The Poet Misak Medzarents, and Two Poems

He was born in 1886 in Armenia, in a remote mountain village called Pingyan above the Aradzani River. It was not the typical Armenian village of the Ottoman Empire, subjugated by Turkish authorities and terrorized by marauding Kurdish tribes in the guise of tax collectors. Pingyan was an unusual place: it was secure and very nearly free, a place where life could be happy. After the Moslem conquest of Anatolia began in the seventh century, Armenians struggled to preserve their liberty in princely states that juggled alliances with larger powers and tried to hold their heads above the flood of invasion by Turkish and Kurdish nomadic groups. After the fall of the Armenian Bagratid capital Ani in the east, the extinction of the Armenian Cilician kingdom in the south in 1375, and with that, the end of national sovereignty, little strongholds of freedom endured to which men might make their way — the mountain fastness of Sasun above Lake Van, Artsakh (today’s Nagorno-Karabagh) in the east, Zeitun in the southwest, and, in the northwest of historical Armenia, the village of Pingyan. (The name derives from the diminutive, Benik, of its founder, a prince named Benjamin.)  The houses, churches, schools, mills, and monasteries of the village clustered on the steep mountainside, below a well-defended pass; the villagers went to their fields on the other side of the river across a bridge with a great iron gate that was locked at night. The name of Misak’s family, the large Medzadourian clan — the young poet was to shorten the name to Medzarents — suggests they were descendants of a noble “great house” (medz dun) who had heard of the fortress village and made their way there across Armenia, centuries earlier, from Ani or even farther east. The villagers spoke Armenian, not the

Already have an account? Log in

Want to keep reading? Join our community:


Support great writing by becoming a full subscriber to Liberties Journal.

Subscribe Today

Free Preview

Sign up with your email address, and access two free articles per month.

We hope you've enjoyed your free articles!

Become a full subscriber for only $50/year, (33% off cover price).

Thank you for supporting great writing.

Subscribe Today
Log In Subscribe

Sign Up For Free

Read 2 free articles a month after you register below.

Register now