IVAN FRANKO (1856-1916)
IVAN FRANKO: A Titan of Thought and Work Had Ivan Franko been born an Englishman or a Frenchman or a German, today his fame would ring around the world. But Franko was born into a poor family, a son of a village blacksmith, in one of the poorest regions of Eastern Europe, the Carpathian foothills. As he was growing up, he discovered that he was a member of a subjugated ethnic group, the Ukrainians. The fact of his national origin affects his standing in European literature even today. When Ivan Franko was born, the Ukrainians were not even a nation, although their numbers and the territory they inhabited were equal to that of territorial France. They were divided among Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Romania, their neighbors. Most of them were peasants because only in 1848 in Austria-Hungary and in 1861 in Russia had feudal servitude been abolished by decree. Only a small class of clergymen, lawyers, and teachers had risen from the peasant masses. Culturally, the Ukrainians were repressed. The Ukrainian language was illegal in Russia. Polish was the official language of West Ukraine because the Poles, themselves divided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria in the 1790s, but possessing economic power, were given cultural control of West Ukraine after the revolution of 1848, to keep them on the side of the tottering Austro-Hungarian monarchy. How did this situation come about? West Ukraine was controlled until the middle of the fourteenth century by the Kievan State, which existed for four hundred years. But Kiev was destroyed by the Mongols in 1241, the center of power moved to the more defensible wooded areas of the north (Moscow and Novgorod), and Ukraine existed, predominating culturally, as part of the Lithuanian confederation, which colonized the practically empty, post-Mongolian Ukrainian steppes. West Ukraine became part of Poland around 1340 through feudal marriages and extinction of the male line on the Ukrainian side. The Cossacks of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who formed a fortified area on the Lower Dnieper, defended the land from repeated Tartar attacks often in alliance with Poland or Russia. A new era began in 1648 when Bohdan Khmelnitsky led the Cossacks in a national uprising against the Poles, who occupied Ukraine up to the Dnieper. The national uprising took the Ukrainian Cossacks into Poland, but in the end, in 1656, Khmelnitsky had to look for allies. He signed a treaty of friendship with Russia, which after his death turned into Russian subjugation of Ukraine. Ivan Mazepa, the Russian-approved leader of Ukraine, tried to throw off the Russian yoke in 1707-1709, when he allied himself with Charles XII of Sweden, but in the battle of Poltava, in July 1709, Charles and Mazepa were defeated by Russiaâ€™s Peter I. In 1775 Catherine II leveled the Cossack fortress Sich and cancelled all vestiges of Ukrainian autonomy. Ukrainian intellectuals did not despair. Artistic expression arose in many forms. Rich Ukrainian nobles maintained academies and libraries. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, far away intellectually and spatially from the reactionary influences of the clergy in Moscow, escaped reactionary trends and splintering into obscure sects, oriented itself on the West. One of its leaders, the Kievan Metropolitan Petro Mohila, supported by Ukrainian nobility, founded the Mohila Kievan Academy, which graduated over twenty thousand young men in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They became leaders of Ukrainian intellectual life in every sector. Persecutions of expressions of Ukrainian life and discrimination against all things Ukrainian were a double-edged sword: rejected by others, Ukrainians drew together and cultivated and preserved their culture, language, and traditions. Each new onslaught by Moscow was met by the emergence of charismatic leaders, so that Ukrainian accomplishments grew, the body of their literature increased, the peopleâ€™s ethnic
3 distinctiveness fostered national unity. “Like the Nile inundations,” as Franko describes Jewish accomplishments in Egypt and swelling of their national power in his poem Moses in spite of persecutions, the Ukrainian cause continued to gain momentum. Ukrainian intellectuals displayed tenacity of purpose and of the will to survive under the most terrible handicaps. Ivan Franko’s father, an ordinary illiterate blacksmith, Yats (Jake), and his wife much younger than her husband, Maria Kulchytsky, had no children for a long time, but finally Ivan was born on August 27, 1856, and then three brothers followed and one sister, who soon died. The Carpathian village where Franko was born, Nahuyevichi, is considered remote and poverty-stricken even today. There was no school in his native village, so Ivan went to elementary school in nearby Yasenytsia, where he lived in the house of his mother’s brother, Pavlo Kulchytsky. He started school in 1862. He remained there for two years, and then was transferred to the school run by the Order of St. Basil (Basilians) in Drohobych, the chief town of the district. Everywhere he was a brilliant student. In 1867 Ivan’s father died and his mother married an ordinary young man from the village, Hryn Havryluk, but she was also to die five years later. Franko’s stepfather, however, did not hesitate to send his “unusual,” rather small, red-headed stepson to the gymnasium, a classical high school, in Drohobych, in 1868. Upon entering the gymnasium, Ivan already knew three languages: German Polish, and his own. The initial jeering at the village hayseed, dressed in village clothes, changed to admiration and respect because Franko was usually first or second throughout his high school years in scholastic standing. Throughout high school he studied Latin and Greek. He taught himself Russian. He read constantly: Shakespeare, Klopfstock, Schiller, Krasinski, Krasicki, Goethe, Mickewicz, Slowacki, Eugene Sue, Dickens, Heine, Hugo, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Ukrainian authors. He began to write. The year his mother died, 1873, he wrote a drama, Iuhurta, for the school magazine. His first poetry and a drama Three Kings for One Throne were published there in 1874. The same year Franko was on the editorial board of the school magazine. The year he graduated from high school, he published Petrii i Dovbushchuky, a novel. His first influences, to which Franko admitted in 1910, were Romantic in nature–“contrasts between the beauty of nature and human misery”–especially E.T.A. Hoffmann, but at the same time collected sketches from real life and read realist and naturalist writers, especially Emile Zola, who wrote “literature collects and describes facts of daily life, minding only about the truth, not esthetic rules.” He also read Karl Marx, J. S. Mill, and other socialists because, for a time, he saw socialism as a salvation for the Ukrainian peasant. In 1875 Franko registered at the philosophical faculty of Lvov University. Apart from lectures and other university routine, even before his twentieth birthday, Franko set out his life’s work on four different tracks, on which he remained until his devastating illness in 1908, and in some areas until his death in 1916. He was always a journalist, writing in Ukrainian, Polish, and German on a range of subjects–from ethnology to poetry and philosophy of art to labor problems and religion. From 1887 to 1897 he was on the staff of the Polish daily Kurjer Lwowski. For many years he contributed to the Viennese weekly Die Zeit on cultural topics. He edited the Ukrainian daily Dilo from 1883 to 1885. With M. Pavlyk he published the journal Narod, from 1890 to 1895. From 1897 to 1907 he edited the prestigious Annals of the Shevchenko Scientific Society in Lvov. There were many other publications. During the same time Franko founded the Ukrainian Radical Party, he was intensively studying political science and economics, searching for ways to alleviate the appalling poverty of his countrymen. At first he was excited by Marx, Engels, and Chernyshevsky, but later decided that Marxism was not suitable for the underdeveloped rural economy of West Ukraine. Eventually he agreed mostly with John Stuart Mill and leaned toward Fabianism. Because of his interest in the working classes, Franko was arrested three times on suspicion of
4 fomenting resistance against the ruling classes of the creaking Austro-Hungarian Empire; the first arrest came at the age of twenty-one, when he served nine months. Thrice Franko ran for the Vienna Parliament on the Radical Party ticket, but his Polish opponent, as well as Ukrainian conservatives, made certain that Franko did not win. Historians speak of bribery and election fraud, but in reality few West Ukrainian voters understood or sympathized with Franko’s ideas. Despite his lack of success in practical politics, Franko continued to write on political and economic subjects. The titles of his articles reveal Franko’s interests: “Scholarship and Its Attitude to the Working Class” (1878); “Factory Workers” (1881); “About Labor” (1881); “The Servitude of Women in Ukrainian Folk Songs” (1883); “Land Ownership in the Land of Halich (West Ukraine)” (1887); “Emigration of Galician Farmers” (1892); “Feudal Servitude and Its Abolition in the Land of Halich” (1898). These are but a handful of examples from Franko’s output of forty years. As a scholar and researcher, Franko contributed studies on Ukrainian ethnology, linguistics, prosody, and even theology. In 1882 he published a study of folklore in the Boryslav region; a collection of research materials on folk proverbs, which filled three volumes, was published in 1907. “How Folk Songs Originate” was published in 1887, and in 1894 his Etymology and Phonetics in Ukrainian Literature came out. “Literary Language and Dialects” was published in 1907, to name just a few titles. However, Franko lived most intensively in his novels, poems, and short stories. This titan of work filled every moment of his waking life, for almost forty years, with creative activities which defy our normal human faculties of belief. The present “full” edition of his writings begun in Kiev in 1956 is planned for fifty volumes, but even so only “selected works” will be included in it. One of the editors, O. Bilynsky, writes that another fifty volumes would be required to print everything Franko ever wrote. A Russian translation of his major works, in 1956, comprised ten volumes. We can offer a few titles from his gigantic output. At the age of twenty-two, Franko published his famous poem The Stone Cutters, the novel Boa Constrictor, about the activities of an oil town (Boryslav) entrepreneur, and a programmatic article on labor and scholarship. At the age of thirty-one, Franko published a major collection of poetry, about three hundred pages, From the Heights and the Depths, a major narrative poem, Lordly Jests, and two major studies on economics. In 1895 and 1896, when Franko was thirty-nine and forty, he published four dramas, a major collection of poems, one novel, and one long poem for children, Abu Kassim’s Slippers–all that in addition to making speeches, editing magazines, doing scientific research, writing articles in three languages, translating Homer, Goethe, and other great writers, raising three children, and taking care of a difficult wife. He did this year after year after year, in the end with paralyzed hands, according to his prescription, as written in one of his works: “... to work, to work, and to labor, in harness to die . . .” for his people, for his great ideal, bearing his cross of being a Ukrainian, attached to the destiny of his people like an ox to a cart. Translators of Franko’s work must chuckle occasionally at Franko’s protestations that he was a mere laborer, a stone cutter paving a road to the future, filling in holes in the Ukrainian cultural structure, with no time to polish and refine his work. For Franko displays a mastery of styles, techniques, and composition which stand up to any standards.
Moses Prologue O People mine, divided, deathly tired – A cripple sitting at a highway juncture – With human scorn, as though with sores, bemired. My soul’s distressed by prospects for your future; The shame to sear the hearts of your descendants Robs me of sleep and pains me beyond measure. It is indeed engraved on iron tablets That your fate is to dung your neighbors’ acreage, To be the draught for their speedy chariots? Must you forever hide your fury savage, Feigning instead submission hypocritical, To everyone who through deceit and outrage Put you in chains and swore in to be loyal? Are you alone by Fate denied a labor Which would reveal your infinite potential? In vain so many hearts have burned with ardor For you, with purest holiest affection, Laying their souls and bodies at your altar? In vain your land has known the saturation With heroes’ blood? Is she not to exhibit Good health and freedom, beauty and perfection? Do in your language sparkle to no profit Humor and strength, intensity and softness, And all the means which elevate the spirit? Is it in vain your songs so flow with sadness And ringing laughter and the pains of loving – A radiant riband of your hopes and gladness? Oh, no! ‘Tis not the tears alone and sighing To be your fate! I trust the spirit’s power, The resurrecting day of your uprising. If only one a moment could discover When words were deeds, and words that blessed moment Would come that heal and belch life-giving fire! If one could find a song – inspiring, fiery, potent – To rally with the multitudes of people, To give them wings, to lead toward atonement.
6 If only . . . We, careworn from constant struggle And rent by doubt, despondent from opprobrium, We are not fit to lead you into battle. The time shall come; in the free nations’ gremium You’ll take your place – resplendent and perfervid; You’ll echo freedom on the Mare Nostrum – The Pontus; sash-like, you’ll gird on the Beskid And shake the Caucasus; your gaze proprietary Shall scan your land, the homestead you inhabit. Accept this song, although its tone is dreary, Yet full of hope; it’s bitter but veracious; Toward your future – a down payment teary; My modest festive present to your genius. 20 July 1905
I Having roamed forty years through the sands – Of Arabian deserts, Moses came with the people he led Up to Palestine’s limits. Here the sands are still red as the rust – The Moab: rocky, barren – But beyond them are meadows and groves, The blue waves of the Jordan. In the meager vales of the Moab Camps the Israel nation; To advance beyond those barren peaks It feels no inclination. In the shade of torn tents, indolent, The whole nomad camp dozes; In the thistles and weeds roundabout Feed their oxen and asses. That a wondrous land promised to them, That gems – emeralds, hyacinths – Glitter close on that side of the ridge Not one of them gives credence. Forty years long the Prophet had preached, So majestically, nicely, ‘Bout a homeland long promised to them: Wasted words, spoken idly. Forty years long the rare vale beyond The blue waves of the Jordan,
7 Like a desert’s illusive mirage, Drove the tribes and allured them. “Our prophets have lied!” people said, Their faith tried to the limit. “We must live our lives out in the sands; Waiting longer won’t change it.” So they stopped their blind forward drive; Fond hopes dashed, they abandoned Sending scouts out, guessing what is concealed Beyond red, rusty highlands. Day by day, in the Moab’s ravines, When a scorcher oppresses, In the shelter of their shabby tents All of Israel drowses. Their women alone spin and bake, Roasting goat meat in ashes; Their donkeys and oxen chew on In the thistles and rushes. Their children, though, playing outside, Do invent strange amusements: They build cities, they play waging war, Or fence in their gardens. Many times shake their heads in surprise Their somnolent fathers: “Where on earth did they pick up these games?” They keep asking each other. “For they never see them around here Or learn them in the wild. Have the prophet’s words entered the blood And the heart of each child?”
II But one man in his tent submits not To the general torpor; On the wings of his cares and his thoughts, He surmounts the high border. It is Moses, the prophet denied, In his feeble senescence; Without kin, flocks, or wives, he now stands In the fall of existence. All he had in his life he gave up For a single ideal; With its fire he shone; for its sake, He knew torment and toil.
8 Like a storm, he had snatched out his folk From the yoke of Misraim; From constriction of life outside walls, Led the slaves out, to freedom. As the soul of their souls, he rose up Many times since departure, To supernal, celestial heights – Inspiration and rapture. Translated by Adam Hnidj Ivan Franko: Moses and Other Poems Vantage Press, USA 1986
LANDLORD’S MOCKERIES (excerpt) Today is Easter! O great God, our Lord, Since earth began there surely bas not been An Easter Day like- this that now is here! Like one huge ant-hill have the people poured From early dawn upon the village green With bustle, clamour, turmoil most severe. All seek the church. And when the blessed phrase, “Christ is Arisen,” first was loudly chanted, All burst, like children, into tears unscanted, And weeping shook the church. To our amaze . . . It seemed we had been waiting ages long, But now, as we proclaimed that holy song, The Lord had really risen, to our praise. And we within our spirits felt relief, Such lightness and tranquillity at last, It seemed that every one of us was ready To cry to earth and sky our glad belief And sing out: “All our misery is past!” Inveterate enemies forgave each other And each embraced and kissed like any brother – While still the bells rang out unceasingly! As in their cups, the young folk rush about And into every corner loudly shout: “The landlord now is gone, and we are free!” – 1
In this lengthy poem Franko presents a vast canvas of the peasants’ intolerable conditions under serfdom in Galicia. The “mockeries” refer to the “tricks” the Polish landlord plays on the peasantry: making them, and their priest, work in the forest on Christmas Day, after having locked the church in which they were about to celebrate the Feast; preventing the parish pastor from establishing schools for their children; and even casting an Austrian official, who pleaded their cause before the authorities, into a kennel of famished hounds. The passage here is representative of the general jubilation that took place throughout Galicia on Easter Day 1848, when the peasants heard that the new Austrian Constitution freed them from panshchina (forced labour, serfdom) to which the landlords had been subjecting them for centuries.
9 “We all are free, free, free!” the village gloats. And little children, copying the old, Went shouting, screaming, full of joy untold, Like little chicks of quails among the oats. And when the service of thanksgiving ended, Into the churchyard all went pouring forth; As many as some hundreds were we all – There in a mighty group our knees we bended And, faces to the ground, on God we call, Singing that glorious, solemn hymn of praise: “Thee, O Lord God, we honour and extol!” Like thunder on the morning air we raise That lofty utterance all-jubilant – But the conclusion of the sacred chant Was drowned in mighty sobbings of amaze. Today my grown-up children try in vain, Even in snatches, to relate once more What on that glorious day with my own eyes I saw beyond all doubting, clear and plain. People go mad, in joy not known before: For greybeards leap like children in disguise… A man is seen to kiss his team of horses – As if they are his brothers he discourses, Caresses them and with affection speaks. Young peasant women group together there And having plucked the ribbons from their hair, Before an icon bow their rosy cheeks And offer all their head-dress to the saint. Each hails the other in a greeting loud: “Christ is arisen! And the Devil himself Has carried serfdom off!” There a hoary man, The oldest greybeard in the village crowd, Against an ancient grave you’d hardly scan Presses his breast and hugs the grassy mound And wildly shouts: “O father, we are free! Freedom has come! O father, speak to me! Almost a hundred years your neck was found Beneath the yoke. You did not want to die Before our freedom came. Behold me cry: At last we’re free! Poor man, you could not wait For long enough to see our glorious state! Now your son’s sons no longer will be driven, As I was, by the lord, to make his pelf! And now, O father, take me to yourself! Your son, his own free man, may pass to Heaven. Translated by C.H.Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnel Ukrainian Poets. 1189-1962 University of Toronto Press. 1963
Monument to Ivan Franko facing the university named in his honor. Lviv
PAVER OF THE WAY It was the merry month of May, but that year Spring did not come to the earth on dancing feet, with flowers in her hair and a song on her lips. The trill of the nightingale was drowned out by the bark of cannon. Instead of gay chants, the screams of the wounded and the wails of widows and orphans filled the air. The scent of flowers was blotted out by the stench of blood and smoke of battle. It was 1916 and the First World War was in its second year. That Christmas the traditional tidings of “Peace on earth and goodwill toward man!” had sounded as the supreme mockery. From his sickbed in the city of Lviv, occupied by the Russian armies, Ivan Franko had replied with stark truth: There is no peace, as yet the end can’t be discerned Of this titanic globe-encircling war That dwarfs all former slaughter. Already millions a martyr’s wreath have earned All round the earth in nearly every quarter, But peace is not yet ripe... That had been in January, and now it was May and the juggernaut of war was remorselessly rolling on, continuing to crash human lives and wealth on a scale that was unparalleled in the gory history of man. And in Lviv, Ivan Franko lay dying. It had been on such a day in May, fifty-five years before, that the body of Taras Shevchenko, which had been lovingly carried from distant St.Petersburg, was laid to rest at Kanev, on a hill overlooking the Dnieper River. Shevchenko and Franko. The Kobzar and the Kameniar – the Bard and the Paver of the Way. They were destined to shine together as the foremost Ukrainian stars in the galaxy of the world’s immortals. It was as though fifty-five years ago the dying Shevchenko had reached across a continent and a generation to pass the torch on to Ivan Franko, the son of a village blacksmith, to carry forward in the new stage of mankind’s long march to freedom. And now Franko, too, lay on his deathbed. The last curtain was being drawn... But no, this was not the final act! Many decades before, when the pen-pushers of the wealthy and powerful had jibed at him as the “moujik” poet, Franko had retorted with pride and conviction: I’m peasant born, son of the working people That rise from dungeons dark where they were locked. My motto’s: Labor, Happiness and Freedom. I am the prologue, not the epilogue. You are representatives of the old way of life, Franko was telling his enemies, and your day is drawing to a close, while I represent the new way of life that will come to the earth as surely as dawn follows the darkest night. I am the prologue! Youth is impatient and often mistakes the wish for the deed. But Ivan Franko was soberly realistic even in his youth. He understood that liberty would not come easily or soon. So he stoked the fires in his heart to burn a lifetime. And in the poem “Kameniary” – Stone-Crushers, or Pavers of the Way – he spelled out his duty and laid out his life as he saw it:
13 I had a wondrous dream. Before me spread a desert Where naught but awesome desolation met the eye, While I was standing there with chains of iron tethered Beneath a mountain high of granite, and together With me were thousands more the same as I. Each face was lined with care, all eyes with sorrow misted, And yet with love each face was lit, all eyes aglow, Around the arms of each the chains like serpent twisted, And each man’s shoulders sagged, for we had all enlisted To take upon ourselves a dread, oppressive load. Each person in his hands a heavy hammer hefted, And from above we heard a voice of thunder call: “Break down that rock! Let neither weariness, nor weather, Nor want, nor thirst detract you from this right endeavor! Obey this strict command to crush that granite wall!” At that our arms on high in unison we lifted And brought our hammers down full-force upon the stone, A thousand chips of granite from the mountain flitted, While we, as though despair our human frames had fitted With superhuman strength, kept raining blow on blow. Like the Niag’ra’s roar, like war’s infernal rattle, Our iron hammers rang against that solid stone, And thus without a rest that massive rock we battered, And inch by inch gained ground in fierce, inflinching battle, Though many of us fell with mangled flesh and bone. That we would win no fame we all knew just as surely As that our toil would be forgotten when we’re dead, But we knew, too, that only then would people journey This way when we had paved a highway that’s enduring, And when our very bones had gone to make the bed. But then, to win acclaim was never our ambition, For we’re not heroes grand like epic knights of old. No, we are only slaves, though of our own volition We donned our chains. We’re slaves engaged in freedom’s mission. We’re only pavers of the way on freedom road. We all were sure that with our hands we’d crush the granite, And with our blood and bones a solid highway pave, And then upon that road a life that’s new and splendid, A better way of life, would come onto our planet, Though we ourselves would never live to see the day. We were aware that in the world, which we had quitted To dedicate ourselves to labor, sweat and chains,
14 Our mothers, wives and children stayed with sorrow smitten, While friend and foe alike their teeth in anger gritted And execrated us, our doings and our aims. We knew this well and often sorely were affected, Our heartache so severe we scarcely could withstand, But from our sacred cause we could not be deflected. We resolutely held the course we had selected â€“ Not one of us let drop the hammer from his hands. And so we march as one in our great undertaking, Our hammers firmly grasped we crush the granite wall. What though we be reviled and by the world forsaken! We pave the way for right, the rock obstruction breaking, And on our bones shall enter happiness for all.
Monument to Ivan Franko at his grave in Lviv
15 Ivan Franko had lived up to that profound dedication. In his youth he had had a wondrous dream – and all his life he had fulfilled it. Like Shevchenko before him, he had willingly suffered the consequences. He had been reviled, forsaken even by those who had claimed to be his friends. Three different times he had languished in hideous prisons. His bleeding feet had left their traces on the stones of the road along which he was driven under convoy of a gendarme. For days he had lain alone, burning up with fever awaiting death from starvation. The doors to a scholastic career had been slammed on him, and he was even denied the right to lecture on Ukrainian literature in the Lviv University – he, Ivan Franko, whose works in 1966 would be published in 50 volumes, which still would not include all that he had written. Years and decades of grinding toil to earn bread for his family, unremitting poverty and constant harassment. It was only in the evening of his life that with the help of money donated by working people – including contribution from Ukrainian emigrants in North America – he had been able to acquire this modest home in Lviv, where he now lay dying. Yet he had not dropped his hammer... Had it been worth while? Were not the czars and emperors, the moneybags and all the forces of evil still in the seats of power? Did not the old stupid and inhuman way of life still hold sway throughout the world, now crowned by that greatest of all crimes, a world war of unprecedented ferocity, carnage and destruction? Ivan Franko tried to move his fingers, which were now twisted and full of searing pain from the illness that had also dimmed his eyes. With these fingers he had written only a few months ago in the poem entitled “Goodwill Toward Men!”: ...But peace is not yet ripe, the sun not soon will rise, What’s more, there’s something not malicious in this war: Today the soldier questions where his duty lies And greets a better, gentler future as he dies – A godly spirit o’er the ruins seems to soar... Those Christmas calls for peace were insincere, he wrote, they masked hatred and malice, hypocrisy and boastfulness. The real peace would have to be won. ...So let the war roll on its bloody course, Like roaring floods that sweep across the fields. Let nation then with nation settle scores With fruits of labor and the people’s gore, Till peace matures – and true Goodwill it yields! “I suffer tortures, but I do not repent!” Taras Shevchenko had written. And as death drew near, Ivan Franko looked back over his life and he also felt no regrets. He and those like him were only the prologue, the pavers of the way. The curtain would soon rise on the first act of the drama in which the whole globe would be the stage, all men actors, and its pilot – the transformation of the world. Ivan Franko closed his eyes. Before a year had passed the crown of the last of the Romanovs was rolling in the dust. Today a grateful humanity remembers those who helped to pave the way. High on the list is the name of Ivan Franko. John Weir News of Ukraine, No.10(46), May 1966, Kiev
16 *** I thought of the new human brotherhood’s birth, And wondered: how soon will it come to the earth! I saw in a vision the vast, fertile fields Worked jointly, providing magnificent yields, Supporting the people in freedom and bounty. Can this the Ukraine be, my own native country, Which once was forsaken, the conqueror’s prey? Yes, that is indeed the Ukraine, new and free! I gazed, and the ache in my heart ebbed away.
Spirit of Revolt Deathless spirit of revolt – Rousing man to mighty prowess, Fight for happiness and progress – Flames today as did of old! Neither rack of Inquisition, Nor the royal despot’s prison, Nor the troops in war instructed, Nor the grimmest guns constructed, Nor informer’s dastard trade – None can lay it in the grave! Bright it burns in human hearts! Ages since the spark was lighted, Now a world-wide fire’s ignited – Revolution’s on the march! Loud and clear the call is sounding, Over all the Earth resounding: Working folk, from sleep awaken, Rise to meet the dawn that’s breaking! Masses hear and they rejoice, Many millions heed the voice. Everywhere the voice resounds: ‘Mong the peasants gaunt and weary, In the workshops dank and dreary, There where misery abounds. Everyone the spirit reaches From his tears and fears releases. Strength is born and resolution Not to weep, but seek solution: Even if you don’t survive, For your sons win better life.
17 Deathless spirit of revolt – Love of freedom, light of learning, Forward pressing, no returning – Can’t be chained as was of old. Now the lava stream is flowing, Now the avalanche is rolling – Where’s the force on Earth so potent That can stop this sweeping torrent And put out, as though a flame, The awaking of the day? . . .
Decree Against Famine Famine struck the Persian nation When King Peris wore the crown: Poor folk perished of starvation In the country’s richest towns. Said King Peris, losing patience: “This I cant, I wont endure!” Quickly, without hesitation, He decreed a famine cure. To the magistrates of cities Famed for wealth throughout the land, This the edict that King Peris Wrote and sealed with royal hand: “With no wavering or pity This decree you must apply: Should a poor man in your city Henceforth of starvation die, “Throw a man of wealth and station Into prison without bread Till this rich man of starvation Like the poor is also dead.” Lo, a miracle was fashioned: Though the price of food did soar, Poor folk always got their ration . . . And the rich did not get poor.
A Parable About Foolishness One time a foolish hunter A little bird ensnared; He took it out, intending To wring its neck right there. “Oh spare me, spare me, hunter,” The tiny creature peeped, “ “I’m just a fluff of feathers And not one bite of meat! “If you will but release me And let me go my way, Three wisdoms I will teach you To serve you all your days.”
These words intrigued the hunter.
19 “This cocky bird,” thought he, “Thinks he can teach me something! What can those wisdoms be?” “My bird,” said he, “I promise That if your lessons three Will help to make me wiser, I’ll gladly set you free!” “First” said the bird, “don’t harbour Regrets for what is done, And which, for good or evil, Can never be undone.” “That’s true!” the man considered, “It’s vain to rue what’s done, For, whether good or evil, It cannot be undone.” “Next,” said the bird, “don’t suffer And fret and strive and strain What has been done to cancel, The past bring back again” “That’s true!” the man considered, “Why waste your strength in vain? The past knows no returning, What’s happened can’t be changed.” “Third,” said the bird, “to stories Of marvels pay no heed. Do not believe in something That simply cannot be!” “That’s true!” the man considered, “The strangest tales are told, Which, when you ponder deeply, You know could not be so.” “Your lessons taught me something, Oh bird,” the man exclaimed, “So fly away in freedom, And don’t get caught again.” The feathered creature flitted And perched high on a limb, Then, turning to the hunter, Addressed these words to him: “You are a ninny, hunter, To let me fool you so!
20 You lost a peerless treasure When once you let me go! “For know that in my bosom – If you’d but known! – there lies A priceless pearl, a jewel An ostrich egg in size!” The hunter groaned in anguish. He thought: “Where were my wits To, careless, through my fingers Let such a fortune slip?” Around the tree he circled, Then sprang the bird to grasp… But vain were his endeavours – He had no wings, alas! So then his tune he altered And sweetly ‘gan to sing: “Come back to me, my pretty, I’ll treat you like a king! “Your food will be the choicest, Your cage will be of gold, Your wishes will be granted No sooner they are told!” “You fool!” the bird rebuked him, “You haven t learned a jot! The lessons which I taught you You instantly forgot! “You carried out your promise And set your captive free, Yet not a minute later Regretted that kind deed. “So then you took a notion To catch me once again – To bring back what’s departed You groaned and moaned and strained. “And why? ‘Cause you gave credence To what plain sense denies: That in my breast I carry A jewel twice my size! Translated by John Weir Ivan Franko. Poems and Stories Ukrainska Knyha, Toronto, Canada 1956
Monnument to Ivan Franko at the Theater of Drama named in his honor. Kiev
Ukraine illustrated monthly, No.5, 1986