THREE YEARS *1)
A day drags endless to its close;
While years like arrows flown
Pass fleeting by and snatch away
All values that we own;
They strip us of our lofty thoughts
With ruthless hand, and then
On a cold stone they smash our heart
And loudly sing "Amen" —
"Amen" to all that’s filled with joy,
Returning now, ah never:
A blind and crippled man I’m left
In crossroads dust forever.
These three short years of one short life
Have passed to no avail,
And yet they cause great misery
Within my spirit frail:
They have laid waste my humble heart
In all its gentleness;
They have consumed all hope of good,
Inflamed my dark distress,
And with their sooty smoke have dried
Those blessed tears so free
I shed with Katie’s as she walked
The road to Muscovy,
Those tears I mixed with Cossacks' prayers,
Slaves of a Turkish war,
Or daily for Oksana shed,
My life’s abiding star,
My precious joy — till evil years,
Came like some loathesome rat,
Crept up on me, and suddenly
Have snatched away all that.
What grief it is to bury thus
All memories and dreams —
Mother and sire, a faithful wife,
How baseless now it seems!
How hard it is to nurture up
My babes in penury shut,
My brain's own children, still unwashed,
In an unheated hut!
Yet equal suffering has a fool
Who falls in love and weds
And finds too late his darling wife
Slips off to others' beds
And sells herself for three small coins
And laughs at him to boot.
This is a grief to break the heart
In anguish absolute!
A like misfortune to that man's
Has also come to me
I fell in love with humankind
And prized men's company,
And they gave welcome to my love
With praise that quite endears...
While still the years crept stealthily
And dried away my tears,
Those tears of candid love ... and I
Began to see the light...
I closer looked ... would I could keep
From telling the sad sight!
Around me everywhere I saw
Not men, but snakes, in sooth ...
And so all tears were dried away,
The sympathies of youth.
And now the healing of my soul
Through venom I would reach —
No longer do I weep or sing;
Nay, like an owl I screech.
And so it is! Do what you will
For better or for worse!
Insult my work with loud abuse
Or softly praise my verse —
Your mood is all the same to me,
For never will return
The joyful accents of my youth,
The years for which I yearn!...
My heart cannot go back to you
The road that once it took;
And yet I know not where to go
Nor where to find my nook,
Nor with what man I may converse,
Nor whom I may console,
Nor to what heart I may confess
The thoughts that crowd my scroll.
Alas, my Muse, my poesy
Of three distressful years!
Where will you turn for sympathy,
My children, in your tears?
Seek no one out; remain at home;
Lie down and take your rest;
And I into a new, fourth year
Will enter on my quest.
Greetings to you, my Newest Year,
Swaddled in last year's rags!
What do you carry to Ukraine,
Stuffed in your patched-up bags?
Is it prosperity enwrapped
In a brand-new ukase? *2)
Farewell, and don't forget to greet
The wretched in that place!
*1) The poem that was to begin the collection of Shevchenko's verses written in the years 1843, 1844, and 1845, if that collection (entitled “The Three Years”) bad been published at the time. It was to end with the poem “My Legacy” which here follows.
*2) Expressed ironically, for tsarist ukases hardly brought people any prosperity.
Poem of Taras Shevchenko
1845, Viunishcha, (В’юнище)
Translated by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell
Original publication: Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannia tvoriv: U 6 t. — K., 2003. — T. 1: Poeziia 1837-1847. — S. 368-370; S. 749-750.
Source: The Poetical Works of Taras Shevchenko. The Kobzar. Translated from the Ukrainian by С.H. Andrusyshen and Watson Kirkconnell. Published for the Ukrainian Canadian Committee by University of Toronto Press, 1964. Toronto and Buffalo. Printed in Canada, Reprinted 1977, p. 269 - 271.
Here you can find Ukrainian text of the Taras Shevchenko's poem:
Original poem in Ukrainian