Thursday, October 9, 2008

Akhtamar

(click image to enlarge)

Beside the laughing lake of Van  
A little hamlet lies;  
Each night into the waves a man  
Leaps under darkened skies.  

He cleaves the waves with mightly arm,  
Needing no raft or boat,  
And swims, disdaining risk and harm,  
Towards the isle remote.  

On the dark island burns so bright  
A piercing, luring ray:  
There's lit a beacon every night  
To guide him on his way.  

Upon the island is that fire  
Lit by Tamar the fair;  
Who waits, all burning with desire,  
Beneath the shelter there.  

The lover's heart-how doth it beat!  
How beat the roaring waves!  
But, bold and scorning to retreat,  
The elements he braves.  

And now Tamar the fair doth hear,  
With trembling heart aflame,  
The water splashing-oh, so near,  
And fire consumes her frame.  

All quiet is on the shore around,  
And, black,there looms a shade:  
The darkness utters not a sound,  
The swimmer finds the maid.  

The tide-waves ripple, lisp and splash  
And murmur, soft and low;  
They urge each other, mingle, clash,  
As, ebbing out, they go.  

Flutter and rustle the dark waves.  
And with them every star  
Whispers how sinfully behaves  
The shameless maid Tamar;  

Their whisper shakes her throbbing her  
This time, as was before!  
The youth into the waves doth dart,  
The maiden prays on shore.  

But certain villains, full of spite,  
Against them did conspire,  
And on a hellish, mirky night  
Put out the guiding fire.  

The luckless lover lost his way,  
And only from afar  
The wind is carrying in his sway  
The moans of:"Ah, Tamar!"  

And through the night his voice is heard  
Upon the craggy shores,  
And, though it's muffled and blurred  
By the waves' rapid roars,  

The words fly forward-faint they are-  
"Ah, Tamar!"  
And in the morn the splashing tide  
The hapless yough cast out,  

Who,battling with the waters, died  
In an unequal bout;  
Cold lips are clenched, two words they bar:  
"Ah, Tamar!"  
And ever since, both near and far,  
They call the island Akhtamar


Hovhannes Toumanian
1869-1923

Here's a link to a film with some beautiful shots of the church of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar. Armenia is the world's oldest Christian culture and the church architecture is sublime. The Europeans saw these buildings during the Crusades and it had an important influence on the development of gothic cathedrals. 

It was constructed by King Gagik as his palatine church in 921 AD.  The iconographical program on the sculpted exterior incorporates writhing beasties influenced by Sassanian (Persian) princely hunting motifs but a lot of the images show the influence of the medieval bestiary -- an amazing source of animal stories used as allegories for teaching the gospel to the illiterate Joe Sixpack Medieval guy. The film has some lovely shots of the vine scrolls which depict the labors of the months. The larger relief sculptures show Jonah and the whale and David and Goliath. You can also make out the Adam and Eve and the Naming of the Animals.

Here's a link to a beautiful slideshow that shows the lovely color of the stone. The is on my list of places I hope to visit before I die -- I figure I've got another 60 years. That and the 7-Eleven in Providence, RI. Oh, and I also want to attend the same party as Roberto Benigni and travel to India to get my hands hennaed. Am I asking too much?

7 comments:

Poetikat said...

It certainly is beautiful - the masonry is incredible and what fantastic stone!.
I get the party with Benigni and the hand hennaing, but the 7-11 is right over my head (not a religious manifestation, was it)?

Have you ever seen Benigni's "Pinocchio"? Apparently it's one of the freakiest movies ever put to film! I love him in "Down By Law" (and of course, "Life is Beautiful")

I wonder what "Joe Six-pack's" typical "bucket list" would be?

Kat

{P.S. I enjoyed the poem, although the meter seemed to peter out at the end - must be the translation.)

Lavinia said...

That flickr slide show was beautiful. I love old stone structures, or old stone of any kind. The earliest history of Christianity is fascinating. You have a very ambitious list of goals but...go for it!

Dharma V. said...

I thought you may like the following site. Perhaps Blicky hangs out with a few of these frisky felines:

http://www.guidespot.com/guides/god_help_me_i

willow said...

Marvelous post! I love the collage you have pictured at the top. Fascinating.

Blicky Kitty said...

I loved his Pinocchio Kat. I only just saw it in Italy last winter. Sorry 7/11 joke is a regional reference. :) It's just a chain of convenience stores. Hehe not a funny joke if you have to explain huh. Also I'm 20 minutes from Providence. :)

Thanks Lavinia! I think the Roberto Benigni one might not be attainable. :)

Dharma thank you for the link. I was unaware that so many of Blicky's friends were starting to develop their web presence.

Willow thanks! Everyone in the photo is part of the Blicky clan.

Poetikat said...

BK, we have 7-11s here, but I didn't get it in conjunction with Providence.

Kat

Mama said...

It is NOT asking too much, Blicky. I will go to Armenia with you. If you want. We can take the kids. It'll be like when Huse and Pat and Peter went, only, uh, very very different.