("Zore moia vechirniaia,
Ziidy nad horoiu..."/
"Зоре моя вечірняя,
Зійди над горою...")
Translated by Olga Shartse.
My Evening Star, rise in the sky
Above the mountain lofty,
And talk to me in my exile,
Quietly and softly.
Tell me how beyond that mountain
Crimson sunsets glow and fade,
How the rainbow dips for water
In the Dnieper far away,
How the poplars, tall and slender,
Throw their leafy branches wide,
How the willow droops in sadness,
Weeping by the river's side,
Arms spread wide upon the water —
In those green and tender arms
Little babies nightly rocking,
Babes that had not been baptised....
How the werewolf lurks till morning
By a lone, forgotten grave,
And the screech-owl wails its warning,
Grief and trouble to presage.
How the dream-flower in the valley
Opens in the summer night....
As for people... Never mind them.
Them I know, I know all right.
Know them well. My Evening Star!
You're my one and only friend!
Ah, who knows how matters are
Now at home in our Ukraine?
I do know. And I will tell you,
Sleep tonight shall be forgot,
And tomorrow you shall whisper
Everything Eve said to God.
Our village! It's a joy indeed
A village in Ukraine to see!
A painted Easter egg, no less,
White houses peep through trees in bloom,
And on the hill a mansion looms,
A perfect marvel. On all sides
Grow tall and stately poplar trees,
Then forests green, and rolling fields,
Beyond the Dnieper mountains rise,
And God seems smiling from the skies!
Ah, village mine! Those homes are gay!
The mansion, too, from far away —
May nettles choke the cursed place,
May from the earth it be erased,
So people never find its trace!
Once to this village, blest and fair,
In our Ukraine for beauty famed,
There came— I do not know from where—
A prince. With him his princess came.
They were not old, a youngish pair.
They lived in wealth, the owners sole
Of that great mansion on the knoll,
The shaded pool in the ravine,
The sloping gardens in between,
The poplars, too, and willow trees,
And wind mills flapping in the breeze,
And, following the river's bend,
Our village stretching without end.
Once 'twas a place of merriment.
In summer and in winter both
There would be music, wine would flow
In streams to slake the bibbers' drought.
The prince among his guests would ply,
Fill up the glasses of the shy,
And cheer them with a loud "Vivat!"
They'd shout and sing and drink some more,
Till they collapsed upon the floor.
Next morning they'd revive to start
Their round of revelry again,
And so it went on every day.
The prince's peasants moaned and groaned,
The stewards, meanwhile, blessed their lot.
The drunks, uncaring shouted on:
"Our glorious prince! The patriot!
Good brother to the poor! Vivat!"
This brother to the poor, whereat,
The poor man's daughter and his cow
Takes for his own. God doesn't know,
Or does, perhaps, but holds His peace.
The princess in her room he keeps,
The door is locked, he has the key,
This glorious prince. Where help to seek?
She ran away and married him,
Her parents' words she would not heed,
They said to her: "Don't reach so far,"
A prince she'd have. And there you are!
A princess now, to her distress.
You'll die, dear heart, in loneliness,
A primrose in the night in spring.
You'll wither 'ere you know a thing,
The Maker's praises how to sing,
How love can be a lovely thing....
О God, she wanted so to live,
She wanted to be loved and love,
If only for a year, an hour,
Move in the bright and splendid world.
'Twas not to be.... Yet she'd had all,
AM things a mother could provide
Were by her mother given her.
In beauty rare she'd clothed her child,
And like a painted saint you were,
To gaze upon and to adore....
Ah, my princess young and fair,
Heavy is my heart and sore!
You should live the Lord to bless,
Kindly deeds performing,
With your angel's loveliness
Hearts around you warming.
But alas! It seems your shining,
Starry eyes were fated
To grow dim in lonely pining.
Did the Lord dictate it?
Lord, О Lord! Both will and wisdom
On this earth to us you give,
Virtue, too, and also beauty....
But You will not let us live,
You won't let us long admire
This your earthly paradise,
Gaze our fill, say all our prayers
Ere in sleep we close our eyes.
It's dreary living in this world
If you have nobody to love.
My princess young, her fate unblest,
Seemed doomed to pine in loneliness,
Her beauty wilted, heart grown cold,
To perish slowly, comfortless.
An awful thought! She prayed the Lord,
To longer let her live implored,
For now she had someone to love:
She was to be a mother soon,
And loved the baby in her womb.
The Maker granted her to know
A woman's greatest happiness,
To see her child and kiss its face,
Her first-born tenderly caress,
And nurse the darling at her breast...
Oh children, by you we are blest!
How truly infinite God's grace!
Tears dried up, they were no more,
Radiantly shone the sun,
My young princess was transformed
Now she had her little one.
Born anew she seemed'to be,
Gay and laughing happily.
For the lovely princess wee
Stitching tiny cambric vests
And embroidering the sleeves
With the finest silken threads.
And herself she bathed the girl,
Rocked and fed her at her breast,
Most great ladies in the world
Only bear their babies,
Nursing, bathing, and the rest
Being not for ladies!
Then they moan: "I've been forsaken
By my Paul!" or, say, Filat.
All you did for him was bear him,
Must he love you just for that?
My princess was a model mother,
Herself her little girl she reared,
She kept away her drunkard husband,
And never let him interfere.
Like a tender little stalk
Grew the baby in her care.
She had now begun to talk,
Mother taught her words to say,
"Mummy" was the word she taught,
As for "D addy"—she did not...
Coloured picture books she bought
In the Romny village shop,
Told the baby fairy-tales,
Taught her how to say her prayers,
And her ABC in play
From those coloured pictures gay.
Every blessed night she bathed
And to sleep she rocked her babe,
Not a speck of dust she'd let
Fail upon the little saint.
Hovering o'er the baby's bed,
WakefuHy the mother stayed,
With her tender, loving gaze
On the sweetly sleeping face,
Dreaming of the match she'd make
For the angel, bless her fate,
Sorrowing that when she wed
Her long hair she must unplait...
Here, the memory of her prince,
Drunk, in uniform arrayed,
Came to her. She closed her eyes,
Filled with bitter, scalding tears,
Baby murmured in her sleep
And the princess seemed to hear:
"Don't cry, Mummy dear, don't cry,
Don't unplait my long, long hair,
It is better in the braid...."
Ah, this child, so sweet and fair,
Made her mother's every day
Each a joyful holiday!
Tall and winsome like a poplar,
Miracle of beauty rare,
Grew the child... But not much longer
Was the princess to delight
In her fortune. For God punished
Our good saint. But why? But why?
For what sin? It puzzles people,
Worries them, for they don't know
Why does virtue die while evil
Ever comes alive once more?
The princess, ailing, took to bed.
This sobered up the husband.
To nearby villages he sped
And all the leeches summoned.
The leeches came. Her blood they drew,
And many remedies they tried.
They treated her with every cure,
Until the luckless princess died.
She was no more. And once again
The music rang in wild abandon.
An orphan, in the village stranded,
Her one and only child remained!
A winnowed leaf upon the ground,
A barefoot waif, uncared, unfed,
Her clothes in dirt and tattered shreds,
Out in the sun she stayed all day,
Dug in the sand and nibbled grass,
In puddles with the urchins played.
Dear heart, go bathe your face! Alas,
Your mother'd never know you now,
Her only child, among the crowd.
She'd think that you had died as well.
Go bathe your face so she could tell
The lovely child she left behind,
So she could bless and thank the Lord
For sending you this fortune kind.
She bathed her face. Some kindly friends
Took her to boarding-school in town,
In Kiev. And what happened then
We'll live and see.
The music rang,
The prince made merry, food galore,
The mansion shook with drunken roars,
While famine mowed the people down.
The famine was raging all over Ukraine.
God's punishment. Thousands to hunger succumbed,
While still in the ricks rotted noblemen's grain,
They even sold chaff to the merchants for gain.
They welcomed the famine and heavens they prayed
For only a couple more years of this dearth,
And then they'd show Paris and lands far away
What their sort of noblemen-farmers were worth!
And God was asleep. For indeed 'twould be strange
If He saw it all yet from anger refrained.
Or else He's too patient, too patient by far....
"Believe ye and perish!" the prophets declaim.
But how to believe? By closing my eyes?
I'd like to believe, but my heart won't comply.
The years went by, and many died
As famine raged throughout Ukraine.
Of prince's serfs it took its toll,
The hoarded grain had rotted all.
He drank and revelled as before,
Awaiting Jews to buy his stores
In vain... Again the corn grew tall,
The grateful people thanked the Lord,
And then the princess young was brought
From Kiev home. It was as though
The sun above the village rose.
Her mother's image she'd become
With hazel eyes and fine dark brows,
But she was always pensive, sad....
Why did she brood? Why did she frown?
Had she been born that way, perhaps?
Was it her nature to be glum?
Or could it be that her young heart
Already knew the pain of love
And separation? No, not that.
She had been like a swallow gay,
Untroubled in her Kiev school,
The whole wide world when she surveyed
By peeping from a nest secure,
Until the country destitute
On coming home she saw. 'Twas then
That she began to sigh and brood.
Like a gentle little dove
She flew about from home to home,
Everywhere she brought her love,
Called on all, saw everyone.
Some she cheered with kindly words,
And to others carried food.
She devoted all her days
To the needy, doing good,
Helping all. Her loving care
She gave orphans more than others,
Brought them home with her, and they
Called her mother, sainted mother.
All the village folk adored her,
And the Lord to keep her prayed....
In the meantime, to the prince
Jewish dealers came to trade,
And he gladly sold for cash
All he had of grain and chaff.
Out the peasants went to thrash,
Men whom famine had not claimed.
Strength, praise be, they still retained
Thrashing took them two-three hours,
Then they winnowed all the grain.
That same night a great carouse,
Celebrating his good yield,
Held the prince. They had their spree
In the grove, not in the house:
There his daughter lay asleep.
The noise, the yells, the songs obscene,
The drunken bawling! Tipsy jades
With bawdy laughter shrieked and screamed.
The host called out: "Let's merry be,
The while my daughter lies asleep!"
The daughter had not gone to sleep,
But locked fast in her darkened room
She gazed up at the crimson moon,
As it appeared from shadows deep
To glow above the mountains high
And stir them, fancied she, to life.
The oaks like silent ghosts came out
Into the open from the woods,
And then an owl without a sound
Flew to the field from 'neath the roof,
And frogs croaked loudly on the lawn...
Look on and marvel, feast your eyes
Upon God's starry world till dawn,
Upon the cloudless, peaceful skies...
Look on, while moonlight gives you warmth
And stars deny you sleep — look on!
Gazing at the splendid moonglow,
Well until the midnight hour,
Drooping low before the window,
Leaning sadly on her arm,
Sat my princess, watched the glowing....
Softly then began to cry,
Did her heart, perhaps, give.warning
That her evil hour was nigh?
We can't know. She stemmed her tears,
Smiled a little smile — why weep?
Left the window, said her prayers,
And was very soon asleep.
The drunkards sprawled upon the ground
Amid their bottles. All were down,
Dead to the world. All but our host.
He drained his glass and went indoors.
He kept his feet, he did not fall.
His walk was steady. Dirty swine!
Where to? What's on your evil mind?
And treading softly on the floor
He turned the key, unlocked the door,
And stole up to his child. Wake up!
Wake up, pure dove, wake up, wake up!
And kill the snake before he bites!
Just kill him, God is on your side!
As Beatrice Cenci plunged her knife
And killed the Cardinal, her sire,
The Maker's punishment defying.
But no, she did not wake, she slept.
God saw it all but silent kept,
Condoning such atrocious acts....
No sound was heard. The minutes passed.
Then suddenly a shriek, a cry,
Then sobs that in the dark of night
But owls could hear. Then, not a stir,
No sound again. And all at once
The hayricks went up in a blaze.
The stars were dimmed. But not a word
Was heard, and not a voice was raised.
The nobles snored on unaware,
While crowds of people came and stared
As smoke to heaven wove its way...
The guests awoke next day at dawn,
That things were really bad they saw,
And promptly left the prince alone,
Without regret or second thought.
Thus let us leave the reprobate,
And God will, too, forsake him.
Only you won't be forsaken
Or released by wicked fate!
You crushed and broken little bloom!
Your father's sins to expiate
Forevermore you will be doomed.
Her father's sins! Oh wicked fate!
Oh cruel, oh relentless fate!
At least forsake her in old age,
Or even in a country strange,
Or in a wilderness. But nay,
You'll grimly follow everywhere,
You'll stalk her to her very grave,
You'll kill her and you'll bury her.
No one knew, none could explain
Where the princess could have gone.
Must have perished in the flames
On that night, thought everyone.
The village was in mourning plunged.
The lofty mansion on the hill—
The prince now deadly ill—looked glum.
He could not move, he was so ill,
But no one cared the prince to nurse,
And no one ever came to call
As he lay all alone and curst
In his dark and evil hall.
The village folk, recovering,
Together prayed and begged the Lord
To bring their princess back to them.
But nought of her was ever heard,
And she would never come again....
Where had she gone, where was she now?
She was a nun, she took the veil,
In holy Kiev made her vows.
To live and love she had been born,
A saint with loveliness divine
Above the sinful world to shine
And solace bring to everyone.
But fate ruled otherwise. A nun,
She'd waste away the years to come...
One day, my ramblings in Ukraine
Brought me to ancient Chihirin,
Where on the moor beyond the sands
A lonely monastery stands
With willow bushes overgrown.
And it was there that one old nun
Told me that once, some time ago,
A princess knocked upon their gate,
She'd come from somewhere far away
Beyond the Dnieper. Here she stayed
With them, and here she passed away.
"A woman still quite young she died,
And very beautiful besides.
The sun was hot, she'd walked for days,
It made her ill. And she grew worse,
She lingered for about three weeks,
And everything she told to us,
To Sister Xenia and me....
What pilgrimages she had made!
She had been nearly everywhere.
And here the poor soul passed away.
Her sacred grave is over there....
The cross has not as yet been placed...."
February 24, 1858.
Taras Shevchenko, the poem "The Princess"
"Kniazhna" ("Княжна"), поема
("Zore moia vechirniaia,
Ziidy nad horoiu..."
"Зоре моя вечірняя,
Зійди над горою...")
Translated by Olga Shartse.