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Petros Duryan (Bedros Dourian)

Petros Duryan

Biography

1851-1872

An Ephemeral, Transitory and Gifted Life
by Ruth Bedevian

Bedros Dourian (alternate spelling: Petros Duryan, Petros Tourian, Bedros Tourian), an Armenian poet, playwright and actor, was born to a poverty stricken family whose father was a struggling blacksmith in Istanbul. A romantic poet with keen sensitivity, he amassed a beloved following of admirers during his brief time on earth. He died of Tuberculosis at the tender age of 21. He left, however, a rich legacy of drama and poetry that has captured the hearts of his people ever since. A true patriot, his historical plays were inspired by a yearning for national liberation. His Armenian School teacher was Hagop Baronian, the famous satirist. Educated in French, Dourian was well read in Hugo, Lamartine, and de Musset and brought a lyrical and sentimental quality to his native language of Armenian poetry. Spontaneous, eloquent and richly endowed with imagery and metaphors, his poems reveal natural artistic brilliance, and paved the way with innovation from the old style of writing. Critics have credited Dourian with originating the modern lyric tradition in verse. His poetry has been translated into Russian, French, English, German and Italian. Even in translation his poetry touches the soul of the reader.

The Armenian theater was his love and despite his father’s opposition, he pursued an active theatrical life, writing plays and performing on the stage. Given the poverty of his family, the financial advantage that acting afforded him may well have been a factor in defying his father’s wishes. He quickly gained recognition and sustained popularity through his plays. Some of his theatrical works include “Black Lands” (1868), “Artashes, the Peacekeeper” (1969), “Fall of the House of Arshakids” (1870), “Capture of Ani, the Capital of Armenia” (1871), and “Theatre or Outcasts” (1871). “Theatre or Outcasts (or Wretched People)” takes on the issue of social injustice and moral decay. In the play two lovers commit suicide on stage. Had Dourian lived a longer life, he would have had opportunity to develop a more sophisticated theatrical repertoire. History remembers Dourian more for his verse than his dramas, although his drama initially brought him fame during his lifetime.

Knowing that he would die young, he rode the roller coaster of emotion, complaining to the Almighty in one poem and beseeching forgiveness in another. Unrealized dreams and an anxiety to live to contribute to his nation caused him deep pain and sorrow, which are reflected in his writing.

The following poem, Little Lake, is an allusion to the fact that apparently Tourian who was in love with an actress, overheard her scornfully saying, “Oh him? He is trembling and so pale—he might even die one of those days!” (which, sadly, he did).

Sources:
Kevork B. Bardarkjian, A Reference Guide to Modern Armenian Literature 1500 -1920 Wayne State University Press, 1999
E. Jrbashian “Petros Durian” (an article from Armenian Encyclopedia)

by Ruth Bedevian

Acknowledgements:

Provided by: Ruth Bedevian

© by Ruth Bedevian. Published with the permission of the author. No copying or any sort of redistribution allowed without the prior written permission of the author.

See also:

Poems of Petros Duryan translated into English by Alice Stone Blackwell

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