The Dance

by Siamanto (1878-1915)

Translated from the Armenian by Shant Norashkharian.
First published in Boston, 1910, by Hairenik Publishers and reprinted in 1979 by Caravan Books. This is public domain.



And as her tears drowned in her blue eyes,
On a field of ash where Armenian life was still dying,
This is what the witness of our horror, the German woman narrated:

"This story which I tell you and which cannot be told,
I saw with my cruel human eyes,
From the window of my safe house which looked on hell,
Crushing my teeth from my terrible rage...
With my cruelly human eyes I saw .
It was in Garden city, which was turned to a pile of ashes.
The corpses were piled high to the top of the trees,
And from the waters, from the fountains, from the streams, from the roads,
The rebellious murmur of your blood...
Still speaks now its vengeance into my ears...

O, don't be shocked when I tell you this story which cannot be told...
Let men understand the crime of man against man,
Under the sun of two days, on the road to the cemetery
The evil of man against man,
Let all the hearts of the world know...
That morning in death's shadow was a Sunday,
The first and helpless Sunday which rose over the corpses,
When inside my room, from evening to dawn,
Bending over the agony of a girl slashed with a sword,
I was wetting her death with my tears...
Suddenly from afar a black, beastly mob
Brutally whipping the twenty brides who were with them,
Stood in a vineyard singing songs of debauchery.

Leaving the poor dying girl on her mattress,
I approached the balcony of my window which looked on hell...
In the vineyard the black mob became a forest.
A savage roared to the brides: "You must dance,
You must dance when our drum sounds."
And the whips started wildly cracking on the bodies
Of the Armenian women who were missing death...
Twenty brides, hand in hand, started their round dance...
The tears flowed from their eyes like wounds,
Ah, how much I envied my wounded neighbor,
Because I heard, that with a peaceful moan,
Cursing the universe, the poor beautiful Armenian girl,
To her young dove spirit gave wings toward the stars...
In vain I moved my fists against the mob.
"You must dance", roared the furious crowd,
"You must dance until your death, lustfully and lasciviously,
Our eyes are thirsty for your movements and your death..."

The twenty beautiful brides fell to the ground exhausted...
"Stand up", they shrieked, waving their naked swords like snakes...
Then someone brought to the mob a barrel of oil...
O, human justice, let me spit at your forehead...!
They anointed the twenty brides hastily with that liquid...

"You must dance", they roared, "here is a perfume for you which even Arabia does not have..."
Then they ignited the naked bodies of the brides with a torch,
And the charcoaled corpses rolled from dance to death...

In my terror I closed the shutters of my window like a storm,
And approaching my lonely dead girl I asked:
"How can I dig my eyes out, how can I dig them out, tell me...?"

* * *
Feedback/Comments: The email address of Shant Norashkharian is:
MASSISSAR@AOL.COM

* Yeghitsi Luys *
Translation copyright 1996 by Shant Norashkharian