“To know wisdom and gain instruction; to discern the words of understanding.” It is said that these were the first words written by Mesrop Mashtots after inventing the thirty-six character Armenian alphabet. Though written 1600 years ago, Mashtots might very well have been referring to Gevorg Emin’s extraordinary work of scholarship “Seven Songs About Armenia”.
“Seven Songs” is a reflection about the past, present and future of Armenia from one of her finest poets and writers. Each “Song” represents an aspect of Armenia’s national character, each a facet of Armenia’s multi-faceted diamond which makes her sparkle, a great and ancient jewel nestled in the crossroads of past and future, east and west, empire and village – which still glistens brightly despite hardship and war and violence and which, following each tragedy, polishes itself up to again place on display its glories to enliven a weary world. The songs: Song About the Centuries, which tells the ancient story of a land and her people that march together resolutely through history; Song About Stone, which tells of the land; Song About Water which tells of the rivers and the sapphire of Lake Sevan; Song About the Soil which tells of the ancient vineyards, planted perhaps by Noah himself; Song About Fire which tells of the tribulations, of the violence and the endurance of a people who seek always to overcome; and, my favorite the Song About Letters which tells of the amazing literary tradition of which Emin is only one in a long line of scholars going back to Mashtots and then further back still. Finishing up with the Song of Songs, the crescendo, bringing together all the other songs into a beautiful symphony.
It is hard to convey a sense of the extraordinary learning that flowed easily from Emin’s pen to page after page of his ‘Songs’. Writers today don’t have the same command of knowledge, the same passion for their tales, the same commitment to their readers – to give to those the best of who they are, to leave not only the drying ink but a little bit of sweat and even blood as a reminder of so great an effort of creation. “Seven Songs About Armenia” does this, and leaves the reader spellbound for a season to consider so tremendous a tradition and so great a bard as is Gevorg Emin; son of Ashtarak, son of Armenia.