"The Night of Taras" poem - Taras Shevchenko (Ukrainian-to-English translation by Alexander Jardine Hunter)


The Night of Taras - Taras Shevchenko's poem, translated by Alexander Jardine Hunter
These are the wandering minstrels of the Ukraine.
They play on an instrument called the KoLza which somewhat resembles a mandolin. Often in former days they were old prisoners of war - too old to work - so their Turkish captors first blinded them and then set them at liberty. Wanderin amohg the villages, guided hy some little boy, they earned their bread y singing folk-songs and hero-tales to the accompaniment of the Kobza. Shevchenko published his book of poems with the title "Kobzar".

The Night of Taras


("Tarasova nich")

By the road the Kobzar satThe Night of Taras - Taras Shevchenko's poem, translated by Alexander Jardine Hunter
And on his kobza played.
Around him in youths and maidens
Like poppy flowers arrayed.
So the Kobzar played and sang
Of manv an old old story;
Of wars with Russian, Pole and Tartar
And the ancient Cossack glory.

He sang the wars of Taras brave,
Of battle fought in the morning early,
Of the fallen Cossack's grass-grown grave
Till smiles and tears did mingle fairly.

"Once on a time the Hetmans ruled.
It comes not back again;
In olden days we masters were
This never comes aqain.
These glories of old Cossack lore
Shall be forgotten nevermore.

Ukraine, Ukraine!
Mother mine, Mother mine!
When I remember thee
How mournful should I be.

What has come of our Cossacks bold
With coats of velvet red?
What of freedom by fate foretold,
And banners the Hetmans led?

Whither is it gone?
In flames it went:
O'er hills and tombs,
The floods were sent.
The hills are wrapt
in silence grim.
On boundless sea
waves ever play;
The tombs gleam forth
with sadness dim;
O'er all the land
the foe holds sway.

Play on, oh sea,
Hills silent be:
Dance, mighty wind,
O'er all the land.
Weep, Cossack vouth.
Your fate withstand.

Now who shall our adviser be?
Then out spake Naleweiko,
A Cossack bold was he,
After him Paulioha
Like falcon swift did flee
Out spake Taras Traselo
With bitter words and true,
"That they trampled on Ukraina
For sure the Poles shall rue."
Out spake Taras Traselo,
Out spake the eagle grey.
Rescue for the faith he wrought,
Well indeed the Poles he taught.
"Let's make an end of our woe.
Arise, my gentle comrades, all
Upon the Poles with blows we'll fall."

Three days of war
did the land deliver,
From  the Delta's shore
to Trubail's river.
The fields are covered
with dead, in course,
But weary now
is the Cossack force.

Now the dirtv Polish ruler
Was feeling; very jolly,
Gathered all his lords together,
For a time of feast and folly
Taras did his Cossacks gather
To have a little talk together.

"Captains and comrades,
Mv children and brothers.
What are we now to do?
Our hated foes are feasting.
J want advice from you."

"Let  them   feast  away,
It's fine for their health,

When the sun descend,
Old night her counsel lends;
The Cossacks'll catch them,
and all of their wealth."

The sun reclined beyond the hill
The stars shone out in silence still.
Around lIic Poles the Cossack host
Was gathering like a cloud;
So soon the moon stood in the sky
When roared the cannon loud.

Woke up the Polish lordlings,
To run they found no place.
Woke up the Polish lordlings,
The foe they could not face.
The sun beheld the Polish 1ordlings,
In heaps all o'er the place.
With red serpent on the water.
River Alta brings the word -
That black vultures after slaughter
May feast on many a Polish lord.

And now the vultures hasten
The mightv dead  hi waken.
Together the Cossacks gather
Praise to God to offer.

While black vultures scream,
O'er the corpses fight.
Then the Cossacks sing
A hymn to the night;
That night of famous story
Full of blood and glory.
That night that put the Poles to sleep
The while on them their foes did creep.

Beyond the stream
in open field
A burial mound
gleams darkly:
Where the Cossack blood was shed
There grows the grass full greenly.

On the tomb a raven sits:
With hunger sore he's screaming.
Waiting near a Cossack weeps:
Of days of old he's dreaming."

The Kobzar ceased in sadness
His hands would no longer play:
Around him youths and maidens
Were wiping the tears away.
By the path the Kobzar makes his way,
To get rid of his grief he starts to play.
And now the voungsters are dancing gay.The Night of Taras - Taras Shevchenko's poem, translated by Alexander Jardine Hunter
And then he opes his lips to say:

"Skip off, my children,
To some nice warm corner,
Of griefs enough;
I'll no longer be mourner.

To the bar I'11 go
and find my good wife
And there we'll have
the time of our life.
For so we'll drink away our woes
And make no end of fun of our foes."

Taras Shevchenko
"Tarasova nich"
("Тарасова ніч")
1839, S.- Petersburg (C.- Петербург)

Translated by Alexander Jardine Hunter

Source of the original poem in Ukrainian: Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannia tvoriv: U 6 t. — K., 2003. — T. 1: Poeziia 1837-1847. — S. 85-88; S. 604-609

Source of English translation of the poem:"The Kobzar of the Ukraine". Being select Poems of Taras Shevchenko. Done into English Verse with
Biographical Fragments by Alexander Jardine Hunter, p. 28 - 35.

Source of the illustrations - the same book

The Night of Taras - Taras Shevchenko's poem, translated by Alexander Jardine Hunter

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