Chirish/Çiriş/Asphodel

Dry asphodel (Source: Linnean herbarium (S-LINN) website)

The origin of the Chirishian surname according to Hovhannes Cherishian

(Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and heroic Zeytun, 2nd edition, New York 1988, pp. 724-725, in Armenian)

It is thought that the patriarch of the Chirishian family, Hadji Toros Aptarian, first lived in Zeytun. Sometime in the 18th century, in the company of some other Armenians, he came to Marash and enlisted in the armed forces belonging to Zulkadriye, one of the influential beys in the region. It should be noted that until the Ottoman conquest, great areas were ruled by the Zulkadriye Turcoman tribe. Under Ottoman rule, this tribe’s leaders have been able to retain, for a very long time, their power and privileges. Toros became well known for his bravery, and the beys gave him the title of kabadayı (manly or brave person), as well as approximately 40 shops in the Arasa market in Marash. After Toros’ death his sons – Bedros, Boghos and Hovhannes –lost all their father’s legacy through extravagant living. The eldest son, Bedros, has been on pilgrimages to Jerusalem 18 times. These pilgrimages have been carried out using the land route, during which attacks by Bedouin Arabs on the pilgrims have often occurred. In Jerusalem, during religious festival days, it is usual for fights to break out between believers belonging to different Christian sects. In such circumstances it is always an advantage to have, among the pilgrims, able fighters who are brave and dedicated. They are to be found in the ranks of those from Zeytun and Marash. It is for this reason that the pilgrims from Zeytun have, for example, been given the responsibility, on Easter Day, of bringing forth, then spreading the light of the Resurrection using lamps, to the faithful. Bedros has always taken part in this ceremony. He has always been among the first in Marash to leave for Jerusalem every year. For this reason, when he has appeared during the days before departure, the people of Marash have had the habit of saying ‘çıktı çiriş’ (‘the asphodel has sprouted’). Asphodel (çiriş/chirish) is a plant with clusters of yellow flowers that is considered in Marash to herald the coming of spring. After drying and grinding the root of this plant, the result is a flour-like dust that is mixed with water to form viscous glue which is mainly used by shoemakers and bookbinders in their trades. Whenever this plant sprouts, the Turks of Marash touch their eyelids with it, saying, ‘the blessed asphodel has sprouted (‘çıktı mübarek çiriş’). Therefore this same expression has been used for Bedros too. He died in 1828. The Jerusalem patriarchate then sent a letter to Marash, asking that another member of his family should take over his responsibilities and assume the overseeing of the religious ceremony, order and discipline there.

Hadji Bedros has had three sons and two daughters. The oldest, Khacher, has later been more widely known as Khacher Baba. Born in 1815, he was a dyer (probably of cloth) who has looked after his sisters and brothers. The three brothers have later become cultivators in the Zulkadriye bey’s fields, located around the Armenian Catholic church’s land. Khacher Baba is a well-built brave man, who has gained the appreciation of both the Turks and Armenians of Marash. The story is told that he had a wrestling bout with a Turkish wrestler in Adana and emerged victorious. On another occasion, in about 1850, he learned that a powerful and dangerous ‘madman’, Deli Mehmed, stone in hand, was threatening everyone who was trying to enter the bathhouse in Marash known as the bazar hamam. Khacher immediately hurried to the bathhouse and, with the greatest boldness, attacked the man and knocked him to the ground. The ‘madman’, terrified, ran out of the bathhouse naked, and escaped, shouting, ‘Hurry, hurry, escape! There’s a madman in the bathhouse!’. He married for the second time at the age of 65 and had a child and was still alive during the deportations of 1915. He was first deported to Havran, then to Damascus, where he has become a factory doorkeeper. After the Armistice we find him in Aleppo, from where, like other people from Marash, he has been preparing to return home. Before his preparations were complete however, he had a heart attack and died, without once more seeing his home town.

The Chirishian/Cherishian family. From left to right: Hovhannes/John, his daughter-in-law Virgina and son Stephen. The two small girls are Hovhannes/John’s grandchildren. The one sitting on his lap is Lori Cherishian; the one on Stephen’s lap is Louise Cherishian-Lessersohn (Source: Nora Lessersohn)

Hovannes Cherishian

Editorial note

We find a unique testimony before us which is expressed in song and personal narration. The recordings open the microcosm of John (Hovhannes) Cherishian’s Marash world before us. Hovhannes heard and learnt the lullabies, prayers and songs (although not all of them) heard here in Marash during the years of his childhood, adolescence and youth. The songs are often accompanied by prefaces, in which Hovhannes tells of his mother, his family, his wife and about Marash Armenian life generally. All of this, in our opinion assist us in knowing the Marash Armenian, his daily life and social environment better – things that are some of Houshamadyan’s main aims. It is for this same reason that we decided to cut only the very minimum from these recordings. Those that have been deleted are only of a few minutes total duration and are pieces of music played on a mandolin (without words).  The recordings are presented, therefore, almost complete, because we are convinced that they will more truly reflect the world described by Hovhannes, and enliven the Marash atmosphere he has recreated. We have attempted, in our transcription, to retain Hovhannes’ language as much as possible, only making some grammatical corrections.

A scene from Marash (photo: Stanley E. Kerr, Joyce Chorbajian collection)

There are, of course, things in the recordings that need explanation. So for example the whole recording is in Armenian and the absolute lack of Turkish songs is very apparent. The Armenian people of Marash, as well as the surrounding area, were Turkish speakers. To talk and sing in Turkish was part of the Armenians daily lives. Many of them have retained this characteristic even after they finally left Marash. Hovhannes Cherishian, according to his nearest and dearest, also continued to speak Turkish in New York, whenever he was seated with compatriots from Marash of his own generation. According to other testimony, we know that the diasporan Marash Armenian would withdraw to a corner of his home, away from his children and grandchildren and, in solitude, sing the songs in Turkish that were so dear to him. In other words we are convinced that for the first generation of people from Marash that lived the Catastrophe, Turkish – for song and speech – was the best means of expressing their inner world. Be that as it may, they often practiced self-censorship. This is obvious in these recordings made by Hovhannes Cherishian for his children and granddaughters. This is his gift to the generations succeeding him who generally don’t speak or understand Armenian, but to whom the father or grandfather wishes to leave an oral legacy of his Armenian world and family. Thus from Hovhannes’ point of view, we think that the legacy is not only a family one, but also has great Armenian significance. In the post-Catastrophe atmosphere in various exile Armenian communities, speaking and singing in Turkish was part of an Ottoman-Turkish legacy, and ignoring and eradicating it was essentially justified. It is interesting to note the strong presence of Christian-religious subjects and character throughout the entire recording. We know that the Marash Armenian was traditionally a devout and God-fearing. Hovhannes, with his descriptions and songs testifies to this. For him loving the Armenian and the Armenian community was the ‘fountain of belief’, a way of escaping ‘curses’, while Armenian national education, in his opinion, was ‘based on the knowledge and worship of God’. The patriotic and religious-Christian subjects often flow in parallel in his songs. In another place we can see that the words of the second verse of one of ashugh (minstrel) Djivani’s songs have been altered, and have been replaced by a God-fearing theme. He ends the first part of his recording simply with the religious ‘Amen’.

Hovhannes Cherishian created this recording between 1957 and 1959. By their very nature, the lullabies and songs below cannot be adequately translated as poetry, and are merely free translations, adhering to the original text, meaning and spirit.

Nora Lessersohn

A Story of My Great-Grandfather's Stories

At the advanced age of 80, my great-grandfather – John/Hovhannes Cherishian – composed his life’s memoirs. His story is filled with great human loss. Over the course of a few, catastrophic years, between 1915 and 1920, he witnessed the deaths of brothers, friends, his beloved first wife, and his life as he knew it. And yet, it is the post-war destruction of his family’s thousand-year old wooden chest – a chest filled with hundreds and hundreds of years of family records, keepsakes, and memories – that renders both John and his reader implacably heartbroken. “Our family’s Memorial archive,” he writes, “which was a 1,000 year old antiquity and major National treasure, handed down to me as the first-born of the family, perished at the time [of the last disaster of Marash, in January, 1920].” He solemnly concludes: “I will regret it to the end of my life.”

My great-grandfather’s sense of loss is both tragic and insightful. From the time of his expulsion onward, he seems keenly aware that his people – the Armenian people – had lost not only their homeland and their loved-ones, but, perhaps most devastatingly, their history, as well. Through his recordings and memoirs, he personally seeks to resurrect what he can of the “lost legacy of our forebears.” Yet even his daughter, my great-aunt, laments that he did not say enough. “There is not enough about 'family-life' in his memoir,” she says. “He should have written two.”

In truth, John simply could not recount the lost 1000 years of recorded family life – the modes and moods of the Marashtzi experience – all by himself.

“Father, mother, doctor, and priest,” John Cherishian was accustomed to doing everything for everyone.

But this was a task he quite simply could not do alone.

Serendipitously, it is his mission that I now find myself (with the help of many others) taking up.

***

By all accounts, my great-grandfather was a remarkable man. Born in Marash in 1886, he was the first of nine children - the scion of his family. His mother – only 16 years old at the time of his birth – wanted him to be a priest; by the time he was 13, he had read the bible from cover to cover.

A devout Christian, John became a shoemaker, like his grandfather before him, and owned a successful shoemaking business in Marash. As a young man, he enlisted in the Ottoman army and, from 1910-1914, served his homeland with distinction in both Adana and Mersin. Owing to some potent combination of his affability, intelligence, mastery of the Turkish language, and good relationships with his Turkish commanders (“I love you as my son,” they would tell him), he rose to many distinguished positions within the army including Company Chief, Food Commissioner, Chief Accountant, and Chief Sergeant. A great deal of my great-grandfather’s memoir is devoted to this time in his life.

In 1915, one year after his discharge from the Ottoman army, John and his family were deported to Syria. My great-grandfather writes only briefly of the transit refugee camp there (preferring not to dwell on the suffering), and yet writes extensively, if not fondly, of the life he procured for himself and his family in Hama and Muhradah (north-west of Hama) after they were dispatched from the camp. During these deportation years in Syria, John ran a successful shoemaking business; made countless new friends; and met his future wife: a fellow Marashtzi and, quite literally, the girl of his dreams. He returned home with his family to Marash in 1919, and married his young love.

It was a happy, but ill-fated marriage. John and his family were just a few of the thousands of Armenians who followed the French troops out of Marash as they withdrew towards Islahiya in February of 1920. Tragically, it was this merciless journey through the freezing cold that killed his young, now pregnant wife, and his brother. He survived the journey to Islahiya, but not without great loss. Upon his arrival in the city, John received a blanket from the American Red Cross. “I have saved it as a souvenir,” he writes.

***

It is the momentous, not the mundane, that dominates the narrative arch of my great-grandfather’s testimony. War. Deportation. And yet, throughout his memoirs, John – serious yet sparkling as he was – unwittingly provides hints of the cultural life of the Ottoman Armenian in Marash; details of the sort that his daughter so wishes he had included more. “I have heard from Mihran that Marash Armenians, rich or poor, eat chikofte on Saturday evenings,” an Arab Christian says to my great-grandfather as he coaxes him to join his family for dinner. “I like a glass of wine of the Commandaria label.”

My father, a barber, had to work late Saturday nights. “Therefore, I closed my shop before noon and, as the family was at the vineyard vacationing, I went there.”

The chirish (Asphodel in English) (flowerhttp://digilander.libero.it/felrig/photos/asphodeline_lutea.htm)

However, for all his detail, John also omits entire episodes. “I omit telling this story,” he often says, “because it is too long” or “so as not to stir controversy.” Worse: “the lack of interest on the part of Marash compatriots having disappointed me, I had decided to forget the matter.”

My great-grandfather was a man who saved a Red Cross blanket as a souvenir; who repeatedly pulled out his “field glasses” to discern what was happening across a distance; who ached until the end of his life over the loss of his family records. His desire to preserve, to protect, and to understand reminds me all too much of myself. And yet even he – even I, in this very text – must omit some realities in order to convey others; must navigate the line between choice and loss. Of course, in order to represent one’s history, one must first reconstruct it.

But then, this is life. We are our stories. And while I, like my great-grandfather, grieve for the loss of the thousand-year old chest, and for the thousand years that that chest represents, I am also heartened by the efforts he did make to tell his stories, and by the strengths and tendencies I have inherited – in part, from him. There is, after all, no better glimpse into the past than a long look at myself today: sitting on my floor, writing a family history, longing to recapture just a small piece of what had previously been lost.

***

From Islahiya, John went to Izmir; and from Izmir to New York City. He remarried, “in order to restore the ruined ancestral hearth.” His new wife, my great-grandmother, was the cousin of his late first wife. Together, they had three children: my great-aunts, and my grandfather. The family lived together in Brooklyn, New York, where John was again a shoemaker – of a new, American sort. Despite his efforts to revive the spirit of Marash in his second fatherland," America would always remain to him, in part, an “amansız land” – a merciless land.

John Cherishian died on September 18, 1967, at the age of 81. He had completed his memoirs only the year before.

Recordings

Here we present the transcription of Hovhannes/John Cherishian’s sound recording. It has been translated from Armenian into English.

First Part

Mandolin solo

Text - 1

I am going to sing and play several of my martyred and late-lamented mother’s lullabies in her memory. I should like to say a few words about her before I do so. My late-lamented mother was born into the Varjabedian family that produced 37 married priests one after another, each of them called Reverend Hovhannes. My late-lamented mother was an educated lady for her time. She got her education in the first Armenian girls’ school opened that was attached to Marash’s St Sarkis church. She was one of the first students, alongside her cousin (her fathers brother’s daughter) Yevkine and Khudzig Der-Ghazarian and two other Armenian young ladies. That period was known as the ‘Awakening’ time in Marash, during which a boys’ high school (‘Gymnasium’, Djemaran) was opened under my father’s (Rev Ohannes Varjabedian) direction, attached to the same St Sarkis church. My sainted mother was indebted to her cousin (fathers brother’s son) and godfather the teacher Hovnan Varjabedian for the knowledge she gained of many patriotic songs. Because hers and Miss Khudzig Der-Ghazarian’s voices were so beautiful, they became the first young ladies to wear a cassock in church. The surprising thing was that my mother-in-law was one of the first young ladies to be allowed to wear a cassock in the church of St Stepannos in Marash at the same time. In the future these ten young ladies, apart from each becoming a mother in an honourable family, together opened an Armenian girls’ school attached to the Marash Community Central School, raising it to an estimable standard. The girl students were forced to learn complete church ceremonies. Although in my day young ladies didn’t wear cassocks, on the feast day of the cathedral of the Forty Innocents – it always occurred on a Saturday – the festival was celebrated with the greatest solemnity. Mass was said with the solemnity during which men couldn’t enter the church. The cathedral was filled from end to end with Armenian ladies and girls, apart from the married priests (kahanas) and the deacon, and the whole ceremony was carried out by young ladies – who with their wonderful voices transported the congregation to a heavenly plane. May the memory of the just be blessed.

Now I’m going to sing the first Armenian song I heard when I was in my cradle – my mother’s lullaby – ‘Kun yeghir balas...’

Kun yeghir balas... (song)

Kun yeghir balas achket khup ara,
Kun yeghir palas achket khup ara,
Ororor, ororor im palas,
Ororor, ororor im nanis,
Im siragans kun ge dani,
Im siragans kun ge dani,

Surp Asdvadzamayr palayis kun dur,
Surp Asdvadzamayr palayis kun dur,
Ororor, ororor im palas,
Ororor, ororor im nanis,
Im siragans kun ge dani,
Im siragans kun ge dani,

Shud medztsir palas, kna Hayastan,
Kaladz vayrert tarnan purastan,
Ororor, ororor im palas,
Ororor, ororor im nanis,
Im siragans kun ge dani,
Im siragans kun ge dani.

***

Go to sleep my child, close your eyes
Go to sleep my child, close your eyes,
Rock, rock my child,
Rock, rock my nani,
My love is going to sleep,
My love is going to sleep.

Holy mother of God give my child sleep,
Holy mother of God give my child sleep,
Rock, rock my child,
Rock, rock my nani,
My love is going to sleep,
My love is going to sleep.

Grow up quickly my child, go to Armenia,
May the places you’ve walked through become gardens
Rock, rock my child,
Rock, rock my nani,
My love is going to sleep,
My love is going to sleep.

Adana: a family on the roof of their house cleaning cotton bolls (Michel Paboudjian collection)

Another of mother’s lullabies

Bzdig dghas chem ororer,
Ororankt vorkan lav (las)
Hay yeghpayrner vodki yelan
Miayn tu yed bid mnas.

Zartir vortyag anush kunet,
Pats achkert luys desnen,
Arev dzakets arevelken,
Paghte patsets hay azkin.

***

I don’t rock my little boy,
Rocking for as long as is good (you cry)
Armenian brothers have arisen
Only you’ll remain behind.

Arise, son, from your sweet sleep,
Open your eyes so they see light,
The sun has risen from the east,
Fortune has favoured the Armenian nation.

Text - 2

Here I will give another of her lullabies. It is sung by both mother and child and is very emotional. There were nine of us children in the house – six boys and three girls. We quite often sat rounder her and said ‘Mother, sing the mother and child lullaby.’ She sang in a sweet voice; sometimes we would laugh and sometimes we would become emotional. I’ll bring out very old memories and never-to-be-forgotten … [here he becomes emotional]. The name of the lullaby is ‘Anush knige achern arer’ (Sweet sleep has taken [the childs] eyes). As the tune and song was very high, I want to recite it verse by verse.

Anush knige achern arer... (recitation)

Armenian refugees in the camp in Beirut, ca 1925 (Photo: A. Poidebard, Bibliothèque Orientale-USJ coll.)

(The mother)
Anush knig achern arer,
Anush hovern (andaren per),
Im dadragis kunn e yeger,
Anush yerkov esem oror.

(The child)
Yes kun chounim anush mayrig,
Herik achkers gabes, herik,
Meg bahigen g’enem bachig,
Zis artsage, mi eser oror.

(The mother)
Minchev chi lan madagh mangdik,
Dzidz chen i dar anonts (...)
Tun chlatsadz im meg hadig,

Yes dzidz gu dam g’esem oror.

(The child)
Kheghdjug srdov tsayn em tsekel
Ge djevdjevam tun ches lser,
Anush tsaynit yes zmayler,
Yes gu lam g’eses oror.

(The mother)
Artsunknert markaridi bes
Yerest i var inchu ge tapes,
Mi lar tsakug, mi lar meghk es,
Ov g’uzes an togh ese oror.

(The child)
Kirgt indzi hanksdaran,
Dzidzert pernis anush dzoran,
Irigvan tem bargim oran,

Achks kotsem ese oror.

(The mother)
Knatsnem im aghavnis,
Medzatsnem sirov srdis,
Garmir varti nman patsvi,
Shukt nesdim, esem oror.

(The child)
Kich me tultsur tevers vodkers,
Al tmretsav papug misers,
Anush mrapn arne achkers,
Aba seghme ese oror.

(The mother)
Ayt suderovt chem khapvir yes,
G’uzes vor zis nesdetses,
Chi knanas, sirds udes,
Tadarg deghe esem oror.

(The child)
Kich me djordjor, kich me djardjar,

Kich me dandan, kich me barbar,
Kich men al baban a hop (...)

Kich me amenene ese oror.

(The mother)
Ayt ku lezut g’udem hima,
Ku gankunovt gdav chga,
Dandan, menmen al khapepa,
Achuk bah bah esem oror.

(The child)
Sirdt kar e al hasgtsa,

Latil, latil djar chkda,
Al knanam djare chga,
Egar, ergar ese oror.

(The mother)
Sweet sleep has taken [the child’s] eyes,
(Bring from the forest) sweet winds,
My turtle-dove’s sleep has come,
I’ll tell a lullaby with a sweet song.

(The child)
I have no sleep, dear mother,
It’s enough you bind my eyes, enough,
I will swiftly give you a kiss,
Let me loose, don’t sing a lullaby.

(The mother)
Until little children cry,
They don’t give them the breast (...)
You haven’t cried, my only one,
I’ll give you the breast and sing a lullaby.

(The child)
I am crying with a poor heart
I cry and cry but you don’t listen,
I love your sweet voice,
I’ll cry as you sing a lullaby.

(The mother)
Your tears like pearls -
Why do you let them run down your face?
Don’t cry little one, don’t cry it’s a shame,
Let whoever you want sing a lullaby.

(The child)
Your lap is a place of rest,
Your breasts are sweet liquid to my mouth,
Towards evening I’ll lie in the cradle,
I’ll close my eyes, you sing a lullaby.

(The mother)
I’ll get my dove to go to sleep,
I raise him with the love of my heart,
Let him open like a rose,
I’ll sit in your shadow and sing a lullaby.

(The child)
Loosen my arms and legs a little,
My delicate flesh has become cramped,
Let sleep take my eyes,
Then squeeze me and sing a lullaby.

(The mother)
I’ll not be deceived by those lies of yours,
You’re just trying to make me sit down,
You don’t sleep, eating my heart,
For no reason I’ll sing a lullaby.

(The child)
A little djordjor, a little djardjar,
A little dandan, a little barbar,
Daddy can do a little hop (...)
From a little of all of these sing a lullaby.

(The mother)
I’ll eat that tongue of yours now,
There’s no cloth equal to your height,
Dandan, menmen you deceitful one,
Close your eyes and I’ll sing you a lullaby.

(The child)
Your heart is stone, now I’ve understood,
Latil, latil  I couldn’t find a way out,
I’ll sleep as there’s no way out,
You sing a long, long lullaby.

Der im Asdvadz... (prayer)

The Döngele village (Marash vilayet) Armenian school, ca 1913-1914 (Source: Nubarian Library collection)

The Döngele village (Marash vilayet) Armenian school, ca 1913-1914 (Source: Nubarian Library collection)

Armenian national education is founded on theology and on the worship of God. I will recite here the first childish prayer I learnt from my mother.

Der im Asdvadz, Der Parerar,
Tu bahbane zis ays kisher,
Dur hors yev mors yerchanig hankisd orer,
Ku surp hreshdagt mez modena,
Cheherana amenevin,
Ayl bahe misht portsankneren
Artun bahe zvartakin.

Lord my God, beneficient Lord,
You protect me this night,
Give my mother and father happy tranquil days,
May your holy angel approach us,
Never ever to leave,
But always protect us from evil
Keep joyfully watchful.

I will now sing the ‘Hayr Mer’ (Our Father) I learnt from my grandmother which is completely differently composed and with a different tune.

‘Hayr Mer’ (Our father)

Text - 3

I’m going to sing and play this one for my late-lamented wife Nazeni’s immortal memory. My lamented wife also gained her education in Armenian community schools and was a teacher for many years. The lullaby’s title is ‘Nazei’s lullaby’. She would say, ‘Knowing of my troubles, Mr Aharonian created this lullaby.’ [1] She would sing it boldly although emotionally, hoping that one day justice and right would be triumphant, so that her son, growing up to be an ideal Armenian, would cultivate and reconstruct the destroyed Armenian hearth.

Naze's lullaby (song - the first strophe)

Near the ruins of the church of Saint Simeon Stylites, north of Aleppo (Photograph by Jean Mécerian, Bibliothèque Orientale/USJ, in Lévon Nordiguian, May Semaan Seigneurie (ed.), Portraits photographiques d'Orient, PUJ, Beirut, 2010)

Knir, im palig, ish ara,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel,
Dzelir, poy kashir, poyit yes ghurban,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.
Knir, poy kashir, poyit yes ghurban,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.

I will recite the verses here.

Guyr grungnere suk u shivanov,
Mer sev yerginkov yegan ants gatsan,
Akh, mer lernerum vra guratsan,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.

Hoghmn e hedzedzum sev andarnerum,
Ander mereli sukn e an, palig,
Ander u antagh merelnere shad,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.

Garavann antsav, partsadz artsunkov,
Sev anabadum dzung chokets, mnats,
Ayn mer ashkharhi tart u zulumn e,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.

Hulunk em sharel, gabel orotskit,
Char achkeri tem, mer char tushmani,
Knir u adjir shud ara, palig,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.

Talug shrtunkt im gate arets,
Kidem, ayn tarn e, ches uzum, palig,
Akh, vshdis tuynn e kamvel nra mech,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel

Gatis hed megdegh sev vishd dzdzir,
Hokut mech togh na sev vrej tarna,
Dzlir, poy kashir, poyit yes ghurban,
Tu lats mi linir, yes shad em latsel.


Sleep, my little one, ish ara
Don’t you cry, I’ve wept a great deal.
Grow, grow tall, I’ll be a sacrifice to your height,
Don’t you cry, I’ve wept a great deal.
Grow, grow tall, I’ll be a sacrifice to your height,
Don’t you cry, I’ve wept a great deal.

I will recite the verses here.
The blind cranes, mourning and keening,
Passed through our black skies,
Oh, they were blinded on our mountains,
Don’t you cry, I’ve cried a great deal.

The wind is crying in the black forests,
That’s the mourning of the abandoned dead,
There are many abandoned, unburied dead,
Don’t you cry, I’ve cried a great deal.

The caravan passed, loaded with tears,
It knelt in the black desert, where it stayed,
That is our country’s sorrow and horror,
Don’t you cry, I’ve cried a great deal.

I have made a string of beads, tied it to your cradle,
Against evil eyes, our evil enemy,
Sleep and grow quickly, little one,
Don’t you cry, I’ve cried a great deal.

Your jaundiced lips froze my milk,
I know it’s bitter, you don’t want it, little one,
Oh, the poison of my sorrow is dissolved in it,
Don’t you cry, I’ve cried a great deal.

Suck black sorrow with my milk,
Let it turn into black revenge in your soul,
Develop, grow tall, I’ll be a sacrifice to your height,
Don’t you cry, I’ve cried a great deal.

Naze's lullaby (recitation)

Naze's lullaby (song - the last two strophes)

Kayseri: Inside an Armenian house (Source: Chantre, Le Tour du Monde, 1896)

Text - 4

Steve liked this lullaby so much that he wouldn’t sleep without hearing it. He was 5-6 years old when, getting hold of the mandolin, he’d say, ‘Mama, sing “Knir im palig”’ and, taking it from her, would say, ‘I can sing too.’ He couldn’t play [the mandolin] and, getting angry, banging it on the floor, smashing it to pieces. He broke two mandolins that way. Steve is a good boy, in reality I’m very pleased with him; may God protect him and everyone’s children, Amen.

[Here the speaker is Stephen, Hovhannes Cherishian's son]

Louise, I made this tape for you, so you can appreciate some of grandpa’s singing. This first side is a lullaby from the old country and the other side is going to be just a recording he had made for his grandchildren – or his granddaughters - and the only ones he doesn’t mention are Joanne and Margaret. Well they weren’t born yet so you can see how old this tape is. Anyhow I hope you enjoy it. I know you don’t understand the Armenian but at least you’ll hear grandpa’s voice and some of the old songs and lullabies. Enjoy it honey!

Second part

I give a few patriotic songs I play as a gift to my very dear grandchildren – for the love of little Nazenig, Rosig, Lori, Maryann and Louise.

[The national anthem of the United States played on a mandolin]

[A mandolin solo is deleted]

Akh im aghvor meg hadig... (song)

Akh aghvor meg hadig,
Ge vari gor im srdig,
Hay aghchig, sirun aghchig,
Inch g’ella dur mi bachig.

Sirdis khoren khosetsar,
Minchev hima inch getsar,
Ay papa, sirun papa,
Meg bachigov inch g’ella.

Oh my lovely only one,
My little heart is burning,
Armenian girl, beautiful girl,
Why not give me a kiss.

You spoke to me from the depths of my heart,
Why have you stopped until now,
Oh papa, dear papa,
What will happen with just one kiss.

Kezi em mnum anush karun... (song)

Kezi em mnum anush karun,
Dzaghig yaris hedt kalu,
Tu garod es var arevi,
Yes im gyanki karun yaris.

Vart me unes hmayum,
Ko gyanki hed anel marum,
Yes yar m’unem haved karun,
Im hoku mech var mnalu.

I am waiting for you, sweet spring,
For you to come with my flower-love,
You long for burning sun,
I for my life spring-love.

You have a charming rose,
That will be extinguished with your life,
I have a love that is forever spring,
That will remain burning in my soul.

Gabuyd yergnkum asdgher en paylum... (song)

Gabuyd yergnkum asdgher en paylum,
Gabuyd yergnkum asdgher en paylum,
E arekage.

Sirun aghchigner, inchbes dzaghigner
Sirun aghchigner, inchbes dzaghigner
Amen degh gan shad.

Payts im Nazenige, Rosig u Maryann
Payts im Lorin, payts Luizan,
Hreshdagi nman.

Stars are shining in the blue sky,
Stars are shining in the blue sky,
It’s the sun.

Beautiful girls, like flowers
Beautiful girls, like flowers
There are many everywhere.

But my little Nazenig, Rosig and Maryann
But my Lori, but Louise,
Are like angels.

Nazenig, Rosig u Maryann... (song)

Nazenig, Rosig u Maryann
Lorin u sirun Luizan
Asdvadz bahe, bashdbane tsez
Martots char achven u lezven.

Little Nazeni, Rosig and Maryann
Lori and dear Louise
May God watch and protect you
From man’s evil eye and tongue.

Tornig aghchigners inch anun dam tsez... (song)

Tornig aghchigners inch anun dam tsez,
Te hreshdag asem hreshdag chem desel
Hreshdag chem desel.

Te mart anvanem medz skhal g’anem,
Usdi kohanam park dalov diroch,
Park dalov diroch.
Usdi kohanam park dalov diroch,
Te tsez mishd orhnelov.

What name shall I give you, my granddaughters
If I say angel, I’ve not seen angels
I’ve not seen angels.

If I call you men I’ll make a big mistake,
So I’ll be satisfied by praising the Lord,
Praising the Lord.
So I’ll be satisfied by praising the Lord,
And always blessing you.

Now I’ll sing you a lullaby that was one of my grandmothers – your great-grandmother’s – that was the first Armenian one I heard when I was in my cradle.

Kun yeghir balas achket khup ara,

Go to sleep my child close your eyes

[A repetition of the first one, above]

Pari, keghetsig, arakini, djishmarid enger (song)

Photograph by Guillaume de Jerphanion, archives PIO, in Lévon Nordiguian, May Semaan Seigneurie (ed.), Portraits photographiques d'Orient, PUJ, Beirut, 2010

Now I will play and sing ‘Pari, keghetsig, arakini, djishmarid enger [martun]’ ([A man’s] good, handsome, virtuous and real friend), one of ashugh Djivani’s [2] minstrel songs.

Pari, keghetsig, arakini, djishmarid enger martun,
Vor payletsene arevu bes badgere martun,
Inch mart unena ir mode havadarim enger –
Tseregi nman antsnum e mut kishere martun.

Enger imasdun, asdvadzavakh, djishmarid enger,
Vor partsratsne asdidjane mishd vere martun.

A man’s good, handsome, virtuous and real friend,
That burnishes the picture of man like the sun,
When a man has a faithful friend near him –
A man’s dark night passes like the daytime
A friend who is wise, a god-fearing, real friend,
Who always raises the standard of man.

26:10-27:08

[We have deleted this piece as it is exactly the same as the one below]

Sire haye... (song)

Armenian students in Tokat region, 1906. Photograph by Antoine Poidebard, Bibliothèque Orientale/USJ, in Lévon Nordiguian, May Semaan Seigneurie (ed.), Portraits photographiques d'Orient, PUJ, Beirut, 2010

My children love the Armenian nation, the Armenian people, the Armenian fatherland so that you don’t remain under a curse.

Now I will play and sing ‘Sire Haye’ (Love the Armenian). My children, love the Armenian, the Armenian nation and the Armenian’s fatherland. That is a moral force in your lives and will be the fountain of light of faith.

Sire haye te ella
Aghkad, ella angarogh,
Vran klukh (...)
Trne i tour muratsogh.

Sire haye te ella
Harusd, partam, medzadun,
Gam ella bey, effendi,
Yev amira medzanun.

Love the Armenian even if he is
Poor, if he is incapable,
From head to toe he is (...)
And begs from door to door.

Love the Armenian even if he is
Rich, opulent, of a great house,
Or is a bey, or an effendi,
Or a famous amira.

Odar yergir... (song)

The executive of the New York chapter of the Union of Marash Armenians at the beginning of the 1930s. Seated, 2nd from the left, Hovhannes/John Cherishian (chairman of the executive) (Source: Kalusdian, op. cit.)

Now I will sing only one verse of the song of longing for the fatherland ‘Odar yergir’ (Foreign land).

Odar yergir, odar bantog,
Ge hedzem, ge hedzem,
Akh hayrenik kez hishelov,
G’ardsavem, g’ardasvem.

Foreign land, foreign hotel,
I lament, I lament,
Oh fatherland, remembering you,
I weep, I weep.

[Only part of the song is recorded]

  • [1] The ‘Mr Aharonian’ referred to by John/Hovhannes Cherishian was the well-known Armenian writer Avedis Aharonian (1866-1948). He was the author of a play in 1924 titled ‘Valley of tears’. One of the heroines in it was Naze, who sang this lullaby to her child. The words therefore are Aharonian’s, but we have no idea who the tune’s composer was.
  • [2] An Armenian minstrel (1846-1909).