I don’t usually post on Sundays but overnight I received a “like” from a Canadian/Armenian  – Tamar Najarian. Not having much to do on a Sunday morning, I followed the link to her post and read with great interest about how she felt that, despite having grown up in Canada, she had “come home” the minute she stepped onto Armenian soil.

 

I grew up in South Africa and even as a child knew that South Africa would not be my home. This feeling of “not belonging” was intensified through my teenage years especially during my post-high school period when I completed 2 years national service.

 

Immediately after national service I toured Europe and on landing in Luxembourg and travelling into Germany, I knew that my future lay somewhere other than South Africa. I ended up working in London and did many backpacking mini-tours into European countries, but none really felt like “home”.

 

I returned to South Africa, trained as a computer programmer, but always had a sense that my future lay elsewhere.

In 1987 I married a Kiwi (New Zealand) Occupational Therapist on assignment to the South African Leprosy Mission. Even though married we never “put down roots” in South Africa and when her contract ran out it was an easy decision to “up sticks” and move to New Zealand.

 

Our route to New Zealand took us via London, where we had both worked in earlier days, New York, Los Angeles and eventually Auckland. The USA was stimulating but did not have that “this is where I’m meant to be” factor. On disembarking in Auckland in May 1988, I knew straight away that I was “home”. This was where I was meant to be. Why or how did I know this? Don’t ask me, I just knew.

 

I currently work and live in London (again) but we still have our family home in Papkowhai just North of Wellington, New Zealand.

 

Here’s a poem from Zabelle Boyan’s “Armenian Poetry and Legends” especially for you Tamar – and all those who have a feeling in their gut that their future lies somewhere beyond the end of their street……

 

THE TEARS OF ARAXES

BY RAPHAEL PATKANIAN

I WALK by Mother Arax
With faltering steps and slow,
And memories of past ages
Seek in the waters’ flow.

But they run dark and turbid,
And beat upon the shore
In grief and bitter sorrow,
Lamenting evermore.

“Araxes! with the fishes
Why dost not dance in glee?
The sea is still far distant,
Yet thou art sad, like me.

“From thy proud eyes, O Mother,
Why do the tears downpour?
Why dost thou haste so swiftly
Past thy familiar shore?

“Make not thy current turbid;
Flow calm and joyously.
Thy youth is short, fair river;
Thou soon wilt reach the sea.

“Let sweet rose-hedges brighten
Thy hospitable shore,
And nightingales among them
Till morn their music pour.

“Let ever-verdant willows
Lave in thy waves their feet,
And with their bending branches
Refresh the noonday heat.

“Let shepherds on thy margin
Walk singing, without fear;
Let lambs and kids seek freely
Thy waters cool and clear.”

Araxes swelled her current,
Tossed high her foaming tide,
And in a voice of thunder
Thus from her depths replied:–

“Rash, thoughtless youth, why com’st thou
My age-long sleep to break,
And memories of my myriad griefs
Within my breast to wake?

“When hast thou seen a widow,
After her true-love died,
From head to foot resplendent
With ornaments of pride?

“For whom should I adorn me?
Whose eyes shall I delight?
The stranger hordes that tread my banks
Are hateful in my sight.

“My kindred stream, impetuous Kur,
Is widowed, like to me,
But bows beneath the tyrant’s yoke,
And wears it slavishly.

“But I, who am Armenian,
My own Armenians know;
I want no stranger bridegroom;
A widowed stream I flow.

“Once I, too, moved in splendour,
Adorned as is a bride
With myriad precious jewels,
My smiling banks beside.

“My waves were pure and limpid,
And curled in rippling play;
The morning star within them
Was mirrored till the day.

“What from that time remaineth?
All, all has passed away.
Which of my prosperous cities
Stands near my waves to-day?

“Mount Ararat doth pour me,
As with a mother’s care,
From out her sacred bosom
Pure water, cool and fair.

“Shall I her holy bounty
To hated aliens fling?
Shall strangers’ fields be watered
From good Saint Jacob’s spring?

“For filthy Turk or Persian
Shall I my waters pour,
That they may heathen rites perform
Upon my very shore,

“While my own sons, defenceless,
Are exiled from their home,
And, faint with thirst and hunger,
In distant countries roam?

“My own Armenian nation
Is banished far away;
A godless, barbarous people
Dwells on my banks to-day.

“Shall I my hospitable shores
Adorn in festive guise
For them, or gladden with fair looks
Their wild and evil eyes?

“Still, while my sons are exiled,
Shall I be sad, as now.
This is my heart’s deep utterance,
My true and holy vow.”

No more spake Mother Arax;
She foamed up mightily,
And, coiling like a serpent,
Wound sorrowing toward the sea.

Translated by Alice Stone Blackwell.

If you haven’t worked it out or looked it up, the Araxes is a river that rises in northeastern Turkey (near the source of the Euphrates) and flows generally eastward through Armenia emptying into the Caspian Sea.

 

From “Armenian Poetry and Legends”  compiled and illustrated by Zabelle Boyajian

ISBN 978-1-907256-18-9

URL http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_apl.html

 

Armenian Poetry and Legends

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