Taras Shevchenko's poem "Bewitched" (Ukrainian-to-English translation by Vera Rich)

Taras Shevchenko


("Prychynna" / "Reve ta stohne Dnipr shyrokyi")

Roaring and groaning rolls the Dnipro,
An angry wind howls through the night,
Bowing and bending the high willows,
And raising waves to mountain heights.     
And, at this time, the moon's pale beams
Peeped here and there between the clouds,
Like a small boat on the blue sea,
Now rising up, now sinking down.
Still the third cock-crow was not crowed,     
And not a creature chanced to speak,
Only owls hooting in the grove,
And now and then the ash-tree creaked.
Such a night, beneath the mountain,
There, beside the spinney     
Which shows black above the water,
Something white is glimmering.
Maybe a rusalka-baby,
Wandering by stealth,
Seeks her mother or a lad     
To tickle him to death.
It is no rusalka roaming,
But a young girl wandering,
And she does not know, herself,
Spell-bound, what she's doing.     
Thus the old wise-woman made it,
So to ease her grieving,
That, by wandering at night,
Do you see, while sleeping,
She could seek the Cossack who     
Left her last year - he promised
That he would return to her,
But probably he perished!
Not with a silk kerchief have
The Cossack's eyes been swathed,     
Not by her caressing tears
Were his fair cheeks bathed:
On a foreign field, an eagle
Plucked his eyes away.
And the wolves devoured his flesh —     
Such must be his fate!
In vain the young girl waits for him,
Every night, in vain;
The dark-browed youth will not return
Nor greet her once again.     
He will not have her long plait loosened,
Nor her kerchief tied;
Not in a bed, but in her coffin
Shall the orphan lie!
Such is her fortune...
O God of all mercy,     
Why dost Thou punish a maiden so young?
Because the poor child came to love so sincerely
The Cossack's dark eyes?   
Ah, forgive her this wrong!
Whom then should she love?   
Without father or mother,
Alone, like a bird on a far distant shore.    
She is so young - O send her good fortune,
Or strangers will mock her and laugh her to scorn.
Is the dove to be blamed that she loves her heart's darling?
Is he to be blamed that the hawk comes to slay?
Grieving and cooing and weary of living,     
She flies all around, seeks him lost from the way.
Fortunate bird, she can soar high above,
Can wing up to God and implore for her dear.
But whom, then, O whom, can the orphan approach,
And who is to tell her, who knows where her love     
Is passing the night? Is he in a dark grove?
Does he water his horse in the Danube's swift stream?
Or perhaps there's another, another he loves,
And she, the dark-browed, is a past, faded dream?
If she were but given the wings of an eagle,    
She would find her beloved beyond the blue waves,
In life she would love him and strangle her rival,
And if he were dead, she would share the same grave.
Not so the heart loves as to share with another,
Nor is it content with what God has to give,     
Not wishing to live and not wishing to sorrow;
"Sorrow", says thought, overwhelming with grief.
Such is Thy will, then, O God, good and great,
Such is her fortune, such is her fate.
So still she walks, she speaks no sound,
The Dnipro flows on silently,
The wind has scattered the black clouds,
And lain to rest beside the sea.
And from the sky, the moon is pouring
Its light upon the grove and water,
And all is resting quietly...
But see! From out the Dnipro's tide,
Jump little children, laughing there.
"Come, let us sun ourselves!" they cry,
"Our sun is up!" (No clothes they wear,
But braids of sedge, for they are girls.)
"Are you all here?" the mother calls.
"Come, let us look for supper.
Let us play and sport together!
Sing a little song together!"             
"Whisht! Whisht! Will o' the wisp!
Mother gave me life — once born,
Unbaptized, she laid me down.
Moon above,  Dearest dove,
Come and sup with us tonight:
In the reeds a Cossack lies,
In the reeds and sedge, a silver
Ring is shining on. his finger;     
Young he is, with fine dark eyebrows,
We found him yesterday in the oak-grove.
Shine upon the open field
So that we may sport at will,
While the witches are still flying,     
Till the morning cocks are crying,
Shine for us ... Look, something goes
Moving there beneath the oak!
Whisht! Whisht! Will o' the wisp!
Mother gave me life - once born,
Unbaptized, she laid me down."
The unbaptized babes shrieked with laughter,
The grove replied; wild shrieks abound,
Like the fierce Horde hell-bent on slaughter.
Rush to the oak  and not a sound...
The unbaptized stop in their tracks,
They look : there something glimmers,
Some creature climbing in the tree
To the topmost limit.     
See, it is that self-same girl
Who, in her sleep, would wander;
Such is the bewitching spell
That the witch laid on her!
On a slender topmost branch     
She stood... her heart was dwining.
She looked round, searching on all sides
Then down she started climbing.
Round the oak, rusalka-babies
Waiting, held their breath,     
Seized her as she came, poor soul,
And tickled her to death.
Long, indeed, they gazed upon her,
Wondering at her beauty...
The third cock-crow rang - at once     
They splashed into the water.
The skylark trilled its melody
Soaring ever up,
The cuckoo called its plaintive call
Sitting in the oak,     
The nightingale burst into song,
It echoed thorough the spinney,
Behind the hills - a rosy blush,
The ploughman starts his singing.
The grove is black against the water     
Where the Poles once crossed,
Above the Dnipro, the high mounds
With bluish light are touched.
A rustle passes through the grove,
Sets dense osiers whispering;     
There beneath the oak she lies,
By the footpath, sleeping.
Sound she sleeps, quite deaf, it seems,
To the cuckoo calling,
Does not count how long she'll live...     
Sound asleep she's fallen.
In the meanwhile, from the oak-grove
Gomes a Cossack riding,
Under him, the raven horse
Can hardly move with tiredness.
"You are weary, my old friend,
But we shall rest today:
There's a cottage where a girl
Will open us the gate.
Or, perhaps, it is, already,     
Opened to another...
Good horse - faster; good horse - faster!
Hurry, hurry homewards!"
But the raven horse is weary,
On he walks, half-falling,     
Near the Cossack's heart, it seems
There's an adder crawling.
"Look, it is our leafy oak-tree...
There she is! Dear God!
See, she fell asleep while waiting,     
Ah my grey-winged dove!"
He left the horse and rushed towards her:
"O my God, my God!"
He calls her name and kisses her...
But it does no good.     
"Why, then have they parted us,
Me from you?" He broke
Into frenzied laughs, and dashed
His head against the oak!
The girls go out to reap the rye,     
And, as girls do, they start their songs,
How mothers bid their sons "good-bye",
How Tartars fought the whole night long.
They go... beneath a verdant oak,
A tired horse is standing by,     
And near the horse, a handsome young
Cossack and a maiden lie.
Curious (it must be told),
They tiptoe near to frighten them,
But when they saw that he was killed,     
In sudden fear, they turned to run.
All her young friends gathered round,
In girlish teardrops bathed,
All his comrades gathered round,
And started digging graves.     
The priests came with the holy banners,
All the bells were tolling,
The village paid their last respects
By custom old and holy.
There beside the road, they raised
Twin mounds among the rye.
There was no one there to ask
How it was they died.
A maple and a fir they planted
Over the young lad,     
And a bright-flowered guelder-rose
At the maiden's head.
Here the cuckoo often flies
To call above them still;
Here the nightingale will fly,     
Each night, to sing his fill,
Sings to his heart's content, and carols
Till the moon has risen,
Till, again, rusalka-babies
Steal out from the river.

Taras Shevchenko
"Prychynna" / "Reve ta stohne Dnipr shyrokyi"
("Причинна" / "Реве та стогне Дніпр широкий")
1837, S.- Petersburg, (C. - Петербург)

Translated by Vera Rich

Source of the original poem in Ukrainian:
Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannia tvoriv: U 6 t. — K., 2003. — T. 1:
Poeziia 1837-1847. — S. 71 - 78; S. 595 - 598.

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. 1 - 6.

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