Tell me, brother, where is rest
From the flame that racks my breast
With its pain?
Fires unceasing sear my heart;
Ah, too long, too deep, the smart
To heal again.
When I’d pluck the roses sweet
Sharpest thorns my fingers greet;
Since my love has humbled me,
Tyrant-like has troubled me,
’Spite my cries.
Health and joy have taken flight,
Prayer nor chant nor priestly rite
Do I prize.
Girl, my girl, my peerless one,
Radiant as Armenia’s sun,
Earth has none as fair as thou,
Nor can ages gone bestow
One like my Sanan.
Sixteen summers old is she,
Grace of slender pines has she,
Like the stars her eyes.
Lips, thrice blessed whom they kiss,
Brows as dark as hell’s abyss,
And with sighs,
Her heart to win, her love alone,
What mighty prince from his high throne
Would not descend?
So I crave nor crown nor gold,
Longed-for One, I her would hold
Till time shall end.
* * * * *
DAVID OF SASSUN
NATIONAL EPOS OF ARMENIA
[Translated by F.B. Collins, B.S.]
* * * * *
DAVID OF SASSUN
Strong and mighty was the Caliph of Bagdad; he gathered together a host and marched against our Holy John the Baptist. Hard he oppressed our people, and led many into captivity. Among the captives was a beautiful maiden, and the caliph made her his wife. In time she bore two sons, Sanassar and Abamelik. The father of these children was a heathen, but their mother was a worshipper of the cross, for the caliph had taken her from our people.
 From the sense and according to the time in which the action takes place, Nineveh must be understood here; and instead of an Arabian caliph, the Assyrian king Sennacherib. There is an anachronism here, as the reader will see, for a king living 800 years before Christ is called an Arabian caliph, though the caliphs first took up their residence in Bagdad in the year 755.
 The reference here is to the famous monastery of St. John the Baptist, which was built by Gregory the Illuminator during the fourth century, on the mountain of Kark, near the Euphrates, on a spot where heathen altars had previously stood. On certain days pious Armenians made annual pilgrimages to the place. Among them many poets and champions, who, with long fasts and many prayers, begged from the saint the gifts of song, strength, and courage. John the Baptist was regarded by the Armenians generally as the protector of the arts.
 So the Armenians called Christians.
This same caliph again gathered together a host and fell upon our people. This time—I bow before thy holy miracle, O sainted John—this time our people pressed him sorely, and in his affliction he cried unto his idols: “May the gods save me from these people; bring me to my city safe and well, and both my sons will I sacrifice unto them.”