Oblivious to it all; At times he smiles, at times he weeps; Thoughts hold his heart in thrall. “With my Oxana, joy is full, Even in homespun dressed; But in this venture I may die, The thought brings sad unrest.” Beyond the valley, loud and clear, The cock salutes the prime! “Cherkassy’s far! Dear God above, May I be there in time!” VII. THE RED BANQUET (Halayda) Throughout the length of our Ukraine The church-bells raised their call; The haydamaks raised up their cry: “Death to the gentry! All! Death to the gentry! Let’s to work, And warm the very clouds!” The Smila51 region is aflame, Wrapped in its reddened shrouds; But Medvedivka is the first To warm the startled sky. All Smila’s parish is ablaze, The blood is flowing high, While Korsun burns and Kaniv burns, Cherkassy, Chihirin; Down the Dark Highway sweeps the fire 51

This and other localities mentioned here are in the southeastern part of the Kiev province, around Cherkassy, where the rebellion flared up.


As days of death begin. Up to Uman the blood-stream flows; Podilia bathes in fire As Gonta makes a merry feast; Zalizniak slakes his ire Up in Cherkassy; likewise there Yarema does his best; One tempers thus his damask steel And one his sword-blade bless’d. “Good, good, my lads! Go to it now, The evil foeman routing! “Good work, my boys!”– out in the square Bold Zalizniak is shouting. A hell surrounds him as he goes; In that inferno set, The haydamaks all beat about; Yarema in a sweat, A ghastly sight, hews down the foe – Three, four, he makes them fall In one fell swoop. –”Good work, my son! The devil take them all! By this you’ll gain a paradise, Or reach a captain’s station. Just keep it up! And forward, lads!” Thus they, in wild elation, In garrets and in storehouse bins, In cellars, everywhere, Mow down the foe, and loot his nest. “Stop, lads! Your bodies spare, For you are weary. Take a rest!” The streets and the bazaars Are strewn with corpses, wet with blood: “Too few are yet their scars! Their punishment must vaster be, That their unchristian souls May rise no more to vex our land!” His force the square patrols And young Yarema with them goes; He hears a summons due From Zalizniak: “Come here, my lad! I will not frighten you!” – “I’m not afraid!” he doffed his cap, And stood there, brave and brown. – “Where are you from? And what’s your name?” – “I’m from Vilshana, where the sacristan These evil dogs did slay?” – “Where? Who?” – “Vilshana was the town . . . His daughter, too, they say, Has been abducted by the rogues.” – “His daughter ... is that clear?” – “The sacristan’s. You know the man?”


– “Oxana, O my dear!” Yarema hardly spoke these words, And swooned in sheer despair. – “Aha! So that’s it . . . shabby luck! Mikola, give him air!” Revived, he cried: “Dear father, friend! Had I a hundred hands, I’d arm them all with sabres sharp To cleanse our tortured lands. Let me inflict revenge on them That hell itself may heed!” – “Good, O my son, swords will be found For such a sacred deed. Come with us to Lisianka now; With swords we shall descend!” – “Let’s go, let’s go, my otaman, My father and my friend! On to the very ends of earth I’ll fly to set her free; From hell itself I’d snatch her, Sire, If hell should gape for me . . . Alas, perhaps at earth’s far bounds Oxana I’ll not see!” – “Perhaps you will. And, by the way, Your name is still unknown.” – “Yarema.” – “And the surname too?” – “Alas, Sir, I have none!” – “No surname? . . . You’re a bastard then? Why, then, we shall enroll ’ee. Mikola, set the youngster down And let the name be Holiy!”52 So write it down!” – “The name is foul!” – “Well, how about Bida?”53 – “That, too, sounds bad.” – “Then let us see: Pray write down Halayda!”54 So it was done. – “Well, Halayda, Let’s go and fight some more! Perhaps you’ll find your fortune there … On, land, to pay the score!” Then to Yarema, from the camp, They give an extra steed. Astride the coal-black horse, he smiled, Then burst in tears indeed. Beyond the town-gate, they beheld Cherkassy soar in flames. – “Lads, are all here?” – “Yea, Sire, we are!” – “Ride on then!” he exclaims. 52-53 53 54

Holiy (Naked); Bida (Trouble, Misfortune); Halayda (Homeless, Wanderer), It was customary among the Cossacks to assume, or be given, nicknames when they joined the Sich Host.


Along the Dnieper’s wooded bank The Cossack troopers ride; Behind them comes the kobzar old, Who sways from side to side As on his trotting horse he jogs And sings them on to war: “O haydamaks, O haydamaks, Maksim is ranging far!” So on they rise. Cherkassy’s walls Are all ablaze the while. But no one bothers to look back! All banter, and revile The haughty gentry; part converse And part the kobzar hears; While Zalizniak, who rides in front, Is pricking up his ears. As thus he rides and smokes his pipe, He speaks no word at all; Yarema near him gallops mute. The grove with tree-tops tall, The verdant vale, the mighty stream, The hilltops’ bold relief, Sky, stars, men, all that’s good and fair, Even his savage grief – All these have left his consciousness! He nothing sees nor hears; Our hero is profoundly sad And yet he sheds no tears. No, he weeps not: a viper fierce Sucks out with greedy art His tears and twines about his soul And lacerates his heart. “Ah, tears, abundant flood of tears! You can wash grief away – Then vanquish mine! To live is hard! The ocean surging spray And Dnieper are not vast enough To wash my sorrow clear! And shall I then myself destroy? Oxana, O my dear! Where are you now? Look hither, pray, My love, my only one! See your Yarema! Where are you? Perhaps her hopes are done, And she, too, curses evil fate And as she curses, dies; Perhaps she spends her days in chains In dungeon agonies. Perhaps she calls to mind her lad, Vilshana calls to mind; And speaks to me: “Sweetheart of mine, Embrace me now, be kind! Let us embrace, my falcon fair,


And swoon forever thus; Let Polish torture do its worst, We’ll be oblivious!” Blows, blows the wind from Liman’s shore; It bows the poplar’s crown; A maiden’s heart may likewise bend When sorrow stoops her down; Though for a while she broods and grieves, Already she may be A lady dressed in mantles rich, A Pole’s mate … Misery! Punish, O Lord, my soul with hell, Pour out a sea of pain, Let harshest scourges on me burst, But such a grief restrain! Even a stone were shattered quite Beneath such torment weird! Oxana, O my precious love, Where have you disappeared?” At that, a sudden flood of tears Came gushing, warm and salt. And meantime Zalizniak cries out And bids his troopers halt: – “Into the forest, lads! ‘Tis dawn; Our horses are far spent; There let them graze!” And quietly In the dark woods they went. VIII. THE REGION OF HUPALO The sun had set. Throughout Ukraine The flames their hunger glut; And everywhere the gentry quaked, In lofty buildings shut. On gibbets in the villages Unnumbered corpses hung; These were the chiefs–the common sort In nameless piles were flung. The dogs and crows, upon the streets And crossroads where they lay, Devoured their flesh, pecked out their eyes, And no one said them nay . . . Only the children had been left In village bivouacs, – The women, with their oven-forks, Had joined the haydamaks. Such was the horror that prevailed Throughout the whole Ukraine! The slaughter was far worse than hell . . . Why must these folk be slain?55 For they are of one common stock. 55

Shevchenko abhorred bloodshed, and longed for Ukraine’s peaceful relations with her neighbours, as may be gathered from the lines that follow.


Could they not live as brothers? But no! it was against their will That each should love the others! They sought to shed a brothers blood, They coveted his wealth; Although their fields and barns were full, They grudged a brother’s health. “Let’s kill our brothers! Burn their homes!” They spoke, and it was done. It seemed an end! But for revenge They left the orphan son, Who grew to manhood full of tears Until his tortured hands Became unbound – and blood for blood And pang for pang demands! One’s heart aches as these brother Slavs Tear brother Slavs to bits. Who is to blame for such a crime?– The Polish Jesuits.56 While haydamaks were wandering Through forest and ravine And Halayda, amid their troop, With flowing tears was seen, By Voronivka’s huts they passed, Verbivka and Vilshana. Then thought Yarema: “Should I ask About my love, Oxana? No, I will not, lest I reveal The reason for my rue.” But as the haydamaks prepared To leave Vilshana too, He asked a boy: “And is it true They killed the sacristan?” – “No, uncle; for my father said They burned the holy man, Those Poles, and bore Oxana off; No one was here to save; And yesterday the sacristan Was buried in his grave.” He stayed no more . . . “On, on, my steed!” Reinless he turned to ride. “Would that before I knew of this I yesterday had died! Whereas today if I should die My coffin I should leave To search for you, my sweetheart dear! Dying I still should grieve.” Pensive he grew and mute withal, As he rode on apace. The poor lad found it difficult His sorrow to efface. 56

The Polish Jesuits provoked the Orthodox Ukrainians to rise in rebellion by seeking to impose Catholicism on them. That, however, was just one reason among many why the rebellion occurred.


The company was riding past The Jew’s old quarters spare; Tavern and barn were smouldering yet, But Leiba was not there. And my Yarema smiled at that, A bitter smile to view: “Here, only two short days ago, I bent before the Jew, Whereas today! . . .” Yet grief he felt At dark misfortune’s load. The haydamaks, above the vale, Were turning from the road; Up with a boy they caught at last Upon that lonely track; His coat was patched, his shoes were bast, His shoulder bore a sack. – “Hey beggar-boy! A moment wait!” – “I’m not a beggar, Sir, But, as you see, a haydamak.” – “And ugly, I aver! From where?” – “From Kirilivka, I.” – “Know you, from where you dwell, Budishcha57 and the lake nearby?” – “That lake I know full well. To find it, follow this ravine; You’ll strike it, I declare.” – “And did you see some Poles today?” – “None of them, anywhere! But yesterday they ran in droves,– Branches could not be bless’d Because the Poles forbade the priests. That’s why we smote with zest! Father and I used blessed blades; Had Mother not been ill, She too had gone. . . .” – “This ducat shows good will And recompense for what you’ve done!” He took the piece of gold, And looked at it and said his thanks. – “Ride on, my comrades bold! But, do you hear, permit no noise! Come, Halayda, with me! In this ravine there is a lake; Woods neath a hill you’ll see, And in that woods a treasure lies. When we the place attain, Instruct our lads to hem it round: Some rogues may yet remain To guard the treasure-caves!” They come, And range the woods about. At first they cannot see a soul 57

A village near Kirilivka. Shevchenko lived in Kirilivka as a child. Near it, surrounding a small lake, is the Forest of Hupalo.


Then – “What a crowd!” they shout. “Just see what pears on oak-trees grow! Let’s knock them down, my boys! Come, quickly, quickly! That’s the way!” And full of horrid joys, A crop of rotten pears they reap And slay them to the man: They knock them down, they finish them, As only Cossacks can. They found the treasure; bore it off; The pockets of the Poles They stripped; then rode Lisianka-way In search of guilty souls. IX. A BANQUET IN LISIANKA (The Ancient Building) It now grew dark. From Lisianka Sprang up the light of fire; And Zalizniak and Gonta lit Their pipes in fashion dire, – Grim was the way they lighted them!58 Even the damned in hell In such a manner cannot smoke! Tikich in fashion fell Is reddening with alien blood And high above it blaze The buildings and the houses all; Thus Fate inflicts its ways On nobles and on poor alike. Out in the public square Bold Zalizniak with Gonta stands And shouts: “Their doom prepare! Punish the Poles and make them weep!” The lads do punish them. Weeping and groans burst forth; one begs, One curses to condemn; Another prays, confessing all His errors to a mate Already dead. No one is spared,– The ruthless mete out fate. Like death itself, they take no thought Of beauty, age, or youth In gentle ladies, Jewish maids – Their blood’s a stream, forsooth. Neither the crippled nor the old Nor even children small Remained alive; for none escaped The wretched end for all. All were laid low, and strewn pell-mell Till not a soul alive 58

It was the Cossack custom, when their work was done, to light their pipes with the fire of the conflagration they had set, as a flaunting gesture of their victory.


In Lisianka was left that day. Now conflagrations strive In lofty tongues of leaping flame To reach to heaven’s crown. And Halayda ceased not to shout: “Strike, strike the Poles all down!” Corpses he slashes, mad with rage, Hangs up the dead and burns them. “Give me more Poles to kill, I say, For punishment concerns them! Give me more Poles! To drain their blood I still would persevere! A sea of blood were not enough! Oxana, O my dear, Where are you?” As he shouts, he leaps To search the flaming glare. Meanwhile the haydamaks have placed Stout tables in the square, And brought in food that they might sup, Sought food on every side To banquet while the light remained. “Let us begin!” they cried. They feast and round about them there Red hell gleams maniac; Hanging from rafters in the flames The corpses crackle black. The rafters flicker in the blaze And burn along with them. – “Drink, comrades, drink! Pour out some more! For such a requiem May we with Polish gentry meet Once more and end their reigns!” And Zalizniak in one great breath The mighty tankard drains. – “To all your cursed corpses now, Your cursed souls’ bad end, Once more I drink. Drink up, my lads! Drink, Gonta, my good friend!” – “A moment, pray. I’m waiting now To see about these Poles . . Yarema leaped: – “Where are they all?” – “What zeal your heart controls! Drink brandy, friend!” – “What Poles are these? My brother, speak, I say!” – “In yonder building, over there, They’ve locked themselves away.” – “Let’s blow them up!” – “The ancient hall Have walls that we must spare! It was, indeed, old Bohdan’s hands That set the mansion there!” – “Old Bohdan’s? For his handiwork Our feelings should be tender.”


– “I sent a message to the knaves To ask them to surrender. And if they do, I’ll spare the lot. If not, I’ll blow them up . . . The subterranean mines are set” . . . – “And do the Poles still sup? Are they alive to count the stars? Yet, friend, your plan is good! Meantime, let’s drink a tumbler down!” – “Drink, all the brotherhood! Not to excess – our slaughterous task Perhaps is not complete!” – “Nay, it is not! Drink then and strike! Sing, kobzar, as we meet! Not of our sires – as well as they We’ve paid the Poles our debt; Not of misfortune, for, my lads, We have not known it yet. Strike up a merry tune, old man, Till the ground sway like mad, About a widow, young and gay, And what a time she had. (The kobzar plays and sings) “From village on to village The minstrels dance and booze: I’ve sold my eggs and chickens off To buy a fair of shoes! From village on to village, I’ll dance with trippings deft: I’ve sold my cow, I’ve sold my ox, Only my house is left. Now to my crony will 1 sell That house of mine, I pledge, And buy myself or build myself A booth beside a hedge; And there I’ll trade and there I’ll sell Good brandy by the glass; I’ll dance and have a merry time With all the lads who pass. Poor little doves, my children all, You’ll have to take your chances! Don’t worry, though; just take a look At how your mother dances! I’ll hire myself for kitchen work, My children send to school, But those red shoes I’ll surely get To be a dancing fool!” – “The song is good! Come, let us dance! Kobzar, a tune we’d share!” The kobzar plays, and squattingly


They whirl about the square. The ground’s a-sway . . . – “Good, Gonta, good!” “Maksim, good steps you ply! Let’s go my friend, let’s trip it up, Before we have to die!’ (Gonta sings) “Oh, wonder not, my maidens, I’ve rags on every limb; My father took it easy, And 1 take after him.” – “A splendid song! How well you sing!” – “Maksim, it’s now your turn!” – “A moment wait while I debate What song your praise may earn.” (Maksim Zalizniak sings) – “Love anybody’s daughter, lad! I do, and so can you: The priest’s young girl and the cantors pearl And the peasant maiden too!” All of them dance but Halayda, Who nothing hears or sees; He sits there at the table’s end And weeps his miseries. And why? a cloak of richest red Upon his shoulders shone And gold he has and glory too . . . But his Oxana’s gone! No one has he to share his wealth, No one to share his praise, And he in utter loneliness Must end his bitter days! As yet the poor lad does not know That his Oxana fair Is in that building with the lords Beyond the river there, Those very Poles who did to death Her sire, the sacristan. You monsters! Now behind these walls You’ve hidden, to a man. Look, how your brothers, wicked friends, Are perishing in pain! Oxana through the window peeps At where, amid the slain, The flames of doomed Lisianka rise. “Yarema, where is he?” She fondly asks. She does not know Of his proximity In yonder town, not coarsely clad But dressed in rich array: Sitting alone and wondering: “Where is my lass today?


My pretty dove whose wings are clipped, Where does my darling weep?” Then stealthily from the ravine He sees a figure creep, Dressed like a Cossack. “Who goes there?” Yarema’s call came straight. – “I am Pan59 Gonta’s messenger; His pleasure I’ll await.” – “No, you will not, you Jewish dog, For death has come for you!” – “Good God, I am a haydamak, I tell you, not a Jew! Here is the Empress’ Kopeck, You’ll know what that must mean!” – “I know, I know!” and from his boot He pulls a dagger keen. – “Leiba, confess, you cursed Jew, Where my Oxana lies.” And stabbed at him. – “She’s with the lords, Of yonder walls the prize . . . Dressed all in gold . . .” – “Then ransom her! Move faster, fellow, faster!” – “I will, I will . . . How stern you are, Yarema, my young master! I’ll go at once and ransom her For money breaks the wall. I’ll tell the Poles, instead of Patz . . .” – “Yes, yes, I know it all. Go quickly!” – “Yes, at once, at once! Hold Gonta back two hours – Then let him do the thing he’d do! Where take her, while there lours Dark death?” – “To Maydanivka go, That village, do you hear?” – “I do, I do.” And Halayda With Gonta makes good cheer. Zalizniak then the kobza takes: – “Dance, kobzar! Do your share! Myself I’ll play.” And squattingly The blind man in the square Goes stamping with his shoes of bast And sings the hopak rare. . . ,60 (The dance continues for some time?) – “Enough, enough!” cries Gonta then. The fire is almost out. We need more light! . . . Where’s Leiba now? 59 60

Here several dance songs arc omitted. The fire they set to the town occupied by the enemy.


He should be here, past doubt. Just find the swine and string him up, Hang him before we go! Come, children, for the fire subsides, The Cossack wick61 burns low!” Said Halayda: “Good otaman, Let’s dance a little more! Look, how the town is still ablaze, The square’s a lovely floor. Still let us dance! Come, kobzar, play!” – “I will no longer dance! Prepare to fire! More tar, more tow! Roll up the ordinance! Light fuses in the underground! This is no jest to fleer you!” The haydamaks roared back with zest: “We hear you, father, hear you!” With joy they race across the dam, With joy they sing and shout. But Halayda cries: “Father, wait! You’ll slay me, past all doubt! Just wait an hour! Don’t kill my lass: My dear Oxana’s here! Just wait an hour, my comrades all, And I shall get her clear!” – “On with your job!” says Zalizniak. “Tell them to light the fuses! She’s playing with the Poles, is she? Lad, love has other uses. You’ll find another!” Then he turned But Halayda was gone. The hills roared out. Up to the sky A flaming geysir shone, Fed full with Poles. All that remained A foul Inferno blazed . . . – “Where’s Halayda?” Maksim inquires In vain for him they gazed. Meanwhile to dungeons of that pile With Leiba he’d slipped in, And snatched his sweetheart safe away And gone to Lebedin. X. LEBEDIN – “An orphan from Vilshana, granny, An orphan sad am I! The Poles my father tortured, granny, Until they saw him die. Just to recall it, gives me fright! They carried me away. Dear lady, do not bid me tell My sufferings that day. 61


I prayed to them, I wept to them, My soul was torn apart, Until my grief was staunched by time And petrified my heart . . . Had I but known we’d meet again, And would once more embrace, I should have borne three times my lot With that one word of grace! Forgive me, O my darling! My record I may smutch, And Heaven now may punish me Because I loved too much My sweetheart’s noble stature, His handsome hazel eyes; I only loved because my heart Would take no compromise. Not for myself, nor father, My captive prayers were said; No, granny, for my lover’s fate My orisons I pled. Punish me, God! Your just rebuke My soul must now endure. Grim to admit, my hand was fain My own death to procure. Had it not been for him, perhaps Myself I should have slain. I suffered so! I thought: ‘Dear Lord, Help me in all my pain! My love’s alone – and who but I His service will attend? Who’ll share his joys and lift his griefs But I, his only friend? Who could more tenderly embrace? Who keep his spirit safe? Who else would say a kindly word To such a hapless waif?’ Yes, granny, that is what I thought. My heart rejoiced to tell: “I am an orphan, motherless And fatherless as well. My love alone in this wide world Adores me faithfully; And if he hears I’ve killed myself, He’ll die because of me.” Thus did I reason, thus did pray, Thus did I yearn and moan: He did not come, there was no hope, And I remained alone! . . .” She burst in tears. The aged nun Who stood in silence by Grew pensive. – “Tell me, granny dear, Ah, tell me, where am I?” – “In Lebedin, my birdie sweet!


Don’t rise, you have been ill.” – “In Lebedin? Am I here long?” – “Two days. Now pray be still.” – “Two days? . . . Wait, wait! ... I now recall The stream on fire I saw, The Jew, the fort; a refuge sought . . . And one named Halayda . . .” – “Yarema Halayda he’s called, The man who brought you here.” – “Where is he, tell me, where is he? Now, now, I know my dear! . . .” – “He promised in a week to come, ... That nuptial joy might bless.” – “Then in a week I shall be his! What joy, what happiness! 0 granny dear, the time is past, For all our grief and pain! That Halayda my darling is, Renowned throughout Ukraine. Men know him well. Myself I saw The villages on fire; 1 saw the Poles, our hangmen, pale At the mention of his ire. They know him well, they do indeed, And oft of him they’re speaking, And who he is, and whence he comes, And who it is he’s seeking. For me he sought and me he found, My grey-winged-eagle-love! My down to me, my falcon, come! Descend my precious dove! How fair the world has just become! To be alive, what joy! Only a scant three days remain Until I clasp my boy . . . How wonderful it is to live! Do you feel happy too?” – “Indeed I am, my birdie fair, To share this joy with you.” – “Then why do you not also sing?” – “My singing days are done . . . Now must I go . . . the vesper rings.” Oxana was alone. Pensive she grew, then smiled once more And on her knees she fell, And childlike for Yarema prayed That God might keep him well. Within a week, at Lebedin, A church’s chant was heard: “Rejoice, Isaiah!”62 For that morn Yarema pledged his word 62

One of the canticles in the Orthodox marriage service.


With his Oxana as they wed; And yet that very night, As duty called him, and his chief, He rode away to fight, And slay the Poles. His wedding feast In war he celebrates Near Uman amid fires; his bride Her man with hope awaits. She watches for his safe return By boyar friends63 attended, To take her to a rich new house With all their warfare ended. Don’t worry, lass, but wait for him! Commit to God your care! While I to Uman turn my gaze To see what happens there. XI. GONTA IN UMAN As haydamaks on Uman marched, They spoke with scornful lips: “Comrades, we’ll tear their silken cloths To make our puttee-strips!” –from a folksong

The days pass on, the fearful summer days, And all of our Ukraine is still ablaze. In villages, the naked children weep: The parents are not there their charge to keep. The yellow leaves in wooded vales grow dun; The clouds prevail and cover up the sun. Only wild beasts upon the outskirts howl, And into villages they boldly prowl, Scenting the corpses. Not a man would bury The Poles but let the hungry wolves make merry; Till the snow covered with its silent weft The tooth-scarred skeletons the wolves had left. The winter tempests did not check The slaughter’s hellish ires; Poles froze to death, and Cossack bands Kept warm at savage fires. Then spring arose, to wake again The black and sleepy earth; Primrose and periwinkle spread A coverlet of mirth; In fields, the lark soared; in the grove, The nightingale would sing An early morning welcome to The earth adorned with spring . . . A veritable paradise! For whom? Alas, for men . . . Why do they fail to glance at it? Why desecrate it then? 63

Bridegroom’s attendants.


That beauty must be smeared with blood, And lit with flames of ill; Sunlight and flowers do not suffice; Clouds must be thicker still. Hell does not satisfy! . . . Mankind! When will you be content With all the good things that you have? Why so malevolent? Spring has not stopped the flow of blood Nor turned man’s wrath to joy. How foul it is; yet thus it was In the far days of Troy, And so it will hereafter be. The haydamaks bring doom; Where’er they pass, the world’s on fire And blood beflecks the gloom. Maksim has got himself a son Most famed through all Ukraine; Yarema’s not his son, of course, Yet dearest of his train. Maksim assails the enemy; Yarema ruthless rages: No mortal fight by day or night His savage blade assuages. Thus none he misses, none he spares, No, not a single soul, – To avenge the saintly sacristan He hews down every Pole. And for his dear Oxana’s wrongs He smites with heart of hate. While Maksim says: “Lay on, my son! Before we meet our fate, Let’s have a merry time!” They did: And still the foemen fell; The Polish corpses from Kiev To Uman lay pell-mell. In countless numbers, haydamaks Ringed Uman with their ire At midnight; and before the dawn They’d set the place on fire. They set the blaze and shouted loud: “We’ll smite the Poles, we swear!” Again the national dragoons Were mowed down in the square And with them little children died, Even the sick and maimed. Mid shrieks and cries upon the square, That in full frenzy flamed, Stands Gonta in a sea of blood, Maksim beside him stern; Both cry: “Most royally, my lads,


You make them pay their turn!” Then suddenly the haydamaks Lead out a Jesuit And two boys. “Gonta,” says the priest, “Your children I submit. You slaughter us – then kill them too: For they are Catholics! Why do you pause? Why stay your hand? Their years are eight and six. Slay them, for they, to manhood grown, Will see our debt is paid! . . .” – “Kill the black dog! And these two pups I’ll kill with my own blade. Summon assembly! Now confess! What are you? Catholics?” – “We are, because our mother was . . .” – “God, let not mercy mix! Be quiet, lads! I know, I know!” The haydamaks attend. “My children – they are Catholics . . . Our cause I’ll not offend, Lest any idle talk should say That I am not your friend. I swore, when this blest blade I took, All Catholics to slay . . . O sons of mine, dear sons of mine! Would you were grown today! Would you were slaughtering the Poles!” – “Father, we will, we will!” – “Alas, you may not live for that! Curs’d be your mother still, That woman of an alien faith, My wife, who gave you birth! Why did she fail to drown you both Before night left the earth? Less sin that were: you would have died In Orthodoxy free! But now, alas, my little sons, You are a woe to me! Kiss me, my children, kiss me! Your slayer is not I But my grim oath!”64 He swung his sword – And thus the children die! Slain, to the ground they fell, and spoke: “Father!” in last salute. “O father, father, we’re not Poles! “We’re . . .” And their lips were mute. 64

The haydamaks took an oath to kill not only the Poles, but also those of non-Orthodox faith who were on the enemy’s side. It is not certain that Gonta on that account slew his young sons and slaughtered the children in the Basilian Fathers’ school, although some Polish historians, in order to present him as a monster, insist that he did so, maintaining that Governor Mladanowicz, watching from a belfry, witnessed both the gory scenes. Shevchenko to a certain extent succeeds in attenuating at least Gonta’s murder of his own children by describing the immensity of the father’s grief at the burial of his sons, who, he stresses, were put to death not as a result of Gonta’s inhumanity but in fulfilment of his oath.


– “Are we to bury them?” – “Not so! For Catholics were they . . . O sons of mine, dear sons of mine, Would you were grown today! Would you were slaughtering the Poles, Your mother most of all, That wife of mine who bore you both And doomed us to this fall! Come, friend!” Maksim was at his side; Across the square they went; And both cried out: “No mercy, men! To not a Pole relent!” They showed no mercy: Horribly That Uman region flared; In not a home, in not a church Were any living spared – All were cut down. The hands of death All reason overrule In Uman in despair that day! The old Basilian school65 Where Gonta’s children had been taught Great Gonta sets on fire: “My children you have eaten up!” He rages in his ire: “You have devoured the tiny ones, And taught them nothing good . . . Tear down the walls!” The haydamaks Obeyed him where he stood; They tore them down; they dashed the priests On stones in frenzy fell; And threw the schoolboys, still alive, To perish down the well. Till late at night the task of death went on And not a soul remained. Now fierce and wan, Gonta cried out: “Where are you, cannibals? You ate my sons – the curse upon me falls! How bitterly I weep, how lonely feel! My precious children and my dearest weal! Where from my fury do my foemen shrink? Blood of the gentry I would gladly drink; I want to see it redden all around, To feast on it! Why can no wind be found To blow me still more Poles? Weary am I, And bitterly must weep! Ye stars on high, Hide in the clouds! Your light I would not know! 65

Basilians were Uniate monks who, like the Jesuits, established schools in Ukraine for the purpose of fostering the Union with Rome among the Ukrainians. They originated in Western Ukraine, where virtually the entire Ukrainian population (about three million) accepted Catholicism, but retained the Byzantine rite, which hardly differed from that of the Orthodox denomination. Their schools were conducted in the best West European traditions and were supported by the Poles and the Uniate priests.


I slew my children! . . . And my lot is woe! Where can I now find peace?” Thus Gonta cried And rushed across the town from side to side. In the square’s blood, the troops their tables set, And gathering such food as they could get, Sat down to eat . . . Their last grim slaughter this, And their last supper! – “Lads, be full of bliss! Drink while you can! Strike while you have the chance!” Shouts Zalizniak: “Give us a tune to dance, You madcap kobzar, that the ground may sway! Thus let my Cossacks finish off the day!” And so the bard struck up a tuneful lay.66 All dance. But where has Gonta gone? He’s left the merry throng. Why does he not with Cossacks drink? Why does he sing no song? He is not there: at such a time, He has no will to sing! But who is this in mantle black Through corpses rummaging? He stops; he pulls a pile apart; Dead Poles in tumbled rout He searches; then, with sudden stoop, Draws two small corpses out; He takes them on his shoulders broad; He steals across the square; Over dead bodies, through the flames, He seeks the dead to bear Behind a Polish Catholic church. ‘Tis Gonta, deep in dearth, Who carries thus his little sons To bury them in earth, So that the tiny Cossack forms The dogs may not devour. Along the darkest streets he goes Where flames have lost their lour; He bore his little sons away, So that no soul might see The spot where they were laid to rest Or mark his misery. He bore the bodies to the field; Pulls out the blessed blade, And with it, by the town’s grim light, A simple pit he made. It shines upon his little sons; All clothed, they seem asleep; Why do they then afflict their sire With horror stark and deep? 66

Several short dance songs are here omitted on account of their utter colloquialism.


Why does he tremble like a thief Who steals, or hides, a treasure? Out of the streets of yonder town Comes uproar beyond measure, The shouting of the haydamaks – But these he does not hear While hollowing a resting-place For his two children dear. The task is done ... He takes his boys; He does not watch them, rather Remembers as he lays them down: “We are not Poles, O father!” He lays them down; he then takes out A cloth of silken gloss; He kisses the dead children’s eyes; He signs them with a cross; Above the Cossack children’s heads The silken cloth he swept; Then pulled it off once more to gaze, And bitterly he wept: “O sons of mine, dear sons of mine! Look, now on our Ukraine, Ah, look at her! Both you and I Must die for her in pain. And who will bury me at last? In alien fields I’ll be; And who will weep above my bones? Alas, my destiny, My miserable destiny, What means your fatal ire? Why have you given me these sons? And why not slain their sire? Then would my sons have buried me – Now I must bury them.” He kissed them, signed them with a cross – Clods made their requiem. – “Rest in your deep abode, my sons! Your mother did not spread, To soothe your bodies and your souls, A newer, better bed. Without sweet basil, without rue, Rest little sons, my own, And pray God that his punishment May fall on me alone For muddled plans and maddened sins That in this world I mix! Forgive me, sons, as I do you For being Catholics!” He smoothed the earth, replaced the turf, And no one could detect Where Gonta’s Cossack children lay And show them disrespect. – “Rest, little sons, and wait for me.


I soon to you shall come. For I have thus cut short your lives And swift will be my doom! I shall be slain . . . and soon, I trust! Who’ll bury me, I pray? The haydamaks! . . . I’ll join them now, And plunge into the fray!” Gonta was stooped; he stumbled much; And walked in manner wild; Flames lit his path; he blankly looked; And horribly he smiled As back he gazed upon the steppe; With grief his throat did choke; He wiped his tears . . . Then through the dark He vanished in the smoke. XII. EPILOGUE Long years ago, when I was still a child, An orphan in coarse homespun, running wild, Coatless, unfed, I roamed through that Ukraine Where Zalizniak’s and Gonta’s swords had slain. Long years ago, along the roads whose heat The haydamaks had known, with tiny feet I walked and wept and begged the folk to give The simple things by which a lad might live. I have recalled those times, and for a space Felt that the curse had fallen from our race. O sorrows of our youth! Could you return, My present destiny my heart would spurn. 1 see that woe, those steppes so vast to view, My father and my ancient grandsire too . . . The old one is still hale;67 but father’s dead. Often on Sunday, when of saints they’d read, And with a neighbour sipped some brandy straight, My father would ask grandpa to relate The story of that time of slaughterous tolls When Zalizniak and Gonta paid the Poles . . . Those ancient eyes of his would shine like stars As word on word poured forth; we heard of wars In which the Poles were smitten; Smila burned; And neighbours were by fear to dumbness turned. I, as a little child, would weep to scan The torture-murder of the sacristan. None marked the child who in the corner wept. Thank you, grandfather, that so well you kept In that grey head of yours the Cossack glory: And now I’ve passed along the deathless story! Forgive me, my good people, That I this Cossack fame Have told so much at random 67

Grandfather Ivan, who fired young Tares’ imagination with those accounts, may himself have taken part in the haydamak insurrection, although no records to that effect have as yet been discovered.


Nor rank a scholars name. Thus once my grandsire told it – Long may his health prevail! – I followed him ... He did not know That this same simple tale Would now be read by learned men. Grandfather, pray forgive, – Let them upbraid us if they will! Back to my narrative I shall return, and end my tale. Then shall I take a rest, And in my fancy roam Ukraine, The land I love the best, Those places where the haydamaks With blessed blades would meet, The highways that I measured out With my own little feet. The haydamaks bestirred themselves; Their fortunes were in flood; For yet another year they drenched Ukraine with gentry’s blood And then subsided: to the full They’d notched each holy blade. Gonta is gone: no cross or mound For Gonta has been made. Pale ashes is that haydamak; Afar the tempests flail him; And there is none to pray for him And no one to bewail him! Only Maksim, fraternal soul, Remained of all the revel; And when he heard how horribly The children of the devil Had quartered Gonta at the last, Zalizniak burst out crying; His heart was broken; tears unstaunched; Because he now lay dying. The loneliness had stifled him Far in a foreign state; They buried him in alien soil: Such was the warrior’s fate! With sorrow then that iron man Was laid within the ground; Above his head the haydamaks Reared up a mighty mound; They mourned for him, then slipped away, Each on his own behalf. Only Yarema lingered still, And leaned upon his staff, And murmured: “Here, my father, rest! Here in this foreign land! At home there is no place for you,


Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the poem The Haydamaks. Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko


For freedom has been banned . . . Sleep, Cossack, blessed spirit sleep! Your love will bless my years.” As down the steppe he sadly went, He wiped away his tears. Ever he paused to look again And give a pensive groan. Then the black mound upon the steppe Remained at last alone. The haydamaks had sown their rye68 In their Ukrainian fields, And yet the harvest was not theirs: An alien takes the yields. The crop of justice is not ripe; And evil chokes the grain; The haydamaks must all disperse And separate with pain: Some to their homes, to forests some, A knife in every legging; Even today they have a name For slashing more than begging. Meanwhile, the ancient Sich was doomed; Some fled to the Kuban,6965 And some across the Danube fled; All that was left to scan Was Dnieper’s rapids mid the steppe That roar, as on they dart: “Our sons they’ve buried; now they seek To break us all apart!” On, on they roar – but men have failed Their memories to keep; And our Ukraine in slumber lies, Forever fall’n asleep. Since those far days in our Ukraine The rye grows fresh and green; No weeping’s heard; no cannon roar; Only the wind so keen Bends down the willows in the grove, The grasses on the plain. All has been silenced. So, be mute: For so must God ordain! Only at times, on Dnieper’s banks, Through groves of early spring, Old haydamaks at evening pass And on their way they sing: “Our famous captain, Halayda, Dwells in a noble house! Roar loud, O Sea! Good luck to you, And to your gentle spouse!” 68 69

Their deeds. A former Cossack province extending from the Sea of Azov eastward and southward to Caucasus Mountains.


PREFACE A preface after my story? I could easily do without it. But this is what I have in mind: everything that I have seen in print (I only saw it, and read very little of it) was preceded by a preface, and my tale is not. If I were not having my “Haydamaks” printed, a preface would not be necessary; but since I am now publishing it, I must do the job properly, so that people will not treat me as an ignoramus, saying: ‘What a strange fellow he is! Does he think that our predecessors were more ignorant than he, since they didn’t publish even a primer without a preface?” Quite right, forgive me! A preface is necessary. But how am I to compose it so that there will be no offence, or even truth, in it, as is the case with all prefaces today? Even if you were to kill me, I wouldn’t know how to do it. I would have to praise the whole book, but I am ashamed to do that; and yet I am loath to censure it. Let us, then, begin our preface thus: It is a pleasant experience to see a blind old kobzar sitting with his boy-guide by the hedge, and pleasant to hear him sing a duma about things that happened long ago, about how the Poles fought with the Cossacks. It is pleasant, and yet one might say: “Thank God, all that is past!” The more so if we recall that we are children of the same mother, that we are all Slavs. Even if one’s heart aches, the story must be told: let the children and the grandchildren see that their fathers were mistaken, let them again make friends with their enemies, and let the land of the Slavs, covered with wheat and rye as with gold, remain undivided from sea to sea forever! What happened in our Ukraine in 1768 I relate just as I heard it from old people: I have not read anything that is in print about it, nor any criticism concerning it, for, it appears, nothing of the sort is available. Halayda is half-invented, but the death of the Vilshana sacristan is true, for there are people still living who knew him. Gonta and Zalizniak, the leaders of that bloody action, are not, perhaps, presented in my narrative as they actually were – I cannot vouch for that. My grandfather (may he enjoy good health!), whenever he begins to relate something that he himself did not see, but only heard, says at the very outset: “If the older people lie, I lie with them.” St, Petersburg, 1841 Translated by C.H.Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar University of Toronto Press 1964


Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the poem The Haydamaks. Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko







Monument to Maxim Zalizniak, village of Medvedivka, Cherkassy Region


HAIDAMAKI All flows and all passes – this goes on forever. . . . Yet where does it vanish? And whence did it come? The fool does not know, and the sage knows no better. There’s life... then there’s death. ... As here blossoms a one, Another there withers beyond a returning. . . . Its yellow leaves fall, to be green never more. But still the bright sun will come up in the morning, At nightfall the stars will come out as before To swim in the heavens, and then, gentle sister, You too, silver moon, will come out for a stroll, You’ll glance as you pass into puddles and cisterns, And sparkle the oceans–you’ll shine as of old You shone over Babylon’s fabulous gardens, And as ages from now you will still be regarding What haps to our children. Forever you’ll glow! I tell you my notions, my heart I unburden, And sing you the muses inspired by yourself. Oh, what shall I do with my onerous burden? Advise me, for I am not just by myself, I’ve children: what am I to do with my offspring? To bury them with me? That would be a crime – The soul is alive. Its ordeal may be softened If someone will read these word-teardrops of mine, The tears that were shed in the night, in seclusion, The tears that were poured from the heart in profusion. I’ll not have them buried, for they are alive! And as the blue sky overhead has no limit, There’s also no start and no end to the spirit. And where does the soul stay? Those words are but guile!! May it on some heart here on earth leave an imprint – Because it is hard unremembered to die. Oh girls, to remember you first are obliged! For it always loved you, my roses, sincerely, And tenderly strove your sad lot to describe. So rest ye in peace until daybreak, my children, The while I consider who should be your guide. My sons, my Haidamaki brave! The world is free and wide! Go forth, my sons, and make your way – Perhaps you’ll fortune find. My sons, my simple-minded brood, When you go forth to roam, Who will receive my orphans poor With warmth into his home? So fly, my fledgling falcons, fly To far Ukraine, my lads– At least, if there you hardship find, ‘Twon’t be in foreign lands. Good-hearted folks will rally ‘round And they won’t let you die; While here… Well, here ... it’s hard, my sons!


If you’re allowed inside The house, it’s only to be jeered– You see, they are so wise, So literate and so well-read, The sun they even chide: “It does not rise the proper way, Nor shine the way it should; Now, here’s the way it should be done....” So what is one to do? You must pay heed, perhaps indeed, The sun’s not rising right, The way they read it should in books. ... Oh, they are brainy, quite! About you, then, what will they say? I know what fate is yours! They will poke fun and laugh their fill, Then throw you out of doors. “Let them stay there,” they’ll say, “until Their father will get wise And in our language tell his tale, His hetmans old describe. The fool, instead, is holding forth In language obsolete, And a Yarema in bast shoes Brings out for us to see. The fool! He hasn’t learned a thing Though he was soundly caned. Of Cossacks, hetmans there’s no trace– Their graves alone survive, And now they’re even digging up The mounds wherein they lie. And he wants us to listen to What the old minstrels say. Your labour’s lost, sir: if you aim To make yourself a mint Of money, and a lot of fame, Then of Matryosha sing, And of Parasha, charming witch, Parquet, gold braid and spurs. Then you’ll make good!! But here he sings, ‘The wide blue sea’s disturbed’, And weeps the while; your rabble, too, Behind you come on stage In shabby coats. ...” My thanks to you For your advice so sage! The coat is warm, but I’m afraid It’s not cut to my size, And your advice, perhaps, is wise, But it is lined with lies. Excuse me please!... Go on and shout, But I will pay no heed, And I won’t ask you to my house, Because you’re wise, you see,


And I’m a fool; all by myself In my wee house I’ll hide To sing my songs and shed my tears Just like a little child. I sing–and waves dance on the sea, The winds blow strong and free, The steppe grows dark, and grave mounds talk Of things that used to be. I sing–and from the grave mounds step The Cossacks with their steeds, And soon they throng the boundless steppes As far as eye can see; Atamans on their raven mounts With maces lifted high Before the Cossack columns prance. . . . Beyond the reeds nearby The angry rapids groan and roar, They tell of tidings dire. I listen and my heart is sore. Of oldsters I inquire: My fathers, tell me why you mourn? “No cause is there for cheer! The Dnieper’s angry with us, son, Ukraine is all in tears. . . .” And I weep too; then they come forth, A glorious parade, Atamans, sotniks, men of worth, And hetmans, all arrayed In gold; into my humble home I welcome them, and they Get seated and to me unfold The story of Ukraine, How long ago the Sich was built, The fortress on the isle, How Cossacks in their stout canoes Once crossed the rapids wild, How sailed upon the open sea And how Scutari burned, From fires in Poland lit their pipes And to Ukraine returned Their daring deeds to celebrate, To feast and to carouse. “Innkeeper, pour! Play, minstrel, play!” The Cossacks blithely shout. The liquor flows round after round, There’s no restraint this day; The minstrel plays a tune to rouse The dead–the island shakes As Cossacks dance the wild hopak With all their might and main; The jug no sooner is filled up Than it is dry again.


“Make merry, coatless gentlemen, As free as wind at play! Let’s have more music, more to drink, Make merry while we may!” Both youths and oldsters join the dance, Their feet like lightning fly. “Ah, that’s the way! Go to it, sons! You’ll make good bye-and-bye!” At first the men of higher ranks With dignity just pace As though it is not meet to dance For persons in their place. Then their feet too begin to prance Despite their weighty years. I watch the dashing Cossack dance And laugh through brimming tears. I look on with laughter, my eyes overbrimming. . . . I’m lonely no longer, I’ve friends at my side! In my modest dwelling the Cossacks make merry, The rushes are rustling, the steppe stretches wide; In my little cottage the blue sea is sounding, A poplar-tree whispers, a grave mound complains, A maiden sings softly of love in the springtime– I’m lonely no longer, I’ve plenty of friends! That’s where my gold, my wealth I find, That’s where my glory lies! As for your counsel–you’re too kind! Thanks for your false advice. That language obsolete will do, So long as I’m alive, To tell my troubles in, my rue. So I bid you good-bye! I’ll go to see my children off, They must be on their way. Perhaps somewhere they’ll come across A Cossack old and grey, Who’ll open up his arms to them, Greet them with trembling tears. And as for me, I say I am A peer above all peers! ___________

Thus, seated at the table’s end, I think: Whom should I ask? Who will agree to guide my sons? The new day dawns at last; The moon retires, the sun is red. My Haidamaki wake, They say their prayers, then they dress And, standing ‘round me, wait Like orphans who are leaving home To face the world alone:


“Give us your blessing, father, for Our time has come to go. . . . So wish that fortune we may find As o’er the earth we roam.” But wait. . . . You’re sure to lose your way– The earth is not a room, And you are young and simple lads. Who’ll show you where to go? Who’ll guide you? Who will walk ahead? My sons, I’m worried so! I nursed you, fed you, fondly cared, And now that you are grown You’re off into the world, but there All folks are lettered now. Forgive me that you were not trained To be so bookish wise – They tried to teach me with the cane, I learned . . . but otherwise! I know the alphabet, of course, But not the things they prize. What will they think of you, my sons? Come, let us find your guide! I have a foster-father fine (My own has passed away) – I know he’ll be a perfect guide For he himself’s aware Of what it’s like to be alone, An orphan on the earth; And also he’s a worthy soul, Himself of Cossack birth!. .. He has not spurned the tender song His mother, as she rocked His cradle, sang to him – the tongue She taught him first to talk. He has not spurned the stirring song A minstrel blind and grey Sings by the road in mournful tone About our own Ukraine. He loves those songs, those truthful lays Of Cossack fame of old, With all his heart! So let us make Our way to his abode. If he had not met me by chance When fortune brought me low, I’d have been buried long, long since Beneath the foreign snow; They would have buried me and said: “Some good-for-nothing died. ...” Oh, it is difficult indeed To suffer, nor know why. That’s past and gone, so let it be!... Let’s go to him, my lads! He did not then abandon me


To die in foreign lands, So he’ll take you, too, to his heart As though you were his own. And then, a prayer, and you start– Off to Ukraine you go! Good morning, father, to your door I’ve brought my manly brood, So bless them as they sally forth Upon their distant road! St. Petersburg, April 7, 1841

INTRODUCTION The nobles once ruled Poland’s roost, A very haughty lot; With Muscovites they measured swords, The Turk and Tatar fought, And Germans too… Yes, once ‘twas so. . . But all things pass away. The high-born braggarts used to strut, And drink both night and day, And with their kings play ducks and drakes. Not with Sobieski Jan, Nor yet Batory: those two were Not of the common run– But with the rest. And they, poor souls, In fear and trembling ruled. The conclaves, big and little, fumed, And Poland’s neighbours viewed A spectacle – how Polish kings The Polish kingdom fled, And listened how the noble mob The sejms brought to an end. “Nie pozwalam! Nie pozwalam”70 The haughty nobles roared, While the big magnates stoked up fires And tempered well their swords. This lasted for a lengthy time Until to Warsaw-town The lively Poniatowski came To occupy the throne And undertook to some degree The noble breed to squelch. . . . He failed! He wanted what was best, Or maybe something else. Only their veto–that one phrase To take from them he sought. And then .... All Poland burst in flames, The gentry ran amok..... “The king’s a villian, scoundrel vile, 70

If but one voice shouted “Nie pozwalam!” (I do not permit it), the measure under consideration was dropped and the sejm adjourned.


A Moscow tool!” they cry. At Pac’s appeal, Pulawski’s call The Polish nobles rise. A hundred leagues – Confederates – All Poland they inflamed, Lithuania they overran, Moldavia, Ukraine; They scattered wide and they forgot That freedom was their aim– They joined with Jews in compact foul To rob and devastate. They ran mad riot through the land, They churches set ablaze. . . . The Haidamaki then began To sanctify their blades. THE CHURCHWARDEN “The grove is silent, The wind is quiet, The moon is sailing, The stars are sparkling, Come out – I’m waiting For you, my darling; Come out and meet me Tonight, my sweetling! My dear, I’m pleading, Come to your lover, We’ll hold each other, For I am leaving This night to wander. Come out, my darling, We’ll share our sorrow, Dream of tomorrow, Cling to each other. . . . How sad is parting!” Yarema sadly sang this song While strolling by the grove; He waited for Oxana long – Until he gave up hope. The stars came out; a silver ball, The moon shone in the sky; The willow gazed into the well And listened as nearby A nightingale gave all he had In heart-entrancing trill, As though he knew the Cossack lad Was waiting for his girl. But poor Yarema’s heart was sore, He barely dragged his feet And did not look or listen more. . . . “What use are looks to me, When only misfortune, no luck have I got?


The years of my youth flit away all for naught. Alone in the world, I’ve no kinfolk or home – A straw in the field that’s blown hither and yon. The wild winds soon carry away the lone straw: And that’s how by people I’m buffeted too. Why do they thus treat me? Because I’m alone. There was but one heart on the earth that was true, One person that loved me, now that too is done, She too has forsaken me.” Tears filled his eyes. The poor fellow wept there alone in the grove, Then said his farewells. “Oh my darling, good-bye. Out on the big highway my lot I’ll improve, Or else I will perish.. . . And you will not cry, You won’t know about it, and you will not see How ravens are pecking these brown Cossack eyes, The eyes which you fondly once kissed, oh my sweet! Forget this poor orphan–and seek someone new! Forget that you promised that you would be mine – For I, a poor vagrant, am no match for you, A churchwarden’s daughter. A better you’ll find. . . . So take whom you will. . . . And, my darling, don’t fret, Don’t worry about me. . . for such is my fate. But if you hear tidings that I’ve met my death, Go off by yourself then and quietly pray. Just you in all the world, my dear, Just you for me will pray!” He bowed his head and heavy tears Game coursing down his face. He leaned despondent on his staff. . . . A rustle!. . . And he peered: Like some woods creature slipping past The trees, Oxana neared. He forgot everything and raced. . . . “My sweetheart!” both exclaimed. Hearts overbrimming, they embraced Again and yet again. “Enough, my sweet!” “A wee bit more. ... Some more, my turtle-dove! Oh, hold me to your heart, my own. . . . How tired I am, my love!” “Sit down and rest, my shining star That dropped down from the sky!” He spread his cloak upon the ground. With star-lit eyes she smiled. “Then you must sit beside me too.” They held each other tight. “My shining star, my sweetheart true, What held you up tonight?” “Tonight I couldn’t come on time: My father’s ill, you see – I had to nurse him all this while. ...” “And didn’t think of me?”


“How can you speak about me so!” And tears came to her eyes. “Don’t cry, my dear, I only joked.” “A joke!” Again she smiled. She laid her head upon his breast And seemed to fall asleep. “You see, Oxana, I just teased And you began to weep. Now don’t you cry, and look at me, Whom long you will not see. Tomorrow I’ll be far from here, Oxana, far away. . . . At Chihirin tomorrow night I’ll get my blesséd blade. With it I’ll silver gain, and gold, And fame will be my prize; I’ll dress you rich from head to toe Like bird of paradise, And seat you on a tripod stool Just like a Hetman’s wife, And look at you. . . . My whole life through On you I’ll feast my eyes.” “Ah, but perhaps you will forget? When rich, in Kiev-town Yourself a high-born bride you’ll get, Oxana you’ll disown!...” “Is there one lovelier than you?” “I do not know. Perhaps …” “Don’t anger God, because, in truth, All beauties you surpass! Not in the sky, beyond the sky, Nor yet across the sea Can one find beauty such as thine!” “Oh hush! You must not say Such crazy things!” “But that’s a fact!” Thus, far into the night Yarema and Oxana talked, And only stopped to plight Their love with ardent, sweet caress; Sometimes they wept with pain That they must part, and then embraced And pledged their love again. How they would live, Yarema told, When home again he came, How he’d obtain a lot of gold, How fortune he would gain, How Haidamaki planned to slay All Poles in the Ukraine, How he’d be master, not a slave, If he alive remained. Oh girls, he talked till one was bored


To hear him talk that way! “Go on with you! As though we could Be bored!” So you may say, But if your dad or mother should By chance find that you read Such sinful tales, I’m sure they would Tell you what’s what, indeed! Well then . . . but no, it’s such a tale We cannot help but read! I know, you’d like me to relate How ‘neath a willow-tree, Beside a pool, a handsome lad Tells of his hopes and love, How they embrace, how he is sad And she, a turtle-dove, Smooths out his brow, the while she feels As though her heart will break. “My dear, you’re everything to me! You are my love, my fate! My all!.. .” The willows, even, bent The things they said to hear. Now there was talk! But I won’t tell Those things to you, my dears, Especially since night is nigh– You’d dream about them yet. We’ll let the lovers say good-bye The same way that they met– With quiet-spoken gentle words That nobody could hear, And none could see the stricken girl’s And sad lad’s parting tears. Leave them alone… Perhaps they’ll meet Again while they’re alive Upon this earth … Well, we shall see. . . . But meanwhile, what’s the light That makes all windows bright In the churchwarden’s home? Let’s take a look inside … Oh would we had not known! I wish we’d not seen it, did not have to tell! Because the heart’s burning for humans with shame. Those are the Confederates – look at them well – Who banded together, with freedom their aim. Look how they are serving in fair freedom’s cause. . . May they all be damned, and their mothers be cursed Because they gave birth to such monsters on earth! Look what they are at in the churchwarden’s house, The hounds from hell. The roaring fire in the hearth The entire house lit up. Backed in the corner, Leiba shrank And cowered like a pup. The Poles roared: “Tell us where’s the gold, Or die!”


The warden never told. They tied his hands tight with a rope, Then threw him to the floor – But not a word. “Bring red-hot coals! And bring some boiling tar! Drip tar on him! So! Are you cold? The coals now let him have! You rascal, will you tell or no? Oh, he’s a stubborn knave!” They poured some coals into his boots… “Drive nails into his head!” He stood all torture that he could, The warden then fell dead Without the holy sacrament! “Oxana!. . .” and he died. The frenzy of the Poles then ebbed. “What now? Let us decide What we’re to do now, gentlemen, That he’s out of our reach! Let’s burn the church down!” “People, help Like some unearthly screech The sudden cry fell on their ears. The Poles were petrified. Oxana at the door appeared. “They’ve murdered him!” she cried And senseless fell. The leader waved His hand, and they slunk out Like downcast hounds. And then the maid. He lifted, left the house… Yarema! But he nothing knows, And tramping, sings a song Of Nalivaiko’s fight with Poles. The gentry soon were gone, And took Oxana, still aswoon. The dogs barked some, but soon they too In silence their night vigil kept. The moon turned pale; the people slept, The warden too. . . . He won’t rise soon: He’s gone to his eternal rest. The fire died down, then flickered out. ... The warden’s body seemed to move, Then dismal sadness reigned throughout. THE THIRD COCK’S CROW The frenzied gentry one more day Spread terror through Ukraine; Just one more day the country lay In torture and in pain. And then the Day of Maccabees, A saint-day in Ukraine, Was past.. .. The Pole and Jew at feasts


With blood their liquor drained, Complained the plunder was too poor, Schismatics24 they condemned. The Haidamaki waited for Their foes to go to bed. At last they went – nor dreamed that ere The dawn they would be dead. The Poles soon slept, but Jews Remained awake, without a light To count /their profits in the night, Out of the public view. Their heads, then, pillowed on their gold They too dropped off to sleep. And so they slept… Forever may they sleep! And then the moon came out to make a tour – The sky and stars to see, the earth and seas, To watch the people and observe their deeds, And tell it all to God when night is o’er. The silver moon shines over all Ukraine, But does it see my hapless orphan maid, Oxana, snatched from her Vilshana home? Where does she languish, where in anguish weep? And does Yarema know? Well, we shall see, We’ll find out later, but I now propose Another song to sing and tune to play; Malevolence will dance–not maidens gay. I sing the Cossack country’s sorry fate; Now listen closely, later to relate It to your children, they to theirs, so they Should know how Cossacks made the gentry pay For their misrule, when Polish lords held sway. A long, long time the clamour dread Resounded through Ukraine, A long, long time the blood ran red In streams across the plains. It ran in rivers, then it dried. The steppes are green again; In Cossack graves our grand-dads lie, Their grave mounds dot the plain. What of it that the mounds are high? Nobody knows they’re there, Or whose the bones that ‘neath them lie, Nobody sheds a tear. As it blows through, the wind alone A gentle greeting says, The dew alone at break of dawn With tender teardrops laves. The sun then turns its rays on them, It dries and makes them warm; Their grandsons? Oh, they’re not concerned – For lords they’re growing corn! They’re numerous, but ask if one


Knows where is Gonta’s grave– Where did the tortured martyr’s bones His faithful comrades lay? Where’s Zalizniak, that splendid soul, Where sleeps that manly heart? It’s hard to bear! The hangman rules, While they forgotten are. A long, long time the clamour dread Resounded through Ukraine, A long, long time the blood ran red In streams across the plains. O’er all the earth it cast a pall; This horror day and night Was ghastly, yet when we recall Those deeds, the heart is light. Oh bright-shining moon! Climb down from the sky And hide behind hills, don’t give us your light; For you’ll be appalled, although you have seen At Alta and Ros, and also the Seine, Whole oceans of blood, spilled no one knows why. But what will be now! My friend, leave the sky And hide behind hills, for viewing that scene E’en you’d have to cry. High in the sky the silver moon Sheds melancholy light. Beside the Dnieper, a young man Is walking in the night, It may be from a party gay. But why is he so sad? Perhaps he’s poor and so the maid Will not give him her hand? Oh no, she pledged she’d be his bride Though he is dressed in rags. Why, then, with such heart-rending sighs His feet he barely drags? The Cossack feels that all’s not well, That some ill-fortune waits. The heart can feel but cannot tell What’s held in store by fate. The country ‘round seemed not asleep But wholly desolate, As though no human life remained. Not even dogs or birds: Just from the woods, a mournful strain – The howl of wolves–is heard. No matter! For Yarema walks Not to Oxana’s gate, Not to Vilshana for a talk– But for a bloody date In the Cherkassy. There the cock Will crow three times this night. ... And then . . . and then. . . . Yarema walks


And to the stream confides: “Oh Dnieper, my Dnieper, you’re wide and you’re deep Much red Cossack blood to the sea you have borne; More yet will you carry! You coloured the sea With crimson, and yet the blue sea thirsts for more; This night, my old friend, you’ll be sated with blood. A revel from hell will be held through Ukraine; The blood of the gentry will flow like a flood; The Cossacks of old will arise once again; The hetmans will rise with their cloaks all in gold; Good fortune will smile to the Cossack refrain: ‘No Jews and No Poles!’ And–oh God, to behold!– The mace of the hetman will flash once again!” So, walking in his tattered coat, Yarema dreamed, And fondly in his hand caressed his blessed blade. The Dnieper seemed to hear him, for the mighty stream The waves upon its back like lofty mountains raised; Its teeth the wind in anger gnashed, The trees bent to the ground; The thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, And rents showed in the cloud. Yarema did not see a thing, He just kept marching on; One thought would come and smile at him, Another come and frown: “Oxana’s there, and though in rags I had a happy time; While here . . . who knows what yet will hap? Here, maybe, I will die.” And then the crowing of a cock Was heard from the ravine. “Ah, it’s Cherkassy! ... Oh dear God! Let me alive remain!” THE RED BANQUET Throughout Ukraine the clang of bells Proclaims the day of doom; The Haidamaki fiercely yell: “The gentry’s end has come! The gentry’s finished! We shall set A fire to sear the sky!” The very clouds are painted red – The province is on fire. Medvedivka’s the first to burn And heat the clouds above. Simla is next, the country ‘round Well-nigh aflood with blood. 85 Korsun and Kaniv are ablaze, Cherkassy, Chihirin; Along the Highway spread the flames As far as the Volyn,


And blood flows freely. Gonta’s made Polissya his domain, While near Smila bold Zalizniak Tests his Damascus blade– In old Cherkassy, where his dirk That has been sanctified Yarema, too, tries out. “Good work! The mad dogs all must die! Good work, my lads!” so Zalizniak Shouts in the market-place Which now’s a hell; and through that hell The Haidamaki race. Yarema – a blood-curdling sight – In battle-frenzy fells Three-four at once. “Good work, my boy! Their souls be damned to hell! Kill, kill! You’ll either win high rank, Or go to paradise! Now, children, ferret out the rats!” The rebels in a trice Spread out to cellars, attics, nooks To search for hiding foes; They killed them all, all goods they took. “Now you may stop, my boys! You’ve tired yourselves, now rest a bit.” The market squares and lanes, With corpses strewn, are flowing red. “More vengeance yet we claim! Go over them a second time To make sure, doubly sure, That the vile dogs will never rise. And never plague us more!” The Haidamaki after that Assemble in the square. Yarema on the outskirts stands. “Come closer, don’t be scared,” Shouts Zalizniak. “I’m not afraid!” With cap in hand he comes Up to the chief. “Where from, my lad?” “Vilshana is my home.” “Vilshana? Where the villains slew The warden of the church?” “What’s that? They slew?” “His daughter, too, According to reports, They carried off. You knew them well?” “They took some girl away?” “The warden’s daughter, so they tell.” “Oxana!” Just the name Yarema whispered and he fell Unconscious where he stood. “Oho! So that’s what… The poor lad! Mikola, bring him to!”


Mikola brought him to. He cried: “A hundred hands I need, A blade in each, to extirpate The Polish gentry breed! Revenge, such terrible revenge ‘Twill put hell in the shade!” “Well said, my lad, to keep that pledge There’ll be no lack of blades. Come with us to Lisianka now, We’ll temper there our steel!” “Oh father, quickly let us go! I’ll follow where you lead, I’ll follow to the ends of earth I’d go to hell below To tear her from the devils, sir! To the earth’s end I’d go… But I’ll not find her anywhere, I’ll never see her more!” “Perhaps you will. Don’t give up hope. Now tell us what’s your name?” “Yarema.” “And your surname, boy?” “I have none!” “No surname? Were you a bastard? In the lists, Mikola, put him down As … let us find a name that fits – How does Hasnothing sound? Let’s name him that!” “No, that’s not it!” “Is Hardluck better, friend?” “No, that won’t do.” “Here, wait a bit, Halaida, that’s the name!” They wrote it down. “Halaida, lad, Now we’ll go out to play You’ll find good fortune… maybe, bad… Well, boys, let’s on our way!” From extra horses in the camp They gave one to the lad. He laughed as on his horse he leapt, And then again was sad. Outside the city gates they rode; Cherkassy was in flames. . . . “All here, my sons?” “Yes, every one!” “Let’s go then!” Like a chain Along the Dnieper’s wooded banks The Cossack column winds. Behind them on a little nag The minstrel Volokh rides,


And as from side to side he sways, He sings a new-born lay: “Oh, Zalizniak his Cossacks brave Leads for an outing gay!” Cherkassy’s left behind, the flames Still leaping to the cloud. No one looks back. Nobody cares! They only laugh aloud And curse the gentry vile. Some talk, Some listen to the song The minstrel sings. While Zalizniak Rides at the head alone, With glowing pipe, his ears alert To any night surprise; Yarema, too, without a word Behind his leader rides. The green groves and the darker woods, The Dnieper and the hills, The sky, the stars, the people, goods, And his o’er whelming ills– All disappeared, all are no more! He nothing knows or sees– Just like a corpse. His heart is sore And yet he does not weep. He does not weep: the vicious snake That’s coiled within his breast Drinks up his tears, his heart that aches It tears to tiny shreds. Oh, soothing tears! Oh, healing tears! You wash away all woes; Wash mine away… I cannot bear This ache that’s in my soul! Not all the water in the sea Or in the Dnieper wide Can calm my heart and drown my grief Is nought but suicide Then left for me? Oxana, dear! Oxana, oh my own! Where have they taken you? I fear. . . . Perhaps the beasts have thrown Her in a dungeon where in chains She lies awaiting death, The gentry cursing and her fate With her last, dying breath. Perhaps Yarema she recalls, Vilshana, and her home, Perhaps in thought to him she calls: “Yarema, darling, come, Take your Oxana in your arms! Thus we’ll together sleep Forever. Let them work their harm–


We’ll be beyond their reach we’ll be!...” The wind blows from beyond Liman And bends the poplar low– A maiden also may be bent Beneath misfortune’s blows. She’ll grieve awhile, but time will pass And all may be forgot... . Maybe. . . a lady, richly dressed, She with some Pole. . . . O God! The worst of tortures ever planned In hell for sinful souls I’ll suffer, but I could not stand That final fiendish blow: “My heart would break though it were stone If ever that came true! Oxana, darling! Oh, my own! Where have they taken you? Where are you held, where are you hid?” Then tears began to flow In torrents like a summer rain Or like a springtime flood. Then came the dawn. Zalizniak reined His horse beside a wood: “Here’s where we turn off from the road And turn our horses free!” The Cossacks rode into the grove And soon were hid by trees. HUPALIVSHCHINA The rising sun found all Ukraine In ashes or in flames, Just here and there behind locked doors The gentry trembling waits. Each village has its gallows-trees With corpses thickly hung– Just of the bigwigs, smaller fry Are piled in heaps like dung. At cross-roads and along the streets The dogs and ravens feed On human flesh and pecked-out eyes; And no one pays them heed. There’s no one left, only the dogs And groups of children roam– The women, too, took oven-prongs, And Haidamaki joined. Such evil ‘twas that then engulfed The whole of the Ukraine! ‘Twas worse than hell .... And yet, what for? For what were people slain? They’re so alike, one father’s sons– They should as brothers be. But no, they could or else would not,


They had to disagree! Blood had to flow, fraternal blood, For one’s with envy filled Because his brother’s bin is full, His fields give handsome yield! “Let’s kill our brother! Burn his home!” No sooner said than done. And all was over! But not quite, For there were orphan sons. They grew in tears–but they grew up; Their toil-worn hands they freed And turned to vengeance–blood for blood And hurt for hurt their creed! The heart is sore when you reflect That sons of Slavs like beasts Got drunk with blood. Who was to blame? The Jesuits, the priests! The Haidamaki through ravines And forests made their way, Halaida riding in their midst, His heart in constant pain. Voronivka, Verbivka, too, Already are behind, And here’s Vilshana. “What to do? Shall I stop and inquire About Oxana? Better not, So no one knows my woe.” The Haidamaki meanwhile trot Along the village road Without a halt. Halaida hailed One of the little lads: “Is’t true the warden here was slain?” “Why no, my father says The Polish lords burned him to death– The ones that lie out there. Oxana, too, was carried off, My father says, somewhere. The funeral....” He did not wait, But gave his horse the spur. “Why did I not die yesterday Before I ever heard! If I should die today, I know I’d rise up from the grave To take revenge upon the Poles. Oxana! Where did they Take you, my own?” He bowed his head And let his horse walk free. Oh, it is hard for a poor lad To hold in check his grief. He catches up. The place they pass Where inn and stables stood –


There’s nothing now but smoking ash, And Leiba is gone, too. Yarema smiled – a mirthless grin That fearful was to view. Two days ago here he had been A slavey to the Jew, And now… His heart began to pine For those bad days of old. The rebel band passed the ravine. And turned off from the road. They came upon a stripling lad – A patched coat on his back, His shoes were bast, he also packed Upon his back a sack “Hey, wait a minute, beggar boy!” “I am no beggar, sir, The Haidamaki I have joined!” “A sight you are, for sure!” “From where, young scarecrow, do you hail?” “From Kerelivka way.” “Do you know Budishch and the lake?” “Of course I know the place– Go down that gully, it will lead You straight to Budishch lake.” “Are any gentry to be seen?” “There’s not a one today, Though yesterday were quite a few. We couldn’t bless our wreaths– The Poles would not allow us to. That’s why we killed the beasts! My dad and I used blessed blades, While mother’s sick in bed, Or else she too. ...” “Fine, that’s the way! Here’s something for you, friend, A ducat, which you must not lose.” He took the golden coin, Inspected it, then said, “Thank you!” “Well, let’s get going, boys! But don’t make any noise, d’ye hear? Halaida, follow me! Beside this lake in the ravine There is a clump of trees In which a Polish treasure’s found. When we come to the wood We will surround it without sound In case some Poles still should Be left on guard.” When they arrived, They stood about the wood And looked – but saw no sign of life… “Oho, the devil’s brood Is here all right! What pears I see


Up there among the leaves! They must be ripe! Just shake the trees!” Like rotten pears, indeed, The Poles came tumbling to the ground To meet the penal blade. The Cossacks scoured till all were found And not one live remained, Then found where treasure chests were hid And took away the gold, Ransacked the pockets of the dead, And on their mission rode On to Lisianka. GONTA IN UMAN As to Uman they made their way, The Haidamaki bragged: Their silks and satins we will take To make ourselves foot-rags!

The days go by, the summer wanes, And the Ukraine is still ablaze; In hamlets hungry children wail – Their parents gone. The yellow leaves Of autumn rustle in the trees; The clouds roll by; the sun is glazed; No sound is heard of human speech; In villages the beasts that feed On human corpses howl. The Poles were left unburied, food for wolves, Until the heavy winter snows Concealed their bones. . . . The raging snow-storms did not stop The vengeance worse than hell: The Poles froze, while beside the fires The Cossacks warmed themselves. Spring came and woke the sleepy earth From its deep winter sleep; With primroses it was adorned And periwinkles sweet; The larks in fields and nightingales In groves each morning sing Their sweetest songs in joyful praise Of earth adorned by spring … A heaven truly! And for whom? For people. Yes, but they? They do not even want to look, Or that it’s poor, they say. They want it tinted up with blood And brightened with a blaze’ The sun and blooms aren’t bright enough, And clouds cast too much shade. What they mean is: too little hell! Oh, people! Will you e’er Be satisfied with what you have?


Oh, people, you are queer! To blood and human savagery Spring did not bring a halt. It’s terrible … Yet ‘twas the same In ancient Tory, recall, And will be in the future, too. The Haidamiki rode – And where they went the earth was scorched And washed with human blood. Maxim acquired a worthy son, Renowned throughout out Ukraine; Yarema, through adopted, is His true son just the same. While Zalizniak is well content To smile the Poles and slay, Yarema rages – he would spend In carnage night and day. He shows no mercy, does not spare Or miss a single Pole – For the churchwarden’s death he makes Them pay a hundredfold, And for Oxana … At the though Of her his heart grows faint. “Go to it. Son!” cries Zalizniak, “We’ll dance until our fate Wills otherwise!” And so they did: Along the entire way From Kiev to Uman the dead In heaping piles were laid. The Haidamki on Uman Like heavy clouds converge At midnight. Ere the night is done The whole town is submerged. The Haidamaki take the town With shouts: “The Poles shall pay!” Dragoons are downed, their bodies roll Around the market-place; The ill, the cripples, children too, All die, no one is spared. Wild cries and scrams. “Mid streams of blood Stands Gonta on the square With Zalizniak, together, the Urge on the rebel band: “Good work, stout lands! There, that’s the way To punish them, the damned!” And then the rebels brought to him A Jesuit, a monk With two young boys. “Look, Gonta, look! These youngsters are your sons! They’re Catholics: since you kill all, Can you leave them alone?


Why are you waiting? Kill them now, Before your sons are grown, For it you don’t, when they grow up They’ll find you and they’ll kill …” “Cut the cur’s throat! As for the pups, I’ll finish them myself. Let the assembly be convened. Confess – you’re Catholics?” ‘We’re Catholics … Our mother made …” “Be silent! Close your lips! Oh God! I know!” The Cossacks stood Assembled in the square. “My sons are Catholics … I vowed No Catholic to spare. Esteemed assembly! … That there should Be no doubt anywhere, No talk that I don’t keep my word, Or that I spare my own … My sons, my sons! Why are you small? My sons, why aren’t you grown? Why aren’t you with us killing Poles?” “We will, we’ll kill them, dad!” “You never will! You never will! Your mother’s soul be damned, That thrice-accursed Catholic, The bitch that gave you birth! She should have drowned you ere you saw The light of day on earth! As Catholics you’d not have died – The sin would smaller be; Such woe, my sons, today is mine As cannot be conceived! My children, kiss me, for not I Am killing you today – It is my oath!” And the two lads were slain. They fell to earth, still bubbling words: “O dad! We are not Poles! We… we… ” And then they spoke no more, Their bodies growing cold. “Perhaps they should b e buried, what?” “No need! They’re Catholic. My sons! Why did you not grow up? My sons, why weren’t you big? Whey did you not war ‘gainst the foes With me as Cossacks brave? Your mother, Catholic accursed, Oh why did you not slay? ... Let’s go, my brother!” With Maxim across the square he treads; They cry together: “Punish them Till every Pole is dead!” And awesome was their punishment …


Uman went up in flames. No house, no church, but had been searched, And not a pole remained – They all were dead. Such carnage cruel As at Uman that day Had ne’er been seen. St.Basil’s school Where Gonta’s sons had stayed, Was razed down to the very ground By Gonta, raging wield. “ ‘Twas you that ruined my little sons!” With every blow he cried, “You swallowed them when they were small, You taught them evil lore And not the good! … Tear down the walls!” The Haidamaki tore The walls to pieces. ‘Gainst the stones They bashed the heads of priests, And the young pupils still alive They threw in cisterns deep. Until late at night they slaughtered the Poles; Not one was let alive. Yet Gonta still raved: “Oh monsters, come out! Crawl out from your holes! My sons you’ve destroyed – oh, cruel’s my fate! I’ve nobody now! For nothing to wait! My sons, whom I loved, so handsome and good, You’re gone from me now. I’m thirsty for blood! In want in the blood of the gentry to wade, To drink it, and watch how it flows and turns black … Oh winds, as ye blow, why aft ye not back Some Poles four our blades? ,,, Oh cruel’s my fate! And yet I can’t weep! Ye stars in the sky, Please leave me alone and hide behind clouds. I murdered my sons! … My heart is wrung dry! Where will I find peace …” So Gonta cried loud; And then in the square big tables were laid Amid the debris, ‘mid corpses and blood, And loaded with looted liqueurs and fine food – The rebels sat down. It was their last raid, Their last supper too! “Make merry, my brood! We’ll drink while we may, and fight while we may!’ Old Zalizniak cried: “We’ll frolic, my lads! Fast music, minstrel! Let earth really shake Tonight in Uman when my Cossacks dance!” And the minstrel played: “My father’s an innkeeper, Shoemaker too; My mother is a spinner, Matchmaker too; My brothers are brave fellows They roam the woods, A cow found in the forest, Rich necklace too.


And I’m Krystia, a maiden With beads so fine, My needlework is made in A leaf design. With red boots my feet adorning, I go milking in the morning – I water the cow, I do, And milk her too, With the lads I stop to spoon, I stop to spoon.” “Heigh-ho! Supper’s o’er, Hey, children, lock the door, Old woman, don’t you fret, Sidle up to me, my pet!” The Cossacks dance. But one is gone … Why does not Gonta dance? Why joins he not in merry song, Nor drinks he with the lads? He is not there; his heart won’t let Him sing and dance and joke But who is he who silent flits In black loose-hanging cloak About the square? See, there he stops And ‘mong the dead he digs As though he’s searching. Then he stoops, Two little bodies picks And lifts them gently on his back And carries them away Behind the blazing church, where black He fades into the shades Of summer night. Who can that be? It’s Gonta, and his load – His sons – he bears some place where he Can cover them with sod, So that the youthful Cossack flesh Should not be food for dogs. Down darker lands, where fires are less, And smoke serves as a fog To screen him from all prying eyes, The Cossack bends his steps, So none should see how Gonta cries Or where his children rest. Out in a field, far from the road, He lays them: takes his knife And with the bless’d blade digs a hole. Uman supplies the light So he can see the work he does And the two lads who lie As though asleep still in their clothes… Why do they fear inspire? Why is it Gonta seems to hide As though he were a thief?


Why doest he shake? From time to time The wind bears to the chief The sounds of Cossack revelry; He does not heed the noise – A fine deep house amid the fields He’s building for his boys. It’s done at last. He lays his sons Into their home, the hole, His ears still ringing with the sound: “Oh dad, we are not Poles!” Then Gont from his pocket takes A crimson silken cloth, The dead eyes kisses, then he makes The sign of scared cross And covers the young Cossack heads. Then lifts the cloth again, To gaze once more upon his dead… The tears then gush like rain: “My children! Open up your eyes, Look at Ukraine, my boys: For her, my sons, you gave your lives And I, too, am destroyed. Who will there be to bury me? In some far foreign field Who will there be to weep o’er me? My fate is black indeed! The most unfortunate of men, I’m left alone, in pain! Why was I granted children, then? Or why was I not slain? They would have laid me in the earth – I bury them instead.” Again he kissed them, made the cross, The cloth drew o’er their heads, And earth he then began to pile: “Rest in your hole, my sons, Your mother, bitch, did not provide Fine beds to lie upon. Without corn-flower wreaths and rue, My sons, you’ll have to sleep. Please pray to God, I beg of you, That he should punish me Yet on this earth for what I did, For this most awful crime. Forgive me, sons! You I forgive That Catholics you died.” He leveled off the earth and laid Green sod upon the grave So none could tell where Gonta made His sons’ last resting place. “Sleep well, my lads, and wait for me, I will not tarry long. My knife cut short your span of life,


The same will be my lot They’ll kill me, too… May it be soon! But who will bury me? The Haidamaki! Just once more I’ll join them on a spree!... So Gonta went; his shoulders sagged, He tripped as though were blind. The burning city lit his path; He raised his eyes and smiled – A smile most awful to behold. He looked back on the field, And wiped his eyes … And then by smoke The Cossack was concealed. EPILOGUE Much time has gone by, since a child, a poor orphan, In sacking and coatless, without any bread, I roamed that Ukraine where Zalizniak and Gonta With sanctified sabers had wreaked vengeance dread. Much time has gone by since, along those same highways Where rode Haidamaki, exhausted and sore I tramped through the country, its high roads and byways, And weeping, sought people to teach me good lore. As now I recall them, my youthful misfortunes, I grieve that they’re past! I would trade present fortune If only those days could be brought back again. Those evils, the steppes that seem stretching forever, My father and grandfather old I remember… My father is gone, but my grand-dad remains. On Sundays, on closing the book about martyrs And drinking a glass with the neighbours, my father Would beg of my grand-dad to tell us the story Of the Haidamki revolt long ago, How Gonta, Zalizniak once punishment gory Inflicted on Poles. And the ancient eyes glowed Like stars in the night as the old man related How gentry folk perished and how Smila burned… The neighbours from horror and pity near fainted. And I, a wee fellow, the churchwarden mourned. Yet, nobody noticed, all gripped by the horror, The child that was weeping alone in the corner. I thank you, my grand-dad, ‘twas you that preserved The story I’ve told of the old Cossack glory; And by the grandchildren it now will be heard. I beg your pardon, readers dear, That artlessly I spin This yarn of bygone Cossack feats, Without the bookish skill. I’m just repeating grand-dad’s tale – Good health to him! – and he N’er dreaméd that there would come a day


When learned folk would read His narrative. Now don’t be hurt, Old grand-dad – let them rant. And in the meantime I’ll return To my small rebel band, And when I’ve led them to the end, I’ll rest – and then again, At least in dreams, my eyes shall look Upon that fair Ukraine Where once the Haidamaki roved And awful vengeance wreaked, Whose roads I measured years ago With blistered naked feet. The Haidamaki had a spree, Made merry unrestrained: With gentry’s blood almost a year They watered the Ukraine, Then were no more – their dented blades We put away to rust And Gonta’s gone: no cross or grave To mark his place of rest. O’er all the steppe the wild winds swept The Cossack dust away, No one was left to mourn his death Or for his soul to pray. A foster-brother yet remained Alive upon the earth; But when he learned the fiendish fate The devils had reserved For Gonta, how his brother died – For the first time in life Old Zalizniak began to cry. He did not wipe his eyes, But pined away, and soon was dead; He died in foreign parts, In foreign earth his bones were laid; So hapless was his lot! Their iron chief with deepest grief The Haidamaki bore To bury in a foreign field; They built a mound, and mourned Awhile, then brushed their tears away And went back whence they came. Yarema, leaning on his staff, Long stood beside the grave. “Rest, father, in this foreign place, For in our native land No longer is there any space, Nor freedom to be had… Sleep soundly, honest Cossack soul! You won’t forgotten be.” Across the steppe Yarema went,


His tears still flowing free, And he kept always looking back, Till he was lost to sight. Then just the grave mound in the steppe Was dark against the sky. By Haidamki with good seed Ukraine had then been sown, The harvest, though, they did not reap. So what is to be done? The seeds of justice did not sprout; Instead, injustice grew… The Haidamki all dispersed, Each chose what he would do: Some just went home, but others took To forests with their blades To prey on merchants. This reput To our days remains. The ancient Cosach fortress, Sich, Then later was laid waste: Some Cossacks ‘cross the Danube fled, Some to Kuban escaped; That’s all that’s left – except the plaint The Dnieper rapids howl: “They finished off our sons, and aim To pulverise us now!” But people, passing by, don’t heed The rapids’ angry roar; And the Ukraine is fast asleep. Asleep for everymore. Since those grim years the grain grows green And lush across Ukraine; No screams are heard, no carnage seen; The winds blow ‘cross the plains, They bend the willows in the wood And grasses on the lea. Now silence reigns. That is what God Has willed. So let it be. But sometime, when the day is done, And all is warm with spring, Old Haidamaki walk along The Dnieper’s banks and sing: “Our good Halaida’s house has floors. Let the sea surge! Let the sea swell! Halaida, all will yet be well!” St.Petersburg, 1841 Translated by John Weir (nine sections out of fourteen rendered) Taras Shevchenko. Selected Works. Poetry and Prose Progress Publishers, Moscow 1961


THE CAUCASUS1 To my true friend, Yakov De Balmen2

“O that my head were waters, And mine eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain. ...” Jeremiah, Chapter 9, Verse 1

Mighty mountains, row on row, blanketed with cloud, Planted thick with human woe, laved with human blood. Chained to a rock, age after age Prometheus there bears Eternal punishment – each day His breast the eagle tears. It rends the heart but cannot drain The life-blood from his veins– Each day the heart revives again And once again is gay. Our spirit never can be downed, Our striving to be free. The sateless one will never plow The bottom of the sea. The vital spirit he can’t chain, Or jail the living truth. He cannot dim the sacred flame, The great god’s fame on earth. ‘Tis not for us to duel with Thee! Not ours the right to judge Thy deeds! Ours but to weep and weep, and weeping, To knead the daily bread we eat With tears and sweat and blood unending. We groan beneath the yoke of hangmen, While drunken justice sodden sleeps. Oh, when will justice rise at last? And God, when wilt Thou give Thyself from all Thy toil a rest? – And let the people live! Yet we believe in Thy great might And in the living soul. There shall be liberty and right! And then to Thee alone ________________________

1 This poem gained Shevchenko added ire from the authoritarian government. Here he gave full vent to his protest against the Russian conquest of the Caucasian people who had been subjected by force of arms to the yoke of czarist imperialism under the guise of Christian ideals which the Russian rulers proclaimed but never practiced even in their own midst, let alone on the territories they high-handedly annexed. The poem reeks with bitter irony and sarcasm at the pharisaical attitude of the conquerors, and so cutting is the indictment that it made the despot Czar and his satraps squirm with irritation and rage at the audacity of the former serf. Two years later, when Shevchenko appeared before his tribunal, Czar Nicholas was ready for him. (The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko. Kobzar. University of Toronto Press 1964). 2 Of French origin, Yakov de Balmen (or Balmain), an artist friend of Shevchenko, was killed during the Russian conquest of the Caucasus.

All tongues will pray, all heads will bow For ever and ever. But in the meantime, rivers flow,


The blood of men in rivers! Mighty mountains, row on row, blanketed with cloud, Planted thick with human woe, laved with human blood. ‘Twas there that We, the Gracious,3 found Poor freedom hiding ‘mid the crags (A hungry thing, and all in rags), And sick’d our dogs to drag her down. A host of soldiers on those hills Gave up their lives. And as for blood!? All emperors could drink their fill, In widows’ tears alone they could Be drowned together with their seed! The sweetheart’s tears, in secret shed! Unsolaceable mothers’ tears! The heavy tears of fathers hoary! Not streams, but veritable seas Of blazing tears! So – Glory! Glory! To hounds, and keepers of the hounds, And to our rulers golden-crowned Glory! And glory, mountains blue, to you, In ageless ice encased! And glory, freedom’s knights, to you, Whom God will not forsake. Keep fighting–you are sure to win! God helps you in your fight! For fame and freedom march with you, And right is on your side! A hut, a crust – but all your own, Not granted by a master’s grace, No lord to claim them for his own, No lord to drive you off in chains. With us, it’s different! We can read, The Gospel of the Lord we know!. . . And from the dankest dungeon deep Up to the most exalted throne– We’re all in gold and nakedness. Come, learn from us! We’ll teach you what The price of bread is, and of salt! We’re Christian folk: with shrines we’re blest, We’ve schools, and wealth, and we have God! Just one thing does not give us rest: How is it that your hut you’ve got Without our leave; how is it we To you, as to a dog a bone, Your crust don’t toss! How can it be That you don’t pay us for the sun! _____________________________________________

3 The imperial “We” of the czars.

And that is all! We’re Christian folk, We are not heathens – here below We want but little!. . . You would gain! If only you’d make friends with us, There’s much that you would learn from us!


Just look at all our vast domains– Boundless Siberia alone! And prisons–myriads! Peoples–throngs! From the Moldavian to the Finn All silent are in all their tongues Because such great contentment reigns! With us, a priest the Bible reads And then to teach the flock proceeds About a king of ancient times, Who took to bed his best friend’s bride, And slew the friend he wronged besides. ... Now he’s in heaven! See the kind We send to heaven! You’re denied, As yet, our holy Christian light! Come, learn from us! With us, it’s loot, But pay the shot, And straight to God, And take your family to boot! Just look at us! What don’t we know? We count the stars, and flax we grow, And curse the French. We trade or sell, And sometimes lose in cards as well, Live souls ... not Negroes ... our own stock, And Christians, too .. . but common folk. We don’t steal slaves! No, God forbid! We do not trade in stolen goods. We act according to the rules!... You love your brother as is writ Within the Golden Rule?! O damned by God, O hypocrites, O sacrilegious ghouls! Not for your brother’s soul you care, But for your brother’s hide! And off your brother’s back you tear: Rich furs for daughter’s pride. A dowry for your bastard child, And slippers for your spouse. And for yourself, things that your wife W’on’t even know about! For whom, O Jesus, Son of God, Then wert Thou crucified? For us good folks, or for the word Of truth . . . Or to provide A spectacle at which to laugh? That’s what has come to pass. Temples and chapels, icons and shrines, And candlesticks, and myrrh incense, And genuflexion, countless times Before Thy image, giving thanks For war and loot and rape and blood,– To bless the fratricide they beg Thee, Then gifts of stolen goods they bring Thee, From gutted homes part of the loot!.. .


We’re civilised! And we set forth To enlighten others, To make them see the sun of truth .... Our blind, simple brothers!! We’ll show you everything! If but Yourselves to us you’ll yield. The grimmest prisons how to build, How shackles forge of steel, And how to wear them!. . . How to pleat The crudest knouts!–Oh yes, we’ll teach You everything! If but to us Your mountains blue you’ll cede, The last . .. because your seas and fields We have already seized. And you, my good Yakov, you also were driven To die in those mountains! Your life you have given For your country’s hangmen, and not for Ukraine, Your life clean and blameless. ‘Twas your fate to drain The Muscovite goblet, the full, fatal draught! Oh friend good and noble, who’ll be never forgot! Now wander, free spirit, all over Ukraine And with the brave Cossacks soar over her coast, Keep watch o’er the grave mounds on her spreading plains, And weep with the Cossacks o’er all of her woes, And wait till from prison I come home again, And in the meantime–I shall sow My thoughts, my bitter tears, My words of wrath. Oh, let them grow And whisper with the breeze. The gentle breezes from Ukraine Will lift them up with dew And carry them to you, my friend!.. . And when they come to you, You’ll welcome them with tender tears And read each heartfelt line … The mounds, the steppes, the sea and me They’ll bring back to your mind. Pereyaslav, November 18, 1845 Translated by John Weir Taras Shevchenko. Selected Works. Poetry and Prose Progress Publishers, Moscow 1961



Day dawns, then comes the twilight grey, The limit of the live-long day; For weary people sleep seems best And all God’s creatures go to rest. I, only, grieve like one accursed, Through all the hours, both last and first, Sad at the crossroads, day and night, With no one there to see my plight; No one can see me, no one knows me; All men are deaf, no ears disclose me; Men stand and trade their mutual chains And barter truth for filthy gains, Committing shame against the Lord By harnessing for black reward People in yokes and sowing evil In fields commissioned by the Devil... And what will sprout? You soon will see What kind of harvest there will be! Come to your senses, ruthless ones, O stupid children, Folly’s sons! And bring that peaceful paradise, Your own Ukraine, before your eyes; Then let your heart, in love sincere, Embrace her mighty ruin here! Break then your chains, in love unite, Nor seek in foreign lands the sight Of things not even found above, Still less in lands that strangers love . . . Then in your own house you will see True justice, strength, and liberty! There is no other such Ukraine, No other Dnieper on the plain; And yet you throng to foreign lands To seek the Highest Good that stands – True Liberty, that sacred Good In fair fraternal Brotherhood . .. And you have found it as you roam! From foreign fields you bring it home, A heap of words that sound most great And naught else . . . You vociferate That God created you to be His Justice’s epitome,


Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the poem My Friendly Epistle. Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko


Yet you still bend your backs today To aliens, and are prompt to flay The hide off lowly peasant brothers; Then, seeking “Truth” beyond all others, You scurry off to German strands And to the lore of other lands. If you could in your baggage bind The misery you leave behind, Or carry off beyond appeal 71 Those gains our forbears had to steal , There would be left, to mourn our ills, Lone Dnieper with its holy hills. For this great boon my spirits yearn – That from abroad you’d not return, That there you’d die, where you did learn! For children then in our Ukraine No more would weep in futile pain, Nor would your motherland lament Or God declare you insolent; The sun would not a task perform Your stinking carcasses to warm Upon a land, pure, free, and vast And people would not know at last What birds you are, how greedy, dread, And at you shake a hopeless head. . . . Come to your senses! Human be, Or you will rue it bitterly: The time is near when on our plains A shackled folk will burst its chains. The Day of Judgment is at hand! Dnieper will speak across the land; Hundreds of streams will surge in flood To bear along your children’s blood To the blue sea…Nor man nor whelp Will offer you the slightest help: Brother will turn from brother wild, The mother will forsake her child; Thick clouds of smoke at noonday bright Will hide the sunshine from your sight; And your own sons, for all your crime, Will curse you to the end of time. Make yourselves clean! God’s image clear In man should not be sullied here! Don’t breed your children up in scorn To think that they were proudly born To lord it over humble folk – The peasant’s untaught eye will poke 71

Whatever Ukraine acquired in the past bad to be practically “stolen,” taken by force from her enemies. Yet even of that she was being stripped by her external and internal despoilers who reduced her to utter misery. If the precious little that remained were to be taken from her by her own lords and intellectuals and moved abroad, only the Dnieper and the hills would remain as witnesses of her past glory.


And peer into their very souls Unsnared by specious aureoles… Soon will the wretched creatures find Your hides are of a kindred kind,72– Then will the meek in judgment sit, All your fine wisdom to outwit. II If you would train yourselves alone, You’d have some wisdom of your own; But you must prattle from the sky: “We are not we, and I not I!73 All have I seen; I’m now all-wise; There is no hell, no paradise, Not even God; but I exist And this smart German atheist And nothing else…” – “Brother, go slow! Who are you the?” – “I do not know – We’ll let the Germans speak to that, For they have all the answers pat!” In such a fashion then you train Yourselves in foreigners’ domain! A German pundit says, “You’re Mongols.” And you reply: “Of course, we’re Mongols, The naked seed upon this plain Sowed by the golden Tamerlaine!”74 Or if some German says: “You’re Slavs,” You’ll echo back: “Of course, we’re Slavs, The ugly, graceless progeny Of cour great ancestors, you see!” Perhaps you even read older Kollar,75 Enthusaistic for that scholar, And Hanka too, and Šafařik And strive with zeal most politic To rank among the Slavophils And demonstrate linguistic skills In all Slav tongues except your own. “Some day we’ll have the time,” you groan, “To speak our native language well 72

Meaning: you too were once of the common stock. i.e., your wisdom is not inborn or self-acquired, but is something of foreign origin, which you seek to imitate without adequately understanding what you are doing or saying. The allusion here is to the German Idealist philosophy which, among other things, posed the theory that objects exist only ideally and are realized only by one’s senses. From too much knowledge and too little wisdom came such gibberish as “We are not we, and I not I,” and the various agnostic and negative views on life/The resulting confusion was such that the “enlightened” classes of Ukrainian society did not even know who they exactly were. 74 The Tatar Khan and commander of the Golden Horde. Ukraine was ravaged by the Turks and Tatars for several centuries between the fall of the Principality of Kiev and the emergence of the Cossack State. 75 Jan Kollar (1793-1852), Viacheslav Hanka (1791-1861), Pavel Šafařik (leaders of the Czech Slavophil Movement of Enlightenment which in the first half of the 19th century spread through Eastern Europe. The implication here is that while the Ukrainian lords and “educated” society are imbued with Slavophilism, they are not true Ukrainophils, for (as is mentioned further in the poem) while they praise the melodiousness of the Ukrainian speech and extol Ukraine’s historical past, they neglect their native tongue and the people who speak it, and are indifferent to the sorry social conditions of the Ukrainian population. 73


If some smart foreigner will tell Its principles; if he’ll relate Our history as well, then straight We’ll study at a furious rate!” How you have sought with ardent suction To soak up foreigners’ instruction! You talk in such a mongrel speech That even Germans, wise to teach, Gape at it as a senseless joke – Still more, of course, the common folk. And such a noise! What row you raise: “What harmony beyond all praise! Our tongue is music from the skies! Our history? Behold it rise, A freeborn people’s lofty poem... Rome seems to this a paltry proem! Horatius, Brutus, whom they will, Let Romans praise! We’ve greater still, More famous, ne’er forgotten too… It was with us that Freedom grew, Lay stretched in Dnieper’s mighty bed And on our mountains couched her head And made our steppe her counterpane!” No, you are wrong! In this Ukraine Our history was bathed in blood And slept on corpses in the mud, On Cossack corpses, no more free But here despoiled of liberty!... Look well into our history’s store And read it closely, o’er and o’er; That glorious tale you may have heard, – But take it slowly, word by word; No punctuation mark omit, For even commas lend their bit; Examine everything you see; Then ask yourselves: Now, who are we? Whose children? Of what fathers born? By whom enslaved in utter scorn? Then only will you understand The Brutuses of this your land: Slaves, grovellers of Muscovy And Warsaw’s refuse, such will be The illustrious hetmans you applaud! And have you something then to laud, Sons of Ukraine, where misery chokes? Perhaps that you walk well in yokes, More nobly than your fathers walked? Don’t boast that you have bravely stalked: Your hides are being tanned, though callow, But they were often boiled for tallow!


Perhaps you base your boast on this: The Cossack Brotherhood with bliss Defended and preserved our faith? That in Sinope’s flaming wraith And Trebizond’s, they cooked their cake? They did, but you’ve the belly-ache; For in the Sich the German sage Now plants potatoes; without rage, You buy his produce with your wealth And eat it gladly for your health, And glorify the Cossacks’ fame. But whose rich blood, O men of shame, Has saturated all the soil That yields potatoes which you boil? You do not care; you merely know It’s good to make the garden grow! And yet you boast that with our frown We once sent Poland toppling down!... You are quite right: for Poland fell; And in the wreck crushed us as well.356 And that is how our sires, now dead, For Muscovy and Warsaw bled, And left their sons, as legacy, Their shackles and their infamy! III Thus, in her struggle, our Ukraine Reached the last climax of pure pain: Worse than the Poles, or any other, The children crucify their mother; As it were beer, they tap with zest The pure blood from her sacred breast, – They would enlighten, they surmise, Their ancient mother’s76 rheumy eyes With clear, contemporary light, And lead her, in her dumb despite, A blind wretch, out upon the stage Into the spirit of our age. Good! Show her! Lead her in the way! Let the old mother learn today How to take care, as Wisdom runs, Of you, her new enlightened sons! Show her! But do not raise a ruction About the price of that instruction! Well will your mother pay you back: The wall-eyed cataract will crack Upon your own dull, greedy eyes And you will see her glory rise, The living glory of your sires, To shame your fathers’ black desires! . . .




Gain knowledge, brothers! Think and read, And to your neighbours’ gifts pay heed, – Yet do not thus neglect your own: For he who is forgetful shown Of his own mother, graceless elf, Is punished by our God Himself. Strangers will turn from such as he And grudge him hospitality – Nay, his own children grow estranged; Though one so evil may have ranged The whole wide earth, he shall not find A home to give him peace of mind. Sadly I weep when I recall The unforgotten deeds of all Our ancestors: their toilsome deeds! Could I forget their pangs and needs, I, as my price, would then suppress Half of my own life’s happiness… Such is our glory, sad and plain, The glory of our own Ukraine! I would advise you so to read That you may see, in very deed, No dream but all the wrongs of old That burial mounds might here unfold Before your eyes in martyred hosts, That you might ask those grisly ghosts: Who were the tortured ones, in fact, And why, and when, were they so racked?... Then, O my brothers, as a start, Come, clasp your brothers to your heart, – So let your mother smile with joy And dry her tears without annoy! Blest be your children in these lands By touch of your toil-hardened hands, And, duly washed, kissed let them be With lips that speak of liberty! Then all the shame of days of old, Forgotten, shall no more be told; Then shall our day of hope arrive, Ukrainian glory shall revive, No twilight but the dawn shall render And break forth into novel splendour… Brother, embrace! Your hopes possess, I beg you in all earnestness! Viunishcha, December 14, 1845


KHOLODNIY YAR* (The Cold Ravine) To every man misfortune comes; I, too, misfortune share; This borrowed pain is not my own, Yet heavy is its care. Why then should I recall a grief That ancient annals keep? Why rouse up from the dateless past A day that well might sleep! . . . Take that Ravine! To its dark depths No smallest path remains; From walking that untrodden way The human foot refrains; And yet old history recalls A highway once was seen From Saint Motronas convent down Into that dread Ravine. In that deep hollow, haydamaks Encamped in far-off years, Oiled their long muskets for the fray And whittled sharp their spears. To that Ravine had there come down, As from a holy cross, Brother and brother, son and sire, Ready to face all loss, Against a cunning enemy, The cruel Pole, I ween. Where have you vanished, beaten path, That led to the Ravine? Have you been covered with a grove, With shadowy forest sown By new oppressors, to prevent New faith from making known In counsel there what new campaign May save our captive souls From those fine lords and torturers, Successors to the Poles? Ghosts see the path: above the Gulch Zalizniak ranges near, And casts his glances at Uman For Gonta to appear. Do not conceal or seek to crush True Justice’ sacred right, Nor bring upon the righteous ones A cruel Nero’s might! *

This poem is a sequel “My Friendly Epistle.”


Do not applaud the Emperor And all his holy wars; You do not know what hellish deeds Are done by those dear czars While you in noisy sacrifice Sell soul and body cheap For “fatherland”!77 By God above, You are a brainless sheep! A cheerful fool sticks out his neck, With nothing understood; A worthless good-for-nothing cries That Gonta was no good: “No soldiers were the haydamaks – ‘Twas good these thieves should die, A stain upon our annals, they!” My people’s bane, you lie! No thief for sacred justice’ sake The foes of freedom tackles; Nor will he rise to free his folk, Chained in your heavy shackles; No thief his true-born son will slay For liberty through pain; He will not break his living heart In service to Ukraine! The greedy robbers are yourselves, You hungry ravens all! According to what holy law And to what righteous call Have you been bartering away The land that all should own, Not least the poor? Calamity Will shortly make you moan. Deceive your children, if you will; Your friend, that simple clod; Deceive yourselves and foreign folk; You cannot cozen God! For judgment, in your day of joy, Will suddenly be seen, And Freedom’s fires will flame anew Out of the Cold Ravine! Viunishcha, December 17, 1845 Translated by C.H.Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar University of Toronto Press 1964


Ironically: Russia.


*** I care not if ‘tis in Ukraine Or far from her I live and die; I care not if ‘neath alien sky Remembered or forgotten by Her and her people I remain. In slavery, midst alien folk Grow up I did, and ‘neath the yoke Of slavery I’ll die unmourned, Far from the land that is our own And yet is not – I’ll leave fore’er Our sweet Ukraine, and no trace there Of me, an exile, will be left. And father will not say to son: “In prayer our voices let us lift For one who suffered martyrdom For our Ukraine....” I care not if They ever pray for me or not, To me this matters little... But if evil lulls my hapless land To sleep by ruse and cunning, and She wakes in flames and robbed – if such, As fear I, is to be her lot – To me this matters... very much. St. Petersburg, April 17- May 19, 1847 Translated by Irina Zheleznova Taras Shevchenko. Selected Poetry Dnipro Publishers, Kiev 1989


Mikola Storozhenko. Illustration to the verse I care not ‌. Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Dnipro Publishers, 2004. Kiev.

IllustrationŠMikola Storozhenko








Tr. A.B.

Ukraine illustrated quarterly. No.3, 1989


Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861)

MY TESTAMENT When I am dead, then bury me

In my beloved Ukraine, My tomb upon a grave mound high Amid the spreading plain, So that the fields, the boundless steppes, The Dnieper’s plunging shore My eyes could see, my ears could hear The mighty river roar. When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears Into the deep blue sea The blood of foes … then will I leave These hills and fertile fields – I’ll leave them all and fly away To the abode of God, And then I’ll pray … But till that day I nothing know of God. Oh bury me, then rise ye up

And break your heavy chains And water with the tyrants’ blood The freedom you have gained. And in the great new family, The family of the free, With softy spoken kindly word Remember also me. Pereayaslav, December 25, 1845 Translated by John Weir

Monument to Taras Shevchenko at his grave in Kaniv, Cherkassy Region



Tr. A.B.




Tr. A.B.

Ukraine illustrated quarterly. No.3, 1992


Shevchenko monument in Kharkiv




Ukraine illustrated monthly. No.3, 1990

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