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You did not play me false, 0 Fate,

You were a brother, closest friend

To this poor wretch. You took my hand

When I was still a little tot

And walked me to the deacon's school

To gather knowledge from the sot.

"My boy, just study hard," you said,

And you'll be somebody in time!"

I listened, studied, forged ahead,

Got educated. But you lied.

What am I now? But never mind!

We've walked the straight path, you and I,

We have not cheated, compromised

Or lived the very slightest lie.

So let's march on, dear fate of mine!

My humble, truthful, faithful friend!

Keep marching on: there glory lies;

March forward - that's my testament

Translated by John Weir


And the sky unwashed and

the drowsy waves; and

along the coast far-off

as if drunk, the reeds buckle

without wind. Jesus Christ!

Am I going to be trapped for long

in this unlocked prison, wasteland at the edge

of this monstrous sea,

nauseated globe? Speechless,

shut up and bent as if alive

in the steppe: the yellowing grass:

it doesn’t want to speak the truth,

but there’s no one else to ask.

The Mighty Dnieper

The mighty Dnieper roars and bellows,

The wind in anger howls and raves,

Down to the ground it bends the willows,

And mountain-high lifts up the waves.

The pale-faced moon picked out this moment

To peek out from behind a cloud,

Like a canoe upon the ocean

It first tips up, and then dips down.

The cocks don't crow to wake the morning,

There's not as yet a sound of man,

The owls in glades call out their warnings,

And ash trees creak and creak again.

My Thoughts

My thorny thoughts, my thorny thoughts,

You bring me only woe!

Why do you on the paper stand

So sadly row on row? ...

Why did the winds not scatter you

Like dust across the steppes?

Why did ill-luck not cradle you

To sleep upon its breast? ...

My thoughts, my melancholy thoughts,

My children, tender shoots!

I nursed you, brought you up -- and now

What shall I do with you? ...

Go to Ukraine, my homeless waifs!

Your way make to Ukraine

Along back roads like vagabonds,

But I'm doomed here to stay.

There you will find a heart that's true

And words of welcome kind,

There honesty, unvarnished truth

And, maybe, fame you'll find ...

So welcome them, my Motherland,

Ukraine, into your home!

Accept my guileless, simple brood

And take them for your own!

Why Weighs The Heart Heavy?

Why weighs the heart heavy? ? Why drags life so dreary?

Why is the heart weeping and sobbing and sighing

As a child cries from hunger? Heart, heavy and weary,

What do you long for? Why are you sighing?

Are you longing for food or for drink or repose?

Slumber, my heart, for eternity sleeping,

Uncovered and shattered... Let hateful people

Rage on... O my heart, let your eyes gently close! ...

Calamity Again

Dear God, calamity again! ...

It was so peaceful, so serene;

We but began to break the chains

That bind our folk in slavery ...

When halt! ... Again the people's blood

Is streaming! Like rapacious dogs

About a bone, the royal thugs

Are at each other's throat again.

Translated by John Weir

My Testament

When I am dead, bury me
In my beloved Ukraine,
My tomb upon a grave mound high
Amid the spreading plain,
So that the fields, the boundless steppes,
The Dnieper's plunging shore
My eyes could see, my ears could hear
The mighty river roar.

When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears
Into the deep blue sea
The blood of foes ... then will I leave
These hills and fertile fields --
I'll leave them all and fly away
To the abode of God,
And then I'll pray .... But till that day
I nothing know of God.

Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants' blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,

With softly spoken, kindly word

Remember also me.

In the Fortress


It does not touch me, not a whit,
If I live in Ukraine or no,
If men recall me, or forget,
Lost as I am, in foreign snow,—
Touches me not the slightest whit.
Captive, to manhood I have grown 
In strangers’ homes, and by my own 
Unmourned, a weeping captive still,
I’ll die; all that is mine, I will 
Bear off, let not a trace remain 
In our own glorious Ukraine,
Our own land — yet a stranger’s rather.
And speaking with his son, no father 
Will recall, nor bid him: Pray,
Pray, son! Of old, for our Ukraine,
They tortured all his life away.
It does not touch me, not a whit,
Whether that son will pray, or no...
But it does touch me deep if knaves,
Evil rogues lull our Ukraine 
Asleep, and only in the flames 
Let her, all plundered, wake again...
That touches me with deepest pain.

 Translation : Vera RICH