Neil Young’s theme to ‘Dead Man’ – an ode to poetry

Not every post will be a translation.  On weeks that I am inundated with work, I may not find the time to translate.  Today’s post, the first of its kind, will seek to explain the inspirations that underscore my translations.  I’ll come back and explain a bit later – but now, without further ado, Neil Young’s theme to the film ‘Dead Man’ – the perfect background music for meditative thought.

Neil Young’s theme to ‘Dead Man’ – directed by Jim Jarmusch

‘Dead Man’ as an ode to poetry

“Do you know my poetry?”  This is the line muttered by starry-eyed Johnny Depp in the role of William Blake, an honest man trying to make a living in Wild West before a series of unfortunate events force him to live his life on the run, pursued by an odd assortment of bounty hunters.  Just after he finishes his sentence, he raises his pistol and dispatches two of his ruthless pursuers.  Yes – we do indeed know your poetry !

Yes – the film can be viewed an existential ‘western’ and it succeeds on all counts.  Jarmusch paints a mesmerizing dreamscape of the untamed West.  However, I like focusing on the poetic aspect of the film – Johnny Depp’s character is named William Blake after all….What is poetry?  What allows poetry to endure?  What sort of ripples do such words have once introduced into new environments?  Can poetry transcend linguistic barriers?  These are questions inspired by viewing this film….

Poetry can and must be frequently revisited.  Poems were not written to sit as ink on paper and merely collect dust.  They must be actively absorbed, discussed, translated, shared.  Just as Jarmusch integrated William Blake’s poetry and translated it into the Wild West, we must all build upon the art that has come before us.  We don’t live in a vacuum.  Everything that anyone has ever done has in one way or another had an influence on the current state of humanity.  And, we now come to this website….

I’ve been focusing on Roupen Sevak because his poetry has unfortunately been doing what I fear most for any poem – collecting dust!!  His poetry paints such vibrant, such powerful images that I could not resist sharing his work with others.  Of course, I am an amateur and have not had quite enough time to truly capture his rhythmic ebb and flow.  However, I hope that anyone who reads my poetry translations can join in on the conversation and help truly bring these poems to life….

The Burial – Roupen Sevag

The Burial

You have blossomed again,
You – a forgotten lump of earth,
I travel from afar to witness your rebirth,
I come on a pilgrimage – my incense burning strong.

Your ruby-colored velvet was once all around me,
Here, when we were together – side by side,
I was happy – and you, a rose,
A wild rose, a work of art – sacred, pure.

But now, the bird plummets in a frenzied rush,
And I have come to die.
Here, laying alongside the swallow’s mangled corpse,
I place my aged heart.

Speechless as I lay still amongst the crickets’ lullaby,
The meadow lit up by thousands of tiny candles – the gifts of the glowworm,
I have decided,
Yes – here is where I wish to lay my wild heart to rest.

Roupen Sevag – undated

Here is the original Armenian version.

Armenian poetry, Armenia, poem, old poetry, new translation, literature, english translation, armenian translation

Roupen Sevag’s The Burial



These Eyes – Roupen Sevag

These eyes

These eyes, they take me to the ocean depths,
Eyes that sing, eyes that cry,
Bright flowers, ever-deep wounds,
Eyes that live, eyes that have died,
A gentle blue, your eyes cry out to me.

Your sly glance cradles me,
Along the edge of the forgotten path,
That leads to a path of flowers untrampled,
You are shadowless, a cool orchard,
Your sly glance cradles me.

But within these eyes – the flames of feverish sin,
Calling me your altar of passion,
Burning, smouldering – a temple of Sin,
Eyes that burn, that poison, that consume,
Furious, fire-laden – damning.

These tear-filled eyes – horrid, melancholic,
Staring across the dark abyss,
Like a leaf tossed around by the incessant autumn wind,
You know the path,
Tear-filled eyes – horrid, melancholic.

And now – dreaming within a melancholic haze,
As lovely as a tepid summer’s night,
Your love-laden eyes call out – unseen, alone.
You walk, you seek an embrace along the dark corridor,
Your loving eyes – lost within a melancholic haze.

And you – a fire without end,
Eyes that love, eyes that have died,
Come to the deepest recesses of my soul,
And shed but one tear…

Eyes that love,
eyes that have died…

Roupen Sevag – undated


Now, this is Sevag’s original version.  You’ll note many subtle changes, most notably an occasional shift from second to third person when describing these eyes.  There are some stanzas where I let Sevag’s original verses serve as more of an inspiration than a direct one-to-one linguistic mapping.  Enjoy !!

Roupen Sevag's These EyesArmenian poetry, Armenia, poem, old poetry, new translation, literature, english translation, armenian translation

Roupen Sevag’s These Eyes




A double translation of Verlaine’s ‘Chanson d’automne’

Hi all,

This post is a bit different than the rest.  I’ll be translating Roupen Sevag’s translation of Verlaine’s “Chanson d’automne”.  For completeness, you can read Verlaine’s original below.

Chanson d’automne par Verlaine

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure.
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens,
Et je pleure…

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
De çà, de là,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte…

Now, this is Sevag’s translation into Western Armenian…

Armenian poetry, Armenia, poem, old poetry, new translation, literature, english translation, armenian translation

Sevag’s translation of Verlaine’s poem

And this is my attempt to translate the Armenian version of the original French….
Autumn’s Song

Cradled by the incessant
Hum of violins
I let out a cry from deep
Within my heart.

When the hour strikes,
Horrid, evil, ill-timed –
I think of days past
And I weep.

And I continue along – silent –
At the whim of my past
Tossed here and there
Like an autumn leaf – drifting away.


Roupen Sevag – Hey you

Roupen Sevag – Hey you

Hey you, passing along this forgotten path,
Your wretched whirling eyes consume me,
You finish me off,
You take your final gulp.

I am alone and you are all that’s left,
My timeless road as a poet has always led me to you,
but you just pass me by
like twilight’s final gleam.

You have always been the coffin of my joy,
To capture the world’s unseen beauty,
To show the world within us all.
– that’s all I ever wanted.

But you pass by unimpressed –
you – like a witch – who has skinned a thousand boys –
Why should you care?

You could have at least thrown me a morsel of praise
as I was trapped within your coffin…
But you leave – and I watch –
your horrid body strolling away as beautiful as a fallen cypress….

The original Armenian version of the poem can be found here [.pdf format]

Roupen Sevag – An Ode to the Morning

Roupen Sevag – An Ode to the Morning

An Ode to the Morning

A winter’s morning has melted the night.
As I dream of you from afar
You come to me, you sit close,
Our room is warm – hot tea awaits us.

The light frost disappears,
The light shines down on your body,
A gentle fog begins to form.

It searches, it longs, it trembles
for some sense of meaning.
Then, it disappears.

And you too disappear…
your shadow has crept away beyond my reach…

And a winter’s morning melts away the night.

The original Armenian version of the poem can be found here [.pdf format]

Roupen Sevag – A Dark Love Song

Roupen Sevag – A Dark Love Song

And so – I love you,
Weak, wounded, cursed, I stand
With little else to say but that
I love you.

Your shadow took my soul on a journey,
Trapping me within an echoless chamber of darkness,
But still – I love you.

Tonight, may a song cry out from within my soul,
However weak, however worthless,
let this song be yours,
Because sister, I love you.

To live? Forever enslaved to my miserable fate…
To die?  Without being yours for even an instant…
Speak to me sister – for I do love you….

Behold my soul – closed upon itself, entombed,
Behold my soul – longing to escape your condescending glow,
Behold my soul  – which still loves you so…

Roupen Sevag

The original Armenian version of the poem can be found here [.pdf format]


Roupen Sevag – Sleep

The forest has fallen into place,
From afar, the lake has reached its fill,
A melted dream is endless, right?
Amongst the pillows, I sleep.

The snow falls chillingly,
My burning white love shivers
As you blink – deep in thought,
You fall in, you sleep.

Isn’t that a song that cries out from afar,
Like a few verses of a quiet blessing,
My undying love
Falls upon you, you sleep.

Death – He circles around your bed…
-Do the dead dream such verses?
Let me be your coffin, lined in black,
So that you may sleep within.



The original Armenian version of the poem can be found here [.pdf format]

Excellent Armenian-English dictionary

Performing translations of poems that are over a hundred years old can be very difficult when one considers the rate at which a language naturally evolves. Certain words can simply die out over time. Fortunately, I have come across an excellent turn-of-the-century Armenian-English dictionary. It was put together by Father Matthias Bedrossian in 1879. Since no copyright exists, I’ve attached a link to this excellent dictionary below.