Mariana, the nun
(A fragment of a poem)
("Mariana-chernytsia" / "Viter v hai nahynaie lozu i topoliu")
To Oksana K...ko (1)
In memory of what happened long ago
The poplar and the willow-tree
The tempest bends indeed,
It breaks the oak and down the field
It rolls the tumble-weed.
And such is Fate: this one she breaks,
This other merely bends,
And me she rolls, and does not know
Where all my travel ends!
In what land shall I find a grave?
Find shelter, and forever fall asleep?
If one lacks luck and leaves no friends behind,
No one will have him in remembrance kind,
With gentle jesting: “Let him rest in peace!
He was most lucky in his prompt decease!”
Oksana, is it true, my long-lost beauty,
That you will not remember, even in duty,
The waif in homespun who was quick to bless
Each time that he beheld your loveliness,
To whom your grace unspoken taught the art
Of converse with the eyes, the soul, the heart,
With whom you smiled and shared your sorrowing,
To whom of handsome Peter (2) you would sing?
You'll not recall... Oksana, O my dear!
Yet to this day I sorrow for you here.
I shed the tears to Mariana due,
And as I weep, I see you, pray for you.
My long-lost beauty, for things long since done
Adorn with primrose buds my pensive nun,
Smile as you sing in handsome Peters praise,
Remembering in jest those far-off days.
On Sunday, on the village green
Young women wander out
To frolic with the village lads;
There some sing songs about
Late evening parties, how a dame
Has thumped her daughter blue
For tarrying with a lad too long...
As maids are wont to do,
Each sang about her own affairs.
When suddenly a lame
Old kobzar with a boy, his guide,
Into the village came;
His boots he carries in his hands;
Down from his shoulders hangs
A patched bag. And the little boy,
A thing of pains and pangs,
Dressed all in rags, can hardly drag
His tiny feet along...
The image of poor Katie's son! (3)
—“Look, girls!" cries out the throng.
“The kobzar comes! The kobzar comes!"
The young men they discard
And run as quickly as they can
To welcome the blind bard.
“Hail, grandpa darling, precious one!
Show us your ancient skill!
We'll give you copecks, berries too,
Or anything you will.
Here in the meantime you shall rest
While we go dancing near you.
Play us a tune, O grandpa, do!"
—“My darlings, well I hear you!
Thank you, my lovely blossoms,
For words so kindly meant!
I'd gladly play but, as you see,
I have no instrument.
Just yesterday in a bazaar
Great loss my work sustained,
My kobza broke...
—"And all the strings?”
—"Three only have remained.”
—"Then use those three for any tune!”
—"But three? My lovely lasses,
Once I could play on one.
Perhaps The task my skill surpasses.
But wait a space, my lovely ones;
Let me a moment lag...
Let us sit down, my boy!” They sat,
And he untied his bag,
Took out the kobza, several times
The battered chords he'd flail:
—"Come, shall I tell you of the nun
Fair Mariana's tale?
You've heard it?”
—"No, the tale is strange!”
—"Hark to my words of woe,
And heed me!”
"Once a mother good
Was living long ago;
There'd been a father, but he died:
A widow she was left,
Yes, left a widow, far from young,
yet of goods bereft,
Oxen and waggons rich in store,
A litde daughter too.
This daughter Mariana throve
And a young lady grew—
So black of brow, so beautiful,
A hetman might have wed her!
And so her mother sought some lord
With monev to bestead her.
"Little her daughter recked of lords;
She would go out to meet —
Not some old lord, bewhiskered, fat,
But one to her most sweet,
Her darling Peter; in the grove
Among the reeds they met,
Each blessed evening, they would talk
And she with him would pet;
Embracing him, she swooned with joy;
At times, she sadly smiled,
Wept, and was mute. And Peter asked:
— Why do you weep, my child!’
And she would glance at him and smile:
—I hardly know myself!’
—'Perhaps you think I’ll go away?
No, never, precious elf!
For you I’ll court and you I’ll love
Until the day I die.
Do human annals know a case
Where those whose love soared high
As ours does now remained alive
When they were sternly parted,
Never to meet again?’
They perish broken-hearted!
The opposite you hear in songs
That kobzars’ brains invent,
For they are old and cannot see
The course that true love went,
That there are found in this our world
Black brows and glances warm,
And many a manly Cossack shape
And many a maiden’s form,
That there are fine, long maidens’ braids,
Luxuriant Cossack hair,
That when I hear my Peter’s words
In my dark coffin’s lair,
My corpse will smile and say to him:
"My grey-winged eagle, dear,
I love you in the other world
As I have loved you here.
Then, O my heart, let us embrace,
And thus I fain would kiss!
In one grave let them bury us!
I’d die amid such bliss. . . .” ’
Thus they embraced, oblivious,
As love each moment pearled;
And thus it was their mutual wish
To seek the other world.
Things did not happen as they wished,
Though every night they met;
And still her mother did not know
About love's sweet duet
Till midnight in the orchard paths
With happy dalliance rife.
'My daughter, who is still a child,
Knows not the facts of life...'
Though partly right, the dame forgot
How soon young hearts are laden
With burdening love, that she herself
Had also been a maiden.
"This much was true: that Mariana's gaze
Was quite unwitting of the world's harsh ways;
Loving, she thought that neither life nor death
Would part from Peter; that the wanton breath
Of blind old kobzars told of such a fate
Because they could not see bright eyes' debate
And only sought to frighten maidens fair...
I, too, would daunt you, for I know this care
— Would that no soul on earth my sorrow knew!...
But, maidens, all is past that I must rue,
Although my heart still wakes—I've not forgot
Love like a mother's for my lass, God wot,
And I shall sing of her until I die...
Then, my dear maids, when in my grave I lie,
Remember me, my Mariana too,
And from the other world I'll smile to you..."
At that he burst out weeping,
As if by grief o'ertasked;
No maiden asked him why he wept.
And why should she have asked?
"All that has passed away," they said,
And thus their sympathy
In kindly fashion brought relief
And soothed his misery.
“Forgive me, dears, in my despite
Still in my dreams I meet her...
Now Mariana, as you see,
And her unmoneyed Peter
Met every evening to converse;
Her mother knew it not,
Although she wondered: "What disease
Has Mariana got?
Is it the evil eye? She sews
And works wrong stitches in;
In such a mood, instead of “Hritz” (4)
She sings of “Peterkin'';(5)
Her pillow in her sleep she'll kiss,
While lips in words will run...'
At first her mother laughed at it,
And thought it was in fun;
But when she saw this was no jest,
Her daughter she implored:
Tour suitors' messengers you'll see,
Some may be from a lord.
You're quite grown up—and long enough
You've lived in single bliss;
I have been thinking... well, you see...
('Twas hard to talk of this.)
It's time for you to marry now...'
—Who shall the bridegroom be?'
—'Choose whom you will, and I consent.'
She sang with happy glee:
'Then marry me, my mother dear,
But let the groom be young,—
Thus marry me, my dear mama,
To youth my love is flung!
But let an old man go his way,
For money let him roam;
A young one is in love with me,
He'd gladly stay at home;
He seeks no cash, he travels not
Across far foreign plains;
Oxen he has and waggons too;
Among the other swains
He blossoms like a poppy-flower
For thus his grace avails him;
He has his fields and freedom true —
What if good fortune fails him!
His fortune and his happiness
In my dark brows hell find,
In my long lashes, hazel eyes,
And in my words so kind.
Yes, marry me, my mother dear,
But old men I abhor;
The groom for me quite young must be
For youth I do adore!'
—'Nay, daughter, this will never do!
To a rich man I'll marry you,
An older one, with treasure great:
I've Captain Ivan as your mate'
—'Dear mother, I'm as good as dead
If Captain Ivan I must wed!'
—'You'll live, and like a lady be,
With lots of children at your knee!'
—'I'll hire out as a scullion-maid
Your Captain Ivan to evade!'
—'My mind is settled, daughter dear:
You'll marry him this very year!'
Poor Mariana, desperate,
Burst into tears, bewailed her fate:
—'Marry an old, a wealthy groom?
Shall Captain Ivan be my doom?'
Thus querulous the maiden mused
And her unwillingness excused:
—'Not yet, my mother, am I grown,
Nor have my maiden flowers been sown;
You've never let me run pell-mell
Each morning to the village well,
Or reap the rye, or gather flax,
Or at a sociable relax,
Where the young men and women gay
Make merry as they sing away,
And talk in secrecy of me
And of my beauty which they see:
“A wealthy father was her kin
For shes of noble origin...
How hard it is for me to live!
Why all my beauty did you give?
Why did you paint my brows so black
And give me eyes that sparkle back?
All but good fortune have you given;
Good fortune from my lot is riven.
Why have you nurtured me in vain?
Why have you brought me up for pain?
Why did you fail to bury me Before
I knew what care could be?...'
Her mother paid no heed at all,
But went to bed; and fears enthral
Poor Mariana as she wept;
Scarcely from out the room she crept.
“The wedding guests arrive in hordes, (6)
A tipsy, singing crew of lords;
While through the hedge the maiden peeps
At all the turmoil, and she weeps
And falls half-fainting to the ground—
So harsh a guerdon must be found
For faithful love!... 'Tis hard, my lasses,
When all alone one's life one passes,
But harder still in love to engage
Two mortals disparate in age!
Just look at me: I've lost my eyes with crying;
Their loss I do not mourn: this side of dying
I've nothing left to gaze at. Her dear eyes,
The happy source of whispering and sighs,
Long since I saw... Sad thoughts and grief,
I trow, Were all my wealth; they're all my treasure now;
And with such money it is hard to live:
I sleep 'neath hedges, to the wind I give
My converse, for the people lodge me not
Nor bid the poor old cripple share their pot...
Shorten the lives, O God, of those who prove
No chance on earth to consummate their love!
Better it were to lie in graveyard mould
Then see another who is rich and old
Kiss, by his cash, and marry whom he will...
O God Almighty! Must a tide of ill
Batter my spirit into fragments still!"
The kobzar broke out in lament;
Tears flowed from eyes now blind.
The maidens wondered at his grief:
His death was close behind,
Yet he, an old man, blind and hoar,
Bewails the far-off years!
Ah, marvel not, young maidens all,
At those old Cossack tears.
They are not like the dew at dawn
That ergot fields possess;
Thank God they are not like your own
In floods of bitterness!
He's wept his fill; and now again
He strums three beaten strings:
“The long day Mariana spent
In tearful sorrowings;
Then Peter met her in the grove;
She told her story due:
All that her mother had declared
And everything she knew;
She held back nothing: how the guests
Prepared for Ivan's wedding;
How loudly down the streets they sang
The nuptials she was dreading.
—“'But why (said he) are you not poor?
And why am I not rich?
Why are no crow-black horses mine?
Your mother would not itch
To know the truth of where you roam
And him with whom you tarry.
You would be free to trust your heart
And, as you will, could marry.
Then would I hide you far away
Where none could search us out;
And none might see your place with me
Our happiness to flout.
O dearest girl, my happiness,
High Heaven I invoke!
Why are you not in homespun dressed?
Or I in silken cloak?'
'While Mariana, like a child
Without a mother, weeps,
Her Peterkin beside her stands,
No heed of aught he keeps
Except poor Mariana's tears,
For tears of maiden bright
Can cause unhappiness by day
And agony by night.
—'Don't weep, my heart,—I still have strength
Though sorrows now beset;
Love me, my precious, do not fail,—
I'll find my fortune yet
Beyond high hills and mighty plains,
Far in a foreign field;
Through thick and thin my way I'll win
And rich will be the yield!
Not homespun-clad, a captain hold
I then shall gallop in;
Not in the grass but in the church
You'll kiss your Peterkin!
I'll kiss you then, we'll both embrace
And let the people stare!
But you will simply stand and blush...'
— When comes that moment rare?'
—'Soon, very soon, my dearest lass!
Just pray to God for me!
Now hurry home and go to bed!
And I in prayer shall be
Beside the road, amid the steppe;
The bright-eyed stars I'll press
While Гm away to keep you safe
In your great loneliness;
Go, and I'll rest upon the plain.'
—'And do you leave tonight Right now?'
— Ah, no, I did hut jest!
No nation seeks to fight
With our Ukraine—no Muscovites
Nor Tartars need we fear.'
—Tve heard the Poles are on their way...'
—'That's balderdash, my dear!...
Now let us part, my own sweetheart,
Before the dawn shall show!
Why do you weep again, my love!'
—'I really do not blow!'"
(1) The girl who befriended him in his childhood. See 'To Oksana,” p. 298; "I Was some thirteen years of age,” p. 319; "We once grew up together,” p. 447.
(2) Referring to a popular folksong Oy ya liubliu Petrusia (Oh, how I love my darling Peter).
(3) Looking just like Katerina’s illegitimate son Ivan, in the- poem “Katerina,” P-14.
(4) Re£erring to the folksong Oy ne khodi, Hritsiu, ta na vechomitsi (O Hritz [i.e., Gregory], do not attend evening parties), in which the hapless young man is poisoned by a young woman whom he abandoned for another.
(5) Referring to a popular folksong Oy ya liubliu Petrusia (Oh, how I love my darling Peter).
(6) A highly colloquial song has been omitted.
"Mariana-chernytsia" / "Viter v hai nahynaie lozu i topoliu"
("Мар'яна-черниця" / "Вітер в гаї нагинає лозу і тополю")
1841, S.- Petersburg, (C. - Петербург)
Translated by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell
Original publication: Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannia tvoriv: U 6 t. — K., 2003. — T. 1: Poeziia 1837-1847. — S. 192-201; S. 676-679
Source: The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Translated from the Ukrainian by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell. Published for the Ukrainian Canadian Committee by University of Toronto Press, 1964. Toronto and Buffalo. Printed in Canada, Reprinted 1977, p. 127 - 137