Eunomia · Sayat Nova

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Shat mart kose yis earimen hasrat’ im  Many men say I am yearning for my beloved.
Leyli-Mejloom el che es halov Even Medjloom of Leyla was never in such a state.
Mart piti hamasha beranet tndghe  One must always be careful with your mouth.
Khosk’ is asum arakavor-masalov You are speaking with fables and hints.

Lezoot kaghtsr’ unis shakar or shartin  You have a sweet tongue, sugar and honey.
Mazirt’ rehan e patetats’ vardin, Your hair is basil, wrapping around the rose.
Ki zardarats’ tesnim hit tsaghkazardin Let me look at you decorated at the flower festival,
Hagil elis zar-zarbaben khas alov Youwear silk with red satin.


Ea indzi kortsrek’, ea me ban arek’,   Either leave me or do something
Khpetsek’, me tighes me nshan arek’, Beat me, put a mark on me somewhere
Tekooz estoo hama karaspan arek’  If only for this, stone me to death.
Chim kshtanum gozali hit khosalov I am not satisfied with speaking with the beautiful one.


Ajab vonts’ dimanam yis eschap darin,  How can I take so much pain?
Achkemes artasunk’ doos goooka arin,  From my eyes come tears of blood.
Orn ir shabatov karot im earin,  Daily I am yearning for my beloved.
Vontsor gharib blbool vardin tisalov.  Like the wandering nightingale looking at the rose.


Khlkis tarav jadookarin chim tesi.  Whoever took my mind, I did not see the magician.
Bemurvatin, beighrarin chim tesi.  I didn’t see the ruthless and unfaithful one.
Sayat-Noven asats’ earin chim tesi.  Sayat Nova says, I didn’t see the beloved.
Man im gali artasunk’s husalov.  I am walking, pouring forth my tears.

Translated by Larison

At Eating Words, there has been some discussion of the merits of the compliments contained in the Song of Songs.  While these may not be the most evocative poetic references in the English-speaking world today (or perhaps at any time), it is possible to find Near Eastern love poetry using these sorts of images for centuries after this.  Comparison of women’s attributes to pomegranates, cedars or cypresses, for instance, is fairly common in what little traditional Armenian poetry I have seen.  The most bizarre compliment, and one that I can’t quite understand, is when Sayat Nova compares his beloved’s hair to basil.  This doesn’t strike me as a complimentary thing to say, but perhaps I am not being imaginative enough.

Today I was working on a couple new Sayat Nova poems, Khmetsoor dzerit tasemen (Give me a drink from the cup of your hand) and Ari indz angach kal divana sirt (Come, listen to me, mad heart), and another one of these Persian loanword links between Armenia and India appeared.  This is not very surprising anymore, since there are so many mutual borrowings, but it is always interesting to see which words make their way into other languages.  In this case, it is divana/deewana, which means “mad” or “crazy,” usually referring in poetry and song to the madness of love.       

The footnotes to the modern Armenian translation of Sayat Nova’s Angin akn vret sharats had an interesting explanation for what seemed a partly impenetrable line of verse.  The verse ran:

Khosrov pachayemen toghats, doon Tovoozi takht is, gozal.

Now, takht is the word for throne shared by Armenian, Persian and Urdu.  However, without the explanatory note linking this takht to the invasion of India and raid on Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1739, which was when he made off with the Peacock Throne, my Armenian teacher and I would not have readily made sense of what was meant.  Once Nadir Shah entered the picture, everything came together nicely.  Since this poem was probably written in 1758, Nadir Shah’s exploits would not have been such distant history for the ashugh.  The translation of the line would run as follows:

Left by King Khusrau, you are the Peacock Throne, beautiful one.


Skandari-Zoolghari toghats javahir is, angin lal is



I am not one particularly drawn to an Ariel Levy or Isla Fisher.  It doesn’t help that I had literally never heard of either one until today.  (Make of that what you will.)  Apparently, Ms. Fisher is the fiancee of Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame, which is very “naice” for him; she has also apparently ridiculed Scientologists, which is a testament to her good judgement (despite the business of being engaged to Sacha Baron Cohen).  No, if we must talk about actresses/celebrities we will never meet, it simply has to be Rani Mukherjee whom we admire:

About such a woman, Sayat Nova might have said:

Ov che tesi, test e uzum, ov tesnoom e, miranoom e

(He who does not see wants to see you; he who sees, perishes.)

Or to use one of my favourites:

Patvakan angin javahir, lal badeshkhan is indz ama

(You are a worthy, priceless jewel, the very ruby of Badeshkhan for me.)

Update: Here is a higher-quality version of Rani performing Main Vari Vari from Mangal PandeyTumhari adao pe main vari vari indeed.

Watching the magnificently bad Indian nationalist movie-parading-as-message-of-peace, Dil Pardesi Ho Gayaa, which stars the stunning Salloni Aswani, I happened to notice the mention of the chinar tree, which is to be found in Kashmir and is apparently extremely important in Kashmiri culture and it is considered “the King/Queen of all the trees.”  It would seem that the name “originated from the Persian word “Chihnaarst” meaning fiery red color.”

As Sayat Nova fans will know, the ashugh often will compare the lithe figures of women to the chinar tree, as he does in Ashkharooms akh chim kashi:

Mechkt salboo-chinari pes, rangt frangi atlas e.

Your waist is like the cypress and chinar, your colour is that of French silk.

Update: Aur ha, there is another shared borrowing in Armenian poetry and colloquial Hindi.  Sayat Nova has a poem called Eshkhemet hivandatsil im (I have become sick from your love), where eshkh is the Armenian rendering of ishq, which I assume must be originally taken from Arabic.  Language bleg: does anyone know for certain what language ishq comes from?

There is an online collection of Armenian poetry in Armenian script available here, including Sayat Nova’s entire Armenian corpus listed alphabetically.  This should make it easier for me to post translations in the future.  Unfortunately, the design of the site does not allow for copying the Armenian script text itself.  But, here, for instance is a link to Ashkharooms akh chim kashi.


Did you know that there was a book about Queen Shirin, the Armenian queen of Khusrau II?  Neither did I.  She is remembered in the Shahnameh of Firdausi, but her story is better remembered because of the poet Nezami’s treatment of her story.  Some of you may be more familiar with that widespread tradition of Shirin’s legendary idealised, tragic love affair with Fahrad, who lost Shirin to Khusrau when he was condemned by the king to carve stairs out of the cliffs of Behistun (the famous rockface into which Achaemenid and later Sasanian kings carved their monuments).  

Their story became part of the literary traditions of the Near East, central Asia and India.  (You can even pick up an echo of their story in the film Kama Sutra, which incidentally happens to star one of the great Bollywood heroine-actresses Rekha and was directed by the accomplished Mira Nair.)  Speaking of Bollywood, Shirin Fahrad (1956) is an Indian adaptation of the tale starring the great screen legend Madhubala, who also played the female lead in the masterpiece Mughal-E-Azam

The story of Fahrad and Shirin is one of those timeless stories of pure, unfulfilled love, and so serves as a natural reference for both the yearning of ghazals and the laments of the khagher of Sayat Nova, including one of his most memorable, Fahrad mirats Shirinn asats, which includes this nod to another famous pair of lovers:

Medjloomi nman man im gali, earen ervats im.

Like Medjloom I am wandering, I am grieved by my beloved.

Sayat Nova, like Shirin, laments because of the love that he cannot have:

Sayat Noven im, endoor goolam dardires arbab.

I am Sayat Nova, that’s why I cry, my griefs are unbearable.

Fahrad and Shirin appear again in another Sayat Nova poem, whose first line is Khabar gnats blbooli mot (The news went to the nightingale).  The poem is a dialogue between the nightingale and the rose, a common symbolic representation of the lover and beloved in this genre, and at one point the rose says:

The pick killed Fahrad, the dagger remains for you, Shirin.   


Oosti koo gas, gharib blbool,
Doo mi lats’ li, yis im laloo.
Doo vart ptre, yis gozalin.
Doo mi lats’ li, yis im laloo.

Whence are you coming, wandering nightingale?
You are crying, I will also cry.
You seek the rose, and I the beautiful one.
You are crying, I will also cry.

Ari blbool, khosi baren.
Okhnevi koo ekats’ saren.
Ki vartn erits’, indz im yaren.
Doo mi lats’ li, yis im laloo.

Come nightingale, tell me the word.
The mountain from which you came is blessed.
The rose burns you, my love burns me.
You are crying, I will also cry.

Man im gali didari hit,
Voonts’ gharib blbool khari hit.
Doo varti, yis yari hit.
Doo mi lats’ li, yis im laloo.

I am wandering with the picture,
Like the wandering nightingale with the insect.
You are with the rose, and I with my love.
You are crying, I will also cry.

Salbooi nman kananch im,
Ek, khosi, dzaynet chananch im,
Doo vart kanche, yis yar kanchim.
Doo mi lats’ li, yis im laloo.

I am green like the cypress,
Come, speak, I know your voice.
You call to the rose, I call to the beloved.
You are crying, I will also cry.

Gharib blbool, dzaynet maloom,
Yis oo doo ervink me haloom,
Sayat Noven asats’ zaloom,
Doo mi lats’ li, yis im laloo.

Wandering nightingale, your voice is miserable,
You and I are burning in the same way,
Sayat Nova said cruelly,
You are crying, I will also cry.

Translated by Larison

Dard mi ani, jan oo jigar, mitket divats’ chtesne
Achk khauri, angach khulana, yereset tats’ chtesne

Grieve not, my beloved, my soul, your mind will not look to the demons.
The eye grows dark, the ear grows deaf, your moist face will not see.

Voonts’ aregagen shughkhen tay, voonts’ lusinen loos ane.
Aval koo tesnoghen mirni, kiz glkhabats’ chtesne.

The sun will not give a ray, the moon will not make any light.  Let your viewer die first, he will not look at you bareheaded.

Doon glookhtet mahi koo tas, yis el kizit koo mirnim.
Mir ednen tamam askharhes sov kashe, hats’ chtesne.

You will give your head to death, and I, too, will die with you.  After us the entire world will suffer famine and will not see bread.

Tevoor chgam oo chtesnim, hazar babat ban kosis.
Kashva mart voonts’ gay, voonts’ khosi, voonts’ ki tkhrats’ chtesne.

If I do not come and I do not see, you will say a thousand different things.
I wish that man would not come, would not speak, would not see you grieving.

Astoodzoo bernemen arnis mkhitarich soorp hogin.
El vagh mirni Sayat Noven, chided gtsats chtesne.

You would take from the mouth of God the comforting holy spirit.
Sayat Nova lets you die unseasonably, he will not see your curved neck.

Translated by Larison