It was the year I turned thirteen…
("Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo…")
It was the year I turned thirteen.
I was out shepherding the lambs.
Was it the brightly shining sun?
Why did I feel the way I did?
As though with God...
They had already called me home,
But I kept lying in the grass,
Praying to God... And I don’t know
Why praying felt so pleasant then,
To me, a little orphan boy,
And why my heart had felt such joy?
The village and the clear blue skies,
The lambs - they all seemed to rejoice!
The sun glowed warm, it didn’t blaze!
But not for long did it stay warm,
And not long were my prayers...
The sun turned red, began to burn,
Set paradise ablaze.
As though awakened, I look up:
The village had turned black,
And God’s blue heaven up above,
It also had gone dark.
I looked at all the little lambs –
They’re not my little lambs!
I turned toward the village huts –
I do not have a hut!
God gave me nothing of my own!...
And then the tears poured down,
Such bitter tears... And then a girl,
Gathering hemp not far
From where I sat, just by the road –
She must have heard me cry.
She came and greeted me,
And wiped away my tears,
And gently kissed my face…
It seemed the sun began to shine,
It seemed all things on earth were mine,
Mine all... the orchards, fields, and gardens!...
And playfully we herded them—
Somebody else’s sheep—to water.
What garbage!... Yet, when I look back,
My heart is filled with pain—it cries.
Why had the Lord not let me live
My life out in this paradise?
I would have died tilling the land,
And knowing nothing of this world,
Not been a madman in this world,
Cursing both God and man…
"Meni trynadtsiatyi mynalo…"
("Мені тринадцятий минало")
1847, Orska Fortecia (Орська фортеця)
Translated by Boris Dralyuk and Roman Koropeckyj
Taras Shevchenko, “N. N. (Meni trynadtsiatyi
mynalo…),” Zibrannia tvoriv u 6 tomakh, Кyiv: Naukova dumka, 2003, 2:
"Ukrainian Literature. A Journal of Translations" Volume 4.2004"
Shevchenko Scientific Society, New York, USA
An ok attempt at rendering this magnificent poem in English. Unfortunately, much of the beauty of the original is lost and the translators have made many questionable word choices that further detract from the original.
Alas Shevchenko still hasn’t found a voice in English, but until he does these translations will suffice.