Poem: Lament for the Heroes of Avarair

By Bishop Garegin Srvandzian

Translated by Zabelle C. Boyajian

The Vardan Mamikonian statue in downtown Yerevan (Photo: Vladimer Shioshvili)

If Goghtan’s bards[1] no longer crown
Armenia’s heroes with their lays,
Let deathless souls from Heaven come down,
Our valiant ones to praise!

Ye shining angel hosts, descend:
On Ararat’s white summit pause;
Let God Himself the heavens rend,
To come and judge our cause.

Fly, clouds, from Sharvarshan[2] away,
Pour not on it your gentle rain:
‘Tis drenched with streams of blood today
Shed by our brave ones slain.

Henceforth the rose and asphodel
No more shall on our plains appear;
But in the land where Vardan[3] fell
Shall Faith her blossoms rear.

Fit monument to Vardan’s name,
Mount Ararat soars to the sky.
And Cross-crowned convents tell his fame,
And churches vast and high.

Armenian Legends and Poems,
Thy record too shall ever stand,
O Yeghishe[4], for where they fell,
Thou forthwith camest, pen in hand,
Their faith and death to tell.

Bright sun, pierce with thy rays the gloom,
Where Khaghtik’s[5] crags thy light repel,
There lies our brave Hmayak’s[6] tomb,
There, where he martyred fell.

And, moon, thy sleepless vigil keep
O’er our Armenian martyr’s bones;
With soft dews of Maytime steep
Their nameless funeral stones.

Armenia’s Stork, our summer guest,
And all ye hawks and eagles, come,
Watch o’er this land—‘tis our bequest—
We leave to you our home.

About the ashes hover still,
Your nests among the ruins make;
And, swallows, come and go until
Spring for Armenia break!

***

This translation was first published under the title “Lament over the Heroes Fallen in the Battle of Avarair” in the collection Armenian Legends and Poems compiled and translated by Zabelle C. Boyajian (London, 1916. pp. 25-26).

Bishop Garegin Srvandzian (1840-1892) was a priest, poet, traveler, and ethnographer, born in Van. He is best known for his major contribution to ethnographic studies and for the ancient oral literature that he saved from eradication: If this work had been postponed for 40 years or so, all traces of age-old epic tales, customs, and traditions unique to the Armenian people would have been lost forever in the Armenian Genocide. One of his best-known works was “Grots-brots” (1874, roughly translated as “Bookworm”), is a compilation of ancient Armenian traditional and tales from various provinces.[7]

Zabelle C. Boyajian (1873-1957) was an Ottoman Armenian painter, writer, and translator, who lived most of her life in London. She was born in Diyarbakır (Dikranagerd/Tigranakert) into the family of the British Vice-Consul in Diyarbakır and Harput Thomas Boyajian and Catherine Rogers, a descendant of the English poet Samuel Rogers. After her father’s murder during the Hamidian massacres, in 1895, Boyajian, her mother, and her brother, Henry, moved to London, where she enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art. She also started writing and illustrating her own books. Her first novel, “Yestere: The Romance of a Life,” about the massacres in Sasun, was published under the pen name Varteni (London, 1901).

Notes

[1] The well-known troubadours of the district of Goghtn—modern-day Julfa and Agulis.

[2] The ancient name of the Artaz province.

[3] Vardan Mamikonian—the hero of the Battle of Avarair.

[4] Yeghishe—the famous fifth century Armenian historian and author of History of Vardan and the Armenian War.

[5] The land of the Kaght people on the Black Sea—modern-day Lazistan, Turkey.

[6] Hmayak Mamikonian—one of the Mamikonian brothers.

[7] Hacikyan, A. J., Basmajian, G., Franchuk, E. S., & Ouzounian, N. (Eds.). (2005). The Heritage of Armenian Literature, Vol. 3: From The Eighteenth Century To Modern Times. Wayne State University Press. p. 374.

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