T. Shevchenko, poem "In eternal memory of Kotliarevsky" (Translated by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell)

In eternal memory of Kotliarevsky (1)

Hryhorii Kovalenko, Portrait of Ivan Kotliarevsky
Hryhorii Kovalenko, Portrait of Ivan Kotliarevsky

("Na vichnu pamiat Kotliarevskomu")

The sun shines warm, the breezes fresh
From field to valley rush;
They bend upon the willow'd bank
The bright cranberry hush.
On the cranberry branch it rocks
A nightingale's lone nest.
But whither has the songster gone?
In vain were such a quest!
No one recalls misfortune's pang:
It dies and is no more;
We swoon to think of pure delight
That time will not restore.
And so I glance and call to mind
How often in the gloaming
His warbling from that bush was heard
And all paused in their roaming:
The wealthy man, whom fortune's hands
Rich food and dress supply
As any mother would her child,
Would never pass it by.
The orphan lad who stirs at dawn
To toil bereft of joys
Would pause and listen, and he seemed
To hear his parents' voice
Speak to him in endearing tones:
His heart new joy must know,
The whole world seems like
Easter Day And men more human grow!
Perhaps a maid who every day
Awaits her sweetheart there
And languishes in solitude,
Bemused in her despair,—
She looks for him along the road,
By willows she will cry,
But when she hears the nightingale
Her streams of tears grow dry;
Smiling and listening as she walks,
Now through the grove she's gone
As if from converse with her love —
And still the bird sings on
Melodiously as if it prayed to God—
Until a wicked fellow thither trod,
A dagger in his bootleg—then the song
Thins and grows silent.
Sure, to sing were wrong!
His evil heart to music's charms is proof
And from the songster's voice would stay aloof;
Let him rage on, until he meets his end,
The croaking raven as his only friend.
The valley sleeps; without ado
The nightingale is slumbering too.
Then down the vale the dawn-wind blows
And through the grove its echo goes
Like God’s own word.
Poor sons of toil
Rise up to till the stubborn soil.
Cows roam the woods; and many a daughter
Comes to the well to draw up water;
Sun dawns—it seems a paradise!
The willow smiles and earth replies!
The villain now at last will weep...
So was it once—but change is deep:
The sun shines warm, the wind breathes forth
From field to vale its power;
It bends upon the willow’d bank
The cranberry’s bright flower.
On the cranberry branch it rocks
A bare, forsaken nest.
But whither has the songster gone?
In vain were such a quest!
But recently among us in Ukraine
Old Kotliarevsky warbled thus, but now
Is still and leaves in solitary pain
The hills and sea whence his poetic prow
Pushed with Aeneas and his vagrant band,
Guiding them onward to a Promised Land.
All that remains and stands in grief
Like Troy’s dark skeleton;
Only his glory blazes forth
As radiant as the sun;
The minstrel will not die, for
Heaven Eternal fame will give;
You will hold sway above us, Sire,
As long as men shall live;
As long as sunlight floods the sky,
Your name’s superlative!(2)
O saintly spirit!
Take my speech sincere,
Though inarticulate, and hold it dear!
And though no more in yonder groves you range,
Fly down to me for a brief interchange,
Sing of Ukraine as you were wont to do,
That in this alien land(3)
I’ll smile with you;
Nay, rejoice as
I shall contemplate
How your great words of power could translate
All Cossack glory to a waifs poor home.
Fly down, O mighty eagle, where I roam
Alone in this wide world, so strange to me;
For here I gaze upon the vast, deep sea,
And fain would cross it—but they grant no bark!(4)
Then to Aeneas, and my kin, I hark;
As I recall them, like a child I weep,
And waves go roaring on across the deep.
Perhaps I too am blind, and see no more—
Perhaps misfortune plagues the farther shore
And there, as here, an orphan scorned must be!
Yet let them mock; there, seas roar pleasantly,
And there the sun and moon more brightly shine,
The grave-mounds with the wind their words combine;
That land would heal this loneliness of mine.

O saintly spirit! Take my speech sincere,
Though inarticulate, and hold it dear!
And though no more in yonder groves you range,
Fly down to me for a brief interchange:
Sing of Ukraine! Your converse were not strange.

(1)Ivan Kotliarevsky (1769-1838), a Ukrainian writer who in 1798 began a new era in Ukrainian literature vrith his travestied “Aeneid,” the first major work of art written in the Ukrainian idiom as used in the Poltava region. The subject, of course, was borrowed from Vergil's epic, but its locale was changed to conform completely to the Ukrainian milieu, in which Aeneas and his roving band became a troupe of boisterous Cossacks and the Olympian gods and goddesses were representatives of Ukraine’s wealthy landowning class. Although rendered in a humorous vein, the poem seriously depicted the social conditions prevailing in Ukraine in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and exposed the excesses of serfdom. The “Aeneid” proved so powerful in its appeal that it spurred the younger writers of the day to abandon the use of the Russian language and write their works in Ukrainian. Its influence on young Shevchenko was immense, and the melodiousness of its speech prompted him to compare Kotliarevsky to a nightingale whose warbles attracted and delighted all, regardless of their station in life. With his ever popular operetta Natalka-Poltavka, and the comedy Moskal-Charivnik (Moskal the Wizard), Kotliarevsky also initiated a “modem” trend in Ukrainian drama. On the basis of these three works he came to be considered as “the father of Ukrainian literary renascence.”
(2)The above six lines have been often applied to Shevchenko himself.
(3)Shevchenko at that time lived in St. Petersburg.
(4)The poet expresses his yearning to return to Ukraine. He cannot go, however, ecause he is still a serf and attached to his lord, who will not grant him permission, a result, he turns to Kotliarevsky’s poem and, immersing himself in it, is someat relieved of his longing.

Taras Shevchenko
"Na vichnu pamiat Kotliarevskomu"
("На вічну пам'ять Котляревському" )
1838, 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. 89-91; S. 609-611

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. 10 - 13

Recent comments for the page
«T. Shevchenko, poem "In eternal memory of Kotliarevsky" (Translated by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell)»:
Total amount of comments: 0    + Leave a comment