"Perebendia" - Poem of T. Shevchenko (Translated from Ukrainian by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell

Perebendia (1)

To E. P. Hrebinka (2)

("Perebendia" / "Perebendia staryi, slipyi — Khto yoho ne znaie?")

Old Perebendia now is blind,—
Who does not know the bard?
He plays his kobza everywhere,
He roams in every yard.
His playing every person knows—
They pay him without strife
Because he drives away their cares,
Though he is tired of life.
Under the hedge the wretched man
Must rest by night and day;
He has no place to call his own,
And penury makes play
With scorn about his hoary head;
Misfortune casts no shadow,
For there he sits and sings a song
About the rustling meadow.
Thus he would sing and grow aware
He was a lonely sight,
And pensive grow beneath the hedge
Where he must pass the night.
Such is old Perebendia,
A moody life he spends!
He often with a dirge begins
And with a gay song ends.
For young maids on the village green
A lively dance he plays;
To young blades at the inn he sings
Of love and tipsy ways.
Then at a marriage party
He hymns a daughters pain—
Perhaps the enchanted poplar,
And then a rural strain.
At market come religious chants
Or in a dolorous pitch
He would intone the grief of all,
The crushing of the Sitch. (3)
Such is old Perebendia,
A moody life he spends:
He starts out with a merry tune
And with a dirge he ends.
The wind is blowing lightly,
It roams across the plain,—
The minstrel on a grave-mound sits
And plays his kobza's strain.
The steppe extends around him,
A mighty sea of blue;
Beyond his mound still other mounds
Stretch hazy to the view.
His whiskers long and hoary locks
Are fluttering in the breeze
That sometimes drops to hear his song,
His plaintive elegies.
To the glad heart and to the eyes that weep
It hearkens, and blows on...
Here will he creep
To mounds upon the steppe, that none attain;
There winds will blow his words across the plain
And people hear them not—his words are God's;
His heart holds converse with th' Almighty's nods;
His heart still warbles of the Lord's great glory
While from the world's far edge he draws his story.
His thought, a grey-blue eagle, soars and wheels
Until the very sky his passing feels;
His thought seeks out the sun and of it asks
Where in the night it goes, and what its tasks.
It listens to the sea, and its deep speech;
Asks the dark mountain what its calm may teach;
His thought mounts up once more, for earth is sad
And in its vastness can no nook be had
For him who hears all mysteries aright,
What the sea says, where the sun goes at night —
The world would be no friend to such a one!
Alone he is among us, like the sun;
Men see him, for his feet the same earth press,
But if they heard that in his loneliness
He sought the mounds and parleyed with the sea,
They'd make his holy words a mockery,
Call him a fool and drive the man away:
“On seasides let him roam, not here!" they'd say.
Thus you do well, my Kobzar,
You do right well, indeed,
To seek the ancient grave-mounds,
With song the earth to heed.
Wander apart, my own dear friend,
Before you fall asleep;
Sing forth your songs where none may hear
And none attention keep!
And lest they should disown you quite,
Humour them, lad, indeed!
“Dance, fellow, as the lord may bid,—
His wealth will serve your need."
Such is old Perebendia,
A moody life he spends:
He starts off with a wedding tune
And with a dirge he ends.

(1) Colloquial nickname for one who is garrulous, in this case a poet-minstrel whose role is to entertain the people with songs conforming to their moods, thus making them forget their misery. He himself, however, is miserable and full of sorrows, with not a soul to share them except God, with whom he communes in his solitary musings and contemplations.
(2) Evhen Hrebinka (1811-48), a Ukrainian writer of fables, who befriended Shevchenko in St. Petersburg, and contributed to his emancipation from serfdom by introducing him to influential friends.

Taras Shevchenko
"Perebendia" / "Perebendia staryi, slipyi — Khto yoho ne znaie?"
("Перебендя" / "Перебендя старий, сліпий — Хто його не знає?")
1839, 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. 110-112; S. 617-620

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. 49 - 50

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