Nahapet Kuchak’s hayrens (popular verses consisting as a rule of either four or eight lines, each line made up of fifteen syllables; with one half line of seven, and the other half line of eight syllables) were verses meant to memorize. So that they could be chanted, in due company. The origin of them dates back to medieval times. Probably the late 13th or early 14th century. By later poets, these hayrens have been praised as works of true lyricism and great individual creativity.
Kuchak’s hayrens reflect the main feature of the Renaissance period: a sense of the fullness of life, as well as a perception of the beauty of the world. The poet’s verse is uttered in a clear voice, and is composed with an obvious sense of humour and lightheartedness. At all times, however, lures the shady presence of an omnipresent existential truth: that all things youth- and beautiful are equally vulnerable and perishable. The lesson seems to be: let us rejoice in those few qualities that we are able to perceive and to share, instead of to lament the multitude of things we will either lose or never have. The solace lies in the act of expression itself, the wit and willfullness of chanted poetry, a lyrical formula of exclamation as a means to unleash the human mind.
Listen to hayren number 88, for example, taken from the richly illustrated book with thick but slightly tainted pages, that was published anno 1979 at the height of Brezhnev’s Sovjet era by Sovetakan grogh’s Publishing House in the Armenian SSR. A farewell gift I received ten years ago from David Matevossian, at the end of the Literary Ark 2001 festivities.
“Cut up this pomegranate here
and count the pips inside it.
For every pip I want a kiss –
not one more, I’ve decided!
– Leave me alone, you foolish boy,
I thought you had more sense:
For every pip you want, a kiss?
Why, the number would be immense!”
Or hear hayren number 98, from the same edition filled with “A hundred and one hayrens” published in just as many lively ornamented colours and varieties:
“My soul left my body,
I sat down to lament:
‘My soul, if you leave me
my life is spent!’
And my sould replied:
‘Where is your wisdom, pray?
When a house is collapsing
why should its master stay?’