Featured Poem


On the lake where willows dream
The swans splash and paddle across
The waters in spring and autumn.
Their necks bend like reeds.

When the frost arrives and echoes
Over things like plate glass
And the surface slowly glazes
With mesmerised whiteness,

They destroy cynicism and despair
With their unconquered song
Each indefatigable singer

Lets the constellations guide them
From the absence of being and freedom
Above oceans of music and symphonic foam.

This poem probably led to the poet's arrest and subsequent death in the Soviet penal system.

» Comment on this translation 6 comment(s)

About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Mykhailo Draj-Khmara
Steve Komarnyckyj
Original language:
Series 3 No.15 - Poetry and the State

Original poem

About the authors


Mykhailo Draj-Khmara

Mykhailo Draj-Khmara (1889 - 1939) was a poet, and one of Ukraine's literary elite, which came to be known as 'The Executed Re...

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Steve Komarnyckyj

Steve Komarnyckyj is a British Ukrainian writer and linguist who combines a career working in the NHS with his literary and tr...

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Swans (Лебеді)

На тихім озері, де мліють верболози,
давно приборкані, і влітку, й восени
то плюскоталися, то плавали вони,
і шиї гнулися у них, як буйні лози.
Коли ж дзвінкі, як скло, надходили морози
і плесо шерхнуло, пірнувши в білі сни, -
плавці ламали враз ті крижані лани,
і не страшні для них були зими погрози.
О гроно п'ятірне нездоланих співців,
крізь бурю й сніг гримить твій переможний спів,
що розбиває лід одчаю і зневіри.
Дерзайте, лебеді: з неволі, з небуття
веде вас у світи ясне сузір'я Ліри,
де пінить океан кипучого життя.


Stepan Pasicznyi

9th May 2011

A job well done. Captures the essence of romanticism demonstrated in metophors based on the natural world so often found in much of Ukraine's beautiful literature.

Vitaliy Radchuk

9th May 2011

The rhymes of the original provide an impressive interaction of its lexical meanings while the translator honestly reported some of them to say what the verse is about.

Vitaliy Radchuk

9th May 2011

Where is the Neoclassic sonnet?

Stephen Komarnyckyj

9th May 2011

hi Stepan and Vitaliy many thanks for your comments- Stepan makes an interesting point about the connection with nature which is central to Ukrainian literature.

Vitaliy you are correct that I have not duplicated the neo classic sonnet and readers will notice that I have changed other details. My intention has been to capture the beauty of the original and the opposition of poetry and repression it embodies. If I had slavishly copied the neoclassic sonnet you would have had a rather grating poem with words being inserted for the sake of syllables and rhymes . Instead you have, I hope, a text that references the sonnet form but flows naturally. Its worth noting that I can feel justified in using para rhymes as he does- see небуття and життя for example.

Margaret Siriol Coilley

9th May 2011

A lovely translation. I can visualise the swans gliding over the lake as I read it.
For a moment all sadness diappears.

Olha Ivashchyshyn

9th May 2011

My congratualations on having a talent of a poet and a translator.

Your translation reveals the Ukrainian images and even Ukrainian soul through the English language. It has preserved the main ideas and atmosphere of the original poem created by a wonderful combination of stylistic devices reflecting the author's view and conception.

I think a translator may be considered to be a happy one in case he is able to feel true ideas of the author and express them in his own language. To my mind, you are a happy translator since you managed to do that.

Thank you for giving me a pleasure to read your verse.


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