Taras Shevchenko's poem "The drowned maiden" (A ballad'). Ukrainian-to-English translation by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell

The drowned maiden
(A ballad')

("Utoplena" / "Viter v hai ne huliaie - nochi spochyvaie")

Within the grove the wind's at rest;
It does not stir the hedge;
Only at times it barely breathes
And gently asks the sedge:
"Who is it, who, upon this bank,
That combs her lovely hair?
Who is it, who, across the stream,
That tears her tresses there?
Who is it, who?" it gently asks
With breath but barely drawn;
Then falls a-drowsing till the sky
Grows rosy with the dawn.
"Who is it, who?" you, too, may ask,
Inquisitive young maids.
Upon this bank, a daughter sits;
On that, her mother fades.
The whole thing happened long ago
In this Ukraine of mine.
A widow in a village lived,
Within a cottage fine.
White cheeks she had, and hazel eyes,
And a tall, slender shape.
She, richly dressed, a lady seemed,
Whichever way you'd gape.
And she was youthful, to be sure!
And to a maid so young,
And even more a widow fair,
Great hordes of Cossacks clung,
Pursuing her with Cossack love,
And soon the sequel came:
The widow brought a daughter forth
Without a hint of shame.
She gave her birth, and did not care!
She left the babe to others
To bring up in a nearby thorp,
This most unkind of mothers!...
Just wait and see what happens next!
While others reared her child,
The widow, on all working days
And Sundays running wild,
Just drank and had a merry time
With married men and single
Until her mirror gave her news
That made vexation tingle;
She had not been aware till now
That youth and grace were dead...
What pangs! The mother withers up,
The daughter blossoms red,
And grows up into maidenhood,
A beauty bright of eye,
Like some tall poplar in a field,
She slender grew, and high.
“Of Annie I am not afraid!"
Her mother used to sing,
As all the Cossacks like a vine
About the girl would cling.
More than the rest, a fisherman,
Though sturdy, young and canny,
Would pine and swoon whene'er he met
The curly-headed Annie.
The aging mother marked it all,
And raved in agony:
“Just think! That ugly, ragged thing!
A barefoot bastard, she!
Have you grown up to chase the lads
And mock your mother s grace?
Just wait, my dear, and very soon
Г11 put you in your place!...
Thus in a rage she gnashed her teeth.
Such mothers can be found
Who are not by a tender love
Or true affection bound.
What woe, dear maidens, it must be,
What proof of hell's own art,
To have a slender, stately shape
And not a mothers heart!
Your slender shape will soon be bent,
Your beauty fades away
Before you know that it has gone...
And people laugh and say,
Remembering your youthful years,
“The good-for-nothing slut!"
Then bitterly did Annie weep;
Her soul was deeply cut;
And yet she did not know the cause
Why oaths on her were plastered,
And why the mother without shame
Would call her child a bastard.
A bastard!...
Monster that you are!
Whom do you so torment?
Why do you torture to the death
Your child whom God once sent?
Her cruel tortures did not cease,
Yet they were put to rout:
A poppy in a garden-plot,
Sweet Annie blossomed out;
Like cranberry blossoms in the vale
Impearled with morning dew,
Fair Annie's cheeks when washed with tears
Waxed prettier to view.
“Some magic guards her! Ah, but wait!"
The savage mother hissed:
“The old witch I shall go and see;
On poison Г11 insist!"
She found the witch and got the draught,
She mixed it with some water,
And quickly, in the dark of night,
She gave it to her daughter,—
Who did not die.
The mother cursed The hour and the day
When she had brought into the world
This child of her dismay.
—“It's stifling hot. In yonder pond
To bathe we'll seek with zest!"
—“Mother, I come." Upon the bank
Sweet Annie there undressed,
Undressed and spread her white shift out;
Upon the farther shore
The curly-headed fisherman
Knelt swooning to adore.
(I, too, have once... but let’s forget!
The thought still makes me blush...)
He sees the lass, like any child,
Pat a cranberry bush,
Then bend and spread her slender shape
To warm it in the sun.
Her raging mother at the sight
By frenzy is undone, —
Now blue, now yellow, shows her face;
Dishevelled, barefoot, stout,
She froths at mouth like one possessed
And tears her tresses out.
She rushed at Annie then, and sank
Her fingers in her hair.
“Ah, mother, mother! What's amiss?"
The pond above the pair
With seething groan its waters closed
And covered up them both.
The curly-headed fisherman
Dove headlong, nothing loath,
Into the pond; with frantic stroke
Through the blue waves he surged
Until he reached the spot; plunged down
And presendy emerged,
And brought drowned Annie to the shore,
And laid her on the bank,
And from her braids he pulled away
Her mothers fingers dank.
—“My sweetheart! O my dearest love!
Open your lovely eyes!
Look! Smile at me! Do you refuse?
Can you no more arise?”
He weeps, he falls beside her there,
Her poor, dead eyes he opes
And kisses them. “She hears me not!
And dead are all my hopes!”
There on the gende sand she lies,
Her snow-white arms outspread;
Behold beside her on the shore
Her monstrous mother, dead,
With eyes that from their sockets bulge;
Into the yellow sands,
As if in savage pain, she sinks
Her crabbed, old, blue hands!
Long wept the fisher: “IVe no kin,
No fortune left to give!
Together in the water here
For ever let us live!”
He raised her, kissed her in his arms;
The water groaned, as pained,
Then parted and enfolded them
And not a trace remained.
And since that time the pond, once clear,
Is overgrown with sedge;
Young women there no longer bathe,
They view from far its edge;
And when they glimpse it, cross themselves
And say the place is haunted.
An utter sadness shrouds the spot...
At night, by time undaunted,
The mother from the water comes,
On the far shore she sits,
Dishevelled, horrible, and blue;
Close her wet garment fits;
In silence to this side she looks
And rends her straggled hair...
And meanwhile the blue water parts
And heaves up Annie fair;
She shudders in her nakedness
And sits upon the sand;
Hither the fisher also swims
With pondweed in each hand
To make a shirt to cover her;
He kisses both her eyes
Then once more dives in modesty
To see in such a guise
The naked maiden’s lovely form...
And still no mortal knows
Of wonders that take place at night;
But as the darkness flows
The wind is whispering to the sedge:
‘Who is it? Who is there?
Who sits so sadly on the bank
And combs her flowing hair?”

Taras Shevchenko
"Utoplena" / "Viter v hai ne huliaie - nochi spochyvaie"
("Утоплена" / "Вітер в гаї не гуляє - ночі спочиває")
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. 202-206; S. 680-681

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. 137 - 142

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