I would love to join the cynics of the world in hating Valentine’s Day. Come February 14, the cost of a rose bouquet reaches astronomical prices, traffic is gridlocked more than usual due to couples rushing off to fancy dinners, and public displays of affection — or as I call it, emotional indecency — can be seen at every block.
Still, during the month of February, I find myself reading — or rather, re-reading — the most romantic of Nicholas Sparks novels and fawning over passionate prose more than any other time of year.
February 14 marks the one day devoted to love, and as a sap underneath all those layers of winter clothes, I search for it in the centuries of archived romance stories that are waiting to be discovered. Couples rekindle their love on Valentine’s Day, others dream that their unrequited love becomes shared, many opt for a chance at “happily ever after,” and some, like me, search voraciously for a true and sincere written depiction of the very love so many travel the world to find.
Below are three of my favorite romantic poems by Armenian writers. Raffi, Vahagn Davtian, and Sayat Nova know what it means to love and they aim to share this raw emotion with the rest of us. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we hope you enjoy this small dose of romantic poetry. Please share your favorite romantic poems in the comment section below.
1) Thou and I by Raffi
Thou and I by Raffi is a poem of pure and total adoration for a perfect woman who has not yet confirmed her love of the narrator. The narrator is in a constant struggle with love throughout the stanzas, as short bursts of agony are coupled with passion. He waits achingly for love from the object of his affection.
WOULD I were the lake, so blue and calm,
And thou, fair maiden, with reluctant pride,
Wouldst see thy picture, delicate and faint,
Thy sacred image, in my depths abide.
Or would that on the shore a willow grew,
And thou mightst lean on it, and the frail tree
Might let thee fall into the lake, and there
Sway with its waters everlastingly !
I would I were the forest, dark and vast,
And that thou there mightst come to muse alone,
And, ere I knew it, I might overhear
What thy lips murmur in an undertone.
Or would that thou mightst sit beneath a tree,
Singing a pure, sweet song; and leaf and bough,
With admiration trembling, would descend
And form a coronal to wreathe thy brow.
I would I were the face of the dark sky,
That so from heaven I might shake down on thee
A multitude of stars, as ’t were my tears;
Ah, do not tread upon them scornfully!
Would I the writer were, and thou the theme !
Would thou affection wert, and I the heart!
I the bouquet, and thou its silken string;
When thou art loosed, the flowers will fall apart.
Oh, would I were a lover of sweet song,
And thou my lyre, angel for whom I pine !
And that thy chords beneath my unskilled hands
Might vibrate till thy heart responds to mine !
Translation by Alice Stone Blackwell
2) My Heart by Vahagn Davtian
My Heart by Vahagn Davtian is a dose of poetry for those fully and hopelessly in love with a passing moment. Whether reminiscing about a past relationship or dreaming of the start of a new one, this poem captures the melody that accompanies one single breathtaking moment of true love.
An intricate snowflake, delicate, new on the earth,
And a tear dropped among the wet leaves,
The flight of a sharp-winged swallow,
The glance of a gentle girl,
The sun’s ray, softly bright and warm,
And you throb inside my breast, nay heart,
What it is you remember
I do not know,
Am so grateful, my heart,
That you can throb so,
And that though maddened, you can sob
For an intricate snowflake, a shred of memory,
The blue mist hovering over the fields,
The flight of a bird, the melting of spring,
For the glance of a gentle girl.
3) The Youth and the Streamlet by Sayat Nova
The Youth and The Streamlet by Sayat Nova is written for the romantic, heartbroken, and doubtful traveler. As the dark youth questions the streamlet, we can feel the pain of love that is gone or love that has not yet been found. Searing and honest, the uncertainty of life without love is smeared across each line of poetry. The ending of the poem calls for a resolution to the quest: finding the right person.
Down from yon distant mountain
The streamlet finds its way,
And through the quiet village
It flows in eddying play.
A dark youth left his doorway,
And sought the water-side,
And, laving there his hands and brow,
“O streamlet sweet!” he cried,
“Say, from what mountain com’st thou?”
“From yonder mountain cold
Where snow on snow lies sleeping,
The new snow on the old.”
“Unto what river, tell me,
Fair streamlet, dost thou flow?”
“I flow unto that river
Where clustering violets grow.”
“Sweet streamlet, to what vineyard,
Say, dost thou take thy way?”
“The vineyard where the vine-dresser
Is at his work to-day.”
“What plant where wilt thou water?”
“The plant upon whose roots
The lambs feed, where the wind-flower blooms,
And orchards bear sweet fruits.”
“What garden wilt thou visit,
O water cool and fleet?”
“The garden where the nightingale
Sings tenderly and sweet.”
“Into what fountain flow’st thou?”
“The fountain to whose brink
Thy love comes down at morn and eve,
And bends her face to drink.
“There shall I meet the maiden
Who is to be thy bride,
And kiss her chin, and with her love
My soul be satisfied.”
Translation by Alice Stone Blackwell