Paŭluk Bahrym

Play then, play

Play then, play then, lad so little,

On thy cymbalom and fiddle,

But the bagpipes I must play, for

I in Krošyn cannot stay more.

 

A lord in Krošyn rages harshly,

And with clubs they slew my father,

Mother grieving, sister keening;

Whither, hapless one, art fleeing?

 

Whither do I flee? God bless us!

To the wide world, trackless deserts;

Into werwolf I'll be turning,

Looking back at you with yearning.

 

Fare thee well, my dearest mother!

If thou hadst not borne me ever,

If thou hadst not fed me, tended,

Happier thy life had wended!

 

If a kite's lot I'd been given,

Free from lords I would be living,

To serf-labour they'd not bend me,

Nor for a recruit intend me,

Nor to Moscow's army send me.

 

I shall live no more a shepherd,

And a soldier's life is heavy,

And I fear to grow, most surely,

Where I shall live ever poorly.

 

Flittermouse, O flittermouse,

Why didst thou not settle thus

O'er me, that my height remain

As the wheel of father's wain?

 

1828

 

 

NOTES

The poem was first published in Count Leon Potocki's Powieść z Czasu mojego, czyli Litewskie przygody (My Times, or Lithuanian Adventures) together with a Polish translation and a somewhat fictionized account of Bahrym. The first edition of My Times appeared in London in 1854.

lines 2-3. In his notes, Potocki points out that the cymbalum and fiddle are traditionally the instruments of rejoicing, but the bagpipe the instrument of mourning.

lines 22-25. This refers to the folk-belief that if a bat should alight on the head of a child or young person not done with growing, that they will remain stunted from that day forward.

 




Source: Like Water, Like Fire. London, 1971.
Translation: Вера Рыч

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