Thy Voice is Sweet

THY voice is soft, thy speech all sweetness flows;
May he protect who hath thy heart, my love!
Thy waist is the gazelle’s, thy hue the rose,
Brocade from Franguistan thou art, my love!

If I compare thee to brocade, ’twill fray;
If to a plane-tree, ’twill be felled one day;
All girls are likened to gazelles thou’lt say —
How then shall I describe thee truly, love?

The violet is wild, and low of birth;
Rubies are stones, for all their priceless worth:
The moon itself is made of rocks and earth —
All flame, thou shinest like the sun, my love.

Thy door I seek as pilgrims seek a shrine:
Thine eyes are roses, new-blown eglantine;
Thy tongue a pen, thy hands like paper fine,
A flower fresh from the sea thou art, my love!

Within my soul thy hand has placed love’s seed;
Thy wiles and coyness make my heart to bleed:
Thy Sayat Nova thou hast slain indeed,
Thine evil fate he bears for thee, my love.

An ashough is a poet or a performer who entertains people at weddings and other festivities. They sing also on public squares and wander from courtyard to courtyard. To accompany their songs ashougs play on instruments such as saz, tar or kamancha. The name ashoug is comparable with terms such as bard, minstrel or troubadour. A street musician could be considered as the modern day ‘ashough’ waiting to be discovered by a producer, roughly speaking.

One of best known ashougs of the 18th century was Aruthin Sayatinyan, better known as Sayat Nova. Born in 1712, he was a special favorite at the court of the Georgian king. He also wrote songs of love in Armenian and Turkish. ‘Thy Voice is Sweet’ is a poem he wrote to express the deep feelings of his heart to his love, not all of his poems were always merry, though; they were sometimes sad, sometimes even bitter — like his life.

It is believed that he was forced to become a monk after rumors that Sayat Nova was in love with the king’s sister reached Erekli Khan, and his life as a royal ashoug ended in 1759. After becoming a priest he secludes himself from wordily matters in a lonely monastery, far away from Tiflis. He was put to death in 1795 by then Shah of Persia: Agha Mohammad was ravaging Georgia at the time when Sayat Nova was there. He refused to give up his Christian faith.

8 November 2012