Some of the information in the
following biography is translated and summarized by Shant Norashkharian
from SHIRAZ: SELECTED WORKS, edited by Hovhannes Hannesian, and published
in Beirut, 1985 by Shirag Publishers. The poems are from the same book.
deportation and massacres of Western Armenians had widowed many thousands
of mothers and children who became orphaned and helpless.
The city of Alexandropol, (formerly
Leninagan, now Gyumri), had turned to an enormous orphanage. In those tragic
days, on April 27, 1915, only three days after the terrible massacre of
Armenian writers and other intellectuals, was born Hovhaness Onnig Garabedian.
He passed his childhood during the most tragic times of Armenian history,
starving, thirsty and barefoot.
In 1935, he attracted attention by
publishing his first work, "BEGINNING OF SPRING". His fame spread everywhere.
Novelist Adrbed named the talented poet "Shiraz", because "this youth's
poems have the fragrance of roses, fresh and covered with dew, like the
roses of Shiraz." In 1937 he entered the Armenian Literature Department
of Yerevan's State University, where he studied until 1941. Until his death
on March 14, 1984, Shiraz published many books, mostly poetry, but also
quartets, parables and translations, and enjoyed the love and recognition
of Armenians everywhere as one of the greatest Armenian poets of this century.
He is immortalized by such lines
"Let all nations reach the moon,
But Armenians to Massis."
"As long as you never have a hut
in the fatherland,
You are just a forgotten orphan
under foreign moon."
Shiraz, like his contemporary Baruyr
Sevag, was an anti-establishment poet who was very popular with the people
of Soviet Armenia but despised and fought against its corrupt leadership
all his life. He also had a unique way of expressing his feelings. One
night, after having a few drinks which he often did, he stood at the statue
of Lenin in the central square of Yerevan and publicly urinated on it.
By doing so, he showed more courage by urinating than many of his "literary"
colleagues showed with their books.
translation by Shant Norashkharian
My son, what
shall I will you, what shall I will you, my dear,
That you may
remember me in coming sorrow or cheer?
I've no treasures,
what treasure, treasure's the light of my eyes,
Only you are
my treasure, you treasure of my treasures.
I want to
will such treasure for you as your father that
In any other
country to will a father cannot;
I am willing
that to you which in our great century
have imprisoned and also chained in the clouds;
I will you
our mountain so that you take it from black cloud
it home carrying it with our spotless justice,
So that you
may throw my dear, even with your poor small paw,
To our side
our mountain that's your justice's sea of strength,
And when you
bring it, my dear, take my heart out of my tomb,
the free above rise and take with you my heart,
And bury my
heart under the snows of Mount Ararat,
So that in
my tomb as well it won't be cold from the fire of longing for centuries.
I will you
Mount Ararat, that you may keep for ever,
As our language
and also as your father's home's pillar.
My dear, as
much joy as you are feeling,
As much you
flower, as much as you sing,
So much roses
of oblivion you pour
On the memories
of my sad childhood...
Laugh, so my
homeless memories may cry,
As I entered
life and home I was yet a homeless orphan,
have lost now my poor childhood,
But I have
found now thousand gold childhoods.
Among roses, my
dear one, you may forget me,
But when the
thorns bite you then, call me, I shall come.
Under the sun,
in the light, you may forget me,
But when your
way is dark then, call me, I shall come.
in a war or under the earth,
fall in pain, call me, I shall come...
under my chest get ruined,
foot touches a stone suddenly...
I have placed
my head upon your fortune,
And no matter
how many temptation rivers corrupt you,
On all the
roads of your life I have placed
My head as
a bridge over all of them.
My heart has
turned to mother's heart for you,
My heart spreads
like field under your feet,
my dear one, brought you to the world,
I'm the reason
for your joy and sorrow...
If any one
of your life's roses stings
A thorn into
your finger like a tear,
Let that thorn
my eye then suddenly sting,
Let my eye's
flame then burn all of your thorns...
And him whom
my death has brought to the world
bud life will not sacrifice,
he who won't hold like a mother
one like holding earth's future.
My son, be good
and always remain good,
the good in this evil world,
Even in a
sea of wickedness one will not become poor
If only a
drop of goodness he brings.
Always do goodness,
like a pure fountain,
passing flood is cursed but behold,
Yet even the
beast will silently bow
Like a thirsty
man over the fountain.
The children are
calling for me,
have not been patient,
brought to the city
joy from the mountain and the valley.
But how would
my dearest ones know
not their pretty flowers,
But they themselves
are the spring's life,
bring for us our spring...