O My Thoughts, My Heartfelt Thoughts

Translated by Vera Rich

O my thoughts, my heartfelt thoughts,
I am troubled for you!
Why have you ranged yourselves on paper
In your ranks of sorrow?
Why did the wind not scatter you,
Like dust-motes, in the steppe?
Why did ill-fate not overlie
You, her babes, while she slept?

For ill-fate but bore you to mock and beclown you;
You were watered by tears—why did they not drown you?
Sweep you down to the sea? Wash you into the plain?
For no one would ask, then, what caused me to suffer,
Nor why I curse fortune, nor why I remain
In this world... For they would not have sneered:
“He has nothing to do!” in their scorn...
O my flowers, my children!
For what have I loved you and watched over you?
Is there one heart in the world to weep with you
As I have wept? Maybe my guess will come true!
Perhaps there will be found a girl's
Pure heart, dark eyes to pour
Tears for these, my heartfelt thoughts,—
I ask nothing more...
One tear from those dark eyes—and I
Am lord of lords in glory!

O my thoughts, my heartfelt thoughts,
I am troubled for you!

For a girl with hazel eyes,
A maiden with dark brows,
The heart was rent — and smiled again,
Pouring forth its words;
Poured them forth, as best it could,
For the night’s dark shade,
For the cherry-orchard green
For a young girl’s favour.
For the steppes and for the gravemounds,
There in Ukraina,
The heart swooned, and did not wish
To sing here among strangers.
Did not wish, far in this forest,
In the snow to gather
The Cossack host to council here,
With their staves and banners...
Let the souls of Cossacks hover
There in Ukraina:
From end to end, there, it is broad
And joyful like that freedom
Which has long since passed away;
Broad as a sea, the Dnipro,
Steppe and steppe, the rapids roar,
And gravemounds high as mountains.
There was born the Cossack freedom,
There she galloped round,
With Tartars and with Polish lords
She strewed the plain about
Till it could take no more; with corpses
All the plain she strewed.
Freedom lay down to take her rest,
Meanwhile the gravemound grew,
And high above it, as a warder,
Hovers the Black Eagle,
And minstrels come and sing about
The gravemound to the people.
They sing of all that came to pass,
Blind wretches, for they keep
Their wits awake... And I?... And I
Know only how to weep,
Only tears for Ukraina, —
Words there now are none—
And for ill-fate, well, let it lie!
To whom is it unknown?
Hard it is for one who gazes
With his soul on people,
Hell is his, here, in this world,
But in the next...
               By grieving
I'll not conjure for myself
A fate which is not mine;
Let miseries’ throng abide for long,
Them I’ll deeply hide,
The fierce serpent I shall hide
Near my very heart,
That enemies may never see
How ill-fate mocks and laughs...
Then let thought, like to a crow,
Fly and caw indeed,
But the heart, like a nightingale,
Warbles sweet songs and weeps
In secret; people will not see,
Will not, then, mock me so...
Do not wipe my tears away,
Let them freely flow,
Let them soak this foreign field,
Water it day and night,
Until at last the priests with foreign
Sand shall close my eyes...
Thus it is! And what to do?
Sorrow brings no aid.
Who envies the poor orphan, then,
Take vengeance on him. Lord.

O my thoughts, my heartfelt thoughts,
My children, O my flowers,
I have reared, watched over you, —
Where to send you now?
Go then to Ukraine, my children,
To Ukraine, so dear,
Wander on like homeless orphans,
I shall perish here.
There a true heart you will find,
A word of kindness for you,
There, sincerity and truth,
And even, maybe, glory...

Bid them welcome, then, my mother,
My Ukraine, and smile
On these my children, still unwise,
As on thy own true child.

                1840, St. Petersburg