Weaving Gold

Mokosha, Anastasia Sophia, and Me, Natalia . . . while the books are written

Hoping against Hope

ukrainka

Lesia Ukrainka, Ukrainian poet

Lesia Ukrainka is one of Ukraine’s best loved poets and playwrights. She achieved a broad education by self-tuition. She knew all of the major Western European languages as well as Greek and Latin and the Slavic languages (Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, and others). She was equally familiar with world history and at 19 wrote a textbook for her sisters, published in 1918 as Ancient History of the Eastern Peoples. Lesia Ukrainka translated a great deal (eg, Nikolai Gogol, Adam Mickiewicz, Heinrich Heine, Victor Hugo, Homer). Suffering from tuberculosis, she traveled to Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Egypt, and, several times, the Caucasia in search of a cure. Travel exposed her to new enriching experiences and broadened her horizons. Lesia Ukrainka began writing poetry at a very early age.

In celebration of Lesia Ukrainka’s birthday on February 25, my contribution to Writer’s Quote Wednesday is one of her best-known poems poem, translated to English.

Contra spem spero (I hope against hope)

Abscond ruminations, you autumn clouds!
For  tis springtime, agleam with gold!
Shall in grief and wailing for ill-fortune
All the tale of my young years be told?

No, I want to smile through tears and weeping,
Sing my songs where evil holds its sway,
Without hope, indeed keep on dreaming,
I want to live! Thoughts of grief, go away!

On poor sad fallow land unused to tilling
I’ll sow blossoms, brilliant in hue,
I’ll sow blossoms where the frost lies, chilling,
I’ll pour bitter tears on them as due.

And those hot tears shall loosen
All that mighty crust of ice away.
Maybe flowers shall sprout and herald
A happy springtime for me, some day.

Up the flinty steep and craggy mountain
A weighty ponderous boulder I shall raise,
And bearing this dread burden, a resounding
Song I’ll sing, a song of joyous praise.

In the long dark ever-viewless night-time
Not one instant shall I close my eyes,
I’ll seek ever for the star to guide me,
She that reigns bright mistress of dark skies.

Yes, I’ll smile, indeed, through tears and weeping
Sing my songs where evil holds its sway,
Hopeless, a steadfast hope forever keeping,
I shall live! You thoughts of grief, away!

Historical Information: Encyclopedia of Ukraine

Translation inspired by Vera Rich, modified by me

In the original Ukrainian, written May 2, 1890

Contra spem spero!

Гетьте, думи, ви хмари осінні!
То ж тепера весна золота!
Чи то так у жалю, в голосінні
Проминуть молодії літа?

Ні, я хочу крізь сльози сміятись,
Серед лиха співати пісні,
Без надії таки сподіватись,
Жити хочу! Геть, думи сумні! 

Я на вбогім сумнім перелозі
Буду сіять барвисті квітки,
Буду сіять квітки на морозі,
Буду лить на них сльози гіркі.

І від сліз тих гарячих розтане
Та кора льодовая, міцна,
Може, квіти зійдуть – і настане
Ще й для мене весела весна.

Я на гору круту крем’яную
Буду камінь важкий підіймать
І, несучи вагу ту страшную,
Буду пісню веселу співать.

В довгу, темную нічку невидну
Не стулю ні на хвильку очей –
Все шукатиму зірку провідну,
Ясну владарку темних ночей.

Так! я буду крізь сльози сміятись,
Серед лиха співати пісні,
Без надії таки сподіватись,
Буду жити! Геть, думи сумні! 


contribution to Writer’s Quote Wednesday by Silver Threading 022916_2254_wqwwriters1.png

 

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