"To my fellow-countrymen, in Ukraine and not in Ukraine, living, dead and as yet unborn my friendly epistle" poem of Taras Shevchenko (Ukrainian-to-English translation by Vera Rich)

Taras Shevchenko


("I mertvym, i zhyvym, i nenarodzhenym zemliakam moim v Ukraini i ne v Ukraini moie druzhnieie poslaniie"

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.
I John iv, 20.

Dusk is falling, dawn is breaking,
And God’s day is ending,
Once again a weary people 
And all things are resting.
Only I, like one accursed,
Night and day stand weeping 
At the many-peopled cross-roads,
And yet no one sees me.
No one sees me, no one knows, 
Deaf, they do not hearken,
They are trading with their fetters, 
Using truth to bargain,
And they all neglect the Lord,—
In heavy yokes they harness 
People; thus they plough disaster,
And they sow disaster...
But what shoots spring up? You’ll see 
What the harvest yields them!
Shake your wits awake, you brutes,
You demented children!
Look upon your native country,
On this peaceful eden;
Love with overflowing heart 
This expanse of ruin!
25 Break your chains, and live as brothers! 
Do not try to seek,
Do not ask in foreign lands 
For what can never be 
Even in heaven, let alone 
In a foreign region...
In one’s own house,— one’s own truth, 
One’s own might and freedom.
There is no other Ukraina,
No second Dnipro in the world,
Yet you strike out for foreign regions,
To seek, indeed, the blessed good,
The holy good, and freedom, freedom,
Fraternal brotherhood. ... You found 
And carried from that foreign region,
And to Ukraine brought, homeward-bound,
The mighty power of mighty words,
And nothing more than that. ... You scream, too,
That God, creating you, did not mean you 
To worship untruth, then, once more,
You bow down as you bowed before,
And once again the very skin you 
Tear from your sightless, peasant brothers,
Then, to regard the sun of truth 
In places not unknown, you shove off 
To German lands. If only you’d 
Take all your miserable possessions,
The goods your ancestors have stolen,
Then with its holy heights, the Dnipro 
Would remain bereft, an orphan.

Ah, if it could be that you would not return,
That you’d give up the ghost in the place you were reared, 
The children would weep not, nor mother’s tears burn,
And God would not hear your blaspheming and sneers,
The sun pour no warmth out upon the foul dunghill,
Over a land that is free, broad and true,
Then folk would not realize what kind of eagles 
You are, and would not shake their heads over you.

Find your wits! Be human beings,
For evil is impending,
Very soon the shackled people 
Will their chains be rending;
Judgment will come, and then shall speak 
The mountains and the Dnipro,
And in a hundred rivers, blood 
Will flow to the blue ocean,
Your children’s blood... and there will be 
No one to help you... Brother 
Will by his brother be renounced,
The child by its own mother.
75 And like a cloud, dark smoke will cover 
The bright sun before you,
For endless ages your own sons 
Will curse you and abhor you.
Wash your faces! God’s fair image
Do not foul with filth!
Do not deceive your children that 
They live upon this earth 
Simply that they should rule as lords — 
For an unlearned eye 
Will deeply search their very souls, 
Deeply, thoroughly...
For whose skin you’re wearing, helpless 
Mites will realize,
They will judge you,— and the unlearned 
Will deceive the wise.


Had you but learned the way you ought,
Then wisdom also would be yours;
But thus to heaven you would climb:
“We are not we, I am not I!
I have seen all, all things I know:
There is no hell, there is no heaven,
Not even God, but only I and The stocky 
German, clever-clever,
And no one else beside...”    “Good, brother
But who, then, are you? ”
"We don’t know —
Let the German speak! ”

That’s the way you learn in your 
Foreign land, indeed!
The German would say: “You are Mongols”. 
“Mongols, that is plain!”
Yes, the naked grandchildren 
Of golden Tamburlaine!
The German would say: “You are Slavs”. 
“Slavs, yes, Slavs indeed!”
Of great and glorious ancestors 
The unworthy seed!
And so you read Kollar, too,
With all your might and main,
Safarik as well, and Hanka,
Full-tilt you push away 
Into the Slavophils, all tongues 
Of the Slavonic race 
You know full well, but of your own 
Nothing! “There’ll come a day 
When we can parley in our own 
When the German teaches,
And, what is more, our history 
Explains to us and preaches,
Then we will set about it all!”

You’ve made a good beginning,
Following the German precepts 
You have started speaking 
So that the German cannot grasp 
The sense, the mighty teacher,
Not to mention simple people.
And uproar! And the screeching:
“Harmony and power too,
Nothing less than music!
As for history! Of a free 
Nation ’tis the epic...
Can’t compare with those poor Romans! 
Their Bruti—good-for-nothings!
But oh, our Cocleses and Bruti —
Glorious, unforgotten!
Freedom herself grew up with us,
And in the Dnipro bathed,
She had mountains for her pillow,
And for her quilt — the plains!”
It was in blood she bathed herself,
She took her sleep on piles 
Of the corpses of free Cossacks,
Corpses all despoiled.

Only look well, only read
That glory through once more,
From the first word to the last,
Read; do not ignore 
Even the least apostrophe,
Not one comma even,
Search out the meaning of it all,
Then ask yourself the question:
“Who are we ? Whose sons? Of what sires?
By whom and why enchained?”
And then, indeed, you’ll see for what 
Are your Bruti famed:

Toadies, slaves, the filth of Moscow, 
Warsaw’s garbage—are your lords, 
Illustrious hetmans! Why so proud 
And swaggering, then do you boast, you 
Sons of Ukraine and her misfortune?
That well you know to wear the yoke, 
More than your fathers did of yore?
They are flaying you,— cease your boasts — 
From them, at times, the fat they’d thaw.

You boast, perhaps, the Brotherhood 
Defended the faith of old?
Because they boiled their dumplings in 
Sinope, Trebizond?
It is true, they ate their fill,
But now your stomach’s dainty,
And in the Sich, the clever German 
Plants his beds of ’taties;
And you buy, and with good relish 
Eat what he has grown,
And you praise the Zaporozhya.
But whose blood was it flowed 
Into that soil and soaked it through 
So that potatoes flourish?
While it’s good for kitchen-gardens 
You’re the last to worry!
And you boast because we once 
Brought Poland to destruction...
It is true, yes, Poland fell,
But in her fall she crushed you.
Thus, then, your fathers spilled their blood 
For Moscow and for Warsaw,
And to you, their sons, they have 
Bequeathed their chains, their glory.


Ukraina struggled on,
Fighting to the limit:
She is crucified by those 
Worse-than-Poles, her children.
In place of beer, they draw the righteous 
Blood from out her sides,
Wishing, so they say, to enlighten 
The maternal eyes 
With contemporary lights,
To lead her as the times 
Demand it, in the Germans’ wake 
(She crippled, speechless, blind).
Good, so be it! Lead, explain!
Let the poor old mother 
Learn how children such as these 
New ones she must care for.
Show her, then, and do not haggle 
Your instruction’s price.
A mother’s good reward will come:
From your greedy eyes 
The scales will fall away, and you 
Will then behold the glory,
The living glory of your grandsires,
And fathers skilled in knavery.
Do not fool yourselves, my brothers,
Study, read and learn 
Thoroughly the foreign things —
But do not shun your own :
For he who forgets his mother,
He by God is smitten,
His children shun him, in their homes 
They will not permit him.
Strangers drive him from their doors;
For this evil one
Nowhere in the boundless earth
Is a joyful home.
I weep salt tears when I recall 
Those unforgotten actions 
Of our forefathers, those grave deeds!
If I could but forget them,
Half my course of joyful years 
I’d surrender gladly...
Such indeed, then, is our glory,
Ukraina’s glory!...
Thus too, you should read it through 
That you’d do more than dream,
While slumbering, of injustices,
So that you would see 

High gravemounds open up before 
Your eyes, that then you might 
Ask the martyrs when and why 
And who was crucified.
Gome, my brothers, and embrace 
Each your humblest brother,
Make our mother smile again,
Our poor, tear-stained mother!
With hands that are firm and strong 
She will bless her children,
Embrace her helpless little ones,
And with free lips, she’ll kiss them. 
And those bygone times will be 
Forgotten with their shame,
And that glory will revive,
The glory of Ukraine,
And a clear light, not a twilight,
Will shine forth anew...
Brothers, then, embrace each other,
I entreat and pray you! 

Poem of Taras Shevchenko
"I mertvym, i zhyvym, i nenarodzhenym zemliakam moim v Ukraini i ne v Ukraini moie druzhnieie poslaniie"
("І мертвим, і живим, і ненародженим землякам моїм в Украйні і не в Украйні моє дружнєє посланіє")
1845, V’yunyshcha, (В'юнища)

Translated by Vera Rich

Source of the original poem in Ukrainian:
Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannia tvoriv: U 6 t. — Kyiv, "Naukova dumka", 2003. Tom 1: Poeziia 1837 - 1847, stor. 348 - 354, 737 - 740.

Source of English translation of the poem: Taras Shevchenko."Song out of Darkness". Selected poems translated from the Ukrainian by Vera Rich. London, 1961, p. 74 - 80.

Here you can find Ukrainian text of the Taras Shevchenko's poem:
Original poem in Ukrainian

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