Armenian Legends and Poems  at sacred-texts.com
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THE LAKE OF VAN
From Earth's creation till the skies shall parch
And she dissolve, thou circlest Heaven's high arch:
Saw’st thou the laurels on Armenia's brow?
And dost behold her hopeless sorrows now?
Mournful as I! I wonder dost thou see
How she is ground by heels of tyranny!
And do thine eyes with bitter tear-drops smart
When barbèd arrows pierce her through the heart
Thy heart is stone, thy pity stark and cold,
For fields of innocent blood thou dost behold
Without a word, and o’er Armenia's land
Thy nightly compass of the dome hast spanned
With all the brightness that was thine of old.
. . . . . .
O Lake, make answer! Why be silent more?
Wilt not lament with one whose heart is sore?
And you, ye Zephyrs, hurl the waters high
That I may feed them from a mourner's eye!
Must this unhappy nation ever be
By foreign princes held in slavery?
Is the Armenian and his stricken race
Counted unworthy in God's judgment-place?
Comes there a day, comes there a season that
Shall hail a flag on topmost Ararat,
Calling Armenians, wheresoe’er they roam,
To seek once more their loved and beauteous home?
Hard tho’ it be, O heavenly Ruler, raise
Armenia's spirit, and her heart's dark ways
Light with Thy knowledge: understanding so
The mystery of life, her works shall show
That all she does is ordered to Thy praise.
. . . . . .
Then suddenly the surface of the lake
Grew luminous, and from its depths did break
A lovely maid that bore a lantern and
A lyre of shining ivory in her hand.
Was she an Angel in a strange disguise?
Was she a Houri fled from Paradise?
Nay, rather was she of the form and hue
Of the Armenian Muses!
"Tell me true,
O Muse," I cried, "our people's destiny!
Speak of the Now and of the Yet-to-be!"
"Armenia's Muses shall awake anew,
And her Parnassus bloom with vernal hue,
And the bright car Apollo whirls on high
Shall sweep the shadows from her clouded sky.
"For many a day, like thee, we mourned aloud
While the thick darkness wrapped her in its shroud:
Now, O belovèd, may the weeping cease,--
To us has come the olive branch of peace!
"Cleanse from thy lute the rust that soils its string;
Hasten thee back, and, as thou goest, sing
Such joyful lays as yet may re-inspire
Hearts that are dead with new and tameless fire.
His Will is done; the Time is here; the Day
Dawns; and the Morning Star, so God doth say,
Shall be thy sign."
Then darkness fell again;
The vision fled; but long there did remain
An echo of the thrilling voice, that blended
With the wild waves whose depths she had descended;
And flowery perfumes filled the air like rain.
O message dear, and sweet prophetic strain!
What happiness is come to us, but Oh!
Beautiful Muse, yet one thing would we know--
Can a dead corpse rise up and live again?
Translated by G. M. Green.