Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Poem finds Music.

I posted the translation of Pashinian's poem on April 7th, and I am reposting it below. In it, he called for the poem to be set to music. Now it has, by Lav Eli. The singer is Gor Mkhitar's khnami, his sister's husband to be exact. In Armenia there is no six degrees of separation, but two; three degrees, maksimom. They have another song on their My Space page called "Spring has Come" that's kind of Blind Faith (one of my favorite songs) meets patarak (another favorite). Did I mention that strangely wonderful things are coming out of Armenia these days?


Here is a poem by opposition leader Nikol Pashinian, a man who is very much respected in Armenia even by people who aren't firm supporters of Levon Ter Petrossian. Today, he is in hiding; if he weren't, he'd be in jail awaiting trial on false charges brought up by the Prosecutor General, Aghvan Hovsepian, who, it turns out, has a side job as a mafia Don. [update: I'm not sure if he's in hiding or under danger of arrest anymore because in the article from 4/28 below, he mentions having met with the NSS]. I wrote this intro on 4/7] The opposition movement's leaders are not only politicians, but intellectuals. Kocharian, on the other hand, wouldn't recognize a poem if it pitched a tent on his nose and started a campfire.

Pashinian makes a reference to a certain "singer, songwriter friend." I wonder if that friend is Ruben Hakhverdian who has publicly criticized the present criminal government.

Note that Pashinian's advice regarding how to read the poem doesn't apply to it in translation: Armenian poems follow a different meter that fits the polysyllabic nature of the language better. It would be nearly impossible to preserve the meter in a translation and not distort the meaning of the poem in the first place, even if one wanted to try such a thing. It could be put into English meters, but to do that right takes a luxuriously long time, weeks, if not months. It is worth noting, however, that the meter of "STRU-ggle, STRU-ggle, TILL the END" is similar to "pay-KAR, pay-KAR, min-CHEV VERJ." A happy coincidence.

The rhyme scheme is ABAB. But if people want to get an idea of the rhythm of the original, per stanza, this is usually the meter of the original, where "-" is a stressed and "." is an unstressed syllable and "~" is the regular "medium" stress on the last syllable of Armenian words:

-..~ -.~ , -..~ -.~
-..~ -.~ , -..~ -.~
-..~ -.~ , -..~ -.~
-.-.-.- (.) .-.-.-

The unstress mark in parenthesis is the pause he recommends. The first three lines each have 14 syllables, divided into two sets of seven syllables. And that is generally the logic of the poem that I've tried to preserve: each set of seven syllables is an independent idea. The last line of each stanza takes the six septa-syllabic ideas of the stanza and grounds them, so to speak, in the "Now." What some would call the "matrix" of the poem is this "Now," which has many implications that I'll leave to the reader to have the pleasure of unpacking. I do need to add that I've used "at once" and "now" to translate the Armenian Հիմա, because, while "at once" works for harvesting, dancing, and so on, it doesn't work when it comes to one of the ideas, dying. It's quite a sophisticated and beautiful poem, in my opinion, and yet another example of the extraordinary work coming out of Armenia today. And, again, readers should keep in mind that the goal of the present translation is to capture the logic of the poem, not its beauty, its rhetorical structure, in shorthand. You simply have to read it in Armenian for that.

Update: I didn't realize this before, but "հիմա," or "now" or "at once" if one wants to preserve the rhythm, is one of the things that the people were actually chanting in front of the French embassy. I heard it in the background in a video taken there either during or shortly before the police attacked (they didn't attack anybody at that particular location, but everybody outside).


Below I present my poem about the arrival of Spring [garnanamut] dedicated to our movement. I hope that it merits the attention of my singer-songwriter friend, and that he will try to write a stirring and inspiring song for these words. I recommend that the reader come to a short pause before the "now"s when reading the poem. The poem's rhythm requires this.


Bonfires of freedom, in the city of freedom,
Multitudes of warm fists, confronting the stinging cold,
We've been born in the springtime, spring is what we've sown
Our crop is bountiful, already: "At once, at once, at once."

Those are our wounds singing, pining for the fatherland,
We have shamed our Stone [foundation], lost it inadvertently,
But spring is coming, and again we are blooming,
The spirit of dancing has taken us, already: "At once, at once, at once."

Tents of brotherhood, in the warm bosom of Tumanian,
Day will not break today, daybreak's twilight will linger on,
They chop our hope to pieces, they wound our spirits,
We have risen in revolt, already: "At once, at once, at once."

Human barricades, the collision of spirit and fear,
The bullets behave toward us like a long-missed brother,
The hearts of eight brothers no longer beat,
The martyrs gasp, "Now, now, now."

In the maw of the prisons struggles our living breath,
Our voice cannot be chained, our song will not die,
On the street of freedom are there unwavering warriors,
"Struggle, struggle, until the end": "At once, at once, at once."


Ani said...

Wow--what a TERRIFIC song! It's got a great tune and a catchy hook--play it for people who can't understand a word and I guarantee they'll like it, which is the ultimate test. Too bad this can't be the Eurovision entrant!

Dare one hope that maybe this will be the sound that makes the residents of Whoville audible to Glendale, etc.? Anyway, thanks now not only for your translations, but also your musical recommendations!

nazarian said...


Anonymous said...

share it on utube:


محمد مارو said...

hi i like this poem
thank you for publishing it
i wanna please the link of the song of this poem if you can

belinda said...


bekaisa said...