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Armenian Legends and Poems [1916] at

p. 98




A GREAT black bird like to a great black cloud
Hovers forever o’er my spirit bowed.
He is my guardian angel, but alack!
Darker than night he is--than hell more black.

A fearful-looking bird, with wings wide spread,
Ill-omened as the Devil, and as dread;
He hovers round my wasted body, till
I wonder if I yet have life or will.

Upon his wings no spot of white appears,
His plumage black sheds horror down, and fears.
Black are his talons--sharp, like daggers fell;
And like a hound I hear him howl and yell.

His wide-spread pinions hide the light from me;
Heaven dark, and earth a dungeon black I see.
All is in shadow--air and earth and skies--
He even hides the lightning from my eyes.

I cannot see the paleness of my face,
I cannot see the maiden's smiling grace;
Black is the lake, the stars and lilies dark;
What was that cry? The bird's dread calling!--Hark!

p. 99

I seem to totter on the brink of hell
And think the evil fowl my corpse can smell.
I seem to hear the goblins fight with him--
"Away with thee!--ours is this booty grim!"

But he is cruel, strong, and merciless--
This great black bird;--he heeds not my distress.
Ten years I've lived beneath his deadly wings--
Ten years unceasingly my death-bell rings.

Ten years ago one night it came to pass
On Moda's rock I sat and dreamed; alas,
My foe came to me--Carnal was his name:
He shouted, "Vain are Life and Love and Fame!"

Youthful I was, and armed with Love and Hope
I struggled. "Oh, my soul, arise and cope
With this thy foe, and vanquish him," I cried.
But ’twas in vain, as I full soon espied.

My sun and joy since then are on the wane.
My foe cries out, "I, only I, shall reign!
O’er all the universe none rules but me!"--
Then rose a Siren's voice alluringly. . . .

Nirvana and the flesh held me that hour:
God was asleep--my soul was in their power.
Then on the moon I saw a spot appear;--
It grew, and grew . . . my heart turned sick with fear.

I was as dead. The carrion-eating bird
Had left that heavenly corpse--the moon--allured
To earth by me. It sought my bosom where
The image of Christ crucified lay bare.

p. 100

Beneath those evil wings I hopelessly
Roam over the earth;--my guardian angel he;
No more the cross I wear, nor in my breast
Dwells holy faith; ’tis death: death without rest.

Like to the moon, whether I wax or wane
Still am I lifeless, cursed with this bane.
I give the vulture of my flesh to tear,
And shiver when the name of "love" I hear.

While yet I live he is devouring me:
I cannot bear this pain--Oh, set me free!
I am not dead--Love still dwells with me here.
I am alive--and some call me the "Ner." 1

Ah, gruesome bird, art thou not yet content
These ten long years my body to have rent?
Ah, vulture black--black earth and ebon sky,
’Tis time that I should lay me down and die.



100:1 "Ner"--the Antichrist, concerning whom the Armenians have many traditions.

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