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Letter to Yerevan (Part I)

On the occasion of the 99th anniversary of the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia (1918-1920), the Armenian Weekly is pleased to announce that it will be periodically publishing the English translation of Andranik Tzarukian’s epic 1945 poem “Tught ar Yerevan” (“Letter to Yerevan”).

The Armenian Weekly is pleased to announce that it will be periodically publishing the English translation of Andranik Tsarukian’s epic 1945 poem ‘Tught ar Yerevan’

The translation, which will be published in parts and culminate on the Centennial of the First Republic of Armenia, is a collaborative effort between the editor of the Armenian Weekly Rupen Janbazian and former editor of the Armenian Review and former director of the ARF and First Republic of Armenia Archives Tatul Sonentz-Papazian.

***

In 1944, Soviet Armenian writer Gevorg Abov wrote a poem entitled, “Menk Chenk Moratsel” («Մենք չենք մոռացել» – “We Have Not Forgotten”). In his poem, he criticized the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and its entire membership for being traitors of the Armenian nation and its people. He particularly critical of the First Republic of Armenia (1918-1920) and its leadership.

The fourth reprinting of ‘Tught ar Yerevan’ (Aleppo, 1947)

“Menk Chenk Moratsel” touched a nerve with renowned Armenian author Andranik Tzarukian. His response to Abov came in the form of a lengthy, powerful poem entitled, “Tught ar Yerevan” («Թուղթ առ Երեւան» – “Letter to Yerevan,” 1945).

Although Abov had addressed his poem to the entire ARF, Tzarukian felt it was his responsibility to respond and to disclaim Abov.

Written in Aleppo and first published in 1945,“Tught ar Yerevan” examines at the history of the ARF and aims to dismiss Abov’s claims that the organization harmed the interests of the Armenian people. Almost overnight, Tzarukian became a dominant voice in Armenian life, and his poem quickly spread through the Armenian Diaspora, from the Middle East to Europe and the Americas.

Seventy years after it was written, “Tught ar Yerevan” continues to be considered one of the most influential historical poems in modern Armenian literature.

Below is the first installment, dedicated to the 99th anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia.

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Letter to Yerevan (Part I)

In this late autumn night,
Through the whimpering wind
And the thin, trickling rain,
Behold,
A groping, grieving boy.
He walks on damp, dank grounds,
His head down with sorrow
And in the dark depths of his soul
A wave of grief pounds like a heavy
Hammer …

He walks on the damp, cold concrete
Alone, without a friend,
His idle hands in his pockets,
As if on his weary shoulders
Lies an invisible cloak of lead,
An evil deity’s dark curse,
The fateful, immense fist
Of misfortune…

In the thunderous depths
Of his eyes,
A remote sense of yearning,
Like a dying, fluttering bird. A prayer
Flung at the distant spring,
A tormented thought
Of blue mountains and bright suns.
An unreachable sense of longing
For homeland.

He dreams of his country
Like a mother missing a child,
Like a parched land missing rain,
Like shivers yearning for sun.
Like a dying crane clinging on
To dear life,
He dreams of his country.

Oh, there are pulsating hearths there
And joyful sounds of song
And laughter,
The beguiling life
Of regeneration of seeds
Bursting from beneath the soil,
And thousands upon thousands
Of children,
With dreamy eyes,
Smiling bright at a beckoning haven.
With the sense of yearning deep
In his heart
And the dazzling dream in his eyes,
In the fading shadows of autumn,
Under the thin, trickling rain,
He is but a shivering, wavering
Shadow.

Who is he? A wandering,
Abandoned boy…
What is he? A floating fragment
Of a capsized ship…
Where is he? On alien and
Bastard lands…
What does he have? No father, no shelter,
Not a child,
Not a single sliver of land
In this wide world,
Nowhere under the sun
To call home…

In constant struggle to find
His daily bread,
He has nothing, except
Dread…

15 Comments on Letter to Yerevan (Part I)

  1. avatar Haig Misakyan // May 28, 2017 at 1:26 pm // Reply

    Indeed a worthwhile effort, to applaud and enjoy.
    Bravo! Rupen Janbazian and Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

  2. avatar Arsho Zakarian // May 28, 2017 at 4:46 pm // Reply

    Can’t wait for the rest. Thanks Roupen and Tatoul.

  3. avatar Arsho Zakarian // May 28, 2017 at 4:47 pm // Reply

    Cannot wait for the rest…thanks Roupen and Tatoul

  4. avatar Haroutune Armenian // May 28, 2017 at 5:33 pm // Reply

    Ապրի՚ս Թաթուլ։ Սքանչելի։ Անհամբեր կը սպասենք մնացածը…

  5. avatar Mark Chenian // May 28, 2017 at 11:04 pm // Reply

    Thank you for the project undertaken.

    It was in the mid sixties that I read the original in Armenian, and now part 1 in English.

    Judging from this first part, reading the translation was a pleasant experience in at least two counts, recalling the original and even more importantly, with today’s maturity/accumulated experiences. In addition, the translation is greatly appreciated for the language and style/harazad.

    Needless to say, I am looking forward for the rest.

    I hope that later on, the entire work with necessary footnotes/analyses will appear in one of our scholarly journals by one of our younger scholars with historical perspective.

    Once again, thank you in advance for the coming “long year”.

  6. I’d like to read Abov’s poem as well. Can you publish it also. It would be instructive to see what in Abov’s poem so inspired Tzurakian.
    Thank you.

  7. To avoid appearing to be just an exercise in party political tribalism, if you are publishing a translation of a work written as a response, should you not also publish a translation of the work that initiated that response?

    • An honest poet should stanzate (write poetry) for a reason
      Without a reason, poetry can’t breathe sense,
      An honest poet should say the truth
      Embark justice, forever to prevail.

      If a poet poets* without showing a reason, then
      He is cheating himself in front of others …
      Poetry must breathe truth and justice
      Sylva~MD~Poetry
      _____________
      Poets: used as a verb, it is accepted by many.

  8. avatar Catherine Yesayan // May 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    This is so beautiful. I cannot wait to read the rest of the poem. Meanwhile I’d like to read the Gevorg Abov’s poem too. If you could publish that would be nice. Not necessary to be translated. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    • Dear Catherine,
      An honest poet should stanzate (write poetry) for a reason
      Without a reason, poetry can’t breathe sense,
      An honest poet should say the truth
      Embark justice, forever to prevail.

      If a poet poets* without showing a reason, then
      He is cheating himself in front of others …
      Poetry must breathe truth and justice
      Sylva~MD~Poetry
      _____________
      Poets: used as a verb, it is accepted by many.

  9. avatar Sofya Kalantaryan // May 29, 2017 at 11:53 pm // Reply

    Thank you for the translation. In conjunction with it the poem by Abov and the original by Tsarukian will complete the picture.

  10. Translation is a great work,
    Without understanding the soul you can never commit that task,
    Well done all … to their commitment to translating
    the true spirit of a new language …
    Which has a different soul …
    Congrats to all translators who did a great job.

    I repeat and stanze,
    Every language has a soul,
    Can learn languages all?
    Sylva~MD~ poetry

  11. Translation is a great work, done by two dedicated Armenians
    Rupen Janbazian, Tatul Papazian,
    Congrats to all …

    Without understanding the soul you can never commit that task,
    Well done all … to their commitment to translating
    the true spirit of a new language …
    Which has a different soul …
    Congrats to all translators who did a great job.

    I repeat and stanze,
    Every language has a soul,
    Can learn languages all?
    Sylva~MD~ poetry

  12. avatar Krikor Muradian // May 30, 2017 at 12:49 pm // Reply

    Hits you in the heart. Very moving. Would like to read the communist Abov’s poem. I wonder who ordered him to write it. ThanksK

  13. The translation of Abov’s “Menk Chenk Moratsel” («Մենք չենք մոռացել» – “We Have Not Forgotten”) can be read here: http://armenianweekly.com/2017/05/31/poem-we-have-not-forgotten/

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