Translated by John Weir, Toronto
The poem below in given incomplete (six sections out of fourteen). The name Haidamaki was given by the Polish gentry to the peasant rebels that operated together with the Cossaks on the part of Ukraine that still remained under Polish rule during the eighteenth century. The word is of Turkic origin and means "unruly ones". The height of the Haidamaki movement, known as Koliyivshchina, was reached in 1768, and this is the theme of Shevchenko's poem.
To Vassily Ivanovich Grigorovich
in memory of April 22, 1838
All flows and all passes—this goes on forever....
Yet where does it vanish? And whence did it come?
The fool does not know, and the sage knows no better.
There's life... then there's death.... As here blossoms a one,
Another there withers beyond a returning....
Its yellow leaves fall, to be green never more.
But still the bright sun will come up in the morning,
At nightfall the stars will come out as before
To swim in the heavens, and then, gentle sister,
You too, silver moon, will come out for a stroll,
You'll glance as you pass into puddles and cisterns,
And sparkle the oceans—you'll shine as of old
You shone over Babylon's fabulous gardens,
And as ages from now you will still be regarding
What haps to our children. Forever you'll glow!
I tell you my notions, my heart I unburden,
And sing you the muses inspired by yourself.
Oh, what shall I do with my onerous burden?
Advise me, for I am not just by myself,
I've children: what am I to do with my offspring?
To bury them with me? That would be a crime —
The soul is alive. Its ordeal may be softened
If someone will read these word-teardrops of mine,
The tears that were shed in the night, in seclusion,
The tears that were poured from the heart in profusion.
I'll not have them buried, for they are alive!
And as the blue sky overhead has no limit,
There's also no start and no end to the spirit.
And where does the soul stay? Those words are but guile!!
May it on some heart here on earth leave an imprint —
Because it is hard unremembered to die.
Oh girls, to remember you first are obliged!
For it always loved you, my roses, sincerely,
And tenderly strove your sad lot to describe.
So rest ye in peace until daybreak, my children,
The while I consider who should be your guide.
My sons, my Haidamaki brave!
The world is free and wide!
Go forth, my sons, and make your way—
Perhaps you'll fortune find.
My sons, my simple-minded brood,
When you go forth to roam,
Who will receive my orphans poor
With warmth into his home?
So fly, my fledgling falcons, fly
To far Ukraine, my lads—
At least, if there you hardship find,
'Twon't be in foreign lands.
Good-hearted folks will rally 'round
And they won't let you die;
While here.... Well, here... it's hard, my sons!
If you're allowed inside
The house, it's only to be jeered—
You see, they are so wise,
So literate and so well-read,
The sun they even chide:
"It does not rise the proper way,
Nor shine the way it should;
Now, here's the way it should be done...."
So what is one to do?
You must pay heed, perhaps indeed,
The sun's not rising right,
The way they read it should in books....
Oh, they are brainy, quite!
About you, then, what will they say?
I know what fate is yours!
They will poke fun and laugh their fill,
Then throw you out of doors.
"Let them stay there," they'll say, "until
Their father will get wise
And in our language tell his tale,
His hetmans old describe.
The fool, instead, is holding forth
In language obsolete,
And a Yarema in bast shoes
Brings out for us to see.
The fool! He hasn't learned a thing
Though he was soundly caned.
Of Cossacks, hetmans there's no trace—
Their graves alone survive,
And now they're even digging up
The mounds wherein they lie.
And he wants us to listen to
What the old minstrels say.
Your labour's lost, sir: if you aim
To make yourself a mint
Of money, and a lot of fame,
Then of Matryosha sing,
And of Parasha, charming witch,
Parquet, gold braid and spurs.
Then you'll make good!! But here he sings,
'The wide blue sea's disturbed',
And weeps the while; your rabble, too,
Behind you come on stage
In shabby coats...." My thanks to you
For your advice so sage!
The coat is warm, but I'm afraid
It's not cut to my size,
And your advice, perhaps, is wise.
But it is lined with lies.
Excuse me, please!... Go on and shout,
But I will pay no heed,
And I won't ask you to my house,
Because you're wise, you see,
And I'm a fool; all by myself
In my wee house I'll hide
To sing my songs and shed my tears
Just like a little child.
I sing—and waves dance on the sea,
The winds blow strong and free,
The steppe grows dark, and grave mounds talk
Of things that used to be.
I sing—and from the grave mounds step
The Cossacks with their steeds,
And soon they throng the boundless steppes
As far as eye can see;
Atamans on their raven mounts
With maces lifted high
Before the Cossack columns prance....
Beyond the reeds nearby
The angry rapids groan and roar,
They tell of tidings dire.
I listen and my heart is sore.
Of oldsters I inquire:
My fathers, tell me why you mourn?
"No cause is there for cheer!
The Dnieper's angry with us, son,
Ukraine is all in tears...."
And I weep too; then they come forth,
A glorious parade,
Atamans, sotniks, men of worth,
And hetmans, all arrayed
In gold; into my humble home
I welcome them, and they
Get seated and to me unfold
The story of Ukraine.
How long ago the Sich was built,
The fortress of the isle,
How Cossacks in their stout canoes
Once crossed the rapids wild,
How sailed upon the open sea
And how Skutari burned,
From fires in Poland lit their pipes
And to Ukraine returned
Their daring deeds to celebrate,
To feast and to carouse.
"Innkeeper, pour! Play, minstrel, play!"
The Cossacks blithely shout.
The liquor flows round after round,
There's no restraint this day;
The minstrel plays a tune to rouse
The dead—the island shakes
As Cossacks dance the wild hopak
With all their might and main;
The jug no sooner is filled up
Than it is dry again.
"Make merry, coatless gentlemen,
As free as wind at play!
Let's have more music, more to drink,
Make merry while we may!"
Both youth and oldsters join the dance,
Their feet like lightning fly.
"Ah, that's the way! Go to it, sons!
You'll make good bye-and-bye!"
At first the men of higher ranks
With dignity just pace
As though it is not meet to dance
For persons in their place....
Then their feet too begin to prance
Despite their weighty years.
I watched the dashing Cossack dance
And laugh through brimming tears.
I look on with laughter, my eyes overbrimming....
I'm lonely no longer, I've friends at my side!
In my modest dwelling the Cossacks make merry,
The rushes are rustling, the steppe stretches wide;
In my little cottage the blue sea is sounding,
A poplar-tree whispers, a grave mound complains,
A maiden sings softly of love in the springtime—
I'm lonely no longer, I've plenty of friends!
That's where my gold, my wealth I find,
That's where my glory lies!
As for your counsel—you're too kind!
Thanks for your false advice.
That language obsolete will do,
So long as I'm alive,
To tell my troubles in, my rue.
So I bid you good-bye!
I'll go to see my children off,
They must be on their way.
Perhaps somewhere they'll come across
A Cossack old and grey,
Who'll open up his arms to them,
Greet them with trembling tears.
And as for me, I say I am
A peer above all peers!
Thus, seated at the table's end,
I think: Whom should I ask?
Who will agree to guide my sons?
The new day dawns at last;
The moon retires, the sun is red.
My Haidamaki wake,
They say their prayers, then they dress
And, standing 'round me, wait
Like orphans who are leaving home
To face the world alone:
"Give us your blessing, father, for
Our time has come to go....
So wish that fortune we may find
As o'er the earth we roam."
But wait.... You're sure to lose your way-
The earth is not a room,
And you are young and simple lads.
Who'll show you where to go?
Who'll guide you? Who will walk ahead?
My sons, I'm worried so!
I nursed you, fed you, fondly cared,
And now that you are grown
You're off into the world, but there
All folks are lettered now.
Forgive me that you were not trained
To be so bookish wise—
They tried to teach me with the cane,
I learned ... but otherwise!
I know the alphabet, of course,
But not the things they prize.
What will they think of you, my sons?
Come, let us find your guide!
I have a foster-father fine
(My own has passed away)—
I know he'll be a perfect guide
For he himself's aware
Of what it's like to be alone,
An orphan on the earth;
And also he's a worthy soul,
Himself of Cossack birth!...
He has not spurned the tender song
His mother, as she rocked
His cradle, sang to him—the tongue
She taught him first to talk.
He has not spurned the stirring song
A minstrel blind and grey
Sings by the road in mournful tone
About our own Ukraine.
He loves those songs, those truthful
Of Cossack fame of old,
With all his heart! So let us make
Our way to his abode.
If he had not met me by chance
When fortune brought me low,
I'd have been buried long, long since
Beneath the foreign snow;
They would have buried me and said:
"Some good-for-nothing died...."
Oh, it is difficult indeed
To suffer, not know why.
That's past and gone, so let it be!...
Let's go to him, my lads!
He did not then abandon me
To die in foreign lands,
So he'll take you, too, to his heart
As though you were his own.
And then, a prayer, and you start—
Off to Ukraine you go!
Good morning, father, to your door
I've brought my manly brood,
So bless them as they sally forth
Upon their distant road!
April 7, 1841
The nobles once ruled Poland's roost,
A very haughty lot;
With Muscovites they measured swords,
The Turk and Tatar fought,
And Germans too.... Yes, once 'twas so....
But all things pass away.
The high-born braggarts used to strut,
And drink both night and day,
And with their kings play ducks and drakes.
Not with Sobieski Jan,
Nor yet Batory: those two were
Not of the common run—
But with the rest. And they, poor souls,
In fear and trembling ruled.
The conclaves, big and little, fumed,
And Poland's neighbours viewed
A spectacle—how Polish kings
The Polish kindom fled,
And listened how the noble mob
The sejms brought to an end.
"Nie pozwalam! Nie pozwalam!"
The haughty nobles roared,
While the big magnates stoked up fires
And tempered well their swords.
This lasted for a lengthy time
Until to Warsaw-town
The lively Poniatowski came
To occupy the throne
And undertook to some degree
The noble breed to squelch....
He failed! He wanted what was best,
Or maybe something else.
Only their veto—that one phrase
To take from them he sought.
And then.... All Poland burst in flames,
The gentry ran amok....
"The king's a villain, scoundrel vile,
A Moscow tool!" they cry.
At Pac's appeal, Pulawski's call
The Polish nobles rise.
A hundred leagues—Confederates—
All Poland they inflamed,
Lithuania they overran,
They scattered wide and they forgot
That freedom was their aim—
They joined with Jews in compact foul
To rob and devastate.
They ran mad riot through the land,
They churches set ablaze....
The Haidamaki then began
To sanctify their blades.
“The grove is silent,
The wind is quiet,
The moon is sailing,
The stars are sparkling,
Come out - I’m waiting
For you, my darling;
Come out and meet me
Tonight, my sweetling!
My dear, I’m pleading,
Come to your lover,
We’ll hold each other,
For I am leaving '
This night to wander.
Come out, my darling,
We’ll share our sorrow,
Dream of tomorrow,
Cling to each other....
How sad is parting!”
Yarema sadly sang this song
While strolling by the grove;
He waited for Oksana long -
Until he gave up hope.
The stars came out; a silver ball,
The moon shone in the sky;
The willow gazed into the well
And listened as nearby
A nightingale gave all he had
In heart-entrancing trill,
As though he knew the Cossack lad
Was waiting for his girl.
But poor Yarema’s heart was sore,
He barely dragged his feet
And did not look or listen more....
“What use are looks to me,
When only misfortune, no luck have I got?
The years of my youth flit away all for naught.
Alone in the world. I’ve no kinfolk or home —
A straw in the field that’s blown hither and yon.
The wild winds soon carry away the lone straw:
And that’s how by people I’m buffeted too.
Why do they thus treat me? Because I’m alone.
There was but one heart on the earth that was true
One person that loved me, now that too is done,
She too has forsaken me.”
Tears filled his eyes.
The poor fellow wept there alone in the grove,
Then said his farewells.
“Oh my darling, good-bye.
Out on the big highway my lot I’ll improve,
Or else I will perish.... and you will not cry,
You won’t know about it, and you will not see
How ravens are pecking these Drown Cossack eyes,
The eyes which you fondly once kissed, oh my sweet!
Forget this poor orphan — and seek someone new!
Forget that you promised that you would be mine —
For I, a poor vagrant, am no match for you,
A churchwarden’s daughter. A better you’ll find....
So take whom you will.... And, my darling, don’t fret,
Don’t worry about me... for such is my fate.
But if you hear tidings that I’ve met my death,
Go off by yourself then and quietly pray.
Just you in all the world, my dear,
Just you for me will pray!”
He bowed his head and heavy tears
Came coursing down his face.
He leaned despondent on his staff....
A rustle!... And he peered:
Like some woods creature slipping past
The trees, Oksana neared.
He forgot everything and raced....
“My sweetheart!” both exclaimed.
Hearts overbrimming, they embraced
Again and yet again.
“Enough, my sweet!”
“A wee bit more....
Some more, my turtle-dove!
Oh, hold me to your heart, my own...
How tired I am, my love!”
“Sit down and rest, my shining star
That dropped down from the sky!”
He spread his cloak upon the ground.
With star-lit eyes she smiled.
“Then you must sit beside me too.”
They held each other tight.
“My shining star, my sweetheart true,
What held you up tonight?”
“Tonight I couldn’t come on time:
My father’s ill, you see —
I had to nurse him all this while...”
“And didn’t think of me?”
“How can you speak about me so!"
And tears came to her eyes.
“Don’t cry, my dear, I only joked.”
Again she smiled.
She laid her head upon his breast
And seemed to fall asleep.
“You see, Oksana, I just teased
And you began to weep.
Now don’t you cry, and look at me,
Whom long you will not see.
Tomorrow I’ll be far from here,
Oksana, far away....
At Chihirin tomorrow night
I’ll set my blessed blade.
With it I’ll silver gain, and gold,
And fame will be my prize;
I’ll dress you rich from head to toe
Like bird of paradise,
And seat you on a tripod stool
Just like a Hetman’s wife,
And look at you.... My whole life through
On you I’ll feast my eyes.”
“Ah, but perhaps you will forget?
When rich, in Kiev-town
Yourself a high-born bride you’ll get,
Oksana you’ll disown!...”
“Is there one lovelier than you?”
“I do not know. Perhaps....”
“Don’t anger God, because, in truth,
All beauties you surpass!
Not in the sky, beyond the sky,
Nor yet across the sea
Can one find beauty such as thine!”
“Oh hush! You must not say
Such crazy things!”
“But that’s a fact!”
Thus, far into the night
Yarema and Oksana talked,
And only stopped to plight
Their love with ardent, sweet caress;
Sometimes they wept with pain
That they must part, and then embraced
And pledged their love again.
How they would live, Yarema told,
When home again he came,
How he’d obtain a lot of gold,
How fortune he would gain,
How Haidamaki planned to slay
All Poles in the Ukraine,
How he’d be master, not a slave,
If he alive remained.
Oh girls, he talked till one was bored
To hear him talk that way!
“Go on with you! As though we could
So you may say,
But if your dad or mother should
By chance find that you read
Such sinful tales, I’m sure they would
Tell you what’s what, indeed!
Well then ... but no, it’s such a tale
We cannot help but read!
I know, you’d like me to relate
How ’neath a willow-tree,
Beside a pool, a handsome lad
Tells of his hopes and love,
How they embrace, how he is sad
And she, a turtle-dove,
Smooths out his brow, the while she feels
As though her heart will break.
“My dear, you’re everything to me!
You are my love, my fate!
My all!...’’ The willows, even, bent
The things they said to hear.
Now there was talk! But I won’t tell
Those things to you, my dears,
Especially since night is nigh —
You’d dream about them yet.
We’ll let the lovers say good-bye
The same way that they met —
With quiet-spoken gentle words
That nobody could near,
And none could see the stricken girl’s
And sad lad’s parting tears.
Leave them alone.... Perhaps they’ll meet
Again while they’re alive
Upon this earth.... Well, we shall see....
But meanwhile, what’s the light
That makes all windows bright
In the churchwarden’s home?
Let’s take a look inside....
Oh would we had not known!
I wish we’d not seen it, did not have to tell!
Because the heart’s burning for humans with shame.
Those are the Confederates — look at them well —
Who banded together, with freedom their aim.
Look how they are serving in fair freedom’s cause....
May they all be damned, and their mothers be cursed
Because they gave birth to such monsters on earth!
Look what they are at in the churchwarden’s house,
The hounds from hell.
The roaring fire in the hearth
The entire house lit up.
Backed in the corner, Leiba shrank
And cowered like a pup.
The Poles roared: “Tell us where’s the gold,
The warden never told.
They tied his hands tight with a rope,
Then threw him to the floor —
But not a word.
“Bring red-hot coals!
And bring some boiling tar!
Drip tar on him! So! Are you cold?
The coals now let him have!
You rascal, will you tell or no?
Oh, he’s a stubborn knave!”
They poured some coals into his boots....
“Drive nails into his head!”
He stood all torture that he could,
The warden then fell dead
Without the holy sacrament!
“Oksana!...” and he died.
The frenzy of the Poles then ebbed.
“What now? Let us decide
What we’re to do now, gentlemen,
That he’s out of our reach!
Let’s bum the church down!”
Like some unearthly screech
The sudden cry fell on their ears.
The Poles were petrified.
Oksana at the door appeared.
“They've murdered him!” she cried
And senseless fell. The leader waved
His hand, and they slunk out
Like downcast hounds. And then
He lifted, left the house....
Yarema! But he nothing knows,
And tramping, sings a song
Of Nalivaiko's fight with Poles.
The gentry soon were gone,
And took Oksana, still aswoon.
The dogs barked some, but soon they too
In silence their night vigil kept.
The moon turned pale; the people slept,
The warden too.... He won’t rise soon;
He’s gone to his eternal rest.
The fire died down, then flickered out....
The warden’s body seemed to move,
Then dismal sadness reigned throughout.
* * *
THE THIRD COCK’S CROW
The frenzied gentry one more day
Spread terror through Ukraine;
Just one more day the country lay
In torture and in pain.
And then the Day of Maccabees,
A saint-day in Ukraine,
Was past.... The Pole and Jew at feasts
With blood their liquor drained,
Complained the plunder was too poor,
Schismatics they condemned.
The Haidamaki waited for
Their foes to go to bed.
At last they went — nor dreamed that ere
The dawn they would be dead.
The Poles soon slept, but Jews
Remained awake, without a light
To count their profits in the night,
Out of the public view.
Their heads, then, pillowed on their gold
They too dropped off to sleep.
And so they slept.... Forever may they sleep!
And then the moon came out to make a tour —
The sky and stars to see, the earth and seas,
To watch the people and observe their deeds,
And tell it all to God when night is o’er.
The silver moon shines over all Ukraine,
But does it see my hapless orphan maid,
Oksana, snatched from her Vilshana home?
Where does she languish, where in anguish weep?
And does Yarema know? Well, we shall see,
We’ll find out later, but I now propose
Another song to sing and tune to play;
Malevolence will dance — not maidens gay.
I sing the Cossack country’s sorry fate;
Now listen closely, later to relate
It to your children, they to theirs, so they
Should know how Cossacks made the gentry pay
For their misrule, when Polish lords held sway.
A long, long time the clamour dread
Resounded through Ukraine,
A long, long time the blood ran red
In streams across the plains.
It ran in rivers, then it dried.
The steppes are green again;
In Cossack graves our grand-dads lie,
Their grave mounds dot the plain.
What of it that the mounds are high?
Nobody knows they’re there,
Or whose the bones that ’neath them lie,
Nobody sheds a tear.
As it blows through, the wind alone
A gentle greeting says,
The dew alone at break of dawn
With tender teardrops laves.
The sun then turns its rays on them,
It dries and makes them warm;
Their grandsons? Oh, they’re not concerned —
For lords they’re growing corn!
They’re numerous, but ask if one
Knows where is Gonta’s grave —
Where did the tortured martyr's bones
His faithful comrades lay?
Where’s Zaliznyak, that splendid soul,
Where sleeps that manly heart?
It’s hard to bear! The hangman rules,
While they forgotten are.
A long, long time the clamour dread
Resounded through Ukraine,
A long, long time the blood ran red
In streams across the plains.
O’er all the earth it cast a pall;
This horror day and night
Was ghastly, yet when we recall
Those deeds, the heart is light.
Oh bright-shining moon! Climb down from the sky
And hide behind hills, don’t give us your light;
For you’ll be appalled, although you have seen
At Alta and Ros, and also the Seine,
Whole oceans of blood, spilled no one knows why.
But what will be now! My friend, leave the sky
And hide behind hills, for viewing that scene
E’en you’d have to cry.
High in the sky the silver moon
Sheds melancholy light.
Beside the Dnieper, a young man
Is walking in the night,
It may be from a party gay.
But why is he so sad?
Perhaps he’s poor and so the maid
Will not give him her hand?
Oh no, she pledged she’d be his bride
Though he is dressed in rags.
Why then, with such heart-rending sighs
His feet he barely drags?
The Cossack feels that all’s not well,
That some ill-fortune waits.
The heart can feel but cannot tell
What’s held in store by fate.
The country ’round seemed not asleep
But wholly desolate,
As though no human life remained.
Not even dogs or birds:
Just from the woods, a mournful strain —
The howl of wolves — is heard.
No matter! For Yarema walks
Not to Oksana’s gate,
Not to Vilshana for a talk —
But for a bloody date
In the Cherkassy. There the cock
Will crow three times this night....
And then... and then... Yarema walks
And to the stream confides:
“Oh Dnieper, my Dnieper, you’re wide and you’re deep!
Much red Cossack blood to the sea you have borne;
More yet will you carry! You coloured the sea
With crimson, and yet the blue sea thirsts for more;
This night, my old friend, you’ll be sated with blood.
A revel from hell will be held through Ukraine;
The blood of the gentry will flow like a flood;
The Cossacks of old will arise once again;
The hetmans will rise with their cloaks all in gold;
Good fortune will smile to the Cossack refrain:
‘No Jews and no Poles!’ And — oh God, to behold! —
The mace of the hetman will flash once again!”
So, walking in his tattered coat, Yarema dreamed,
And fondly in his hand caressed his blessed blade.
The Dnieper seemed to hear him, for the mighty stream
The waves upon its back like lofty mountains raised;
Its teeth the wind in anger gnashed,
The trees bent to the ground;
The thunder rumbled, lightning flashed,
And rents showed in the cloud.
Yarema did not see a thing,
He just kept marching on;
One thought would come and smile at him,
Another come and frown:
“Oksana’s there, and though in rags
I had a happy time;
While here... who knows what yet will hap?
Here, maybe, I will die.”
And then the crowing of a