My Friendly Epistle
Translated by C.H. Andrusyshen & W. Kirkconnel
Day dawns, then comes the twilight grey,
The limit of the live-long day;
For weary people sleep seems best
And all God's creatures go to rest.
I, only, grieve like one accursed,
Through all the hours both last and first,
Sad at the crossroads, day and night,
With no one there to see my plight;
No one can see me, no one knows me;
All men are deaf, no ears disclose me;
Men stand and trade their mutual chains
And barter truth for filthy gains,
Committing shame against the Lord
By harnessing for black reward
People in yokes and sowing evil
In fields commissioned by the Devil...
And what will sprout? You soon will see
What kind of harvest there will be!
Come to your senses, ruthless ones,
O stupid children, Folly's sons!
And bring that peaceftil paradise,
Your own Ukraine, before your eyes;
Then let your heart, in love sincere,
Embrace her mighty ruin here!
Break then your chains, in love unite,
Nor seek in foreign lands the sight
Of things not even found above,
Still less in lands that strangers love...
Then in your own house you will see
True justice, strength, and liberty!
Then in your own house you will see
True justice, strength, and liberty!
There is no other such Ukraine,
No other Dnieper on the plain;
And yet you throng to foreign lands
To seek the Highest Good that stands.—
True Liberty, that sacred Good
In fair fraternal Brotherhood! ...
And you have found it as you roam!
From foreign fields you bring it home,
A heap of words that sound most great
And naught else ... You vociferate
That God created you to be
His Justice's epitome,
Yet you still bend your backs today
To aliens, and are prompt to flay
The hide off lowly peasant brothers;
Then, seeking "Truth" beyond all others,
You scurry off to German strands
And to the lore of other lands.
If you could in your baggage bind
The misery you leave behind,
Or carry off beyond appeal
Those gains our forbears had to steal,
There would be left, to mourn our ills,
Lone Dnieper with its holy hills.
For this great boon my spirits yearn.—
That from abroad you'd not return,
That there you'd die, where you did learn!
For children then in our Ukraine
No more would weep in futile pain,
Nor would your motherland lament
Or God declare you insolent;
The sun would not a task perform
Your stinking carcasses to warm
Upon a land, pure, free, and vast
And people would not know at last
What birds you are, how greedy, dread,
And at you shake a hopeless head...
Come to your senses! Human be,
Or you will rue it bitterly:
The time is near when on our plains
A shackled folk will burst its chains.
The Day of Judgment is at hand!
Dnieper will speak across the land;
Hundreds of streams will surge in flood
To bear along your children's blood
To the blue sea,. . . Nor man nor whelp
Will offer you the slightest help:
Brother will turn from brother wild,
The mother will forsake her child;
Thick clouds of smoke at noonday bright
Will hide the sunshine from your sight;
And your own sons, for all your crime,
Will curse you to the end of time.
Make yourselves clean! God's image clear
In man should not be sullied here!
Don't breed your children up in scorn
To think that they were proudly born
To lord it over humble folk—
The peasant's untaught eye will poke
And peer into their very souls
Unsnared by specious aureoles.
Soon will the wretched creatures find
Your hides are of a kindred kind,—
Then will the meek in judgment sit,
All your fine wisdom to outwit.
If you would train yourselves alone,
You'd have some wisdom of your own;
But you must prattle from the sky:
"We are not we, and I not I!
All have I seen, I'm now all wise,
There is no hell, no paradise,
Not even God; but I exist
And this smart German atheist
And nothing else . ."—"Brother, go slow!
Who are you then?"—"I do not know—
We'll let the Germans speak to that,
For they have all the answers pat!"
In such a fashion then you train
Yourselves in foreigners' domain!
A German pundit says, "You're Mongols."
And you reply: "Of course, we're Mongols,
The naked seed upon this plain
Sowed by the golden Tamerlane!"
Or if some German says: "You're Slavs,"
You'll echo back: "Of course, we're Slavs,
The ugly, graceless progeny
Of our great ancestors, you see!"
Perhaps you even read old Kollar,
Enthusiastic for that scholar,
And Hanka too, and Safatik
And strive with zeal most politic
To rank among the Slavophils
And demonstrate linguistic skills
In all Slav tongues except your own.
"Some day we'll have the time," you groan,
"To speak our native language well
If some smart foreigner will tell
Its principles; if he'll relate
Our history as well, then straight
We'll study at a furious rate!"
How you have sought with ardent suction
To soak up foreigners' instruction!
You talk in such a mongrel speech
That even Germans, wise to teach,
Gape at it as a senseless joke —
Still more, of course, the common folk.
And such a noise! What row you raise:
"What harmony beyond all praise!
Our tongue is music from the skies!
Our history? Behold it rise,
A freeborn people's lofty poem...
Rome seems to this a paltry proem!
Horatius, Brutus, whom they will,
Let Romans praise! We've greater still,
More famous, ne'er forgotten too...
It was with us that Freedom grew,
Lay stretched in Dnieper's mighty bed
And on our mountains couched her head
And made our steppe her counterpane!"
No, you are wrong! In this Ukraine
Our history was bathed in blood
And slept on corpses in the mud,
On Cossack corpses, no more free
But here despoiled of liberty! ...
Look well into our history's store
And read it closely, o'er and o'er;
That glorious tale you may have heard,—
But take it slowly, word by word;
No punctuation mark omit,
For even commas lend their bit;
Examine everything you see;
Then ask yourselves: Now, who are we?
Whose children? Of what fathers born?
By whom enslaved in utter scorn?
Then only will you understand
The Brutuses of this your land
Slaves, grovellers of Muscovy
And Warsaw's refuse, such will be
The illustrious hetmans you applaud!
And have you something then to laud,
Sons of Ukraine, where misery chokes?
Perhaps that you walk well in yokes,
More nobly than your fathers walked?
Don't boast that you have bravely stalked:
Your hides are being tanned, though callow,
But they were often boiled for tallow!
Perhaps you base your boast on this:
The Cossack Brotherhood with bliss
Defended and preserved our faith?
That in Sinope's flaming wraith
And Trebizond's, they cooked their cake?
They did, but you've the belly-ache;
For in the Sitch the German sage
Now plants potatoes; without rage,
You buy his produce with your wealth
And eat it gladly for your health,
And glorify the Cossacks' fame.
But whose rich blood, O men of shame,
Has saturated all the soil
That yields potatoes which you boil?
You do not care; you merely know
It's good to make the garden grow!
And yet you boast that with our frown
We once sent Poland toppling down!
You are quite right: for Poland fell;
And in the wreck crushed us as well.
And that is how our sires, now dead,
For Muscovy and Warsaw bled,
And left their sons, as legacy,
Their shackles and their infamy!
Thus, in her struggle, our Ukraine
Reached the last climax of pure pain:
Worse than the Poles, or any other,
The children crucify their mother;
As it were beer, they tap with zest
The pure blood from her sacred breast,—
They would enlighten, they surmise,
Their ancient mother's rheumy eyes
With clear, contemporary light,
And lead her, in her dumb despite,
A blind wretch, out upon the stage
Into the spirit of our age.
Good! Show her! Lead her in the way!
Let the old mother learn today
How to take care, as Wisdom runs,
Of you, her new enlightened sons!
Show her! But do not raise a ruction
About the price of that instruction!
Well will your mother pay you back:
The wall-eyed cataract will crack
Upon your own dull, greedy eyes
And you will see her glory rise,
The living glory of your sires,
To shame your fathers' black desires! ...
Gain knowledge, brothers! Think and read,
And to your neighbours' gifts pay heed, --
Yet do not thus neglect your own:
For he who is forgetful shown
Of his own mother, graceless elf,
Is punished by our God Himself.
Strangers will turn from such as he
And grudge him hospitality --
Nay, his own children grow estranged;
Though one so evil may have ranged
The whole wide earth, he shall not find
A home to give him peace of mind.
Sadly I weep when I recall
The unforgotten deeds of all
Our ancestors: their toilsome deeds!
Could I forget their pangs and needs,
I, as my price, would than suppress
Half of my own life's happiness...
Such is our glory, sad and plain,
The glory of our own Ukraine!
I would advise you so to read
That you may see, in very deed,
No dream but all the wrongs of old
That burial mounds might here unfold
Before your eyes in martyred hosts,
That you might ask those grisly ghosts:
Who were the tortured ones, in fact,
And why, and when, were they so racked?...
Then 0 my brothers, as a start,
Come, clasp your brothers to your heart, --
So let your mother smile with joy
And dry her tears without annoy.
Blest be your children in these lands
By touch of your toil-hardened hands,
And, duly washed, kissed let them be
With lips that speak of liberty!
Then all the shame of days of old,
Forgotten, shall no more be told;
Then shall our day of hope arrive,
Ukrainian glory shall revive,
No twilight but the dawn shall render
And break forth into novel splendour....
Brother, embrace! Your hopes possess,
I beg you in all eagerness!