Armenian Poetry

(special thanks to Arena Productions of Glendale, California for contributing the Armenian poems below)

Words
Written by Armen Shekoyan

Love. Hope. Dream. Words, and words again –

Tear stained, an as sharp as knife.

Words have burned me, caused me pain,

Yet they haven’t turned to life.

Did I say life? Another word,

So unconscious, full of doubt,

Ancient, bitter and absurd –

My cheek’s still burning from its’ clout.

I said burning. It sounds just swell

If we add lights just not to grope.

Let my vernacular do well

By inserting love and hope.

Did I say love? Oh well, I meant

It’s something never can be found.

It’s just a lamb so innocent

Until it puts you in the ground.

Yes, ground I said – a simple sample

Unless it’s occupied by wizard –

I know more words, for example,

Wolf, coyote, or just lizard.

You saw me rhyme, It’s my career,

Connecting words when I’m awake.

Although I’m not quite skilled. My dears,

I like to put my life at stake.


The Birth of Vahagn (A Pagan God of Armenia)
From Moses of Khoren’s History of Armenia, fifth century
Translated by Aram Tolegian

The sky is turbulent, turbulent the earth,

Turbulent the purple sea,

And turbulent also the red reed in the sea.

Smoke curled out of the reed,

Flame leaped out from the reed,

And out of the reed a fair child came forth.

His hair glowed,

His beard flamed,

And his eyes were fiery suns.


Prayer to Anahid on the Feast of Navasard
Written by Daniel Varoujan (1884-1915)
Translated by anonymous

Born in Istanbul. He studied in Venice and at the University of Ghent in Belgium. An outspoken, narrative poet, using legends and pagan history. He was murdered savagely by the Turks at the age of thirty-one.

Goddess, I purge my conscience of all slothful religion

And I walk proudly in sacred slippers towards you

Open the marble gates of your temple.

Let me bruise my forehead on the door.

Open the altar and give back to me the hot strength

Of my Artaxian forefathers

Hear me, golden mother, fertile sister of ?

Donor of abundance, patroness of Armenia

Hear me on this morning of the feast of Navasart

When your people rejoice.

Allow me to kneel and pray before your idol

Listen, miraculous rose, goddess of golden feast

White bride of nocturnal light, lover of the sun?

Let the sun burn on your altar again.

I came in the robes of a pilgrim, bearing green

Balsam branches and gold rosewater

In a silver pitcher to anoint your breasts.

Let the fountains of Vartavar come to life ?

And let sixteen-year-old girls rise to dance


Wedding of Artashes and Satenik (Pagan Fragment)
Written by anonymous
Translated by Diana Der Hovanessian and Marzbed Margossian

Brave king Artashes rode out on his black horse,

The gleaming black stallion,

Holding a red leather rope with golden rings.

He crossed, like an eagle, the waters, the river,

Like the flight of an eagle, to the camp of the Alans,

Aimed his gold-ringed red leather,

Flung his red rope

Around the waist of the maiden, the daughter of the Alans,

And brought her home to his camp

Bruising her tender waist with the leather.

A rain of gold fell at their wedding

When Artashes became a groom,

A shower of pearls fell when Satenik became a bride.


The Elegy on the Death of the Great Prince Jivanshir
Written by Davtak Kertogh, (7th century)
Translated by Charles Dowsett

Inventive spirit of the word of God, compose with wisdom this

Melancholy song, that with mournful voice we may forever lament our bitter loss.

Great ruin overtook our eastern land and the noises of

Destruction echoed through the earth; may all nations and peoples

Hear my words and creatures born on earth lament with me,

Our peace has turned to bitterness and the gates of the marauders shall pour them forth upon us, for his wonderful reign has been destroyed and the light of his miraculous rule has died,

He sat like a lion in his lair and is lent his enemies trembled before him.

His fame spread over the whole earth and his glory extended to the ends of the world; the whole universe lauded and acclaimed the power of his intellect and the wisdom of his judgment.

His protectors abandoned him and the help from above departed from him.

The child of evil who wined against him, the son of lawlessness who ill-used him – may he walk the earth weighed down with maledictions, may he roam and wander with uncertainty like Cain.

May twigs entangle him as he flees, birds of the skies crowd in flight above him; crows of the valleys fly at him and wild beasts lie in wait for him!

May the fire of Herod be sent against him, worms and rats breed on him, grievous burns inflame him and devour the body of this regicide!

May the hand, which rose to kill his master and the feet, which trampled on his splendid countenance be shriveled by a virulent leprosy, and may ringworms break out upon him in cankerous sores.

May he hide and rest in the shade of briers, may broods of serpents offend him, may the venom of aspics spread though his body and burst him with excessive swellings.

He was the torch of true peace for us; the valiant Jivansher was our pilot. Strung with pearls were words of his mouth and his life shone with virtue

I burn with anger; I am consumed with grief, when I behold thy exalted throne bereft of thee

They feet walked in the path of consolation, wherefore my eyes, painful and sore, stream like fountains of tears.

The ones thou lovedst burn with love of thee and recall thy never-to-be-forgotten love; O that we were sweet-scented incense and might perfume thy tomb!

Hosts of kings are clothed in mourning for thee; the veils of brides are covered thick with dust.


Book of Lamentations
Written by Grigor Narekatsi, (951-1003)
Translated by Aram Tolegian

Poet, philosopher, composer, called “an angel in a human body.” His main works are A Commentary on Solomon’s Song of Songs and Book of Lamentations. The latter was considered to have healing powers and became a Gospel for the Armenian. During the last years of his life Narekatsi was suspected in sectarianism and was persecuted He died at the age of fifty-two.

1a.

Sounds of lamentation, groans from my heart, These I offer up to Thee, almighty God. From the incense burner of my soul I offer up to Thee the burnt ashes Of my soul’s vagrant desires, The fiery sorrow that torments me. Permit these, my secret yearnings, To rise up without delay to Thee – These feelings form the depths of my heart.

Translated by Diana Der Hovannisian and Marsbed Magossian

20b.

And now let a delicate incense rise towards you; An incense worthy of you. What kind of reproaches should I arrange for myself, When I have erred more than the most merciless of sinners, And being prodigal went on the prodigal’s way astray And like a savage I dared speak earthly words? I became haughty and arrogant.

I who must soon go down into death’s earth Became proud and lofty and lost mastery Of my breath, that pawn of my soul. I, the crushable cup, raised my arm Like a prince to invade foreign lands. I a rational mud, shone with the flush of anger Became arrogant as if I were immortal. I, who with the four-legged animals is condemned To death, bragged as if I were eternal.

23c.

If I see a soldier, I watch also for death. If the mailman comes, I assume he brings bills of loss. If a religious man calls, I wait for his curse. If he is a spiritualist, I envision a scolding. From each insensitive meeting I expect grief. If I am tempted with water, I expect to be drowned. If I see goodness, I run away, remembering what evil I have committed.

If a hand is raised. I flinch. If I happen upon the smallest scarecrow, I am terrified. I jump at the sound of the slightest rattle. If I were called into your presence I would panic. If I were called for questioning I shrink.

Ail my pitiful doubts heaped upon each other To stifle me, piercing my heart with incurable pain Like invisible arrows, unexpellable nail They push and stick into my soul Filling it with throbbing pus, foretelling The terrible danger of my death.

55c.

The pagan philosophers labeled death Evil if it were mindless, purposeless. And I agree because we are dying Like irrational animals and we are not afraid. We are lost, and not terrified We are forgiven and do not accept it humbly We are buried and do not struggle We are deported and do not panic We are falsified and do not protest The present does not exist, the past Unknown, and the future uncertain.

I am impatient, my nature is doubting. My feet are uncertain and my mind wandering. My passions overpowering and my habits, Intemperate. My body hardened by sin. My desires, loving the world. My mind is malicious and my desires malevolent. My life is one day long and pleasures brief. The shops are stocked with nothingness And the stockpiles are made of wind. I am like a shadow, My appearance is ridiculous.

Translated by Aram Pirjani and Anahid Aramouni

XVII A:

Today I pray to you, defender of grief-stricken mournful souls

Tormented by unkind hard ordeals, I beseech you;

Do not strike me, the wounded,

I am bruised, do not torture me,

Do not flog me, the battered,

Already am I corrupted, do not ruin me,

And reject me not, for I am withdrawn,

Don't banish me, the outcast.

Do not reprove me, the dishonorable,

Scold me not, the shuddering,

Do not break me, the broken,

Do not confuse me, for I am already confounded

Do not shake me, for I already quiver,

Do not crush my already broken self.

Do not blind me, I am already in the dark,

And do not singe me with fire, the already burned;

Do not terrorize me, the already terrified

Nor blindfold me, the blind…

O lord that came to seek out those lost souls,

And once again give them life,

I address you as the most forlorn,

Save me from my earthly grave.

II B:

Hearken unto me, o’ God

You, who lord over every body and soul,

Grant me the honor, so that I may gratefully fulfill your holy will

And bring to completion this book of Lamentation, that I have begun.


Complaints
Written Petros Dourian (1851-1872)
Translated by Alice Stone Blackwell

Born in Western Armenia, educated in Istanbul essentially a lyric poet. He also wrote plays, which did not win an audience at the time. He deserved more attention, which he finally gained after he died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-one.

Farewell to thee, O God, to thee O sun Ye twain that shine above my soul on high! My spirit from the earth must pass away; I go to add a star to yonder sky. What are the stars but curses of sad souls, - Souls guiltless, but ill-fated, that take flight To burn the brow of heaven? They only serve To make more strong the fiery armor bright Of God, the source of lightning! But, ah me!

What words are these I speak? With thunder smite, O God, and shatter the presumptuous thoughts That fill me, - giant thoughts and infinite, Hail to thee, God, thou Lord of trembling man, Of waves and flowers, of music and of light! Thou who hast taken from my brow the rose, And from my soul the power of soaring flight;

Thou who hast spread a cloud before mine eyes, And given these deathly fluttering to my heart, And bidd’st me smile upon thee on the brink Of the dark tomb, to which I must depart!

Doubtless thou hast for me a future life Of boundless light, of fragrance, prayer, and praise: But, if my last breath here below must end Speechless and mute; breathed out in mist and haze – Ah, then, instead of any heavenly life To greet me when my earthly span is o’er, May I become a pallid lightning flash? Cling to thy name, and thunder evermore!

Let me become a curse, and pierce thy side! Yea, let me call thee “God the pitiless!” Ah me, I tremble! I am pale as death; My heart foams like a hell of bitterness! I am a sigh that moans among the sad, Dark cypresses, --a withered leaf the strife Of autumn winds must quickly bear away, Ah, give me but one spark, one spark of life!


Where Are You Taking Your Black Cross
Written by Yeghishe Charents (1897-1937)
Translated by Anahid Aramouni Keshishian

Possibly the most influential Eastern Armenian poet of the century. Born in Kars in city of Kars. A very prolific poet, at once lyrical and intense, he spent a good deal of his creative energy on insignificant themes. William Saroyan described him as “a truly great man.” Addicted to morphine, he died in a Yerevan prison during the Stalin “purges” at the age at forty.

Where are you taking your black cross? Oh you, suffered soul – Is there a new Golgotha Which you can climb proudly – where people Will look at your luminous halo with deep love?

Are you climbing the mountain as Jesus? Or – are you just a thief condemned to death? Is every man today a Pilate Washing his hand on your behalf?

What illumination! – how do you, my soul, get to Climb up the mount Golgotha with willing torment, When you don’t even know whether you are Jesus or Judas?

Do you, my soul, have a cruel scale, To weigh this un-weighable thought In the dark midnight of your suffering?


Morning of Light(excerpts)
Written by Nerses Shnorhali (1102-1173)
Translated by Diana Der Hovannesian and Marsbed Margossian

Versatile scholar, poet, writer and composer. Armenian Catholicos. He wrote many commentaries, canticles and odes, some of which are still sung in the Armenian Church.

Ascending sun, ascending light, Awakening the morning, Almighty Justice, let dawn light in me. Excellence of excellence, Epitome of kindness, Eye of the morn.

Fountain of pity, Flowing from all three, Father, Son, and Spirit, I want to wake, I want to be lifted Into your love.

King of glories Keeper of the worthy, Kind lover of mankind. Lamp in the darkness, Life for the dying, Lead me into the orderly count.

Opener of doors. Open the house to me. Open away from the dark. Roadway to glory Righteous renewer of the weary, Relight the tired soul.

Zealous to be saved. Zealous to atone. Zealous to sing glory to You. Ode to Spring (an excerpt)


Ode to Spring(an excerpt)
Written by Grigoris Aghtamartsi (1485-1544)
Translated by Samvel Mkrtchian

Armenian Catholicos. He wrote his poems between 1515 and 1524. Some critics consider Ode to Spring to have been written by Hakob Netrarents (? -1501)

It is Spring again, the roses prevail, Hear the turtledove and the nightingale Singing so sweetly in a blossoming bush, The sprouts all around beginning to push. Drunk am I, drunk with love, it seems, Drunk am I at noon with the beams, Drunk am I at night with my dreams.

A sanctuary with the smell of balm, Almonds and sugar, incense in my palm, A full flavored apple reddish in hue, Fragrant florescence and sunny dew. Drunk am I, drunk with love, it seems, Drunk am I at noon with the beams Drunk am I at night with my dreams.

A glimmering flower and radiant eyes, The only bright tuberose of the Paradise, Shimmering Saturn and the morning star, Light-giving Venus, so brilliant you are, Drunk am I, drunk with love, it seems, Drunk am I at noon with the beams Drunk am I at night with my dreams.

Incense and myrrh, the very electable, Sweeter than halva and very delectable; May you never know of sadness or loss, Blessed be your life by the Holy Cross. Drunk am I, drunk with love, it seems, Drunk am I at noon with the beams Drunk am I at night with my dreams.


Song of Love
Written by Naghash Hovnatan (1661-1722)
Translated by Aram Tolegian

Born in Shoroth. A minstrel and painter, his poems are free of Medieval moralities.

Come, let’s go into the garden and sit among the roses. Don’t display your ripe breasts to anyone but me— O dear, O dear, my love of you has made me truly mad. Your skin is bright as stars, your face a rounded moon, Your black hair falls softly down your neck and shoulders;

I’ll die from worry over you—how that will suit your pride! O dear, O dear, my love of you has made me truly mad. For God’s sake, go and see if my love is home; Let me go, let me plead, she may pity me and open the door, Should she speak to me but once, I know her quivering heart will start to cool.

Dressed in bright colors and adorned with gold, you are as splendid as a peacock; Seeking for a single kiss, I run around bewildered. Is it Nagash you would kill? What have I ever done to you? O dear, O dear, my love of you has made me truly mad.


Hayrens
Written by Nahapet Kouchak (16th century)
Translated by Aram Tolegian

Nothing is known about him except his short poems, hayrens. A lyric poet, witty and frank. His love poems are very popular in Armenia. William Saroyan called him “A lunatic of love,”.

I say, Your face is bliss. She says, Lord made me nice. I say, Give me a kiss. She says, It has a price. I say, How much? Do say! She says, Your soul to pay!

I say, do take it, dear, It’s yours, for I feared That it would cost eyes too, Then how could I see you? I wish I’d drink the ruby wine, The color your cheeks bear. Your bosom is Adam’s Paradise, Oh to pick an apple there.

I wish I’d lie between your breasts And fall asleep today; Tomorrow I would face the Devil To give my soul away. Oh my! I wandered round the world There’s no place I haven’t been. I thought I ought to find a virgin Hitherto so chaste and clean.

Oh my! I fell in love with one Who first was loved, forsaken then; What’s the use of all my sufferings When you have lain with other men! I am young and so are you, For love the occasion serves.

Your waist is like a subtle bow, The more I pull, the more it curves. Two sweet grapes are your nipples In a vineyard so white;

Your body is like the morning. The more it’s bare, the more it’s bright Your bosom is a white temple, your breasts are torches bright; I’ll go and a bell-ringer be, Then come to nurse your light.

Foolish boy! You don’t deserve it; you love to sport and lark, And in your pastime you will leave My temple in the dark. That night I slept In my lonely bed.

My pearly skin Moonlight-overspread. My lover came to me in my dream— I awoke: alone In the moonlight’s gleam. “You are like a sapphire, An emerald or jade, Of thousand cups of Attar your breath is made.”

“When you say such things my breast Yearns for you, my treasure… Look, I’ll undo the buttons: Come in and take your pleasure.” Your small firm muskmelon breasts, When will they belong to me?

Your breasts are like the ocean: All fevers are cured by the sea. Oh could I but grow smaller, Plunge into your arms like the deep And, stepping from the water, In the shade of your eyebrows find sleep!

O night, be long, be without end, Be, if you can, a year. My love has come to me tonight, At last I hold him near. O dawn, delay, come not too soon, Do not disturb our sport The light that through my window falls Must cut our loving short.

On this cold night, forsaking my work I come to your door, Either let me sleep upon your breast, Or tell me to go. How can I say ‘Go,’? Will not your gentle heart be cross with me?

Come, let me take you to my heart, Make a place for you on my breast, Mold my bosom into an altar, Make my breasts a pillow so Your face can lie full upon them. Fasten my cape and hold you in so That your breath will always be warm upon my breast.


Oriental Bath (excerpts)
Written by Daniel Varoujan 1884-1915
Translated by Aram Tolegian

Born in Istanbul. He studied in Venice and at the University of Ghent in Belgium. An outspoken, narrative poet, using legends and pagan history. He was murdered savagely by the Turks at the age of thirty-one.

The inner door of the green-doomed bath opens slowly, Inviting in a cluster of naked houris Who drift in, lingeringly, slowly; All naked, and all surpassing beautiful, Their arms folded modestly Across their gleaming breasts, which swell Over and onto their forearms, breasts darkly starred With round brown nipples, swaying breasts.

Inside the bath their low melodious voices And their soft breath turn to muffled bells And as the vapor rises within The bath, like moistened veils clinging Along their naked bodies, which now start to pearl With sweat, their eyes glow with a fine warm luster Like brilliant stars seen through a foggy sky.

Houris at their baths! Some stretched out On warm navel stones, dream, smiling languorously, …and now they cast Aside the towels that had clung like seaweed To their thighs—Oh, their bodies unadorned as statues!

And now their hair, braid on braid, like waves On a stormy sea... Their hair, they comb their long, Long hair endlessly down to the tips With gold-covered combs, while their fingers Glitter with the sparkle of their diamond rings. The houris sometimes feel listless and faint, And sometimes shiver suddenly when, from The high vaporous dome above, some cold Fresh dew falls straight between their breasts.

And, seated on the navel stones, their thighs Spread, spread and taste the delightful Water which glides by and titillates. They rub their bellies smooth, And slowly pour water down their backs. With languid eyes and the dippers raised high They bathe clean their full, smooth breasts. In the rare vapor, red as tulips, Beauty on beauty, the houris leave the bath.

O the luxurious curls slanting onto their breasts, O those wet curls heavy with water With drops that fall as pearls around Their groomed and dimpled feet; to sing, O just to sing of their charms and rare perfume, The glow of their bodies, the sandals, silks, and veils!

Those fingers, that today dipped into The depths of henna bowls, as into a bloody Heart, let me just kiss them; and let me Kiss that hair, silked with sweet oils, Hair that in the night, beneath the moon, Gives its scent to the down filled pillows;

O to kiss, to press against my lips Their aromatic brows, their curving lashes, Bosoms dazzling with brilliant jewels, Whose stones illuminate as torches Around the bridal bed—o but to press My lips to their navels, where deeply concealed, Rests Arabian hashish And Afric music!

Now bound homeward, and burdened, So prettily, with precious stones and rare jewels, Lightly scented with oils and thyme Whose fragrance clouds their paths, The city squares, scents the leavings in Luncheon baskets, and trails its perfumes deep Inside the folds of undulating skirts—

Now bound homeward they go their different ways, The pavement echoing the sound of their footfalls, Perfumed footsteps on Orient streets; And tracing footprints tender as flowers, as blooms Of May, will make the streets themselves think That spring, the soul of spring is passing by.


Liberty
Written by Mikael Nalbandian (1830-1866)
Translated by Alice Stone Blackwell

Born in Nor Nakhijevan in Russia. He studied at the University of St. Petersburg, and died at thirty-six in exile, after being imprisoned for his political views.

When God, who is forever free, Breathed life into my earthly frame, - From that first day, by His free will When I a living soul became, - An infant upon my mother’s breast, Ere power of speech was given to me, Even then I stretched my feeble arms Forth to embrace thee, Liberty! “Liberty!” answered from on high The sovereign voice of Destiny: “Wilt thou enroll thyself henceforth A soldier true of Liberty?

The path is thorny all the way, And many trials wait for thee; Too strait and narrow is this world For him who loveth Liberty” “Freedom!” I answered, “on my head Let fire descend and thunder burst; Let foes against my life conspire, Let all who hate thee do their worst: I will be true to thee till death;

Yea, even upon the gallows tree The last breath of a death of shame Shall shout thy name, O Liberty!”


Mother Don’t Gawk At Me
Written by Violet Gregorian
Translated by Myrna Douzjian

Born in Iran, immigrated to Armenia in young age. Lives and works in Armenia. She has published two poetry books, and is publishing a literary magazine called “Bnagir.”

Mother, don’t gawk at me, Yes, these white things Swaying on my shoulders Are wings, But don’t fret, I don’t feel pain, Set my feet free, So that I may fly.

Father, yes, you have taught me This lesson, But your house weighs heavily upon me, Don’t pity me, Beyond your roof there’s a blue ceiling above my head.

Set mother’s feet free, So that she may set my feet free, So that I may fly. Little brother, the most delicious morsels And my thoughts on the heavens.

I’ve always shared with you, But I can’t share these wings, Set father’s feet free, So that he may set mother’s feet free, So that she may set my feet free, So that I may fly.

Friends of mine, don’t wait for me, Put on some coffee and find someone else To complete your poker game. Don’t miss me and don’t gossip about me, I am nearby, But remember my name when you drink wine.

Come on, set my brother’s feet free, So that he may set my father’s feet free, So that he may set my mother’s feet free, So that she may set my feet free, So that I may fly.

Boys, whom I didn’t have time to kiss, Buses and trains that I didn’t have time to ride, Pretty clothes and earrings that I didn’t have time to wear out, Cows, pigs and chickens that I didn’t have time to eat, Poems that I didn’t have time to write, Wine that I didn’t have time to get drunk with, Children whom I didn’t have time to bear.

Flowers, wind and water, Mountains and fields, Hot afternoons and long nights, Feathery clouds and equally feathery birds, Don’t make a scene, you won’t be left abandoned, Come on, set my feet free, For I can’t rise to the sky With you on my tail.

And feel comfort, Perhaps one day I’ll return With large snowflakes, beautiful spots, With the height of a tree, with the poise of stone, Transparently, as glass,(in the shapes of polished boulders), Or amorphously- You’ll recognize me.


One Drop of Honey
Written by Hovannes Toumanian (1869-1923)
Traslated by Gerald Papazian

“The poet of all Armenians”. Born in the village of Desegh and educated in Tiflis. A lyric poet as well as a contemplative. He also wrote verse and prose for children. Died of cancer at the age of fifty-four.

In his village on a hill-top A villager had set up shop. One morning from the hinterland, Arrives a shepherd, crook in hand, His faithful dog close by his side.

“Hello!” says he, stepping inside. “Would you sell me Some pure honey?” “Sure, friend! Why not? It’s my pleasure. Hand me your mug, here’s my measure. Any pref’rence? The best you say?

That’s fine! We’ll pour it right away.” With such sweetness, with such good will, Honey’s measured and poured to fill The shepherd’s mug. But as they pour, One drop of honey hits the floor.

Buzzing around, a little fly Rests on the drop, it’s taste to try. Purring its way comes cautiously And sturdily and curiously, The shopkeeper’s old pussycat Attacks the fly, kills with one splat!

Upon the cat’s unwonted dart, The shepherd’s dog jumps with a start, Barks: “Wuff” and, lo, Raising its paw, Strikes just one blow, A strong one though, And kills the cat Leaving it flat!

“It’s dead! My cat, it’s life’s over! You brute, you beast, you son of a …” The shopkeeper utters his cry, Raising some heavy object high, He hits it hard on the dog’s head, Which falls beside the cat, stiff, dead. {“Oh, dear, my dog! My pal! My lion! Curses on you, ruthless villain!

You shatterer, you batterer…” “What made you strike a stroke so vile? You’ll pay for this, you…crocodile!” Thus cries the shepherd in a fit, And lifts his crook, and swiftly hits The shopkeeper, with one strong whack, And leaves him flat upon his back.

“They’ve murdered him alert, alarm!” From shop to street from house to farm, Voices arise angry and grim, “Alert, alarm, they’ve murdered him!”

Shouting, prying Cursing, crying Come the fathers, Mothers, brothers, Sisters, children Widows, maiden, Come friends, come foes, Uncles, in-laws, Step-dad, step-son, How can you name them one by one? They come and come from everywhere.

In short, the whole village stands there! Myrna “You heinous bear, you ogre, you! What an idiotic thing to do! You came to shop or to provoke A fight, by killing honest folk?”

One threat is made, ten blows are thrust, Until the shepherd bites the dust And drops down dead beside his dog! “Now send the corpse back to his stock!” But bad news spreads. And in no time The shepherd’s town learns of the crime. “Murder! Bloodshed!

Are you all dead? They’ve killed our brother, quick, arise!” Like a bee-hive struck with surprise, Frenzied and fuzzy, Angry and muzzy The whole, entire population Moves in frantic agitation.

Armed with what they can lay hands on, One grabs a stick, one a truncheon, One picks a sword, one takes a log, One a shovel, a spade, a rod, One still an axe, a knife, a gun, Some of them ride, some walk, some run Some bare of head, others barefoot, All take the neighbor village route!

“You dev’lish, fiendish, murd’rous lot! Have you no heart? No fear of God? One comes to shop, his throat is cut? What sort of wild custom is that? We spit upon people like you! Spit on your name, your honor too! We’ll strike and shoot Plunder and loot.

Hey! Ho! Let’s go! We’ll squash the foe!” And so the crowds soon come to blow, They strike and shoot and mutilate, And plunder, burn and devastate! The more the farms are put to flame The deadlier becomes the game.

They crush each other, Erase the other, Until they wipe out Themselves forever. Would you have thought, near as they were, These villages, a close as they were To almost form one single town, Would have a king each of its own?

When the sovereign of one kingdom Hears of his peoples’ martyrdom, He summons court, rules a decree To all subjects of his country.

“Hark ye, my loyal noblemen, My soldiers, workers, countrymen, All men of trade, Of shade and grade, Behold how vile and treacherous Our neighbors evil, envious, Have marched upon us in foray, While we in guileless slumber lay.

Slaughtered without the slightest ruth, Our precious country’s, precious youth! So, massacred and piteous. Our very children call on us, To take up army raise the army, We shall, though most unwillingly;

With cannon ball and sword of flame, In God Almighty’s holy name, Vengeance shall raise its worthy hand, And crush for ever that hostile land!” The rival king orders likewise His subjects, in protest to rise: “Before our God omnipotent, We charge our neighbor government Of malice and barbarity, Disrupting peace and harmony Of conduct such that war ignites And violates the human rights!

Breaching ties of fraternal love! In view of crimes mentioned above, In name of probity and trust, In name of blood spilt most unjust, In name of peace and liberty, In name of God and his Glory, We raise our voices sharp and shrill, And our sharp sabers higher still.” And thus begins the dreadful war.

Everywhere thunder and uproar, Cities and lands are put to fire, Blood, fearful screams, laments most dire! Ruin, misery and despair, The grim smell of death everywhere.

Summer, winter, Year after year, Ploughmen are killed, Fields left untilled, And as all peaceful efforts fail, Famine and drought of course prevail, Famine and drought mean death, mean doom, The flowering land becomes tomb.

And the survivors to this day, Ask in amazement and dismay, “What was the reason, what gave birth, To this unholy hell on earth?”


The Death of Kikos
Written by Hovannes Toumanian (1869-1923)
Traslated by Sos Bagramyan

“The poet of all Armenians”. Born in the village of Desegh and educated in Tiflis. A lyric poet as well as a contemplative. He also wrote verse and prose for children. Died of cancer at the age of fifty-four. There was a poor man and his wife Who had three daughters.

The father One day is thirsty from work, So he tells his eldest daughter To get some water from the stream. Now, at the bottom of this stream There stands a tree, and when the girl Sees this, she says to herself, “Now, if I find me a husband And have myself a son, and name Him Kikos, and Kikos comes and Climbs this very tree, and falls down And breaks his poor head on this rock…

Oh my dear Kikos, Oh…” Right then And there she sits under the tree And begins to cry while she wails, I got a husband, then a son Named Kikos, with a pointy hat. And he climbed this tree by this stream Then fell down and broke his head, splat! Oh dear Kikos, oh my dear son!

The mother waits and waits, and when she sees That her eldest is not coming back, She sends her second daughter Off and says, “Go and see why your Sister is late.” And so she leaves.

Now when the older sister sees Her younger sister from afar She starts to cry louder and says, “Come, oh come here pitiful aunt, See what’s happened to your Kikos.”

The eldest girl tells her sister, I got a husband, then a son Named Kikos, with a pointy hat. And he climbed this tree by this stream Then fell down and broke his head, splat! Oh dear Kikos, oh my dear son!

“Oh my dear Kikos, Oh!” Bellows The second sister as she sits Next to her sibling. And so now Both girls start crying together. The mother waits and waits, and sees That her daughters do not return, She sends her youngest daughter Off and says, “Listen, go and see Why your sisters have not come back.”

So the youngest daughter sets off And finds her sisters sitting and Crying together by the stream. “Why in the world are you crying?” I got a husband, then a son Named Kikos, with a pointy hat.

And he climbed this tree by this stream Then fell down and broke his head, splat! Oh dear Kikos, oh my dear son! “Oh your poor aunt, my dear Kikos!” Cries the youngest, beating her head.

She sits next to the other two And their three cries ring louder still. The mother waits and waits, and sees All three daughters have not come back, So she goes looks for them herself.

When they see their mother coming The three daughters begin to cry, “Come, Come pitiful grandmother, See what’s happened to your grandson!” “What grandson? What’s happened?” She asks.

The eldest then tell her mother, I got a husband, then a son Named Kikos, with a pointy hat. And he climbed this tree by this stream Then fell down and broke his head, splat! Oh dear Kikos, oh my dear son!

May your grandmothers eyes go blind… My dear Kikos!” The mother cries. She then sits by her three daughters The father then sees that his wife Has gone after their three daughters And has failed to come back herself. So he decides to go himself And see what’s kept them all away.

As soon as they see the father’s Head pop up down the road, they cry, “Come, Come pitiful grandfather, See what has happened to Kikos!” “What Kikos, what are you saying?” The father responds, lost in shock.

The eldest girl tells her father, I got a husband, then a son Named Kikos, with a pointy hat. And he climbed this tree by this stream Then fell down and broke his head, splat! Oh dear Kikos, oh my dear son!

“Oh dear Kikos!” The mother and her three daughters wail on their knees. The father, being the wisest, Says to his wife and three daughters, “You silly women, what are you Crying for? No matter how much you Wail, no matter how much you Cry, you will not bring Kikos back!

Get up and lets go to our house, Invite our friends and hold a wake And honor our dear, dear Kikos. What good will all your crying do? This here is the way the world works, And so Kikos shall leave the world The same way that he entered it.”

It so happened that one ox And one small pot full of flour Was all that they had in the world. Only when they kill their one ox, Make bread of their bit of flour, Invite people and hold a wake All in the honor of Kikos Are they able to ease their pains?


On World’s Vanity
Written by Mkrtich Naghash (1485-1544
Translated by Samvel Mkrtchian

Bishop, poet and painter. Born in the village of Pohr. He wrote mainly secular poetry.

The world is a dream and a lie, My brothers, it’s as clear as the day. For where are the Princes and Kings, The sultans and khans, where are they? They erected these fortresses, towns Exerted themselves to repent They carried the scar to their graves, Or into a dungeon they went.

All the days will elapse in an hour, You open your eyes to your death; The Sun does not always shine down, You are cheerless, distressed, short of breath. Alas, even little children, Who we think is untainted and right, Turn into dust, time flying Like a dream of a shadowy night.

Oh wretched Naghash, do try To be mild and good-hearted again. Do listen to your own counsel Since everything else is in vain. You thought you were a nice swimmer… But that was the river of Sin; You labor so hard for the world But there is just nothing you win!


Identity (excerpt)
Written by Vahe Oshagan (1922- )
Translated by Driane Der Hovannesian and Vahe Oshagan

A literary scholar and essayist, perhaps the most cultured poet of the century. He is the son of the outstanding novelist and literary critic Hacob Oshagan. Born in Bulgaria, educated in Cyprus, Jerusalem and France. Editor of the literary journal Raft that is published in San Francisco, California. He has also published two books of short stories. The poet now lives in Australia where he moved from the United States.

I am the fake man A store window plaster cast mannequin Nobody notices Imagining something else In my place, a tasty morsel in hunger’s eye Where frozen famine stares out To devour me with white teeth of light From a thousand angles I am the black electronic sleepless secret eye Surveying the museum.

Ever since opening day The door has not opened but the crazy assault of vandals Fills the nights while hoodlums Smash windows. I am the invisible Unrevealed non-being A colossal useless magnificent radar machine, An enormous beacon of the mind Spreading the light of consciousness Beaming it over the sparkling vista While I sit inside a lighthouse in the dark Looking for the match to strike the light Of life.

I am the spy In the corridors of the verb “to be” I loiter searching, but for what? Who Is it that has usurped my place And lives my life, a life that has Fled and secretly entered a monastery Leaving behind pronouns without number Or person. What is it that we snatch From each other’s hands?

I am the non-existent man Who has not been and will no longer be A nightmare mirage Which takes the form of any object Devil, genie, daemon, I inhabit your life with relish Savoring my role as I devour you Inside and out, Emptying you until only the crust Of awareness remains and you look inside Yourself to see nothing but me. I am the murderer Who should be mailed but who roams the streets Free and guiltless.

Even so, I, the unprecedented catastrophe Of the human race, am the one who warns you night and day Striking against your eyelids And all your outside membranes Shouting Open! Give way! I pass you, speeding by In truth’s taxi trying to run You over just to wake you up, just To let you know there is no living Without passing through death.

I am the human Without witness, without notary Who has climbed on a raft of words trying to signal, trying To say I am the tenant and the owner Of this body? We have embraced each other Knife to knife, buried alive in the cement Of moments. But just before the cement solidified We saw some hope of starting up The rituals of life Secretly opening the dam of love Making an effort to live before the arrival of death.

I am god Who will come to create The ray of light in the dark To whisper the password To poor mortals fallen in the trap Who twitter like madmen Flying kites of hope From fields of ignorance. I am deaf from cries of pain Which hurricanes blow my way.

I am already blind And wordless, my tongue having Frozen long ago. I have no message, no counsel. This is who I am. This.


Leader of the Masquerade
Written by Parouyr Sevak (1924-1972)
Translated by Karoon Gharakhanian

Born in the village of Chanakhchi in Armenia. Educated in Yerevan and Moscow. The most favorite poet in Armenia during the last three decades. A lyrical and meditative poet with a social awareness, his profundity was somewhat exaggerated by the critics after he died in a car crash.

Do you here me? It is enough, Take off your masks! Take them off! So that the yearning winds May slap your true and deformed faces…

I cannot note the exact date And time precisely, Nevertheless, this show, Which began ages ago, Is coming to its conclusion.

Take off your masks So that you may at least breathe with a little more ease...

You say it. Is it not enough? To rob the self of the self And in its place assign another? But the sun is extremely punctual; When the determined time arrives, it will shine.

Your awakening at that time Will resemble an explosion. An explosion! I am telling you, After which Silence and Dust will wrestle for the thrown of inexistence...

Take off your masks, Know thyselves, For the last time, Before the end...

The dance is over And the game is at its end. Take off your masks,

Yet, if you are still going to play, Eh, play! I insist, however much your hearts desire, Play the game on yourselves and with each other, But...without me, I am no longer participating, Not only in your games, Moreover the sacrifice, That the one being sacrificed Is humanity and mankind...

And I no longer protest, No longer pacify, And no longer strain my throat. For what? Or for whom? Now I endeavor merely...to not be To become completely...a mask.


Contemporary Prayer
Written by Parouyr Sevak
Translated by Anahid Aramouni Keshishian.

Born in the village of Chanakhchi in Armenia. Educated in Yerevan and Moscow. The most favorite poet in Armenia during the last three decades. A lyrical and meditative poet with a social awareness, his profundity was somewhat exaggerated by the critics after he died in a car crash.

It’s been ten years, a hundred and ten, one thousand and ten That I am afraid, I am so afraid Of the dull and dreary myriad of believers. If you are gods, Turn all their candles out, Turn off all their torches, All their assorted lanterns, So… there will be light.

And do not accept their sacrifice In any altar, As it is not theirs, but stolen. And reject their pledge of sacrifice, So… the belief itself, so chaste and noble, will not be at stake.

And if you are gods Close your ears tightly To their slithery prayers – Memorized, mechanical, calculated, Their tool to trick not themselves but you.

And please understand once and forever That even those that curse the gods Are much preferable For it is that belief that has angered them, The wounded, the bloody, The burning and beaten, The aching and screaming, The still infant belief.

The infant belief that was called to be a father, And if you are a father, Do not permit, please, The false believers to murder the infant.


Proposal to the Computers and Precision Instruments of the whole world.
Written by Parouyr Sevak (1924-1972)
Translated by anonymous
.

Born in the village of Chanakhchi in Armenia. Educated in Yerevan and Moscow. The most favorite poet in Armenia during the last three decades. A lyrical and meditative poet with a social awareness, his profundity was somewhat exaggerated by the critics after he died in a car crash

You compute, and compute…! Compute then, With what wavelength, in how many seconds, How many grams of blood flow from a girl’s heart Towards her abashed cheeks, Producing that thermo-nuclear flash Which until now we had naively called a blush? And what currents of cosmic rays flow Through our atmospheric eyes When they suddenly touch other eyes?

And is this reciprocal radiation Dangerous for our hearts, Or beneficial? You compute, and compute…! Compute then, how many kilowatts of current We have transferred with our palms To children’s soft hair and tiny hands, To the supple bodies of our loved ones, To our grandmother’s bent shoulders? And how much less is what we have received, Or how much more?

Otherwise, You compute, and compute, and compute…! Will you, please, compute also That at least, for one of us during his lifetime At how many women he has looked with desire, At how many, with pure admiration, At how many, merely with brotherly tenderness…?

Indicate also the places of those women Who could have loved us deeply, But whom we did not meet in that way. And state the number of those children Which we could have had in our lifetime, But did not and will not have;

And the number also of those children Which would have been ours it seems, But did not become ours! Otherwise, you compute, and compute, and compute…!

We do not even properly know yet Why it is that man laughs, Only man, And no other living creature, You tell us then The wavelengths of our laughter: Reveal their various colors, And explain to us the difference Between a smile and loud laughter!

Indicate now the date, Merely the approaching, impending year, When, at last, the wounded nations Will revive or be healed, And the wounding nations will receive Their just and irrevocable retribution. Otherwise, many people for many centuries, Having abandoned all hope from inexorable God, Will be waiting still.

They will be waiting still. You, the new gods of the new era, Do not you, at least, be false, at least you!


At the Night Club
Written by Gevorg Emin
Translated by Mischa Kurdian

It is all the same to me now: Is not the most fearful end Better than endless fear? Let it happen what may, only let it be quick: “Matoutsogh, some wine!”

The ashes of the victim Are already mixed with the ashes of the executioner: Everything was earth and has reverted to earth; The voice of the strangled is no longer distinguishable From the voice of the strangler: “Garcon, some vodka” There is no longer any ending, Or beginning!

Shall we ever see the end? And is there anyone who knows the past That will watch over the future? “Boy, a stiff whiskey!” Already there comes down On to the pavements and the roofs The poisonous atomic rain that in strands Is to come down on to our graves: “Kellner, a cocktail!”

“Bring some vodka, Some wine, Cocktails, and a whiskey, And the noise of jazz, Without end, Without beginning…!”


They Come and Go
Written by Ashough Jivani (1846-1909)
Translated by Aram Tolegian

The sad days, like winter, come and go, Don’t despair: they’ll have an end; they’ll come and go;

Bitter pains do not stay long with man, Like customers in a store, they come and go. Calamity, persecution, bleak times, the fate of nations:

Like caravans on a journey they come and go; The world’s a fragrant, wild garden, man its flowers, The violets, roses, balsam come and go The strong should not be proud, nor the weak sad: The shifting strong currents come and go; The fearless sun throws down its light, The clouds, gathered in heaven for prayer, come and go.

The world makes over its learned ones, as a mother her child, The savage, stray races, they come and go; The world’s in an inn, Jivan, and man is the guest, Such is the way of nature, they come and go.