Hailed as the “Prince of Armenian Poetry,” Vahan Tekeyan was born on January 21, 1878 in Constantinople and spent his life working as a writer, newspaper editor, teacher and social worker.
While many of his fellow writers and poets, including Siamanto and Taniel Varoujan were massacred on April 24, 1915, Tekeyan survived the genocide because he was out of the country when the atrocities were put into effect. He was, however, deeply affected by this tragic blight in the history of the Armenian people.
His poems and sonnets examined the questions of evil, consequences of the genocide, diaspora and love (for one’s homeland or love for humanity.) Another constant theme in his work was his exploration of the psychological and emotional impact of the Armenian Genocide.
Some of Tekeyan’s most well-known works include “The Armenian Church” “A Prayer Before the Future”, “Your Memory Tonight”, “When the Day Finally Comes”, and “Your Name.”
Tekeyan died on April 4, 1948 in Cairo. His legacy, however, remains to the present day. In his honor, the Tekeyan Cultural Association — an international cultural organization which promotes Armenian culture and cultural activities — was established in 1947 in Beirut, Lebanon. Subsequently, the TCA opened the Vahan Tekeyan School in Beirut, Lebanon in 1951 and most recently sponsored the Berdzor No. 2 school in Karapagh, renaming it the Vahan Tekeyan School.
THE ARMENIAN CHURCH
By Vahan Tekeyan
The Armenian Church is the birthplace of my soul.
Like a vast grotto it is simple and profound, dark and light –
With its hospitable court, ample tribune, and hushed altar
Standing in the distance as though it were a ship afloat.
The Armenian Church I see with my eyes closed.
I breathe and hear it through the clouds of incense
Which rise towards the feet of the Infant Jesus,
And through the fervent prayers vibrating its walls.
The Armenian Church is the mighty fortress of my forefather’s faith.
Raised by them from the earth stone by stone,
And descended from heaven, a dewdrop and a cloud at a time.
In it they unfolded themselves peacefully and humbly.
The Armenian Church is a great embroidered tapestry
Behind which the Lord descends into the chalice, and
Before which all my people stand with bowed heads
To commune with the past through life-giving bread and wine.
The Armenian Church is a peaceful haven across turbulent seas.
It is fire and light in the cold of night;
It is shady forest in the scorching midday sun
Where lilies bloom by the River of Hymns.
The Armenian Church, beneath every stone in its floor.
Holds a secret passage leading up to Heaven.
The Armenian Church is the shining armor of Armenia’s soul and body.
Her crosses rise to protect her;
Her bells ring forth and her song is always Victory.