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Hovhannes Tumanian: Quatrains

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o my native crickets dear Now you chirrup, loud and clear.... Invisible, sweet choristers, Who is lending you an ear?




My grief is a vast deep sea Filled with gems that are fair to see. My wrath is charged with love, Full of stars is the night surrounding me.



A thousand deaths dwell in my soul; Death sits enthroned in my spirit’s hail. My heart is filled with the fear of death For I am mortal just like all.



Who knows the place where we’ve landed, For how many days are we stranded? When our hearts are empty, when love is gone, ‘Tis in a fire we’ve landed. 1917


How many tortures have I stood, What treachery have I withstood, Borne with it all, forgiven and loved And looked at evil as at good! 1917


Many a hand set fire to me And made me burn like a storm-lit tree. Become a flame, I issued light, Now spent and dried myself I be. 1917


On all alike my spirit smiles On good and evil, boons and guiles. It shines all through my weary life, On all my destined paths it shines. 1918


In my despair that knows no bounds Profound and low, a voice resounds In my alert and wakeful ears— The call of death, my steps it hounds. 1918


I shot and hurt a bird one day, With bleeding wing it flew away. Flying away I see it still, With bleeding wing, to this very day. 1918 10

Two graves, one by the other’s side, Neighbours in eternal quiet; Cold and sorrowful, they muse On what from this world they took and hide. 1918


Under Autumn s gloomy look A lark sits lost beside a brook In the fields of my dear Lori, Still gazing at the road I took. 1918


The bloody—mouthed cannibal,speaking with gestures and leers, Grew into a murderer after a million years. Stoop-shouldered, with blood-smeared hands, he keeps groping on, But still has a long way to go till Man he nears. 1918


A crystal night falls on the Eden of the East, Where fairy palaces await my soul to feast. What am I doing in this squalour, in this din? Oh, would I found a way to home, to peace! 1919


All around men are dying or dead Life and death are confused in my head. Existence or non-existence— What matters when life has fled? 1919


0 greedy, dissatisfied man, having long thoughts but short life, Many like you passed away before your passions ran rife. What did they take from life, that you, could take with ~OU too? Seek Peace and try to enjoy your short days frought with grief and strife. 1919


o mysterious Poet, unparalleled though unheard, Your radiant looks spread songs that reach my heart without words. Happy am I, your wonder-filled reader, To read them, sweet as the songs of birds. 1919


Whether asleep or awake, my days passed by like dreams Day-dreams and dream-like days, short-lived as beacon-beams. Dreams and longings all faded, none reached, none achieved, Lost is my life like a bet, beaten like gamblers’ schemes. 1919


Where niore can I expect, in this or the other world? Standing between the two, I muse—my view is blurred; God himself, methinks, is uncertain what to do, To take me or leave me—which would be best who’ll say the word? 1919 19

Generous, inexhaustible, giving like God, I grew tired; Myself with a thirsting spirit, caring for men, I grew tired; I long to meet someone to lavish love s riches on me; Watching the way, awaiting, looking for me so tired. 1921


All my life I breathe the live breath of the living God everywhere, Always I hear His voice, His incessant call everywhere. My all-seeing, all-hearing soul is elevated and cleansed By the melody and the murmur coming from everywhere. 1921 -


Overwhelmed by bloody disaster, strife and tumult of old, The western slaves of machinery, filthy lucre and gold Flee in awe from the waste of their long-dead souls Here, to the East divine, the home that so dear I hold. 1921


As You take the blessings You gave me since life began, I look to see how many are left till my race is run Amazed am I: You have given so freely, with generous hand; How much must I yet return till I merge with You into one? 19521


High is the land of Armenia and Masis that touches the sky Where my soul to converse with the Universe soars like a bird on high— It started before the beginning of things, when existence was like non-existence, To continue until the end of things, as long as time goes by. 1921


I turned my life into a square for all to tread who want; How many flowers on that barren plot in my lifetime I could plant! 0 God, Creator of this Earth and all the flowers it bears, What answer will I give to You when You account demand? 1921


At my christening the heavens were church, a holy lamp the bright sun, The rainbow held up its halo, my people’s love was the font, A mountain became my God—father dew the life-giving myrrh, And I was baptised by Him who created me as a bard. 1921


Brooklets murmur and run their course, The thirsty yearn and pass away, Poets, dreaming about life’s source, Utter their calls and go the same way. 1922 27

My soul is a thirsting traveller in the Universe divine, Going its way through the world, indifferent to glory mundane. Withdrawing from sinful Earth soaring aloft to the skies, . .

To those remaining below my soul is already alien. 1922


So many pains and ruins of the past crowd in my heart, Memories of past blessings are ousted from my heart. At moments of melancholy I cannot recall Was there ever a time when joy dwelt in my heart? 1922


Between two centuries rent, Between two boulders pent, I am lost between the old tsar And a newly-found friend. 1917


I fool myself and flee in vain, I am attached with bond and chain; I suffer just like any other, And share with them their common pain. 1917


My soul has conic into its own, Great as the Universe it has grown; I am the lord of the whole world, Yet who knows of it? I alone! 1917


Omar Khayam told his sweetheart: “Cautiously plant your foot; Who knows on what beauty’s eye your foot you may chance to put.” Friend, let us too walk gently, for we don’t know whether we tread Upon that beauty’s eye or Khayarn’s unrivalled head. 1920


Your smile, like the sun at noon, shines hotly U~Ofl my face, As mortally wounded I lie, awaiting death’s last embrace, Like a lightning-struck oak that stands drying day after day . .

Under the radiant sun’s eternal life-giving rays. 1920


A thousand years before or since, what can ever matter— I have existed and will exist, so what can ever matter! I assume a thousand forms, all of them for a time, With the soul universal my soul is one, so what can ever matter! 1921


All hearts are filled with the pain of our age, The world’s heart is filled with the pain of our age; The whole ailing world pours into my heart Torn open, filled with the pain of our age. 1921 36

Through time and distance you go, roads and ways, No return do you ever know, roads and ways! Who passed over you in their days And where did they go, roads and ways?