Khorene Nar Bey Lusignan’s second featured poem this week is “Armenia.” A series of adoring exclamations, it is a reminder of a time when the longing for a nonexistent Armenia produced devotional works to what might be. It was a time when Armenia could be written about as though it was a lost love about which one could only dream. It may be precisely because it was unreal that the emotions about it were imparted with such fluidity and vibrancy.
In “Let Us Die Armenians,” Lusignan is a leader guiding his people; in “Armenia,” he is a child, given, without reservation and without covetousness, to the land of the nation that born him.
If a sceptre of diamond, a glittering crown,
Were mine, at thy feet I would lay them both down,
Queen of queens, O Armenia!
If a mantle of purple were given to me,
A mantle for kings, I would wrap it round thee,
Poor Armenia, my mother!
If the fire of my youth and its sinews of steel
Could return, I would offer its rapture and zeal
All to thee, my Armenia!
Has a lifetime of ages been granted to me,
I had given it gladly and freely to thee,
O my life, my Armenia!
Were I offered the love of a maid lily-fair,
I would choose thee alone for my joy and my care,
My one love, my Armenia!
Were I given a crown of rich pearls, I should prize,
Far more than their beauty, one tear from thine eyes,
O my weeping Armenia!
If freedom unbounded were proffered to me,
I would choose still to share thy sublime slavery,
O my mother, Armenia!
Were I offered proud Europe, to take or refuse,
Thee alone, with thy griefs on thy head, would I choose
For my country, Armenia!
Might I choose from the world where my dwelling should be,
I would say, Still thy ruins are Eden to me,
My beloved Armenia!
Were I given a seraph’s celestial lyre,
I would sing with my soul, to its chords of pure fire,
Thy dear name, my Armenia!
Translation by Alice Stone Blackwell.
Truly it would be interesting to know who Alice Stone Blackwell’s incentive was to translate and publish these poems. She writes so eloquently and you can tell she took her time to translate every nuance and complicated word into meaningful text. Now that’s one biography i’d like to read about!
Until the day a biography is written, you may want to check Peter Balakian’s Burning Tigris, which has quite a detailed account about Alice Stone Blackwell.
I will. Thank you Vartan! And thank you Armenite for sharing this translation. I love the appreciation of Armenian poetry on this site!