The excavated mound (1)
O gentle region, fair Ukraine,
Dear beyond every other!
Why are you plundered and despoiled,
Why do you perish, Mother?
Have you not prayed, before the dawn,
For fortune in the strife?
Have you not taught your wavering sons
To live a virtuous life?
—“Indeed I prayed and took great care;
Slept neither day nor night;
Watched for my children, taught them well
To do the thing that's right.
My children up to manhood grew,
Unfolding like the flowers,—
There was a day I knew delight. _
In this vast world of ours.
My joy was great...
But oh, Bohdan,
You unwise son of mine!(2)
Look at your ancient mother now,
Ukraine, of stock divine,
Who as she cradled you, would sing
And grieve she was not free;
Who, as she sang, in sorrow wept
And looked for liberty!...
0 dear Bohdan, if I had known
That you would bring us doom,
1 would have choked you in your crib,
Benumbed you in my womb!
For now my steppes are meted out
To Germans and to Jews;(3)
My sons now toil in alien lands(4)
Where foreign lords abuse;
The Dnieper they are drying up;
The loss will break my heart;
And my dear mounds the Muscovite
Is shattering apart.
There let him ferret, let him dig;
He takes, and is a thief...
Meanwhile let renegades grow up
To give our foes relief,
To help the Muscovites to rule
Ukraine’s broad acres black,
To strip their mother’s last patched shirt
From off her bleeding back!
Hasten, ye monsters all disloyal,
Your mothers frame to rack!”
Drawn, quartered, lies the tumulus;
The mangled mound expires...
What are they seeking?
What was hid Here by our ancient sires?
Alas, if one could only find
The thing they buried there,
My children would not weep, nor yet
Their mother know despair.
(1) Burial mounds were constantly being excavated by the government-appointed archaeological commissions for the purpose of seeking historical antiquities. To Shevchenko, this excavation of mounds was symbolic of Russia's spoliation of Ukraine throughout the centuries. There was an aura of sacredness about those barrows, for they were virtually the only visible signs of the past glory of Ukraine, ^ in many of them lay the bones of the Cossacks who fought for the freedom of their
(2) Shevchenko could never forgive Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky for signing the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654, by the terms of which Ukraine, instead of becoming Russia's ally (as Khmelnitsky had intended) fell under her complete sway.
(3) The German immigrants were being settled in Ukraine in Peter I's time, and particularly during Catherine II’s reign, when they were most favoured, she being of German origin herself. The Jews, who were forbidden to live in Russia or establish themselves there commercially, were driven to Ukraine where in the nineteenth century they numbered about a million.
(4) Many Ukrainians were compelled to leave their native land to do forced labour in Russia. Those conforming to the tsarist regime were given civil service positions. These and the wealthy Ukrainian landlords who were indifferent as to their national identity Shevchenko called “renegades," because they were completely lost to the cause of Ukraine's freedom.
1843, Berezan, (Березань)
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. 252-253; S. 691-694
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. 149 - 151.