Poem "Topolia - the poplar" (T. Shevchenko, translated by Florence Randal Livesay)

Topolia - the poplar

("Po dibrovi viter vyje")

The wind blows through the oaks in the wood,
It dances through the fields.
Beside the high-road it uproots Topolia,
And fells her to the ground.

Why has she a slim, tall trunk?
Why are her broad leaves green?
The field around is blue,
And wide as the sea. . . .
When the Tchumak passes
He looks and bows his head.

Tchabàn, the shepherd, in the dawn,
His pipe plays on the hill;
He looks around.
Sorrow is in his heart–no shrub is near–
Only a poplar lone,
Lone as an orphan stands,
Fades in an alien land.

Who nurtured this slender and yielding body
To languish on the steppes?
Wait, maidens, I will tell ye!

With a Cossack
A maiden fell in love,
Loved him, but held him not.
He departed and perished.

If she had known
That he would leave her
She would not have loved him:

If she had known
That he would die
She would not have let him go:

If she had known,
She would not have gone for water late at even,
She would not have lingered
With her sweetheart
Under the willow tree
If she had known! . . .

But it is dangerous
To know the future–
What misfortune will meet us,
Maidens, seek not to know,
Ask not of your fate.
The heart knows whom to love.
Let it wither, little by little,
Until it is buried,
Not for long are the bright eyes
Of the black-browed girl.

Girls, O Girls!
Not for long the rosy cheeks!
Only till noon–
Then they will fade, will shrivel,
The black brows will grow pale. . . .
Girls! Love ye or like as your heart says.

The nightingale is trilling
In the wood, on the cranberry.
Walking in the meadow
The Cossack sings–

He sings until Tchornobriva *
Comes out of the hut,
And he asks her:
"Did your mother hurt you?"
Close together they stand, they embrace,
The nightingale sings,
And, hearing it, they depart,
Joyful at heart.
Nobody sees them, none will ask her,
"Where wast thou, what didst thou do?"
She herself knows. She loved,
But her heart was sad with foreboding,
All unspoken, untold. . . .
Day and night she called,
Cooing like a mournful dove,
But no one heard.

The nightingale does not sing
In the wood over the water:
The black-browed girl sang of old
Under a willow tree–
Now she does not sing.
As an orphan, she hates the white world.
Without her sweetheart,
Like an alien, her mother,
Like a stranger, her father.
Without her sweetheart
The sun shines
As an enemy loves.
Without her lover
All is–a grave.
And her heart beats on.
One year passed, and another,
The Cossack did not return.

. . . . .

"I will not marry him, Mother!
I do not wish to 'live like a lady,'
Lower me in a grave with those Towels!**
Better to lie in a coffin than to see his face."

. . . . .

"O fortune-teller, how long will I live in this world
Without my sweetheart?
My Heart, Nenka, tell me the truth,
Is my lover alive and in health?
Does he love me,
Or forget and abandon me?
Tell me, where is my lover?
Art thou ready to fly to the end of the world,
Tell, if thou knowest,
For my Mother marries me to an old, rich man. . . .
But, O Grey One,
Never will my heart cease loving that other!
I would drown myself
But so I might lose my soul.
O my 'Ptashka!' ***
Do something–let me not go home.
It is hard, hard for me–
There, at home, the Old One waits
With the marriage brokers.
Tell me my fortune."

"So be it, Daughter. Tarry a while,
But do my will. Long ago I, too,
Was a marriageable maiden–
I know that woe, but it has passed,
And I have learned to help.
I knew thy fortune, my dear daughter,
Two years ago. Then I prepared for thee
That zilie on the shelf.
Now take the magic herb,
And to the clear spring go.
Ere cock-crow wash thy face,
Then drink this draught. Sorrow shall pass.
Run to the grave, nor look thou back–
Some one behind may cry, but give no heed.
Run to that spot where once thou saidst farewell;
Stay there until the moon
Is crescent in mid-sky,
Then drink again.
If he come not,
Then drink once more.
After the first draught thou wilt look
The maid thou wast:
After the second, a horse will stamp its foot.
If then thy Cossack lives
Be sure he'll come;
But after the third draught,
O daughter mine,
Ask not what shall befall!
But hearken!
Cross not thyself
Else naught of this will be.
Now go! And look upon
Thy beauty of last year!"

. . . . .

"To go or not to go?
No, I will not go home!"
She went and bathed herself,
And drank the zilie wine,
And she was changed;
Second and third time drank,
And drowsiness was hers.
She sang on the wide steppes:
"Float, float, O Swan,
Upon the bluish sea!
Grow tall, Topolia,
Reach higher, higher!
Slender and tall, aspire
Up to the clouds.
Ask God: Will waiting then
At all avail?
Waiting for him, my mate?

"Grow, grow tall!
Look out o'er the blue sea.
Good luck and bad luck lie
On either side.
And there, somewhere,
My lover roams the fields.
I weep, my years pass by
Waiting for him.
Say to him, O my heart, Topolia!
That people laugh at me.
Tell him that I shall die
If he do not come soon.
Mother herself
Wishes to bury me. . . .
Look far, Topolia, and, if he is not,
Weep with the dew at sundown,
Though none may know–
Taller and taller grow,
Higher and higher.
Float, float, O Swan,
Upon the bluish sea."

Such a song Tchornobriva
Sang on the steppes.
O Zilie Miracle!–she is Topolia!
She did not return home;
She did not wait for him.
There slim and tall
She beckons to the clouds.
The wind blows through the oaks in the wood,
It dances through the fields.
Beside the high road it uproots Topolia,
And fells her to the ground.

*Tchornobriva: black-browed girl.
**Rushniky: long towels prepared by a mother for her daughter's dowry: in case of death used to lower the coffin.
***Ptashka: little bird.

Taras Shevchenko,
"Po dibrovi viter vyje"
("По діброві вітер виє")
1839 р., S.- Peterburgh (С.- Петербург).

Translated by Florence Randal Livesay

Original publication:
Taras Shevchenko. Zibrannja tvoriv: U 6 t. — K., 2003. — T. 1: Poezija 1837-1847. — S. 113-118; S. 620-623

"Songs of Ukraina, with Ruthenian poems", 1916

Translated by Florence Randal Livesay


Recent comments for the page
«Poem "Topolia - the poplar" (T. Shevchenko, translated by Florence Randal Livesay)»:
Total amount of comments: 0    + Leave a comment