Hovhannes Toumanian

(19 February 1869 - 23 March 1923 / Dsegh, Lori Province)

Parvana - Poem by Hovhannes Toumanian

I

The high-throned Abul and Metin mountains
Back-to-back in proud silence stand,
Holding high on their mighty shoulders
Parvana—a beautiful ancient land.
And people say that there in his castle
Over the steeps, next to the sky,
Lived a king, the hoary lord of the mountains
Who ruled Parvana in days gone by.
The king had a daughter, and such was her charm,
That no one ever in his life did meet,
Hunting among the lofty mountains,
A doe so beautiful and so sweet.
His gray old age and his mountain realm
With her childish gaiety she adorned
And the old but happy King of Parvana
His darling daughter simply adored.
The years to come promised still more joy;
She came of age, and, legends report,
The king despatched his ambassadors
To every castle and to every court.
“Where is, he inquired, “the courageous youth
That can win my daughter by main and might?
Let him don his armour and mount his steed
And come to take my daughter by right.”

II

Their sabres clanged and clattered,
Their horses pranced and reared
When before the castle
Those brave young knights appeared.
In front of the grand white castle
Of Parvana’s hoary king
All waited in impatience
For the contest to begin.
Folk from all the neighbourhood
Had left their hearth and home
To see who wins the maiden
For his very own.
The trumpet echoed. All the court
Assembled in the square.
Then came the gracious hoary king
And his daughter fair.
Her father came like a gloomy cloud
And like a moon came she
Arm-in-arm, they were a sight
That all eyes were glad to see.
And all who gathered were amazed
That such a maid could be.
The brave young men stood silently
In spellbound reverie.
“Now look you at these splendid knights
All come to seek your hand.
Prepared to fight in contest fair,
Upon the square they stand.
“One will display his manly strength,
Another his skill with arms,
A further one his horsemanship,
Still another his grace and charm.
“And when the contest comes to end,
And they come to claim their prize,
And when the bravest of them file
In parade before your eyes,
“Then throw an apple to your choice,
The champion of the day,
And let the whole world envy you,
So happy and so gay.
The king was about to raise his hand
That the contest may begin
When the princess set the apple by
And thus she spoke to him:
“What if a mighty-muscled knave
Beats a gentle-hearted dove?
He may be champion of the day
But never win my love.'
Then asked the rivals gathered
Around the royal stand:
“What would a champion have to do
To win your heart and hand?”
“Is it wealth you want? We’ll get you boats
With gold and silver laden.
Or is your wish a shining star?
We’ll bring it down from heaven.’’
“No need have I for silver,
No need have I for gold.
And though you bring me gems and pearls,
You still may leave me cold.
“The man that is to be my lord
Must find undying fire.
Whoever brings the fire to me
Will have his heart’s desire.”
The gallant knights then took to horse
And gallop off did they.
Each chose himself a different road
And followed each his way.
They rode to fetch the princess fire
That would forever burn.
But though many years rolled by,
Not one man did return.

III

“Oh, Father dear, where are the knights,
Why do they not return?
Perhaps it can’t be found at all,
Fire that will always burn?”
“Yes, daughter dear, they sure will come
And bring undying fire.
But the roads and ways of dauntless men
Are full of dangers dire.
“They have to pass through evil ground
And in evil water swim,
And clash in deadly battle
With the spiteful Jinn.”
Year after year went by again
But no one brought the flame.
“Look from the window, Father dear;
It’s surely time they came.
“More and more often in my dreams
My faithful knight I see,
Holding the fire, he gallops up,
But I wake, and gone is he!”
“Be patient, daughter, he will come!
In seeking for the fire
He who goes after it himself
May oftentime expire.”
Again the years go rolling by.
The princess waits in vain.
The horsemen never came in sight
On the mountains or the plain.
“Oh, Father dear, I fade with grief,
Sorrow burns my soul.
Can it be there is no such fire
In the world at all?”
But nothing could the mournful king
To his dear child reply.
Black doubt besieged his hoary head
And sorely did he sigh.

IV

Year after year sped past again.
His daughter watched in vain
The melancholy neighbourhood:
No horse nor rider came.
At last the princess lost all hope,
And sad tears did she weep
And soon the castle lay beneath
A lake both vast and deep.
The princess vanished in the lake
Whose source were her sweet eyes;
Since then among the mountains tall
Clear as a tear it lies.
Beneath the lake’s transparent waves,
In the shadowy, green deeps,
The castle of the luckless king
Its haughty look still keeps.
And now, as soon as twilight falls
And windows come alight
A myriad moths as if possessed
Begin their nightly flight.
And people say those luckless moths
That perish in the flame
Were once Parvana’ s gallant knights
Whom passion made insane.
Turned into moths upon their way,
Whenever they see fire
They fly to it from far and near
And in the flame expire.


1902


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Poem Submitted: Friday, December 23, 2011



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