Taras Shevchenko's poem "N.N." ("My thirteenth year was wearing on"). Ukrainian-to-English translation by Vera Rich

Taras Shevchenko


"My thirteenth year was wearing on"

("Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo" / "Мені тринадцятий минало")

My thirteenth year was wearing on — 
Grazing the lambs, one day I was 
Beyond the village. The sun shone 
Perhaps? or was it without cause?
Such joy, such joy, as at the throne 
Of God I felt...
They’d called already for our food, 
But I, among the weeds, remained 
Alone, and prayed to God. Indeed, 
Why I, a small boy, wished to pray 
So eagerly, I do not know,
Nor how my happiness was caused.
Around, the village and the Lord’s 
Sky, the lambs, it seemed, rejoiced,
The sun shone warm—yet did not scorch.
Not long the sun shone fair and warm,
Not long my prayers I murmured,
The sun blazed fiery red above 
And set this heaven burning.
As if aroused from sleep, I looked:
The village had grown dark,
Even God’s azure sky above —
That too was cheerless, stark.
I turned my eyes towards the lambs —
These lambs were not mine;
I looked yonder to the houses —
No home there I’d find.
God did not give me anything!
And tears started flowing...
Bitter tears... But a young girl,
Over by the roadside,
Only a few steps away,
Was plucking hemp, and she 
Heard my sobs, came to my side 
And spoke kind words to me,
Gently wiped away my tears,
And kissed me tenderly.

It seemed once more the sun shone bright,
As if the whole wide world were mine:
The fields, the spinneys, and the orchards...
And laughing, we began to drive 
Those lambs, that were not ours, to water.

Idle dreams, indeed! But even 
Now, when I recall, my heart 
Aches, weeps : why God let me not pass 
My little span in that dear heaven?
Ploughing the field I would have died,
Ignorant of it all, would not 
Have lived on earth an outcast’s life,
Would not have cursed both men and [God]!


Taras Shevchenko's poem
"N.N." / "Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo"
("N.N." / "Мені тринадцятий минало")
1847, Fortress of Orsk, (Орська фортеця)

Translated by Vera Rich

Source of the original poem in Ukrainian:
Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannja tvoriv: U 6 t. — Kyjiv, "Naukova dumka", 2003. Том 2: Поезія 1847 - 1861, stor. 36 - 37; stor. 574. 

Source of English translation of the poem: Taras Shevchenko."Song out of Darkness". Selected poems translated from the Ukrainian by Vera Rich. London, 1961, p. 89 - 90.

Here you can find Ukrainian text of the Taras Shevchenko's poem:
Original poem in Ukrainian

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