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Armenian Poetry

Gevorg Emin (Born 1919)

Komitas* In The Desert

Long to those hearts by sad thoughts possessed
Seemed the weary, sorrowful road.
Mournful, they stumbled along without rest,
Driven on by their sufferings' goad.
The crowd of Armenians wandered along.
Nature appeared as dead.
A monk of his people's plight sang a song,
His soul full of death's cold dread.
"Ages of plunder," he thought as he sang,
"Massacres, exile, migrations...
The Lord is deaf to the voice of man,
To his groans, to his supplications.
If you can but see from your heavens, Lord,
Try and count the millions of corpses.
Never by thirst is the flesh so torn
As the soul is by Misery's tortures:"
He thought as he sang :
"These boulders, too,
If they had conscience,
Would blacken with tears.
Dim with tears, flows the fast Araks, once blue.
Gray with grief Masis appears.
But the Lord cannot see - too far to the skies.
Ravaged by robbers, gutted with fire,
The ancient Armenian motherland dies;
What remains of its people weep on its pyre."
He sang, but sorrow is not a cowl
To be cast off and forgot.
So much pain and suffering - how
Endure it, endowed with a heart so hot?
Events and surroundings - all seemed so wild,
In gloom medieval clad.
Overcome by the pain in his temples, he cried:
"All the world has gone mad!"
Ashes and dust filled the Turkish vale.
The escort - asker** reported:
"The group was shot, except... on the way
One monk went mad," he snorted.

* Komitas (1869-1935) - outstanding Armenian composer, who went mad in 1915 from the horrors of genocide in Western Armenia.
** Asker - Turkish soldier.

Speak Up, Armenia!

Speak up, Armenia!
Speak, you who suffered all these ages,
whose joy is only decades old,
Speak up now, unabashed, courageous,
There is so much the world and men must yet be told.

Behold,
The dove of peace alights on a new roof -
Peace which you drearned of
Since to life you came.
Let words of ancient, sacred truth
Be spoken by your poet in your name.

Men, have you heard?
Not long ago in Karmir-Blur* was found
A pitcherful of grain -
The sole remains
Of harvests grown by our Armenian forebears
Upon the rocks of Urartu
The stony soil they irrigated with their sweat
Long ages through.

On that same day
Besides the grain was found
A spear our ancestors took up
When foes advanced,
Defending every inch of sacred ground.
No one can say today,
with all these centuries flown away,
What harvests it could yield,
That ancient, that primeval field,
For only this - a pitcherful of grain
Today remains. No one can say
After so many centuries have flown away,
How many tillers lived upon the land
Where now so few survive,
Slaughtered, dispersed and banned.

Yet every grain that excavations have revealed
Will it not multiply and cover a whole field?
And each Armenian is like a tight-coiled spring,
And you may rest assured:
In spite of all the suffering it has cost,
This grain,
This handful of brave men - will bring
Back into life all that we ever lost!

*  Red Hill - ancient Urartan fortress near Yerevan.

The Grape Vine

If you are unacquainted with my nation,
Look at this vine-'tis all you have to do.
It has survived as many generations
And gone through all my folk has suffered through.

Who, like it,
Could have struck its stubborn roots
And grown upon such unrewarding soil
That under countless hostile horses' hoofs
Turned into stone,
That took its toll of toil,
Moistened with sweat and blood instead of rain?
Who, like it, could have stood the heat, the chain
Of suffering and hardship and dire pain?

Who can recount
The innumerable times
When horses trampled
On these sturdy vines?
And yet the more they had been trampled on,
The stronger, hardier their roots had grown.
The bitterness with which their fate's replete
Has only made their clustered fruit more sweet.

.This stubborn vine...
How often
On Spring's eve
It groaned
Beneath the heavy knives that cleaved
Its living body
Like my folk
That April black*; 
It groaned,
It bled,
Yet into life sprung back!

Eternity reveals itself in it -
Though buried, it revived, alive and fit,
Surviving ruthless destiny's harsh stroke
Just like Armenians-my deathless native folk!
What depths these roots have reached through countless years;
To Urartu's grim walls they seem to pierce!

These gleaming clusters,
Moist with morning dew,
Gleam with the light of life, forever new.
Bitter yet sweet, Armenia's golden wine,
Bitter as p ain, alive until our time,
Heady as hope, and sweet as faith
It flows -
Through every vein -
Like living flame it glows.

* In April 1915 one and a half million Armenians were massacred.

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From the book:
Gevorg Emin - Songs of Armenia
Selected Poems
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Updated 29 March, 2000 ..
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Copyright © 1999 HyeEtch. All rights reserved
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