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Alice Stone Blackwell

ARMENIAN POEMS


Contents | Table of contents [as in the book] | Preface | Introduction

Bedros Tourian | Michael Nalbandian | Abp. Khorène Nar Bey De Lusignan
Mugurditch Beshiktashlian | Raphael Patkanian | Leo Alishan | St. Gregory of Narek
Nerses the Graceful | Saïat Nova | Djivan | Raffi | Koutcharian | Terzyan | Totochian
Damadian | Atom Yarjanian (Siamanto) | Daniel Varoujan | Archag Tchobanian
Hovhannes Toumanian | Hovhannes Hovhannessian | Zabel Assatour (Madame Sybil)
Mugurditch Chrimian Hairig | M. Portoukalian | Mihran Damadian
Arshag D. Mahdesian | Nahabed Koutchak | Shoushanig Khourghinian
Avedik Issahakian | Avedis Aharonian | Karekin Servantzdiantz | Bedros Adamian
Tigrane Yergate | Khorène M. Antreassian | Djivan | Miscellaneous songs and poems

APPENDIX: The Armenian Women | The Armenian Church
Bibliography | Comments on the first edition of "Armenian Poems"


LEO ALISHAN, born at Erzerum, in the heart of Armenia, early in the last century, was a Roman Catholic Armenian, a monk of the Mechitarist Convent at Venice, and a distinguished antiquarian, scientist, linguist, and historian, as well as a poet. He is the author of many important works in these different fields, and translated into Armenian a number of poems by Longfellow and other American writers. Alishan was loved and revered by his countrymen, not only for his erudition and patriotism, but for his gentle and unassuming disposition.

1. The Virgin's Tears
2. Easter Song
3. The Exiles
4. Moon in the Armenian Cemetery
5. The Lily of Shavarshan
6. The Nightingale of Avarayr
7. A Song of Fatherland
8. Weep Not

1. THE VIRGIN’S TEARS.

FORTH welling from the breast of sapphire lakes,
Oh, tell my jocund heart why from their shore
Of emerald do those pairs of wandering pearls
Like rain upon the rosy plains downpour?

Less pure, less tender, are the twilight dews,
At eve descending on the crimson rose
And on the lily’s petals, fine and frail,
Than those twin drops in which thy sorrow flows.

Speak, why do founts of shining tears descend,
Mary, from thy love-dropping virgin eyes
To thy cheek’s edge, and there hang tremulous,
As the stars twinkle in the evening skies?

As the heart-piercing pupil of the eye,
So sensitive each tear-drop seems to be ;
Like the unwinking pupil of the eye,
Charming my soul, the bright drops look at me.

The heart throbs hard, the gazer holds his breath. —
Ah, now I know the truth ! Oh, woe is me !
For me those tears have risen to thine eyes,
To heal my spirit’s wounds eternally.

But still of my unconsecrated heart
Distrustful, they half-fallen linger there,
And do not dare to drop and moisten me.
No, Mary ! No, O Virgin Mother fair !

I am a land uncultured, rough and wild ;
But, underneath those tender tears of thine,
Let rose and saffron bloom there ! With thy love
Water and cheer this sorrowing heart of mine!

2. EASTER SONG.

FATHER of light, we praise thee !
Thy Son is risen again.
Spirit of love, we praise thee!
He shares thy glorious reign.

Good tidings, Virgin Princess !
Thy Son is risen this morn.
Good tidings to all mortals.
The born and the unborn!

Good news to you, bright Heavens !
For Christ, who dwelt in you,
Is risen; good tidings, lowly Earth !
Thy Saviour lives anew.

Good news to you, all worlds and orbs
That circle overhead !
Good news ! Your great Establisher
Is risen from the dead !

Good news, ye light and darkness !
A new sun rises high.
Good news to you, all creatures !
Christ lives ; you shall not die.

Good news to you, ye dead folk!
For you shall be set free.
Good tidings to all beings
That are, or are to be !

3. THE EXILES.

ALAS, ye poor Armenians !
In undeserved distress
Ye wander forth to slavery,
In want and wretchedness.

A myriad woes ye suffered,
Nor left your own dear home ;
But now ye leave your fathers’ graves,
In distant lands to roam.

These waters sweet, these smiling fields,
Where cities fair are set,
To strangers ye abandon them,
But how can ye forget ?

Nay, while you live, remember;
Be to your country true :
Your children and descendants,
Bid them remember too.

The holy name of Ararat
And many a sacred fane,
Till the last judgment wakes the world,
Shall in their hearts remain.

Alas for thee, my country !
Alas for thee, for us !
I would that death had sealed mine eyes
Ere I beheld thee thus !

4. MOON IN THE ARMENIAN CEMETERY.

MOON, fair lamp divinely lit!
God set you in the sky
To lead night’s hosts, for darkness blind
And for my heart an eye.

When o’er my head you swing, your lamp
A glittering chain doth hold ;
Your string of heavenly silver is,
Your wick of burning gold ;

And, as a diamond flashes light,
You shed your rays abroad.
How bright you were, that second night,
Fresh from the hand of God !

How bright you were when first was heard
The heavenly nightingale !
The wind, that seemed like you alive,
Played soft from vale to vale ;

With that calm breeze, the limpid brook
Plashed in an undertone ;
There was no human ear to hear,
The angels heard alone.

The angels swung you in their hands,
And silently and slow
You traversed heaven’s cloudless arch,
And sank the waves below,

What time the sun with feet of fire
Was soon to mount the blue,
While o’er the silent world were spread
Twilight and hoary dew.

Stay, stay, O sun ! awhile delay;
Rise not in the blue sky,
But let the little moon still walk
The cloudless realm on high !

Stay, little moon ! Oh, linger yet
Upon the heights and hills ;
Pass slowly, calmly, where your light
The sleeping valleys fills !

For I have words to utter yet,
To you I would complain.
Oh, many are my bitter griefs,
My heart is cleft in twain.

Bright moon, haste not away because
You hear a mourner’s cry !
As comforter of broken hearts
You shine there in the sky.

You come to Eden’s land, but not
As on that far first night,
When man was happy, knowing naught
Save life and love’s delight.

Then your white radiance was warm
To waves and flowerets fair,
And wheresoe’er your soft light fell,
Immortal life bloomed there.

Turn and look down on me, O moon !
Gaze at our mountains’ foot,
And see the ruined temples there,
And tombs so sad and mute,—

Tombs of Armenians who long since
From earth have passed away.
There sleep the ashes of our sires,
In darkness and decay.

Armenians they, the earliest born
Of all the human race,
Who had their home within the land
Once Adam’s dwelling-place.

(Here follows a long list of Armenian kings.)

But you are setting fast, O moon !
Your lustre fades away,
And like a silver plate you sink
In cloud-banks dense and gray.

Stay yet a moment’s space, O moon,
Stay for the love of me !
There in the valley is one stone
Unknown to history.

Go, let your last light linger there,
And lift it out of gloom,
For that obscure and nameless stone
Will mark the poet’s tomb !


5. THE LILY OF SHAVARSHAN.

THIS is an extract from a long poem in the classical Armenian, describing the conversion to Christianity by the Apostle Thaddeus, in the first century A. D., of Santoukhd, the daughter of the Armenian King Sanadroog. Both the princess and the apostle were put to death by the king. According to Armenian tradition, Santoukhd was the earliest Christian martyr among women.

ARMENIAN maidens, come and view
In Shavarshan a lily new !

The radiant type of maidenhood,
Crown of Armenia’s pride !
From the fair brow beneath her veil
The wind-stirred curls float wide.
With little steps, like turtle dove,
She walks the dew-bright plain ;
Her lips drop honey, and her eyes
Effulgent glances rain.

The beauty of Armenia,
A sun-like mirror clear,
Our Northern star is bright Santoukhd,
The king’s fair daughter dear.
She has come forth, the graceful bride
On whom the East and West
Desire to look, while fires of love
Consume the gazer’s breast.

Less fair the bright and morning star,
’Mid cloudlets small and fine;
Less fair the fruit whose rosy tints
’Mid apple leaves outshine ;
Araxes’ hyacinthine flower
That chains of dew doth wear,
All are less beautiful than she,
With gracious mien and air.

At sight of her, the snowy peaks
Melt and are flushed with rose;
Trees, flowers bud forth; the nightingales
All sing where’er she goes.
The bell-flowers open myriad eyes
When she comes through the bowers;
Beneath her breath, the vales and hills
Alike are clad in flowers.

Before her have been bent to earth
Foreheads with diadems;
The valley has become a hill
Of scattered gold and gems.
Where passes by with humble grace
Armenia’s virgin sweet,
Fine sands of pearls come longingly
To spread beneath her feet.

Full many a monarch’s valiant son
Has left his palace home
In Persia or Albania,
In India or in Rome.
Admiringly they gaze on her,
Exclaiming, “ Happy he
Who wins the fair Armenian maid
His bride beloved to be ! ”

But palace worthy of Santoukhd
The earth can nowhere show,
And for the arches of her brows
This world is all too low.
The Sky says, “ Let her on my throne
Reign queen o’er every land.”
The Ocean says, “ My purple waves
Shall bow to her command.”

There is one greater than the earth,
More wide than sea-waves run,
Higher and vaster than the heavens,
And brighter than the sun.
There is a formidable King
Whose power no bound has known;
The royal maid Santoukhd shall be
For him, and him alone.
Her halls of light are all prepared,
And for a footstool meet
The azure sky adorned with stars
Awaits her dove-like feet

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The sharp sword glitters in the air,
And swift the red blood flows;
Santoukhd, who was a lily fair,
Falls to the earth, a rose.
The sword flashed once, and aspects three
Were in Santoukhd descried;
Her heart dropped blood, and roses red
Sprang up on every side ;
Her eyes were violet chalices,
Sweet e’en while they expire;
Her face, like lilies half unclosed,
But on her lips what fire !

The heaven and earth shine white and red;
Come forth and gather, maids,
The rose and lily joined in one,
This peerless flower that fades!
Lay in the tomb that youthful corpse,
With Thaddeus, good and brave.
Sweet maiden of Armenia,
Her sweet soil be thy grave !
Armenian maids, a lily new
Is brought to Shavarshan for you !

6. THE NIGHTINGALE OF AVARAIR.

WHENCE dost thou come, O moon, so calmly and softly;
Spreading o’er mountain, valley, and plain thy light,
And over me the Patriarch, wandering sadly,
With wandering thoughts, in Avarair to-night?

Here where our matchless, brave Armenian fathers
Fell as giants, as angels to rise anew,
Com’st thou to spread o’er the bones of the saints a cover
Of golden thread, from thy cloud of snowy hue ?

Or dost thou think, though thy brow be bright already,
Adornment of heroes’ blood would become it well ?
Or dost thou still, in silence and secret, wonder
To think how the great and terrible Vartan fell,

Giving his enemies’ lives to the shades of darkness,
And giving his spirit into the hands of God ?
And thou, O River Deghmoud, thou flowest lamenting
Amid thy reeds, sad river bestained with blood.

And thou, O wind from Manguran’s upland blowing,
Or Ararat’s sacred summit, gray-haired and hoar,
Thou, too, like me, uncertain and trembling movest,
On faint wings passing the mountains and valleys o’er.

From forest to forest, from leaf to leaf, lamenting,
Thou comest upon the plains, in pale moonshine,
To carry unto Armenian hearts the echo
Of the last sighs of this worn heart of mine.

Nightingale, voice of the night, little soul of the roses.
Friend of all mournful hearts that with sorrow are sighing!
Sing, little nightingale, sing me a song from that hillock,
Sing with my soul of Armenia’s heroes undying !

Thy voice in the cloister of Thaddeus reached me and thrilled me;
My heart, that was close to the cross, in a reverie grave,
Suddenly bounded and throbbed; from the cross I hastened to seek thee —
Came forth and found thee here, on the field of Vartan the brave.

Nightingale, this is the tale that of thee our fathers have told us:
That Avarair’s nightingale, singing so sweetly at daylight’s dim close,
Is not a bird, but a soul,—it is Eghiche’s* sweet-voiced spirit,
That sees the image of Vartan for aye in the red-blooming rose.

In winter he walks alone, and mourns in the midst of the desert;
In spring comes to Avarair, to the bush with roses aflame,
To sing and to call aloud, with Eghiche’s voice, upon Vartan,
To see whether Vartan perchance will answer when called by his name.

If like the voice of a nightingale faint and Weary,
Sons of Togarmah, my voice shall reach your ears,—
Sons of the great, whose valiant and virtuous fathers
Filled plains, books, and the heavens, in former years,—

If one small drop of blood from Armenia’s fountain,
The fount of Bahlav, flow into your bosoms’ sea,—
If you would that your country’s glories for you be written,
Come forth to Ardaz with your Patriarch, come with me!

___________________
* An Armenian historian of the fifth century, a contemporary of Vartan. In his history of the Persian invasion he compares Vartan drenched in his blood, to the red rose.
___________________

7. A SONG OF FATHERLAND.

WE are the sons of valiant men, Armenians great and free;
Our grandsires were descended from a hero-ancestry ;
Our fathers brave on Ararat were strong to draw the bow ;
Our Haig, the son of Japhet, laid haughty Nimrod low.
From mountains high, from giants proud, this race of warriors starts.
Then, ardent brothers, let us possess Armenian hearts !

Lift up your eyes unto the heights that pierce the heavens vast,
The land that was the cradle of all nations in the past.
God on free Ararat abides, and raises in the air,
To give us hope, a temple built of seven colors fair.
The hearts of the Armenians with courage to inspire,
He spans the heavens with a wide and wondrous arch of fire.

No nation can survive unless it glows with patriot flame ;
No son of the Armenian race is worthy of his name
Unless to all the virtues of his fathers he aspires.
Then let us, brothers, emulous of our exalted sires, in
Now gird ourselves for usefulness, to serve in word and deed.
To the vain words of foreigners no more let us give heed,
But let the spirit bright of Haig sway all our inward powers.
Then, brothers, ardent brothers, Armenian souls be ours!

Brothers, let hand to hand be pressed, and heart to heart, in love,
And toward one common object together let us move ;
And let the touch of fiery lips unite our minds in one,
While in all hearts a common pulse shall beat in unison !
Let us from tombs and monuments decipher and unfold
The glorious deeds achieved by our immortal sires of old,
To show to all the nations round our ancestors of fame,
And show our ancestors, in us, sons worthy of their name!

To the arena, patriots, go forth and cry, “ Behold,
We are the children of those great Armenians of old !
Through us a new Armenia in splendor shall arise,
And cast away the sombre veil that hid her from men’s eyes.
Armenia, sit no longer mute and hidden in the shade !
Through us among the nations shall thy name be glorious made.
Loyal until our deaths, for thee we'll strive with heart and hand.”
Then, brothers, ardent brothers, long live our native land!

8. WEEP NOT.

WHY art thou troubled, wandering heart ?
Why dost thou sigh with pain?
From whom do all thy sufferings come?
Of whom dost thou complain ?

Is there no cure for wounds, no friend
To lend a pitying ear?
Why art thou troubled, wandering heart?
Weep not! See Jesus near!

Sorrow and hardship are for all,
Though differing forms they wear.
The path he gave us teems with thorns.
The feet must suffer there.

What life, though but a day’s brief span,
Is free from pain and woe ?
’T is not for mortals born in grief
To live at ease below.

Not for the transient joys of earth
Thy heart to thee was given,
But for an instrument of grief,
To raise thy life toward heaven.

If joys be few, if pains abound,
If balms bring slow relief,
If wounds be sore and nature weak,
Thy earthly life is brief.

This is the vale of death and pain,
Ordained for ancient sin ;
Except through anguish, Eden’s gate
No soul shall enter in.

Justice ordained it; mercy then
Made it more light to bear.
Unasked by thee, Christ sweetened it,
His love infusing there.

From heaven’s height he hastened down,
Pitying thy trouble sore ;
With thee a servant he became,
Himself thy wounds he bore.

He filled his cup celestial
Full of thy tears and pain,
And tremblingly, yet freely,
He dared the dregs to drain.

Remembering this, wilt thou not drink
Thy cup of tears and care ?
’T is proffered by thy Saviour’s hand,
His love is mingled there.

He feels and pities all thy woes,
He wipes away each tear ;
Love he distils into thy griefs;
Weep not, for he is near !

 

Contents | Table of contents [as in the book] | Preface | Introduction

Bedros Tourian | Michael Nalbandian | Abp. Khorène Nar Bey De Lusignan
Mugurditch Beshiktashlian | Raphael Patkanian | Leo Alishan | St. Gregory of Narek
Nerses the Graceful | Saïat Nova | Djivan | Raffi | Koutcharian | Terzyan | Totochian
Damadian | Atom Yarjanian (Siamanto) | Daniel Varoujan | Archag Tchobanian
Hovhannes Toumanian | Hovhannes Hovhannessian | Zabel Assatour (Madame Sybil)
Mugurditch Chrimian Hairig | M. Portoukalian | Mihran Damadian
Arshag D. Mahdesian | Nahabed Koutchak | Shoushanig Khourghinian
Avedik Issahakian | Avedis Aharonian | Karekin Servantzdiantz | Bedros Adamian
Tigrane Yergate | Khorène M. Antreassian | Djivan | Miscellaneous songs and poems

APPENDIX: The Armenian Women | The Armenian Church
Bibliography | Comments on the first edition of "Armenian Poems"

 

See also:

Leo Alishan - Armenian poems
Russian poetry translated by Alice Stone Blackwell

Acknowledgements:

Source: Blackwell, Alice Stone. Armenian Poems, Rendered into English Verse. Boston, MA: Atlantic Printing Company, 1917
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Karen Vrtanesyan

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