Poem "Perebendya", Taras Shevchenko (Translated by John Weir)


Perebendya. Poem of Taras Shevchenko. Translated by John Weir. Illustrations by Taras Shevchenko.

"Kobzar". Pencil, 1845. Image by Taras Shevchenko.

 

 

Taras Shevchenko

PEREBENDYA *[1]

("Perebendya" / "Перебендя")

Translated by John Weir

Old Perebendya, minstrel blind,
Is known both near and far.
He wanders all the country ’round 
And plays on his kobza.
The people know the man who plays, 
They listen and are glad,
Because he chases gloom away,
Though he himself is sad.
No matter what the weather holds,
His days and nights he spends 
Without a shelter out-of-doors; 
Misfortune dogs his steps,
And mocks his head with silver thatched, 
But he no longer heeds;
He seats himself beside a hedge 
And sings, "Oh rustling leaves!"
And singing, how he’s all alone 
He thinks and bows his head,
As melancholy sears his soul,
Alone beside the hedge.
That’s what old Perebendya’s like,
He’s very changeful, too:
He’ll sing about heroic deeds,
Then change to comic tunes;
To maidens on the common grass 
He’ll sing of love and spring,
And at tne inn for merry lads 
Good rousing songs he’ll sing;
For married couples at a feast 
(Where mother-’n-law is strict)
Such songs as tell of women’s grief 
And hardship he will pick;
At market-place - of Lazarus *[2],
Or else, a mournful lay
(So that the memory should live)
Of how the Sich was razed *[3].
So that’s what Perebendya’s like,
Capricious in old age:
He’ll sing a merry song and then 
To one or tears he’ll change.
Asweeping freely o’er the steppes,
The wind olows from afar.
Upon a mound the minstrel sits 
And plays on his kobzd.
The boundless steppes, blue as the sea,
Reach out on every side;
The grave mounds also stretch away 
Till they are lost to sight.
His grey moustache and thatch of hair 
The wind blows every way,
Then it subsides and lends an ear 
To the old minstrel’s lay,
His heart’s wild beat, the tears of sightless eyes ... 
Then blows again....
This is his hide-away 
Amid the steppe where nobody can spy 
And where his words are scattered o’er the plains 
Away from human ears, the sacred words 
Pronounced in free communion with God,
The praises sung in homage to the Lord.
His thoughts the while go floating on a cloud, 
Like eagles in the blue they soar o’erhead 
Till with their wings the very sky is churned;
They rest upon the sun and ask where it
Retires at night, how rises in the mom:
They listen as the sea its tale unfolds,
"Why are you mute?" they ask the mountain top,
Then back to the sky, for earth’s full of woe,
In all the wide, wide world there’s not a spot
For him who all things knows and hears and sees -
The secrets of the sun, and sea, and fields -
No one to bid him welcome with his heart.
He’s all alone, as is the sun alone.
The people know him and they let him be...
But if they learned how he, alone, intones
Songs in the steppe, converses with the sea -
They would make sport of words that are divine,
And call him mad and from their midst they’d drive
Him off to die. "Go to the sea!" they’d sav.
You’re doing right, my minstrel friend,
You’re doing right, I Know,
That to the grave mound in the steppe
To talk and sing you go!
Keep going there, my nearty one,
Until the day your heart
Falls fast asleep, and sing your songs
Where you will not be heard.
And that the people shouldn’t shy
You must indulge them, friend!...
So dance the way the master says -
The money’s his to spend.
So that’s what Perebendya’s like,
Capricious in old age:
He’ll sing a wedding song and then
To one of grief he’ll change.

 
     

 

Perebendya. Poem of Taras Shevchenko. Translated by John Weir. Illustrations by Taras Shevchenko.

"View of the Ros River". Pencil, 1859. Image by Taras Shevchenko.

 

 

NOTES:

*[1]    Perebendya, a capricious, talkative person.
*[2]    ...of Lazarus..., i. e. a song based on the Biblical parable of the rich man and the beggar.
*[3]    ...how the Sich was razed..., the Zaporozhian Sich - organization of the Ukrainian Cossacks established on the lower Dnieper in the first half of the 16th c. The founders of the SiGh were Ukrainian peasants and Cossacks who strove to escape the oppression of the Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian landlords. They fled from their masters and built fortifications (sichi) below the rapids of the Dnieper (Zaporozhian means located below the rapids). In the 16th-17tn centuries the Sich was the centre of the struggle of the Ukrainian people against the social and national oppression of the Polish nobility,the Turkish and Tartar invaders. In 1775 the Russian Empress Catherine II destroyed the Sich as a stronghold of anti-serfdom movement.

 

Taras Shevchenko
"Perebendya"
("Перебендя")
1839, St. Petersburg (Санкт Петербург)

 

Translated by John Weir

 

Original publication:
Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannia tvoriv: U 6 t. — K., 2003. — T. 1:
Poeziia 1837-1847. — S. 110 - 112; 617 - 620.

"Перебендя" - зі збірки "Малий Кобзар" Тараса Шевченка 

 

Source: Taras Shevchenko. Selected poetry. Kiev,
Dnipro, 1977, p.51 - 53.

 

 

More poems of Taras Shevchenko translated into English by John Weir:

"A Reflection" ("Думка" / "Тече вода в синє море")

"Calamity Again" ("Мій Боже милий, знову лихо!")

"Don't Envy" ("Не завидуй багатому")

"Don't Wed" ("Не женися на багатій")

"Dream" ("Сон" / "У всякого своя доля")

"Fate" ("Доля" / "Ти не лукавила зо мною")

"Haidamaki" ("Гайдамаки" / "Все йде, все минає — і краю немає")

"I Was Thirteen" ("Мені тринадцятий минало")

"I’m not unwell, it’s just that I ..." ("Я не нездужаю, нівроку")

"Isaiah. Chapter 35. An imitation" ("Ісаія. Глава 35. Подражаніе" / "Радуйся, ниво неполитая!")

"It’s not that I’m of God complaining" ("Не нарікаю я на бога")

"Katerina" (поема "Катерина", "Кохайтеся, чорноброві")

"Lights Are Blazing" ("Огні горять, музи́ка грає")

"My Testament" "Заповіт" / "Як умру, то поховайте")

"My Thoughts" ("Думи мої, думи мої, лихо мені з вами!")

"Silver Poplar" (Maiden's song from "Topolya") ("Тополя" / "По діброві вітер виє")

"The half-wit" ("Юродивий")

"The Lily" ("Лілея / За що мене, як росла я...")

"The Mighty Dnieper" ("Причинна" / "Реве та стогне Дніпр широкий")

"Young masters, if you only knew" ("Якби ви знали, паничі")


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