"The kerchief", poem of T. Shevchenko (Translated from Ukrainian by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell)

The kerchief

("U nediliu ne huliala ta na shovky zarobliala")

Even on Sundays she would bake and milk
To earn some money for a cloth of silk;
The kerchief with embroidery she wrought,
And, as she worked, she sang aloud her thought:
“Broidered one, O kerchief mine,
Laced with threads so fair and fine,
I have made you for his bliss;
He will fay me with a kiss...
Kerchief mine With colours fine!
While my tresses I unplait,
I shall saunter with my mate...
O what joy Without alloy!
In the morning, folk will stare
At a waif with kerchief rare
That’s so well laced
And fine in taste”
And as she sang, and thus embroidered it,
She by the window-ledge would watchful sit,
To hear the far-off oxen's lowing cavils,
To see the chumak(1) coming from his travels.
From past Liman(2) he brings the herds that bellow,
The merchandise that's not his own, poor fellow;
These oxen not his own he prods along,
And as he prods them, sings a doleful song:
“Fortune mine, O fortune mine,
Why are you not fair and fine
As in someone else’s house?
Do I tipple or carouse?
Do I not have ample strength?
Don’t I know the way at length
On the steppe to your caress?
Don’t I offer, for success,
All the gifts that I possess?
As a gift to offer you,
I’ve a face that’s fair to view,
But the strength my youth once tasted,
By the wealthy has been wasted;
It may he that, while I tarry,
She I love is forced to marry...
Teach me, O my destiny,
With my lot, content to be!”
In tears the wretched fellow walked
Along the prairie vast...
With mournful hoots the screech-owl perched
On grave-mounds as he passed;
The chumak's comrades spoke with grief,
In heavy sorrow cast:
“Grant, otaman(3) your leave to stop
At the next thorp this eve,
For we must bear our comrade there
Communion to receive!”
Shriven, he took the final rites;
Even a witch they sought,—
In vain!... They started out once more
With the sick man they'd brought.
Was it the weight of heavy toil
That checked his vital heat?
Was it the stress of ceaseless grief
That swept him off his feet?
Or had it been the evil eye
That vexed the youth so sore
That from the Don they drove him on,
Stretched on a waggon-floor?
He'd prayed to God his love to see,
His native town again —
With none to mourn, they buried him,
For all his prayers were vain...
Those who interred him reared a cross
Where on the steppe he lay;
A blade of grass, a fallen leaf
Borne by the stream away,
The Cossack left this fleeting life
And naught of his did stay...
And where is now that kerchief fair,
With bright embroidery laden?
Where, with her happy, childlike faith,
Is now that loving maiden?
The kerchief on a fresh-made cross
Flutters in wind and sun;
The maiden now unplaits her braids
And will become a nun...

(1) Chumaks were carters who took salt and other goods to distant trading centres (such as Odessa and the Crimea) to be sold there or bartered for other merchandise.
(2) Dnieper,s estuary.
(3) Leader, captain.

Taras Shevchenko
"U nediliu ne huliala ta na shovky zarobliala"
("У неділю не гуляла та на шовки заробляла")
1844, S.- Petersburg, (C. - Петербург)

Translated by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell

Original publication: Тарас Шевченко. Зібрання творів: У 6 т. — К., 2003. — Т. 1: Поезія 1837-1847. — С. 279-281; С. 706-708

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. 178 - 181.

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