Siamanto: Beloved Armenian Poet
SIAMANTO (Atom Yarjanian) was born at Akn, Asia Minor, in 1878, of prosperous parents, who later moved to Constantinople. He was well educated.
During the years 1894-1896, the Sultan, Abdul Hamid waged massacres against the Armenians and Assyrians. It is estimated that as many as 300,000 people were executed. These events made a deep impression on Yarjanian. He sympathized with the revolutionary movement, and left Constantinople. Thrown upon his own resources by his father’s death, he led the life of a poor student in Paris, Vienna, Zurich and Lausanne. When the new constitution was proclaimed in Turkey, he returned to Constantinople, devoted himself to writing, and supported his younger brothers and sisters. A volume of poems published in 1902 under the pen name of Siamanto had made him famous, and other volumes followed. After the Adana massacres he came to America and spent a year in Boston, editing the Armenian paper Hairenik. He then returned to Constantinople, and he is believed to have been among the group of educated and influential Armenians of that city who were massacred in 1915, after barbarous tortures. Siamanto was a man of lovable character, and is considered one of the greatest Armenian poets.
MY soul is listening to the death of the twilight. Kneeling on the far-away soil of suffering, my soul is drinking the wounds of twilight and of the ground; and within itself it feels the raining down of tears.
And all the stars of slaughtered lives, so like to eyes grown dim, in the pools of my heart this evening are dying of despair and of waiting.
And the ghosts of all the dead to-night will wait for the dawn with mine eyes and my soul. Perhaps, to satisfy their thirst for life, a drop of light will fall upon them from on high.
O YE ancient and undisturbed Armenian plains of kind mornings,
And ye, golden fields, rich orchards, and pastures smiling with life,
Ye valleys covered with marble, flower-beds and kind and fruitful gardens—
Ye that create wine, which causes self-forgetfulness, and eternal, sacred daily bread!
Ye indescribable paradises of plants, birds, flowers and songs!
To-day, once more, at the lonely hour of my returning memory, of my sorrowful grief and delirium,
I call on your spirits, in bitterness live your life, and hopelessly weep for you!
Out of the blue, boundless space the fiery dawns open their lilies,
And lo! the proud cock makes his silvery voice resound.
The kotchnaks* click from village to village;
An harmonious flute joyously announces invitations;
And the herds scatter themselves over the hilltops,
With the dance of the industrious and busy bees.
And the peace sings. The flowers tremble. The buds seem to have the glances of saintly women.
The kotchnak is a small wooden board that is beaten with a stick to arouse the sleepers.
Source: Armenian House.Org: http://www.armenianhouse.org/blackwell/armenian-poems/siamanto.html
In a field of cinders where Armenian life
was still dying,
a German woman, trying not to cry
told me the horror she witnessed:
"This thing I'm telling you about,
I saw with my own eyes,
Behind my window of hell
I clenched my teeth and watched the town of Bardez turn
into a heap of ashes.
The corpses were piled high as trees,
and from the springs, from the streams and the road,
the blood was a stubborn murmur,
and still calls revenge in my ear.
Don't be afraid; I must tell you what I saw.
so people will understand
the crimes men do to men.
For two days, by the road to the graveyard …
Let the hearts of the world understand,
It was Sunday morning,
the first useless Sunday dawning on the corpses.
From dawn to dusk I had been in my room
with a stabbed woman —
my tears wetting her death —
when I heard from afar
a dark crowd standing in a vineyard
lashing twenty brides and singing filthy songs.
Leaving the half-dead girl on the straw mattress,
I went to the balcony of my window
and the crowd seemed to thicken like a clump of trees
An animal of a man shouted, "You must dance,
dance when our drum beats."
With fury whips cracked on the flesh of these women.
Hand in hand the brides began their circle dance.
Now, I envied my wounded neighbor
because with a calm snore she cursed
the universe and gave up her soul to the stars …
"Dance," they raved, "
dance till you die, infidel beauties
With your flapping tits, dance!
Smile for us. You're abandoned now,
you're naked slaves,
so dance like a bunch of fuckin' sluts.
We're hot for your dead bodies.
Twenty graceful brides collapsed.
"Get up," the crowed screamed,
brandishing their swords.
Then someone brought a jug of kerosene.
Human justice, I spit in your face.
The brides were anointed.
"Dance," they thundered —
"here's a fragrance you can't get in Arabia."
With a torch, they set the naked brides on fire.
And the charred bodies rolled and tumbled to their deaths …
I slammed my shutters,
sat down next to my dead girl
and asked: "How can I dig out my eyes?"
Translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian