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,
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,