Taras Shevchenko's poem "N.N." ("I Was Thirteen"). Translated by John Weir


Taras Shevchenko. View of Village on the Orelya River. Pencil. 1845 (Тарас Шевченко. На Орелі (село). Олівець. 1845).

Taras Shevchenko. View of Village on the Orelya River. Pencil. 1845.





Taras Shevchenko

N.N. ("I was thirteen")

("Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo…")

Translated by John Weir 

I was thirteen. I herded lambs
Beyond the village on the lea.
The magic of the sun, perhaps,
Or what was it affected me?
I felt with joy all overcome,
As though with God....
The time for lunch had long passed by,
And still among the weeds I lay
And prayed to God.... I know not why
It was so pleasant then to pray
For me, an orphan peasant boy,
Or why such bliss so filled me there?
The sky seemed bright, the village fair,
The very lambs seemed to rejoice!
The sun's rays warmed but did not sear!
But not for long the sun stayed kind,
Not long in bliss I prayed....
It turned into a ball of fire
And set the world ablaze.
As though just wakened up, I gaze:
The hamlet's drab and poor,
And God's blue heavens - even they
Are glorious no more.
I look upon the lambs I tend -
Those lambs are not my own!
I eye the hut wherein I dwell -
I do not have a home!
God gave me nothing, naught at all....
I bowed my head and wept
Such bitter tears.... And then a lass*
Who had been sorting hemp
Not far from there, down by the path,
Heard my lament and came
Across the field to comfort me;
She spoke a soothing phrase
And gently dried my weeping eyes
And kissed my tear-wet face....
It was as though the sun had smiled,
As though all things on earth were mine,
My own.... the orchards, fields and groves!...
And, laughing merrily the while,
The master's lambs to drink we drove.

Oh, how disgusting!... Yet, when I
Recall those days, my heart is sore
That there my brief life's span the Lord
Did not grant me to live and die.
There, plowing, I'd have passed away,
With ignorance my life-long lot,
I'd not an outcast be today,
I'd not be cursing Man and God! ...


* Oksana Kovalenko to whom Shevchenko dedicated the Poem to
Oksana, May 1847 while in prison in the St. Petersburg Citadel.

Taras Shevchenko, "N.N." 
"Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo…"
("Мені тринадцятий минало")
1847, Orska Fortecia (Орська фортеця).

Translated by John Weir

Taras Shevchenko. Selected poetry. Kiev, Dnipro, 1977, p. 230-232.


Original publication:
Zibrannia tvoriv u 6 tomakh, Кyiv: Naukova dumka, 2003, 2: стор. 36 – 37. 



  Тарас Шевченко


Мені тринадцятий минало;
Я пас ягнята за селом.
Чи то так сонечко сіяло,
Чи так мені чого було –
Мені так любо, любо стало,
Неначе в Бога...
Уже прокликали до паю, 
А я собі у бур’яні 
Молюся Богу, і не знаю,
Чого маленькому мені
Тоді так приязно молилось,
Чого так весело було.
Господнє небо і село,
Ягня, здається, веселилось,
І сонце гріло – не пекло.

Та не довго сонце гріло,
Не довго молилось; 
Запекло, почервоніло
І рай запалило.
Мов прокинувся, – дивлюся:
Село почорніло,
Боже небо голубеє –
І те помарніло.
Поглянув я на ягнята –
Не мої ягнята;
Обернувся я на хати –
Нема в мене хати.
Не дав мені Бог нічого!
І хлинули сльози...
Тяжкі сльози... А дівчина,
При самій дорозі,
Недалеко коло мене
Плоскінь вибирала,
Та й почула, що я плачу:
Прийшла, привітала,
Утирала мої сльози,
І поцілувала... 
Неначе сонце засіяло,
Неначе все на світі стало
Моє: лани, гаї, сади...
І ми, жартуючи, погнали
Чужі ягнята до води.
Бридня!.. А й досі, як згадаю,
То серце плаче та болить,
Чому Господь не дав дожить
Малого віку у тім раю.
Умер би, орючи на ниві,
Нічого б на світі не знав.
Не був би в світі юродивим.
Людей і [Бога] не прокляв!
(Орська фортеця,
1847 р.)


За матеріалами: Тарас Шевченко. Видання "Малий Кобзар для дітей з малюнками", видавництво "Український учитель", 1911 р. 





More Taras Shevchenko's poems translated from Ukrainian into English by John Weir:

Title page of Taras Shevchenko. Selected poetry, 1977John Weir (Ivan Fedorovych Viv'yurskiy), a Canadian of the Ukrainian lineage, was a talented English-speaking translator of the second half of the 19ih century. During his life he translated 29 Shevchenko's poetic works, a prosaic foreword to the poem of «The Haidamaky», the narrative «The Artist», the poet’s autobiographic letter and some excerpts from his diary. John Weir, being a translator with the Ukrainian root, felt melodiousness of Shevchenko’s lines, understood a social foundation of the poet's artistic images. 

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