Pavlo Tychyna

PAVLO TYCHYNA (1891-1967), Ukrainian poet. His first collection of poetry Clarinets of the Sun (1918) brought him instant recognition as the major Ukrainian poet of his time. His second collection The Plow confirmed Tychyna's position in Ukrainian culture. After the publication of his third collection Instead of Sonnets or Octaves he suffered immediate repercussions and never republished or even mentioned that book again. From 1920 to 1940 Tychyna worked on a monumental epic he called Skovoroda, a Symphony after his spiritual father Hryhoriy Skovoroda, an 18th c. poet and philosopher, but the work was never completed. In 1927 the Communist Party attacked Tychyna’s works. After several years of silence, Tychyna published a very ambiguous collection, and then in 1934 published The Party Leads the Way to redeem himself. All his poetry after this confirmed his position as the official ode writer for Stalin and Socialist Realism in Ukraine. Tychyna even censored his own early work. He lived in Kyiv and, in addition to Slavic

languages, he was fluent in Georgian, Armenian, Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew. Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps have translated Tychyna's early work since 1989 and their translations have appeared in American literary journals and anthologies.

 

INSTEAD OF SONNETS OR OCTAVES” is the third collection of poetry by Pavlo Tychyna, who lived in Kyiv through all 12 changes of government from 1917-1920. Published in 1920, it was immediately harshly criticized and he never allowed any of the poems to be republished, nor did he ever even mention this collection. The first full publication came well after his death, only as the Soviet Union was collapsing. This dark collection did not find resonance in those years of hope. The first poem “Dawn” acts as a prologue to eleven prose poems, each in two sections: the first very sparely outlines a scene, the second posits another possible look at the situation. The poems grow darker as society crumbles around the inhabitants of Kyiv and the governments change at an increasing pace. Most powers arrive with guns pointed at the bewildered inhabitants who eventually turn into “beasts devouring beasts,” as Tychyna put it. As noted by George Grabowicz, the Chair of Ukrainian Literature at Harvard, the collection “relies on a unique montage of reflection and dramatic vignette... It is an extended mediation on the idea and the reality of the Revolution...”

Tychyna's Poetry (translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps)
Dawn... (1920)

dedicated to Hryhorii Savych Skovoroda​

 

Dawn now, but the mist still lingers...
A crease appears in the sky.
-- How sorrow has taken hold of me!


Radiant furrows plow into the clouds.
I hear -- fanfares!
-- How sorrow has taken hold of me...


Those are not fanfares, they're trumpets and guns.
Sleep, do not awake, mother!...


Damn them, a curse on them all who've turned into beasts!
(Instead of sonnets or octaves).

 

Instead of Sonnets or Octaves

Autumn (1920)

Fungus grows on the cultures of the world.

 

Autumn. In the cities by four o'clock street

lights come on.

And in the village when the shepherd's

shadow stretches to ten feet

they drive the flock back home.

 

They say: you can buy old velvet,

somehow cover up the trash and plant culture

(only prop up its head!) -- and you'll see,

it will speak to us again.

 

But the leaves fell. And the head did not hold

on the shoulders.

Then -- they lunged into eclecticism. Took

some bricks

and just as much music. Thought it would alternate...

But the leaves fell. And the head did not hold

on the shoulders

 

Fungus grows on the cultures of the world.

Antistrophe

Adults and seven-year-olds sing: "There'll be

pie in the sky when you die."

Yes. The people are bringing in the harvest,

while the poets are in a ditch.

No use frowning at the simple song: the

prophet is always

less talented than the Messiah.

Autumn (1920)

Fungus grows on the cultures of the world.

 

Autumn. In the cities by four o'clock street

lights come on.

And in the village when the shepherd's

shadow stretches to ten feet

they drive the flock back home.

 

They say: you can buy old velvet,

somehow cover up the trash and plant culture

(only prop up its head!) -- and you'll see,

it will speak to us again.

 

But the leaves fell. And the head did not hold

on the shoulders.

Then -- they lunged into eclecticism. Took

some bricks

and just as much music. Thought it would alternate...

But the leaves fell. And the head did not hold

on the shoulders

 

Fungus grows on the cultures of the world.

Antistrophe

Adults and seven-year-olds sing: "There'll be

pie in the sky when you die."

Yes. The people are bringing in the harvest,

while the poets are in a ditch.

No use frowning at the simple song: the

prophet is always

less talented than the Messiah.

 
Terror (1920)

So again we take the Bible, philosophers, and poets. The person who said:

"Thou shalt not kill!" -- in the morning's found shot through the head. And

in the dump the dogs fight over the body.

 

Sleep, do not awake, mother!

 

A noble idea requires sacrifices. But is it a sacrifice

when beast devours beast?

 

-- do not awake, mother...

 

Brutal esthetics! -- when will you stop admiring

slit throats? --

 

Beast devours beast.

 

Antistrophe 

 

Aeroplanes and all the latest technology –

what good are they, when people don't look each other

in the eye?

 

Don't throw the enraged in prison, they are their own

prisons.

 

Universities, museums and libraries can not provide, what can be found in

brown,

grey

or blue eyes...

 
Lull (1920)

                              Lull

 

I sleep - I stir. I fulfill a will. Fill.

 

          Suddenly full to the brim! Lullaby... lull

 

Roosters (in the window) and a flood of green beer (through the window) -- all ring with O.

 

-- "I don't understand. "Marcel Etienne! Marcel Etienne!" they shouted 
with banners. And now they rot in the ground. You say -- so will I?"

 

Through life resounds a legato (a factory whistle). Enough! Resonate over 
my fate. Lullaby... lull
Only a bird in the window: triolet, triolet!

 

-- "And what about beauty? And immortality? -- I remember
(isn't it funny): with you forever! - she swore. --
It's obvious: people are enharmonic only in spirit. Because all tragedies and dramas -- are finally consonances.

 

-- "Get up! - a new government has taken the town!"

 

I open my eyes ("consonances").

 

On the wall the thick-framed window has been cast by the sun as a musical sharp sign on fire...

Antistrophe


In those days, when on the boundless waters grazed herds of winds; --

In those days, when the mountains shook, the earth cracked,
and over the grass, sharp as swords, crawled all types of monsters --

-- And the clouds, the clouds played in the sun without a care.
Child-like, subtle, delicate shapes! Who needed them?

The savage, stuffed with raw meat, tracked them for a long time
with his uncomprehending eyes, and then unconsciously smelled a flower, similar to a thistle.

 
The Highest Power (1920)

Get dressed for the execution -- someone shouted

and pounded on the door.

 

I awoke. The wind had opened a window. Everything was green

and the sky looked kinder. And above the city a giant

piano played...

 

I understood -- it was Resurrection Day.

 

Antistrophe

 

I'll never fall in love with a woman, who doesn't have a

musical ear.

 

I pray not to the Spirit itself -- nor to Matter.

 

The point: without the spirit of music socialism cannot be established even with the most powerful guns.

 
Rhythm (1920)

Rhythm

When two slender girls walk by -- with red poppies
                                                             in their hair -- 
-- somewhere far off! young planets!

Flow. Stream. Atoms of weariness -- to Earth, 
            to light, out of darkness. Dance up a dust storm... 
                                                             Suns

form a circle. And from them wisps float off 
throughout the universe.

Two girls.

Antistrophe


She poured the hungry children some milk, -- sat down 
                                                 and lost her way in thought...

 

On the pitcher, two tears rolled down, as if from blind eyes. 
One quickly, ahead. The other,
            hesitant, 
            following the first, 
            in its tracks...

Two girls.

 
Evohe! (1920)

The creators of the revolution are mostly lyric poets.

The revolution is a tragic lyric, not a drama.

As some say.

Evohe!

 

Our descendants will have to practice walking behind a plow,

as today they practice in a ballet studio. And they will look at the person who does not know how to sing, as a true counterrevolutionary.

 

The world through squinting eyes.

 

Evohe!​

 

Antistrophe

 

Join the party, where each person is considered a world treasure and where each and everyone opposes the death penalty.

 

Let them call you creators behind blinds, sentimentalists... Is that so important?

 

Even today we throw ashes not in the garden, but somewhere in a corner, near the fence.

 
You Tell Me (1920)

A short drizzle -- and the pavements are spotted with typhus...

A young novelist: -- "I don't want to, I can't write! The city is so oppressive,
life unnerves me."

I say nothing. Somewhere nearby a bomb...

"If only I could get away, you know, to the village. Swim, walk in the dew."

"Smash the saboteur!" -- I read on a poster.

And behind us old beggar women
stretch out their hands.

                           

                                      Antistrophe

  

 

Grass grows, wherever it wants. The wind hurls the army mobilization 
orders into the mud. The child cries -- "Milk!" but there's not even 
a crumb
in the hearth.

You tell me: what is counterrevolution?

 
Chauvinistic (1920)

They take the bread, coal, sugar, and say,

as if toasting us:

"Well, may God be generous to you... and may we often consume the fruits of your land."

 

But we're squabbling with our neighbor over the fence line, and so we answer: "God be willing..."

 

Straw roof: sometimes the sky is clear, but rain still drips through.

 

Antistrophe

 

The Right retreat, but try to hold their head forward.

 

The Left rush forward, but twist their head back.

 

No matter how you praise the teachings of Christ, even he rode on an ass and accepted hosannas.

 
Test (1920)

We just started to love the land, took the spade in our hands,

rolled up our sleeves... --

-- "for God's sake, put on a white collar and cuffs, tell'em anything:

they're asking if we have culture!"

Some spindle-legged foreigners were smoking through a pince-nez.

And all round misery -- like stalks, like weeds! And all round the earth, trampled, red...

 

Here walked Skovoroda.

 

Antistrophe

 

The deepest, greatest, but

simplest content, set to two-three

notes -- that is a true hymn.

Without contests, or awards write a contemporary

"Christ Has Risen."

 
Hollow (1920)

I wash myself. Water - chimes. Curtain –

a banner in the wind!

 

In the courtyard poplars and women.

-- "Well, I tell you: the town is totally surrounded."

-- "Oh, my!.."

 

A window slams. The water in the jug moves -- the fan turns...

 

-- "Yesterday the workers at the factories..."

-- (cannon fire.)

 

It will rain.

 ​

Antistrophe

 

The city is plastered with colorful posters: one person

stabs another.

 

We read lists of the executed but are surprised to hear

there are massacres in the provinces.

 

Anything can be justified by lofty ideals – except

a hollow soul.

 
Wheat Rot (1920)

They shoot the heart, they shoot the soul –

pity nothing.

 

... Sitting in the window, sucking on a thumb,

baby awaits mother. But mother is lying dead in the street

clutching a loaf of bread...

 

Over the twentieth century

wheat rot and Parsifal.

Antistrophe

 

To play Scriabin for prison guards –

this isn't revolution.

 

The Eagle, the Trident, the Hammer and Sickle* ...

each claims the banner of the communal "we".

 

But the we in each of us has been gunned down.

We lie in the dregs of the soul.

 

Maybe it's time for me to kiss the Pope's slipper as well?

 
War (1918)

I lay down to sleep. 
Three angels stand at my head.
The first angel -- sees all.
The second angel -- hears all.
The third angel -- knows all.

My dream -- my son.

He seems to face the enemy alone.
They surround him, strike at his chest!
(The first angel covers his own eyes).

The field is flat, flat and green.
The wind carries a tune: "Farewell, mother dear."
(The second angel approaches me with a cross).

The wind cries: "Don't grieve, if he falls for his land,
He will not die."
(The third angel comforts my heart).

My dream -- my son.

II On the right -- the sun.
On the left -- the moon.
Ahead -- the stars.

I give you my blessing, son, strike back at the enemy.
And he replies: "Mother dear!
There is no enemy
And there never was one.
The only enemy
Exists in our own hearts.
Give me your blessing, mother, I seek a root
An herb to cure the insanity of men."
I raise my hands to the cross
But there's nothing there.
Silence, except the crow - caw! caw!

On the right -- the sun.
On the left -- the moon.
Ahead -- the stars.

 
Pastels (1917)


A ray of sun runs
Look --
it's dawn!
It sits, plays,
Opens the eyes of the chamomile.
And in the east the sky is fragrant.
Roosters stitch the dark night
With fiery threads.
-- The sun --
A ray of sun runs.

 

II
The iron day
drank fine wine
Meadows, bloom! --
I, day, come
Herds, graze!
...to my loved one -- day --
cradling cradles! 
... during the day.
The iron day
drank fine wine.

III
Flutes swayed
where the sun set.
Evening approached
on tip toe.
He lit the stars,
sent mists into the grasses,
held his finger to his lips, --
and laid down.
Flutes swayed
where the sun set.

IV
Cover me, cover:
Me, old woman night,
I'm not well.
My dark journey
has always been in dreams.
Bring me some mint here,
Let the poplar rustle.
Cover me, cover:
Me, old woman night,
I'm not well. 

 
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