T. Shevchenko (tr. by Michael M. Naydan) - poem "In captivity I count the days and nights"

In captivity I count the days and nights

“Mynaiut' dni, mynaiut' nochi”

In captivity I count the days and nights,
Then lose count.
O, Lord. How hard
These days drag on.
And the years flow between them.
They quietly flow by,
They take away the good and bad
With themselves!
They take away, without returning
Anything ever!
And don’t plead, for your prayer
Will be lost on God.

And the fourth year passes
Quietly, slowly,
And I begin to embroider
My fourth book in captivity—I embroider
My sorrow in a foreign land
With blood and tears.
For you never can tell
Your grief to anyone in words,
Ever, ever,
Nowhere in the world! There are no words
In far-off captivity!
There are no words, no tears,
No nothing.
You don’t even have great God
Around you!
There is nothing to look at,
No one to speak to.
You don’t feel like living in the world,
But you have to live.
I must, I must, but why?
Not to lose my soul?
It’s not worth this sorrow…
This is why I am fated
To live in the world, to drag
These chains in captivity.
Maybe some day I’ll still look
At my Ukraine…
Maybe some day I’ll share
My word-tears with
Green oak groves,
Dark meadows!
For I have no kin
In all of Ukraine.
But still, the people aren’t the same
As in this foreign land!
I’d stroll along the Dnipro River
Through cheerful villages
And I’d sing my thoughts in songs,
Quiet ones, sad ones.
Let me live to that day, to glance,
I have none;
If you begrudge me a good one, Lord,
Then give me a bad one!
Let a walking man not sleep,
To die in spirit
And knock about the entire world
Like a rotten stump.
But let me live, with my heart live
And love people.
And if not… then curse
And burn the world!
It’s horrible to end up in chains
To die in captivity,
But it’s worse to be free
And to sleep, and sleep, and sleep—
And to fall asleep forever,
And to leave no trace
At all, as if it were all the same
Whether you had lived or died!
Fate, where are you, fate where are you?
I have none!
If you begrudge me a good one, Lord,
Then give me a bad one! A bad one!

Taras Shevchenko
“Mynaiut' dni, mynaiut' nochi”
("Минають дні, минають ночі")
1845, Vjunischa, В'юнища

Translated by Michael M. Naydan

Original publication:

Taras Shevchenko, Tvory v 6 t. [Works in 6 v.], Kyiv: Naukova dumka, 1968

"Ukrainian Literature. A Journal of Translations" Volume 1.2004"
Shevchenko Scientific Society, New York, USA


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