Harry Terhanian.com

Wisdom from the son of Armenia.

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  • Good character, good deeds, live without stain
    Blessed by such virtue, honor you’ll gain

    Practice virtue and for goodness strive
    Your days will be blessed and you will thrive

    Do good deeds then throw them in the ocean
    Seek not praise, know God sees your devotion

    The effort to have purity of mind,
    Is well worth the hard endeavor and time

    A clean mind will inspire one to do good deeds
    Such virtue in life will guarantee one succeeds

    Good deeds should always be begun and done
    Vice is a behavior that one should shun

    Lust, anger, envy and foul speech
    Will keep a pure mind out of your reach

    If you make good deeds your daily diet
    Noise of bad thoughts in the mind will quiet

    Virtue gives birth to joyful delight
    That makes your future serene and bright

    Do not put off doing a good deed
    It will help you when you are in need

    For goodness engenders goodness and cheer
    For the pure of heart, gentle and sincere

    What value of practicing virtue each day?
    You’ll be honored and loved when your hair turns gray!

    When you die and leave this dark world
    Your good name will remain, your glories unfurled

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  • Hovhaness Toumanian is without doubt my favorite Armenian author. I have translated and put into English verse one of his inimitable short stories about the Master and the Laborer. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did putting it into verse.

    The Master and the Laborer

    There were two brothers who were very poor
    The older found work as a laborer
    He worked for a greedy farmer man
    Who made a deal to hire him as a hand

    The farmer stipulated the laborer work til spring
    Until the first cuckoo would break out and sing
    But if either would become angry first
    He must pay the other a heavy purse

    “One thousand rubles would be the prize.”
    The laborer said: “I have no money. I have no guise.
    How can I pay you if I lose. Please advise.”
    “Oh, You can work another ten years, with no goodbyes.”

    The worker thought: “This is a trick, I must refuse.”
    But on second thought: “I’ll never get angry. I cannot lose.”
    So naive, so mindless, he could not see the evil ruse
    Accepted the offer that gave license to the Master to abuse

    Master said “take this scythe with blade so sharp and bright
    Cut down the tall barley with all your might”
    The poor worker toiled hard until the night
    Returned tired and worried about his new plight

    Master said, “Why have you come back? There is still light!”
    The moon is shining with its brightness so white”
    The worker looked at him aghast with fright
    “Sir, the sun has set, the world sleeps, its night”

    “If I understand, cruel sir, I can never rest!
    Surely you don’t mean this, it must be a jest”
    Master said, “Aha - you are getting angry and stressed,
    Remember our agreement that we both did attest”

    Forlorn and depressed, the worker plied his way
    Back to the grassy fields to work til the light of day
    The crescendo of dawn was not a source of joy
    The worker cursed his fate and his master’s ploy

    “Your field, your bread, your money are a bane
    That bridle an honest man to suffering and pain”
    At that moment as if destined the cruel master came,
    “You are angry, sir, pouring forth so much blame”

    “Pay me a thousand rubles or work ten years without pay
    Hard labor will teach you a lesson. Now you must stay!”
    The poor laborer could not work for such a cruel master
    He agreed to sign an IOU and leave the nasty bastard.

    He returned home to his younger brother and told him all
    “Don’t worry,” said the younger brother, forget your gall
    Now stay at home, relax, don’t worry, I’ll go to find work
    To make enough money for us to live and pay off that jerk!”

    He went straight away to the farmer so deft at cheating
    Discussed the same conditions as his brother in their meeting
    With one exception, he said, “Let’s up the bet, it’s not enough
    You pay me 2000 rubles if you get angry and tough”

    “Or, If I get angry I pay you the same or work 20 years
    Of hard labor, under the sun and moon with sweat and tears.”
    Tasting the sweetness of the deal, the master said yes
    Aware that his worker would be exhausted without any rest.

    Next morning, the sun was already high
    But the worker was asleep, his head in the sky
    “Get up you lazy bum, it’s nearly noon!”
    Said the cleaver master in an angry swoon.

    “Are you angry,” said the worker opening his eyes
    “No, not at all! I want you to know it is time to rise.”
    “There is plenty of time for that,” he said with a yawn
    Slowly, he readied, as if half the day was not gone

    “Can you not hurry up! It is so late,
    It is not very pleasant to make me wait.”
    “Are you getting impatient and irate?”
    “No, no! I am pointing out your slow gait.”

    “I must remind you that you are hired to work
    A duty you must do, not delay or shirk.”
    “Oh yes, that is true. I am a man of my word.
    But remember I am human, not an animal in a herd.”

    On reaching the field, it was time for noon lunch.
    “Look, said the worker, all are eating. Let us have our brunch.”
    They sat with the others under a shady tree and ate to their fill
    Then they all took a short nap remaining silent and still

    After a good break the others awoke and went back to the fields
    While the worker slept as if work was a choice he could ignore or yield
    The master roared “Wake up, wake up! Have you no shame
    The others have reaped their crops while you play the sleeping game.”

    The worker opened one eye and said, “Seems to me you are really angry this time!”
    “No, no, not at all! I only meant it is time to go home. The dinner bell chimes.”
    On reaching the farmer’s house the master saw a guest waiting for him
    The master ordered the worker to slaughter a sheep, not too fat and too slim

    “Which one shall I kill?”, said the worker with his voice so shrill
    “Any you can catch and do it fast so it comes quickly to the grill.”
    The worker went off with knife so sharp ready for the kill
    Soon a neighbor came screaming that caused a dreadful chill.

    “My friend, my neighbor, your worker has lost his peasant’s head.
    Your beautiful sheep, once fatted and serene, are all lying dead!”
    Red faced and boiling, the master ran toward the woolly flock
    But when he saw the bloody sight, he was stunned with shock.

    “What have you done you stupid pig head?
    Not my sheep, but you should be killed instead!”
    “But you said, Master, I should kill any I catch.
    I was quick and nimble, the fat sheep were no match.”

    “Can it be that you are angry and full of hate?”
    “No. But, you killed the sheep meant for my plate.”
    “Ah, you are not angry then, I can do my work.”
    The master thought, “Your work is making me go berserk.”

    As the months passed the master was more than convinced
    To get rid of his worker whose tricks gave him a constant wince

    As a lawyer tries to find a loophole in a contract for his client’s gain,
    the master found a way to free himself of the worker’s bane.
    The agreement said the worker should stay until the first cuckoo sings.
    But, normally this would not happen until the early days of spring.

    Winter was just beginning, the first cuckoo’s song was far away.
    But the Master became desperate. He could not tolerate any delay.
    So he took his dear wife into the forest and had her perch in a tree
    Until he returns with the worker, she sings like a cuckoo and he is set free.

    The master went home and ordered the worker to fetch the rifle gun.
    For the joy of the hunt, they hiked to the forest under the morning rays of the sun. On approaching the fated tree, the wife sang out like a cuckoo chick. The worker became suspicious, he quickly saw through the trick

    The master said, “Ah, the cuckoo sings, our agreement is done.”
    The worker cried out in a ruff voice as he raised the hunter’s gun
    “What kind of strange cuckoo that sings in early winter the spring song? I’ll shoot the strange bird because I am sure there is something wrong!”

    The Worker aimed quick at the tree and was about to click
    When the Master deflected the gun by a strike of his stick
    “Curse you, evil trickster, I hate you with all my heart,
    I won’t tolerate you another minute, you must leave, depart.”

    The Worker said, “Now you are really angry, admit it, you’re in a rage.”
    “Yes I am, you rascal, take your cursed money, your bloody wage.” Now leave me in peace, go far away, you’re not a person I want to see ever again. “Never will I make pitfalls for others that I may fall into not knowing how or when.”

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