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Hovhannes Tumanian: The Ancient Blessing

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Translation of Hovhannes Tumanian poem
1887

'Neath a hazel’s green, gathered in a ring
Sat the men of age, who had known life’s sting.
They sat them around,
Squatting on the ground,
For feasting and song,
This ven'rable throng,
Our fathers, the aged, our seniors, the sage
Honoured for their age.
With uncovered heads we three of us stood;
We were school friends good,
Just three village lads, spirited and gay.
Our hands on our breasts in humbleness lay
As in voices strong we enlivened the throng
With song after song.
At the songs of joy of our childhood world
The grey Tamada his moustaches twirled,
Then each filled his cup to the very brim
And stood up with him.
This blessing they spoke “Live long, lads, live gay,
Not as we lived in our day!”
The years have swept on—in earth they have lain,
The songs of our joy became songs of pain.
And I’ve called to mind as life I’d lament,
Their kindly intent,
The blessing they spoke “Live long, lads, live gay,
Not as we lived in our day!”
Peace to your bones, our fathers who moaned!
The ills that you bore we also have known,
And now, in moments of joy or distress,
When children we bless,
We speak in your words: “Live long, lads, live gay,
Not as we lived in our day!”