Lord Byron, a famous English poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement, was a great admirer of the Armenian culture. He learned the Armenian language in the Mekhitarist Armenian Academy of San Lazzaro in Venice, which allowed him to substantially write about the Armenian language and its history, as well as to translate ancient Armenian texts into English, greatly contributing to the language.
One of the remarkable works of Lord Byron is “Armenian Exercises and Poetry” written in both English and Armenian. It contains many elements of Armenian culture and history learned by Byron over the years of his study. The book is quite a big of a read, so let us present to you its very first chapter.
From the letters of Lord Byron 2 January, 1817
“On my arrival at Venice in the year 1816, I found my mind in a state which required study, and study of a nature which should leave little scope for the imagination, and furnish some difficulty in the pursuit. – At this period I was much struck – in common, I believe, with every other travaller – with the Society of the Convent of St. Lazarus, which appears to unite all the advantages of the monastic institution, without any of its vices.
— The neatness, the comfort, the gentleness, the unaffected devotion, the accomplishments, and the virtues of the brethren of the order, are well fitted to strike the man of the world with the conviction that there is another and a better even in this life. — These men are the priesthood of an oppressed and a noble nation, which has partaken of the proscription and bondage of the Jews and of the Greeks, without the sullenness of the former or the servility of the latter.
This people has attained riches without usury, and all the honours that can be awarded to slavery without intrigue. But they have long occupied, nevertheless, a part of the House of Bondage, who has lately multiplied her many mansions.
It would be difficult, perhaps, to find the annals of a nation less stained with crimes than those of the Armenians, whose virtues have those of peace, and their vices those of compulsion. But whatever may have been their destiny – and it has been bitter – whatever it may be in future, their country must ever be one of the most interesting, on the globe; and perhaps their language only requires to be more studied to become more attractive.
If the Scriptures are rightly understood, it was in Armenia that Paradise was placed.– Armenia, which has paid as dearly as the descendants of Adam for that fleeting participation of its soil in the happiness of him who was created from its dust. It was in Armenia that the flood first abated, and the dove alighted. But with the disappearance of Paradise itself may be dated almost the unhappiness of the country; for though long a powerful kingdom, it was scarcely ever an indipendent one, and the satraps of Persia and the pachas of Turkey have alike desolated the region where God created man in his own image.”