Taras Shevchenko's poem "Chihirin". Ukrainian-to-English translation by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell



To M. S. Shchepkin (1)

("Chyhryne, Chyhryne, vse na sviti hyne")

Chihirin, O Chihirin!
All things to Time are prey;
Even your sacred glory
Like dust is borne away
By the cold winds and in the clouds
Must vanish overhead.
The years pass on; the Dnieper dries
Within its mighty bed;
The tumuli are crumbling down,
Those mounds of highest span
That are your glory—and of you,
O hoary, weak, old man,
None will recall a single word,
And none will even state
Where once you stood, and why you stood . . .
O site most desolate!
No one will ever more recall
Why with the Poles we fought,
Why from the Horde most bloodily
A victory we sought,
And why we harrowed with our spears
The ribs of Muscovites . . .
And sowed their bodies in our field
In ancient days and nights,
And watered it with ruddy blood
And ploughed it with the sword.
And what has grown upon that field?
Rue, only rue abhorred,
Plant poisonous to liberty.
And I a foolish swain Upon your ruins sadly stand
And waste my tears in vain.
Ukraine, alas, has fall'n asleep,
Is overgrown with weeds
And covered deep with slimy mould;
It fails from noble deeds.
Its heart decays in filthy mire
And vipers are allowed
Into its hollows cool to creep;
To children once so proud
She has bequeathed a feeble hope
Out on the steppe to stay -
The wind has tossed it round the field,
The rivers borne away.
Then let the wind strew everything,
Its wing the whole earth spurn!
Then let my heart in sorrow pray
That Justice may return!
Chihirin, O Chihirin!
My true friend! While you slept
You've lost your steppes and forests broad
And the whole land inept!
Sleep on, by alien folk begirt,
Until the sun shall rise
Until our childish-minded chiefs
Attain to wisdom's prize!
I, after prayer, would fall asleep,
But thought's accursed art
Is striving to inflame my soul
And break my simple heart.
Ah, do not break it, nor inflame!
Perhaps I shall regain
My gentle speech where Justice ruled
And soothed our mortal pain;
Perhaps I yet shall forge from it
To fit the ancient plough
A ploughshare new, a coulter too,
And then, with sweating brow,
I yet may plough my fallow ground
And in that fallow sow
My faithful tears, my fervent tears,
If aught from them might grow.
From them may sprout two-edged blades
That with a surgeon's art
May open up my country's bad
Decayed and bloated heart,
And draining out its sugary stuff,
Pour in a living tide
Of ruddy, pulsing, Cossack blood,
Sacred and purified.
Perhaps, perhaps... among those blades
The gentle rue may spread,
And periwinkle buds may sprout,
And there my words long dead -
My gentle, timid, mournful speech
Revived, may live again,
And there a maiden's timorous heart,
Caught by my verses' strain,
. May startle like a frightened fish...
This tribute she'll accord me...
O words and tears of mine, what joy
Your worth may yet afford me!
Sleep, Chihirin! Let foemen's sons
Down to defeat be hurled!
O Hetman, (2) sleep, till Justice rise
To rule our sorry world!

(1) Russian actor and Shevchenko's close friend. The poem “The Neophytes" Was also dedicated to him.
(2) Bohdan Khmelnitsky (1593-1657).

Taras Shevchenko
""Chyhryne, Chyhryne, vse na sviti hyne""
("Чигрине, Чигрине, все на світі гине")
1844, Moscow, (Москва)

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. 254-256; S. 694-697

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. 151 - 153


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