T. Shevchenko's poem "It’s not for people or for fame" (in English, tr. by Michael M. Naydan)

It’s not for people or for fame

“Ne dlia liudei, tiiei slavy”

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.”

Taras Shevchenko
“Ne dlia liudei, tiiei slavy”
("Не для людей, тієї слави")
1848, Kosaral (Косарал)

Translated by Michael M. Naydan

Original publication:
Taras Shevchenko, Tvory v 6 t. [Works in 6 v.], Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 1968

"Ukrainian Literature. A Journal of Translations" Volume 1.2004"
Shevchenko Scientific Society, New York, USA


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