Breaking down cultural barriers
Transposer une culture dans une autre par delà les barrières culturelles

Friday, 13 February 2015

Daniel Varoujan - TO THE ASHES OF CILICIA



Stranger, let us go up that mountain facing us,
Alongside which, weeping through the reeds,
Flows the Sihon, where tomorrow scarlet shrouds
Shall be washed by our mothers in tears.  Hurry, stranger,
My bare feet are blistering on the burning ashes
And the skirts of your long mantle are becoming soggy
In the spilled and scattered entrails.  Hurry, stranger…!

My scorched staff directs you to the path of my reason --
To see the city, the villages and fields, and the shores
Along which passed the Infernal Race astride Attila’s stallion.
There rises the smoke and flare the flames – as I speak --
Up the hill, crawling afloat with the wind’s breath, withering,
Then again, like a tongue, they swell towards the peak.
The very soil simmers -- behold, the riled horizon around us
Is a blazing wreath, at the center of which, shivering,
We stand out like outlandish mourning specters.

Do you hear the wail of far distant reeds burning?
Amongst them are now are carbonized the forest’s fairies.
What an aromatic rattle emit the branches of orange-trees,
While vineyards turn to ashes -- what wails of cooing doves!
The flame goes forth, and the wind follows on track,
Carrying the charred weeds and storming up the summits.
Oh, quivering nakedness of the moles’ furrows, which,
Like hedgehogs, make their appearance in the fields!
Oh, the ruined remnants of huts built on the hills,
Whence emerged the Armenian peasant with morning pleas,
To awaken the earth’s creativeness with his spade!
Stranger, do you see how today those huts await,
Ruined and silent, the very first eve of mourning to wet,
In the moonlight, their own ashes with their own tears?
Their roofs were brought down on the lit lanterns within;
The docile doors, that the mere breath of a breeze could open,
Fell bludgeoned under the bloody maces of the mob.
And those walls, thrusting upwards like toothless jaws,
Now breathe out flocks of souls soaring towards the skies.

Fields covered with ashes, and corpses on the road --
On that very sun-bleached road that led the alert race of Aram
Eastward, carrying the gods and the fertile concepts of Europe,
Piled high on mules, for proliferation in the Orient.
Martyrs by the fountains, martyrs in the furrows;
And there, beyond -- where now descends the sun --
Facing that rising rock, they have crucified seven stripped males;
The blood from their hair (stranger, please, shut your eyes,
And only pay heed to my voice), the blood from their pierced
Hands and feet irrigates the ground, tinting the rocky soil;
It seems the departing sun sinks, ever so mellow and slow,
Into their large eyes frozen wide open with horror.
The executioners have since vanished into the dark --
Peace! Hosanna to the highest crimson hued heights…!

Oh, how my jaws chatter in utter terror!  Turn right and see
The city, sitting in these sorrow-stricken fields, spewing
Smoke from its heart -- now an altar of burnt human offerings.
The dawn of freedom had hardly tinted its pallid brow crimson,
When under its rock-solid base the Hamidian dragon
Shook new shoot and shoulder, while the barbarians, spitting
At the sun, seeds of demise in hand, arose sneering,
And half the city rose and razed the other half.
Under the felonious flare of the scimitar and truncheon,
What genius had erected was swallowed by mounds of cinders.
Where are now the temples, under whose scented domes,
The swallows had just warbled their spring prayers?
Whither the schools and the palladium of future lights?
Incinerated hearts of children there smolder as incense.
Whither the immaculate baths, whose polished marbles once
Reflected the virgin bodies of maidens at their ablution?
Whither the magnificent tombs, the majestic monuments
On which the likes of Hetoum inscribed their conquests…?

Death and cinders!  Behold! Only blackened bastions now linger
In the waning twilight, calling upon moaning owls’ whimper.
Stranger, awaken now the past of this Land of remembrance,
And bewail the century of yet another Race, and ponder
Upon the day, when on the slopes of the Taurus toiled
A diligent people who sang of the divinity of life.
Its caravan marched on to flood each hut with the good wheat --
Wherever a humble light flickered on.  Its caravan passed,
As, star-like, the jewels of Tarsus hailed into the matrons’ laps.
And that mountain road, that led young Macedon to conquer
Ganges, erecting along its way altars where the fair Mind
In the luminous form of the Hellenic Athena, was venerated;
That clear road of the industrious scions of Rouben saw
The squeaking wagons make their way from East to West,
Loaded by them with the yield of unyielding Armenian quest,
The marble of fertile mountains, the vineyards’ flowing wine –
Oh, the fore-nourishment of nations that sang and sculpted!
Now, that perfect pulchritude of life belongs to the past;
Alas! The Infernal Race proved more ravaging than time,
More, much more devastating than the plague alone –
It enjoys always to sit on a lone stone among vast ruins,
Content with himself, gnawing on a snatched bone.

Listen, voices reach us from inside the city’s ramparts;
The Executioner Race also celebrates its bloodstained victory --
Its glorious, gleeful butchery of women and children!
Part of the poor metropolis, on which, now the moon moans,
Is already cemetery, while the other part stages festivities;
Lo, the Tajik sets alight his giant bonfires of good times,
Bemoaning skeletons burst into spectacular flames,
Around it, bare-armed mobs rotate in an elated dance;
The blood-adorned Kurdish maiden’s henna-stained fingers
Tap a drum, and the Muslim -- oh, stranger – for the first time,
Imbibes on wine, raising a goblet wishing long life to ashes!
Nearby, the half-singed whimper in the darkness;
But, behold! A wounded soul rises looming in the gloom,
Then, approaches the rabble slithering on his knees
And sniggering with derision, disgorges with ire
A blood-tinged sputum into the festive fire…
                                                Mournful winds lament and pass
Over the corpses and among ruins,
And with seeds of blood and cinders of fire
Rush to distant lands to help a blissful spring blossom.
Stranger, there, the winds on the sparkling sea
Filled the sails of your ship bursting full;  hurry,
Depart from this bitter Country to your peaceful shores,
For the doves are dead, and the canary was crushed.
When, in sheer terror, your ship flees tearing the waters,
In constant pursuit by dancing dolphins that rushed
To our verdant inlets in search of cadavers,
When bundled in your greatcoat, with a still terrified gaze
You land in the lap of your brethren in gold – do not forget
To inform them, how Cilicia was slaughtered to the lyrics
Of the treacherous hymn of Freedom’s crowning!
I know, those brothers of yours, with their obese ships,
Will desire to come… to the rescue… alas, nay…
                                                To mere remnants of demise.
They will want to come just to dig our bursting, virgin, mountains,
And to milk from our nursing mines the miraculous metal,
To melt the metal and cast their egos’ idols…

Stranger, depart hence!  Here, I also come down
From this height, and bundled in my mantle, withdrawn,
Once more, I go to wander among the city’s carrion.
I must bury the dead, and anoint the burnt offerings.
The head of a victim rests on the granite whimpering…
Near the fountain, a sister -- oh, God! – agonizes in silence…
I must dig tonight countless graves, and fashion shimmering
Shrouds ‘til dawn;  I have tombs to lay down, marble cenotaphs
To erect, and engrave my solemn songs on them.


Daniel Varoujan
Translated by Tatul Sonentz

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