ARMENIAN POETRY and LEGENDS - 73 poems and stories from Armenia PLUS 12 classic Armenian legends - Various - ebook
Opis

The children’s stories and legends in this book originate from the plains of Armenia towered over by Mount Ararat, on which, the Bible states, Noah’s Ark rested after the flood. Here also is the traditional site of the Garden of Eden, and the four rivers that Genesis describes as rising in the Garden still flow through the land.Herein you will find 73 poems and stories and 12 Armenian legends including the key legends of Armenia—of Vahagn, King of Armenia,deified on account of his valour, of Princess Santoukhd, martyred by her father King Sanadroug for becoming a Christian, ofSemiramis’ love for Ara, so strong that she thought she could will him back to life. So curl up with this unique and exquisite piece of literature and be swept away by the passion of fourteen hundred years of Armenian poetry.Sitting astride an arm of the Silk Route, Armenia has been invaded and occupied at Various times by Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and the Seljuk Turks, to name but a few. In the fifth century, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its national religion. Therefore, even a short outline of Armenian folklore and poetry must acknowledge the influences that have served to shape Armenian literature. These influences reflect the interwoven remnants of an intricate tapestry of ancient and modern cultures, legends, songs, and fragments of epics, creating a unique cultural and linguistic identity.Severed for many centuries from Western Europe by a flood of invasions, Armenian literature has not had the recognition that it deserves. In this volume, which is a mere sampler of Armenian literature, you will find poetry and laments that equal those of Shakespeare in their zeal and fervour. You will also find folk-songs that weep tears for the fate of Armenia, that cry out for freedom and liberty, that burst with the love of a woman for her man and of nightingales singing to babes in cradles. 33% of the publisher’s profit from the sale from this book will be donated to the Centre for Armenian Information and Assistance, benefitting the Armenian population of inner London.

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A R M E N I A N

Poetry & Legends

COMPILED & ILLUSTRATED

by

ZABELLE C. BOYAJIAN

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE RIGHT HON. VISCOUNT BRYCE, O.M.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY

J. M. DENT & SONS LTD: LONDON

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS: NEW YORK

[1916]

* * * * * * *

RESURRECTED BY

ABELA PUBLISHING: LONDON

[2009]

Armenian Legends and Poems

Typographical arrangement of this edition

© Abela Publishing 2009

This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Abela Publishing,

London

United Kingdom

2009

ISBN-13: 978-1-907256-18-9

email [email protected]

www.AbelaPublishing.com/

DEDICATED

TO

THE UNDYING SPIRIT OF ARMENIA

PREFACE

IN preparing this book of Armenian Legends and Poems my principal object was to publish it as a Memorial to an unhappy nation.

The book does not claim to represent Armenian poetry adequately. Many gifted and well-known authors have been omitted, partly from considerations of space, and partly because of the scope of the work. For instance, I should have liked to include some of the Sharakans (rows of gems) of Nerses Shnorhali; but the impossibility of reproducing their characteristic forms in another language, and doing them any justice, made me decide not to translate any of them. I have only given a few typical legends and poems, endeavouring, as far as possible, to convey the local colouring by adhering closely to the form, rhythm, and imagery of the originals in my translations. I have also largely based the decorative scheme of the illustrations upon Ancient Armenian Art as we see it in mediæval missals and illuminations.

Should this anthology create an interest in Armenian literature the Armenian Muses have still many treasures in their keeping which cannot be destroyed; and another volume could be compiled.

In conclusion, I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to Miss Alice Stone Blackwell, of Boston, U.S.A.--one of Armenia's truest friends--for allowing me to reprint several of her renderings of Armenian poems; to G. C. Macaulay, M.A., and the Delegates of the Oxford University Press, for permission to reprint the "Tale of Rosiphelee" from their edition of Gower's Confessio Amantis; to Mr. William Watson and Mr. John Lane for permission to reprint the sonnet on Armenia, "A Trial of Orthodoxy," from The Purple East; and to the heirs of Vittoria Aganoor Pompilj for permitting me to reprint two of her poems, "Pasqua Armena" and "Io Vidi," from the Nuova Antologia. I wish also to thank Mr. M. E. Galoustiantz for designing the cover of this book.

The proceeds of the present edition will be handed over to the Armenian Fund.

ZABELLE C. BOYAJIAN.

1916

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

ARMENIA'S LOVE TO SHAKESPEARE

REPROACHES

A TRIAL OF ORTHODOXY

ARMENIAN LEGENDS AND POEMS

THE EXILE'S SONG

THE APPLE TREE

MY HEART IS TURNED INTO A WAILING

CHILD

O NIGHT, BE LONG

BLACK EYES

YESTERNIGHT I WALKED ABROAD

VAHAGN, KING OF ARMENIA

HUNTSMAN, THAT ON THE HILLS ABOVE

LIBERTY

I BEHELD MY LOVE THIS MORNING

THE FOX, THE WOLF, AND THE BEAR

INCENSE

THE LITTLE LAKE

SPRING

CRADLE SONG

ARA AND SEMIRAMIS

LAMENT OVER THE HEROES FALLEN IN

THE BATTLE OF AVARAIR

THE SONG OF THE STORK

YE MOUNTAIN BLUEBELLS

THE SUN WENT DOWN

BIRTHDAY SONG

THE FOUNDING OF VAN

I HAVE A WORD I FAIN WOULD SAY

THE SONG OF THE PARTRIDGE

THE LILY OF SHAVARSHAN

CRADLE SONG

THE WIND IS HOWLING THROUGH THE

WINTER NIGHT

THE ARMENIAN POET'S PRAYER

THE CHRAGAN PALACE

THE DREAM

THE SORROWS OF ARMENIA

ARTASHES AND SATENIK

MY DEATH

THE EAGLE'S LOVE

CONCERNING THE ROSE AND THE

NIGHTINGALE

THE ARRIVAL OF THE CRUSADERS

LIKE AN OCEAN IS THIS WORLD

THE ROCK

THE CRANE

THE HAWK AND THE DOVE

ARTAVASD

CHARM VERSES

THE TEARS OF ARAXES

THE EVE OF ASCENSION DAY

"THY VOICE IS SWEET"

CHRIST AND ABGARUS

ARAXES CAME DEVOURINGLY

THE PARROT'S SONG

EARTH AND SKY

O’ER THE MOUNTAINS HIGH HE WENT

COMPLAINTS

A DAY AFTER

WITHOUT THEE WHAT ARE SONG AND

DANCE TO ME?

THE LAKE OF VAN

SPRING

THE FOX

THE TALE OF ROSIPHELEE

THE SONG OF THE VULTURE

DANCE SONG

BALLAD

NO BIRD CAN REACH THE MOUNTAIN'S

CREST

THE NIGHTINGALE OF AVARAIR

THOU ART SO SWEET

THE WANDERING ARMENIAN TO THE

SWALLOW

THE CHRIST-CHILD

THE CASTLE OF ANOUSH

HAPPINESS

CONCERNING DEATH

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

PASQUA ARMENA

"IO VIDI"

ARMENIA - ITS EPICS, FOLK-SONGS, AND MEDIAEVAL POETRY

MOSES OF ?

THE ADOPTION OF CHRISTIANITY

GOLDEN AGE OF ARMENIAN LITERATURE

MIDDLE AGES

BAGRATUNI DYNASTY

THE CRUSADES

SILVER AGE OF ARMENIAN LITERATURE

END OF THE ARMENIAN KINGDOM

EIGHTEENTH CENTURY AND ONWARDS

CHARACTERISTICS OF ARMENIAN POETRY

THE RUSSIAN ERA

ADDENDA AND CORRIGENDA

CHRONOLOGICAL INDEX TO AUTHORS

INDEX TO FIRST LINES

INTRODUCTION

SEVERED for many centuries from Western Europe by the flood of Turkish barbarism which descended upon their country in the Middle Ages, and subjected for the last two generations to oppressions and cruelties such as few civilised people have ever had to undergo, the Armenians have been less known to Englishmen and Frenchmen than their remarkable qualities and their romantic history deserve. Few among us have acquired their language, one of the most ancient forms of human speech that possess a literature. Still fewer have studied their art or read their poetry even in translations. There is, therefore, an ample field for a book which shall present to those Englishmen and Frenchmen, whose interest in Armenia has been awakened by the sufferings to which its love of freedom and its loyalty to its Christian faith have exposed it, some account of Armenian art and Armenian poetical literature. Miss Boyajian, the authoress of this book, is the daughter of an Armenian clergyman, whom I knew and respected during the many years when he was British Vice-Consul at Diarbekir on the Tigris. She is herself a

painter, a member of that group of Armenian artists some of whom have, like Aïvazovsky and Edgar Chahine, won fame in the world at large, and she is well qualified to describe with knowledge as well as with sympathy the art of her own people.

That art has been, since the nation embraced Christianity in the fourth century of our era, chiefly ecclesiastical. The finest examples of ancient Armenian architecture are to be seen in the ruins of Ani, on the border where Russian and Turkish territory meet, a city which was once the seat of one of the native dynasties, while the famous church of the monastery of Etchmiadzin, at Vagarshabad, near Erivan, is, though more modern, a perfect and beautiful existing representative of the old type. Etchmiadzin, standing at the north foot of Mount Ararat, is the seat of the Katholikos, or ecclesiastical head of the whole Armenian church. There was little or no ecclesiastical sculpture, for the Armenian church discouraged the use of images, and fresco painting was not much used for the decoration of churches; missals, however, and other books of devotion and manuscripts of the Bible were

illuminated with hand paintings, and adorned with miniatures; and much skill and taste were shown in embroideries. Metal work, especially in silver and in copper, has always been a favourite vehicle for artistic design in the Near East and is so still, though like everything else it has suffered from the destruction, in repeated massacres, of many of the most highly skilled artificers.

One of the most interesting features in the history of Armenian art is that it displays in its successive stages the various influences to which the country has been subject. Ever since it became Christian it was a territory fought for by diverse empires of diverse creeds. As in primitive times it lay between Assyria on the one side and the Hittite power on the other, so after the appearance of Islam it became the frontier on which the East Roman Christian Empire contended with the Muslim Arab and Turkish monarchies. Persian influences on the East, both before and after Persia had become Mohammedan, here met with the Roman influences spreading out from Constantinople. The latter gave the architectural style, as we see it in those ecclesiastical buildings to which I have referred, a style developed here with

admirable features of its own and one which has held

its ground to the present day. The influence of Persia on the other hand was seen in the designs used in embroidery, in carpets, and in metal work. The new school of painters has struck out new lines for itself, but while profiting by whatever it has learnt from Europe, it retains a measure of distinctive national quality.

That quality is also visible in Armenian poetry of which this volume gives some interesting specimens. The poetry of a people which has struggled against so many terrible misfortunes has naturally a melancholy strain. But it is also full of an unextinguishable patriotism. Those who have learnt from this book what the Armenian race has shown itself capable of doing in the fields of art and literature, and who have learnt from history how true it has been to its Christian faith, and how tenacious of its national life, will hope that the time has now at last come when it will be delivered from the load of brutal tyranny that has so long cramped its energies, and allowed to take its place among the free and progressive peoples of the world. It is the only one of the native races of Western Asia that is capable of restoring productive industry and assured prosperity to these now desolated regions that were the earliest homes of civilisation.

BRYCE.

3, BUCKINGHAM GATE,July 1916.

ARMENIA'S LOVE TO SHAKESPEARE

Great, unknown spirit, living with us still,Though three long centuries have marked thy flight;Is there a land thy presence doth not fillA race to which thou hast not brought delight?

To me Armenia seems thy house, for first,Thy visions there enthralled my wondering mind,And thy sweet music with my heart conversed--Armenia in thy every scene I find.

Through all the gloom of strife and agonyThy gentle light, beloved of all, doth shine;The nations bring their tribute unto thee,To honour thee thy country's foes combine.

What token shall my poor Armenia bring?No golden diadem her brow adorns;All jewelled with tears, and glistening,She lays upon thy shrine her Crown of Thorns.

Footnotes

A great festival was held on the tercentenary of Shakespeare's death in 1916. Miss Boyajian was one of many authors who paid tribute at that time to the King of the Bards. Her poem was published in the Book of Homage to Shakespeare (London, 1916), edited by Sir Israel Gollancz, a famous Shakespearean scholar, at that time Professor of English Literature at King's College in London, and at Cambridge.

BY ZABELLE C. BOYAJIAN

REPROACHES

BY "FRIK"

(Died 1330)

O GOD of righteousness and truth,Loving to all, and full of ruth;I have some matter for Thine earIf Thou wilt but Thy servant hear.

Lo, how the world afflicteth usWith wrongs and torments rancorous;And Thou dost pardon every one,But turnest from our woes alone.

Lord, Thou wilt not avenge our wrongNor chase the ills that round us throng;Thou knowest, we are flesh and bone,We are not statues made from stone!

We are not made of grass or reeds,That Thou consumest us like weeds;--As though we were some thorny fieldOr brushwood, that the forests yield.

If that ourselves are nothing worth--If we have wrought no good on earth,If we are hateful in Thy sightThat Thou shouldst leave us in this plight--

Then blot us out;--be swift and brief,That Thy pure heart may find relief;This well may be, by Thy intent,Great Lord and good, omnipotent.

How long must we in patience waitAnd bear unmurmuringly our fate?Let evil ones be swept awayAnd those whom Thou dost favour, stay!

A TRIAL OF ORTHODOXY

(Sonnet on Armenia)

BY WILLIAM WATSON

THE clinging children at their mother's knee  Slain; and the sire and kindred one by one  Flayed or hewn piecemeal; and things nameless done,Not to be told: while imperturbablyThe nations gaze, where Rhine unto the sea,  Where Seine and Danube, Thames and Tiber run,  And where great armies glitter in the sun,And great Kings rule, and man is boasted free!  What wonder if yon torn and naked throngShould doubt a Heaven that seems to wink and nod,  And having mourned at noontide, "Lord, how long?"    Should cry, "Where hidest Thou?" at evenfall,At midnight, "Is He deaf and blind, our God?"    And ere day dawn, "Is He indeed at all?"

ARMENIAN

LEGENDS

AND

POEMS

THE EXILE'S SONG

FOLK SONG

BELOVÈD one, for thy sweet sake,By whirlwinds tossed and swayed I roam;The stranger's accents round me wakeThese burning thoughts that wander home.No man such longings wild can bearAs in my heart forever rise.Oh that the wind might waft me thereWhere my belovèd's vineyard lies!Oh that I were the zephyr fleet,That bends her vines and roses sweet.

For I am piteous and forlorn,As is the bird that haunts the night;Who inconsolably doth mournWhene’er his rose is from his sight.O’er earth and ocean, everywhereI gaze in vain, with weary eyes.Oh that the wind might waft me thereWhere my belovèd's vineyard lies!Oh that I were the zephyr fleetThat bends her vines and roses sweet.

I would I were yon cloud so light,--Yon cloudlet driven before the wind.Or yonder bird with swift-winged flight:My heart's true way I soon would find!Oh, I would be the wind so fleetThat bends her vines and roses sweet.

THE APPLE TREE

FOLK SONG

 THE door of Heaven open seemed     And in thy house the sunlight gleamed.

As through the garden's willow’d walks I hied

Full many a tree and blossom I espied.

But of all trees, the Apple Tree most fair

And beautiful did unto me appear.

It sobbed and wept. Its leaves said

murmuringly:

"I would that God had ne’er created me!

The badge of sin and wickedness I am

E’en at thy feast, O Father Abraham.

     The apple growing on me first

     From Eden came ere it was cursed,

     Alas, alas, I am undone!

     Why fell I to that evil one?"

Footnotes

The "feast of Father Abraham" means plenty.

MY HEART IS TURNED INTO A WAILING CHILD

BY N. KOUCHAK

(Fifteenth Century)

MY heart is turned into a wailing child,     In vain with sweets I seek to still its cries;Sweet love, it calls for thee in sobbings wild     All day and night, with longing and with

sighs.

          What solace can I give it?

I showed my eyes the fair ones of this earth

     And tried to please them--but I tried in

vain.

Sweet love, for them all those were nothing

worth—

     Thee--only thee my heart would have again.          What solace can I give it?

O NIGHT, BE LONG

BY N. KOUCHAK

O NIGHT, be long--long as an endless year!Descend, thick darkness, black and full of fear!     To-night my heart's desire has been fulfilled--     My love is here at last--a guest concealed!

Dawn, stand behind seven mountains--out of

sight,

Lest thou my loved one banish with thy light;     I would for ever thus in darkness rest     So I might ever clasp him to my breast.

BLACK EYES

BY AVETIS ISAHAKIAN

(Born 1875)

Do not trust black eyes, but fear them:--    Gloom they are, and endless night;Woes and perils lurking near them    Love not thou their gleaming bright!

In my heart a sea of blood wells,    Called up by their cruel might,No calm ever in that flood dwells    Love not thou their gleaming bright!

YESTERNIGHT I WALKED ABROAD

ANONYMOUS

   YESTERNIGHT I walked abroad.From the clouds sweet dews were falling,     And my love stood in the road,All in green, and to me calling.     To her home she led me straight,Shut and barred the gate securely;     Whoso tries to force that gateBrave I'll reckon him most surely!

     In the garden she did go,Gathered roses dewed with showers;     Some she gave her lover, soHe might lay his face in flowers.

     Garments loose and snowy breast,I slipped in her bosom tender     And I found a moment's rest,Clasped within those arms so slender.

     Then I raised my hands above--Grant, O Lord, that I wake never;     On the bosom of my loveMay I live and die forever!

     What have I from this world gained?What advantage gathered ever?     For the hunt my falcon trainedI let fly--it went forever!

     Ah, my falcon, woe the day!Tell me, whither art thou flying     I will follow all the way--Since thou wentest I am dying.

     I am ill, and near my end--With an apple 1 hasten to me.     I shall curse thee if thou sendStrange physicians to undo me.

     No physicians strange for me--All my griefs in thee I centre.     Come and take my bosom's key,Open wide the door and enter.

     Once again I say, ’twas notI that came--’twas thy love brought me.     In my heart thy love hath gotAnd its dwelling-place hath wrought me.

     When the falcon hunger feelsThen he finds the game and takes it;     When love thirsts, the lover stealsKisses from his love and slakes it.     But thou hold'st me with thy charms;When I kiss thee thou dost bind me:     ’Twas but now I left thine arms,And my looks are turned behind me.     I am ever, for thy love,Like the sands in summer, burning:     Looking up to heaven above,For one little raindrop yearning.

     I would kiss thy forehead chaste,And thine eyes so brightly gleaming;     Fold mine arms about thy waist--Thick with all thy garments seeming.

     Oft and often have I saidFor my love make garments shining:     Of the sun the facing red,--Of the moon cut out the lining;     Pad it with yon storm-cloud dark,Sewn with sea weed from the islets:     Stars for clasps must bring their spark--Stitch me inside for the eyelets!

Footnotes

1 An apple is the symbol of love.

VAHAGN, KING OF ARMENIA

From the History of Armenia,
by

MOSES OF KHORENE

(Fifth Century)

CONCERNING the birth of this king the legends say--

"Heaven and earth were in travail,And the crimson waters were in travail.And in the water, the crimson reedWas also in travail.From the mouth of the reed issued smoke,From the mouth of the reed issued flame.And out of the flame sprang the young child.His hair was of fire, a beard had he of flame,And his eyes were suns."

With our own ears did we hear these words sung to the accompaniment of the harp. They sing, moreover, that he did fight with the dragons, and overcame them; and some say that his valiant deeds were like unto those of Hercules. Others declare that he was a god, and that a great image of him stood in the land of Georgia, where it was worshipped with sacrifices.

HUNTSMAN, THAT ON THE HILLS ABOVE

BY AVETIS ISAHAKIAN

"HUNTSMAN, that on the hills above     To hunt the deer hast been,Tell me, I pray thee, if my love--     My wild deer thou hast seen?

"He sought the hills his grief to quell--     My darling love, my sun.He wandered out upon the fell,     My flower, my only one."

"Maiden, I saw your lover true,     All girt with red and green.Upon his breast a rose tree grew     Where once your kiss had been."

"Huntsman, I pray, who is the bride     Of my beloved, my sun?Who tends him, watching by his side,     My flower, my only one?"

"Maiden, I saw him with his head     Upon a stone at rest.And for his love, a bullet red     Into his heart was pressed.

"The mountain breeze caressingly     Played with his jet-black hair,And blossoms wept unceasingly     Your flower, your lover there."

LIBERTY

BY MIKAEL NALBANDIAN

(1829-1866)

WHEN the God of LibertyFormed of earth this mortal frame,Breathed the breath of life in me,And a spirit I became,

Wrapped within my swaddling bands,Bound and fettered helplessly, 1I stretched forth my infant handsTo embrace sweet Liberty.

All night long, until the dawn,In my cradle bound I lay;And my sobbing's ceaseless moanDrove my mother's sleep away.

As I begged her, weeping loud,To unbind and set me free;From that very day I vowedI would love thee, Liberty!

When upon my parents' earFirst my lisping accents fell,And their hearts rejoiced to hearMe my childish wishes tell,

Then the words that first I spokeWere not "father, mother dear":"Liberty!" the accents brokeIn my infant utterance clear.

"Liberty!" The voice of DoomEchoed to me from above,"Wilt thou swear until the tombLiberty to serve and love?

"Thorny is the path, and dim;Many trials wait for thee:Far too small this world for himWho doth worship Liberty!"

"Liberty!" I made reply,"O’er my head let thunders burst,Lightnings flash, and missiles fly--Foes conspire to do their worst;

"Till I die, or meet my doom,On the shameful gallows-tree,-Till the portals of the tomb,I will shout forth Liberty!"

Footnotes

1 Armenian babies are tied tightly into their cradles when they are put to sleep.

I BEHELD MY LOVE THIS MORNING

BY SAYAT NOVA

(1712-1795)

I BEHELD my love this morning, in the garden paths she strayed,All brocaded was the ground with prints her golden pattens made;Like the nightingale, I warbled round my rose with wings displayed,And I wept, my reason faltered, while my heart was sore dismayed.Grant, O Lord, that all my foemen to such grief may be betrayed!

Love, with these thy whims and humours thou hast wrecked and ruined me.Thou hast drunk of love's own nectar, thy lips speak entrancingly.With those honeyed words how many like me thou hast bound to thee!Take the knife and slay me straightway--pass not by me mockingly.Since I die of love, ’twere better Beauty stabbed and set me free.

For I have no love beside thee--I would have thee know it well.Thou for whom e’en death I'd suffer, list to what I have to tell.See thou thwart not thy Creator, all the past do not dispel:Anger not thy Sayat Nova, for when in thy snare he fellHe was all bereft of reason by thy whims' and humours' spell.

THE FOX, THE WOLF, AND THE BEAR

FOLK SONG

THE little fox, the wolf and bear made peace;Like kinsfolk all, they bade their warfare cease.The fox they consecrate a hermit now;--False monk, false hermit, false recluse's vow!

The little fox a sack found in the streetThrough which he thrust his head; then shod his feetWith iron shoes, and got a staff, I trow--False monk, false hermit, false recluse's vow!

The fox has sent the wolf to fetch the bear."For him," he said, "I live this life of care;Yet never hath he sent me aught to eat:--Sore are my knees with walking, sore my feet!"

At morning dawn forth to the hunt they creep;A ram they catch, a lambkin and a sheep.Holy dispenser is the wolf proclaimed--Unjust dispenser, judge unwisely named!

He gives the sheep as portion to the bear;The lambkin falls to the poor hermit's share."The ram for me," he said, "I'm tired and lamed"--Unjust dispenser, judge unwisely named!

The bear was wroth, and turned him round about,And with one blow the wolf's two eyes put out."That sheep for me, a bear so great and famed?Unjust dispenser, judge unwisely named!"

The little fox is sore afraid, and seesA trap laid ready with a piece of cheese."O uncle, see, I've built a convent here,"He said, "a place of rest, a place of prayer!"

The bear stretched out his paw for the repast,The trap upon his neck closed hard and fast."Help me, my little nephew, for I fearThis is no convent, ’tis no house of prayer!"

The little fox with joy beheld the wholeAnd sang a mass for his great uncle's soul."The wrong thou didst the wolf has brought thee there;It is a house of rest, a house of prayer!"

O sovereign Justice, much thou pleasest me--Who wrongs another soon shall cease to be.And fasting in the trap must lie the bear,--For ’tis a house of rest, a house of prayer!"

INCENSE

BY ZABELLE ESSAYAN

(Born 1878)

THE incense at the altar slowly burnsSwayed in the silver censer to and fro;Around the crucifix it coils and turns,The brows of saints it wreathes with misty glow.

And tremulous petitions, long drawn out,Beneath the lofty arches faint away;To weary eyes the candles round aboutHeave as they flicker with their pallid ray.

The sacred columns, grey and mouldering,Support a veil that stirs with voiceless sobs.Beneath it, like the incense smouldering,A woman's darkened heart in anguish throbs.

Consumed within the censer now, and burned,The incense through the boundless ether soars.What Matter was to Fragrance sweet is turned--The cleansing fire its purity restores.

Nor shall that woman's smouldering heart be freed,--Saved from its cold and adamantine shell,--Till it is melted, tried, and cleansed indeed,Till the pure flames shall all its dross expel!

THE LITTLE LAKE 1

BY BEDROS TOURIAN

(1852-1872)

WHY dost thou lie in hushed surprise,    Thou little lonely mere?Did some fair woman wistfully    Gaze in thy mirror clear?

Or are thy waters calm and still    Admiring the blue sky,Where shining cloudlets, like thy foam,    Are drifting softly by?

Sad little lake, let us be friends!    I too am desolate;I too would fain, beneath the sky,    In silence meditate.

As many thoughts are in my mind    As wavelets o’er thee roam;As many wounds are in my heart    As thou hast flakes of foam.

But if heaven's constellations all    Should drop into thy breast,Thou still wouldst not be like my soul,--    A flame-sea without rest.

There, when the air and thou are calm;    The clouds let fall no showers;The stars that rise there do not set,    And fadeless are the flowers.

Thou art my queen, O little lake!    For e’en when ripples thrillThy surface, in thy quivering depths    Thou hold’st me, trembling, still.

Full many have rejected me:    "What has he but his lyre?""He trembles, and his face is pale;    His life must soon expire!"

None said, "Poor child, why pines he thus?    If he beloved should be,Haply he might not die, but live,    Live, and grow fair to see."

None sought the boy's sad heart to read,    Nor in its depths to look.They would have found it was a fire,    And not a printed book!

Nay, ashes now! a memory!    Grow stormy, little mere,For a despairing man has gazed    Into thy waters clear!

Translated by Alice Stone Blackwell.

Footnotes

1 This and the other translations by Miss Alice Stone Blackwell are reprinted from Armenian Poems, by the translator's kind permission.

SPRING

BY HOVHANNES HOVHANNESSIAN

(Born 1869)

NONE await thy smiling rays;Whither comest thou, O SpringNone are left to sing thy praise--Vain thy coming now, O Spring!

All the world is wrapped in gloom,Earth in blood is weltering:This year brought us blackest doom--Whither comest thou, O Spring?

No rose for the nightingale,No flower within park or dale,Every face with anguish pale--Whither comest thou, O Spring?

CRADLE SONG

BY RAPHAEL PATKANIAN

(1830-1892)

Mother

SWEET slumber now creeps o’er thee slow,Sweet breezes rock thee to and fro:My baby sleeps, so soft and lowWith sweetest songs I'll sing oror. 1

Baby

O Mother dear, thou art unkindMy sleepless eyes so long to bind. 2Anon I'll rest, and sleep resigned;--Release me now, sing not oror.

Mother

Why dost thou shed those tears that flowDown thy sad cheeks with pearly glow 'Thou’lt break thy heart with sobbing so,--Whom wilt thou have to sing oror?

Baby

At least my hands and feet unbind--My tender limbs are all confined;That gentle sleep my eyes may find,Then tie me in, and sing oror.

Mother

That tongue of thine is passing sweet,Yet with thy yards I cannot mete.Thou wilt not sleep, but at thy feetWouldst have me sit, and sing oror.

Baby

All piteously I raise my prayer,I sob and cry, thou dost not hear.Thy sweet voice seems to charm thine ear--I weep, thou singest still oror.

Mother

Hush, hush, and sleep, my baby dear.My love shall guard thee, year by year,Until my rose-tree blossoms fair,Then ’neath his shade I'll sing oror.

Baby

Thy heart is made of stone, I see.I wept and wept, all uselessly.Now I shall sleep, I can't be free,All night, all night sing me oror!

Footnotes

1Oror--lullaby.

2 Armenian babies have their eyes bandaged when they are put to sleep, and they are tied into their cradles.

ARA AND SEMIRAMIS

From the History of Armenia,

by

MOSES OF KHORENE

FOR a few years before the death of Ninus, Ara reigned over Armenia under his Protectorate, and found the same favour in his eyes as his father Aram had done. But that wanton and lustful woman Semiramis, having heard speak for many years of the beauty of Ara, wished to possess him; only she ventured not to do anything openly. But after the death or the escape to Crete of Ninus, as it hath been affirmed unto me, she discovered her passion freely, and sent messengers to Ara the Beautiful with gifts and offerings, with many prayers and promises of riches; begging him to come to her to Nineveh and either wed her and reign over all that Ninus had possessed, or fulfil her desires and return in peace to Armenia, with many gifts.

And when the messengers had been and returned many times and Ara had not consented, Semiramis became very wroth; and she arose and took all the multitude of her hosts and hastened to the land of Armenia, against Ara. But, as she had beforehand declared, it was not so much to kill him and persecute him that she went, as to subdue him and bring him by force to fulfil the desires of her passion. For having been consumed with desire by what she had heard of him, on seeing him she became as one beside herself. She arrived in this turmoil at the plains of Ara, called after him Aïrarat. And when the battle was about to take place she commanded her generals to devise some means of saving the life of Ara. But in the fighting the army of Ara was beaten, and Ara died, being slain by the warriors of Semiramis. And after the battle the Queen sent out to the battlefield to search for the body of her beloved amongst those who had died. And they found the body of Ara amongst the brave ones that had fallen, and she commanded them to place it in an upper chamber in her castle.