The poem ‘I wish this stream would carry me away’ was first published in 1901 and then reappeared in the collection On the Wings of Songs (Na krylakh pisen, 1904). According to the translator Iryna Shuvalova, ‘The image of Ophelia, for instance, signals Ukrainka’s familiarity with the Western classics, as well as revealing her Neoromantic fascination with what in her time would be described as the Western canon. Besides, this 1900 poem’s elegant versification shows Ukrainka at the height of her creative powers. Her wave-like stanzas drifting away in melancholic ellipses are a perfect mirror of her lyrical heroine’s growing detachment from the world’.
I wish this stream would carry me away.
I’d drift on it, insane, adorned with blossoms,
Just like Ophelia. My songs would float with me.
We’d move along the gently swaying waters
The river would embrace me,
its waves so light and tender.
I would sleep
Surrendering, I’d let
The river take me, carry me, enfold me.
So I would float, my song a gentle whisper,
And sink under the clear and soothing waters,
The waves would only bear
A faint and muffled echo of my singing,
As if a ballad from the ancient times
Was being recounted, but its words relaying
Some bloody deeds and sorrowful affairs
Were lost to time. Indeed, that song was written
So long ago…
Then, there would be no trace
Of me and of my songs, but for some blossoms
That’d sway and bobble, clearly in no hurry
To join me at the river bottom. No,
They’d float until they reached some quiet pond
Where they would drift among the water lilies.
A weeping willow would be leaning low
Above the sleepy waters, and no wind
Would dare disturb that hidden little haven.
But raining softly from the gentle skies
Over the blooms I picked in my derangement
Would come eternal peace…
3 December 1900
Image: Anna Lea Merritt, Ellen Terry as Ophelia [detail], c. 1880. Etching. © The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)