A Journal of Translations

Shevchenko Scientific Society

Volume 1. 2004



Taras Shevchenko


The Girl under a Spell


The wide Dnipro roars and moans,

An angry wind howls aloft.

It bends the tall willows down,

Lifting waves as high as mountains.

And at that time a pale moon

Peeks out from behind a cloud now and then,

Like a tiny boat in a deep blue sea

It jumps up and dives down.

The cocks had yet to crow three times,

No one anywhere making a sound,

The owls in the grove called to each other,

And the ash tree creaked now and then.



Taras Shevchenko. “Prychynna” Lines 1–12 of 225.



The Haidamaks, excerpt


Everything moves, everything passes, and there is no end.

Where did it all disappear? From where did it all come?

Both the fool and the wise man know nothing.

One lives… one dies… one thing blooms,

But another has withered, withered away forever…

And winds have carried off yellowed leaves,

And the sun will rise, as it used to rise,

And crimson stars will float off as they used to,

They will float afterwards, and you, white-faced one,

Will saunter along the blue sky.


Taras Shevchenko. “Haidamaky” Lines 1–10 of 2565



* * *


The days pass, the nights pass,

As does summer. Yellowed leaves

Rustle, eyes grow dim,

Thoughts fall asleep, the heart sleeps,

All has gone to rest, and I don’t know

Whether I’m alive or will live,

Or whether I’m rushing like this through the world,

For I’m no longer weeping or laughing…

My fate, fate, where are you now?

I have none;

If you begrudge me a good one, Lord,

Then give me a bad one!

Let a walking man not sleep,

To die in spirit

And knock about the entire world

Like a rotten stump.

But let me live, with my heart live

And love people.

And if not… then curse

And burn the world!

It’s horrible to end up in chains

To die in captivity,

But it’s worse to be free

And to sleep, and sleep, and sleep—

And to fall asleep forever,

And to leave no trace

At all, as if it were all the same

Whether you had lived or died!

Fate, where are you, fate where are you?

I have none!

If you begrudge me a good one, Lord,

Then give me a bad one! A bad one!




Taras Shevchenko. “Mynaiut' dni, mynaiut' nochi”



My Testament


When I die, bury me

On a grave mound

Amid the wide-wide steppe

In my beloved Ukraine,

In a place from where the wide-tilled fields

And the Dnipro and its steep banks

Can be seen and

Its roaring rapids heard.

When it carries off

The enemy’s blood from Ukraine

To the deep blue sea… I’ll leave

The tilled fields and mountains—

I’ll leave everything behind and ascend

To pray to God

Himself… but till then

I don’t know God.

Bury me and arise, break your chains

And sprinkle your freedom

With the enemy’s evil blood.

And don’t forget to remember me

In the great family,

In a family new and free,

With a kind and quiet word.


December 25, 1845



Taras Shevchenko. “Iak umru, to pokhovaite”



N. N.


The sun sets, the mountains darken,


A bird grows quiet, the field grows mute,

People rejoice that they will rest,

And I look… And with my heart I rush forth

To a dark tiny orchard… to Ukraine

I think a thought, I ponder it,

And it’s as though my heart is resting.

The field blackens, the grove and mountains, too,

And a star emerges in the blue sky.

Oh star! Star! —and tears fall.

Have you already risen in Ukraine yet?

Are brown eyes searching for you

In the deep blue sky? Or do they forget?

If they’ve forgotten, may they fall asleep,

To keep from hearing of my fate.


The second half of 1847, Orsk Fortress


Taras Shevchenko. “Sontse zakhodyt', hory chorniiut'”



* * *


  Thoughts of mine, thoughts of mine,

You are all that is left for me,

Don’t you desert me, too,

In this troubling time.

Come fly to me my gray-winged


From beyond the wide Dnipro

To wander in the steppes

With the poor Kirghiz.

They already are destitute

And naked… But they still pray

To God in freedom.

Fly here, my dear ones.

With peaceful words

I’ll welcome you like children,

And we’ll weep together.


1847, Orsk Fortress


Taras Shevchenko. “Dumy moi, dumy moi, / Vy moi iedyni”




* * *


And the unwashed sky, and drowsy waves;

And above the shore far away

The reed bends like a drunk

Without a wind. My dear Lord!

Will it still be long for me

To yearn for the world

In this unlocked prison

Above this wretched sea? In the steppes

The yellowed grass does not speak,

It is silent and bends as though it were alive;

It does not want to disclose the truth,

But there is no one else to ask.


Second Half of 1848, Kosaral


Taras Shevchenko. “I nebo nevmyte, I zaspani khvyli”




In captivity, alone there is no one

With whom to join your heart.

Alone, I’m searching for someone

To talk to.

I’m searching for God, but I find only

That God forbid I say it.

This is what the years and cruel fate

Have done to me; add to this

That my precious youth

Has passed in clouds, that there isn’t

Even a single event

That’s worth recalling.

But you have to comfort your soul,

For it so wants, so pleads at least

For a word of peace. You can’t hear,

It’s as though the snow in the field is

Drifting over a still warm corpse.




Taras Shevchenko, “V nevoli, v samoti nemaie”




* * *


Once again the mail has not brought me

Anything from my home, Ukraine…

Maybe I’m being punished

For my sinful deeds

By an angry God. It’s not for me

To know why I’m being punished.

And I don’t even want to know.

But my heart cries when I recall

The unhappy events

And those unhappy days

That passed over me

Once in my Ukraine…

Once they swore oaths and made pacts

Of brotherhood and sisterhood with me,

Until, like a cloud, they scattered

Without tears, without this sacred dew.

And once again in old age

I cast on mankind this…[people] No! no!

They’ve all died of cholera,

But if only they’d send me just

A scrap of paper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Oh, out of sorrow and regret

So as not to see how they read

Those letters, I take walks,

I stroll looking above the sea

And console my grief.

And I remember Ukraine

And sing a little song.

People will talk, people will betray you,

But it will cheer me,

Cheer and comfort me,

And will tell me the truth.


Second Half of 1848, Kosaral


Taras Shevchenko. “I znov meni ne pryvezla”



* * *


It’s not for people or for fame,

That I pen these

Ornate and embroidered poems.

They’re for me, my brothers!

It’s easier in captivity

When I compose them.

It’s as though words fly to me

From beyond the far-off Dnipro River

And spread out on paper,

Crying and laughing

Like children. They give joy

To a lonely, wretched

Soul. It’s pleasant for me.

They give me pleasure,

The way it is for a wealthy father

with his little children.

And I am joyful and lighthearted,

And I plead for God

Not to put my children to bed

In a far-off land.

Let them fly homeward

My fleeting children.

And they will say how difficult

It has been for them on earth:

And in a joyous family the children

Will quietly be welcomed,

And the father will nod

His gray head.

The mother will say: “I wish these

Children had not been born.”

And the girl shall reflect:

“I loved them.”


Second Half of 1848, Kosaral


Taras Shevchenko. “Ne dlia liudei, tiiei slavy”




* * *


I’m well-to-do

And very pretty,

But I don’t have a mate.

My fate’s so cruel!

It’s hard to live in this world

Not having someone to love,

To wear velvet coats

When I’m all alone.

I’d fall in love,

I’d get married

To a dark-haired orphan,

But it’s not my choice!

My father and mother stay awake all night

Standing guard,

They don’t even let me out alone

In the garden to stroll.

When they let me, it’s only

With a really awful old man,

With my wealthy unbeloved,

With my wicked foe!


Second Half of 1848, Kosaral


Taras Shevchenko. “I bahata ia”



* * *


In captivity I count the days and nights,

Then lose count.

O, Lord. How hard

These days drag on.

And the years flow between them.

They quietly flow by,

They take away the good and bad

With themselves!

They take away, without returning

Anything ever!

And don’t plead, for your prayer

Will be lost on God.


And the fourth year passes

Quietly, slowly,

And I begin to embroider

My fourth book in captivity—I embroider

My sorrow in a foreign land

With blood and tears.

For you never can tell

Your grief to anyone in words,

Ever, ever,

Nowhere in the world! There are no words

In far-off captivity!

There are no words, no tears,

No nothing.

You don’t even have great God

Around you!

There is nothing to look at,

No one to speak to.

You don’t feel like living in the world,

But you have to live.

I must, I must, but why?

Not to lose my soul?

It’s not worth this sorrow…

This is why I am fated

To live in the world, to drag

These chains in captivity.

Maybe some day I’ll still look

At my Ukraine…

Maybe some day I’ll share

My word-tears with

Green oak groves,

Dark meadows!

For I have no kin

In all of Ukraine.

But still, the people aren’t the same

As in this foreign land!

I’d stroll along the Dnipro River

Through cheerful villages

And I’d sing my thoughts in songs,

Quiet ones, sad ones.

Let me live to that day, to glance,

Dear God,

At these green fields,

At these grave mounds.

If you don’t grant me this, then carry

My tears

To my land; for I, Lord,

I am dying for her!

Perhaps it will be easier

To lay myself down in this foreign land

If from time to time

They’ll remember me in Ukraine!

Carry my tears there, my Lord!

Or at least send hope

To my soul… for there is nothing

That I can do with my wretched head,

For my heart grows cold

When I think that perhaps

I’ll be buried

In a foreign land—and these thoughts

Will be buried with me.

And no one in Ukraine

Will remember me!


And perhaps quietly after the years

My thoughts embroidered by tears

Will reach Ukraine

Sometime… and fall,

Like dew, over the land,

They will quietly fall

Over a sincere young heart!

And this heart will bow its head

And will weep with me,

And, perhaps, Lord,

Will remember me in prayer!


Let be what will be.

Whether to flow on or wander,

At least I’ll be forced to crucify myself!

But I’ll quietly embroider

These white pages anyway.




Taras Shevchenko. “Lichu v nevoli dni i nochi” (First version)



* * *


Even till now I have this dream: among the willows

And above the water near a mountain

There is a tiny white bungalow. A grayed grandfather

Sits near the bungalow and watches

His tiny grandson, so nice

And curly-haired.

Even till now I have this dream: a happy

Smiling mother steps out of the house

And kisses grandfather and the child,

She joyfully kisses him three times,

Takes him into her arms and nurses him,

And carries him to bed. And grandfather

Sits there and smiles, and quietly

Whispers: “Where is that misery?

That sadness? Those foes?”


And in a whisper the old man,

Crossing himself, recites the Our Father.

Through the willow tree the sun shines

And quietly dies out. The day is done,

And all has gone to sleep. The grayed old man

Has gone himself to the house to rest.


1850, Orenburg


Taras Shevchenko. “I dosi snyt'sia: pid horoiu”





You were not devious with me,

You became a friend, a brother and

A sister for a poor wretch. You took me,

A little boy, by the hand

And led me off to school

To a tipsy deacon’s lessons.

Study hard, my darling, and someday

We’ll be somebody, you said.

And I listened and studied,

And learned the lessons. But you lied.

We’re not the somebodies you promised?… But never mind!

We were not devious with you,

We walked straight; there’s not

A grain of falsity in our breasts,

So let’s go on then, my destiny!

My wretched, undeceiving friend!

Go on further. Further there’ll be fame,

And fame is my testament.


February 9, 1858

Nizhny Novgorod


Taras Shevchenko. “Dolia (Ty ne lukavyla zo mnoiu)”


Translated by Michael M. Naydan


Original publication: Taras Shevchenko, Tvory v shesty tomakh [Works in Six Volumes], Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 1968. Volume 1, pp. 3, 71, 349–50, 354; Volume 2, pp. 37, 22, 130, 175, 173–4, 133–4, 138, 235–7, 265, 299.


Ukrainian Literature, A Journal of Translations

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