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Osyp Yuriy Fedkovych: The Recruit


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Ukrainian writers on war


Osyp Yuriy Fedkovych
The Recruit
Translated by Florence Randal Livesay

In the great Emperor’s courtyard
He stood at his post on the pavement.
He washed his face and dried it
As the duck her wings in water.
He washed his face with his tears –
None saw or heard in the silence.

He leaned his head on the bayonet
And slept for a precious moment.
In the great Emperor’s courtyard
He slept on his sharp-tipped bayonet.

He dreamt that he walked on a mountain –
O blue was the dream-like mountain! –
Brushing his hair in ringlets.
He walked on thinking, thinking:
Why does my mother write not,
Or can she still be living?

He heard her answer softly:
“I would like, my son, to write you,
But they made me a tomb so lofty
That I may not rise from beneath it.
Oh rise I cannot, my Eagle!
For deep below, on the bottom,
They have covered my hands with earth-clods,
With earth that is lying heavy.”

In the great Emperor’s courtyard
He would have dreamt still longer,
But the bell on high St. Stephen’s
Rang with a sudden clamour….
He wiped his face from the misting,
His bayonet wiped he dully –
Blood flows on the courtyard pavement
From the soldier lying dead there.

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