‘Havoun, Havoun’ – St. Grigor Narekatsi

‘Havoun, Havoun’ (Հավուն, Հավուն) (aka ‘To the Awakened Fowl’) is an ode composed in the 11th century by St. Grigor Narekatsi, an Armenian monk, lyrical poet and theologian residing in the region of Lake Van. It describes the Resurrection of Christ through allusions to various Biblical scenes.

The translation to its words (obtained from a lecture of Maestro Haig Utidjian) is as follows:

1 The fowl awoke and watching the pagans,
Called unto the turtle-dove, nurtured in love (and) beloved:
“Return, O thou Shulamite to the shelter of the rock.
Come, O bride, from the mountains of leopard, from the fields of roes!”
5 They come and gather at Ephraim of Bethel,
Rising up to the open space, to the vineyard of Cedron
Treading the wine-press — wine the color of Bozrah.
Having put wood in bread, slaughtered that which he offered up to the slaughter,
Mixing with wine — the mixture of sweet things.
10 The cup was offered as a wedding invitation.
A wedding invitation: “Come, ye new peoples,
Eat of my bread and drink my wine,
13 That ye may live through inexhaustible, endless eternity!”

Christ is depicted as The fowl [which] awoke, indicating His Resurrection, as he is watching the pagans. Some interpretations of the wood in bread (line 8) include the Cross, as well as the thorns (in the Holy Bread). The wedding invitation (line 10), parallels to the Wedding at Cana, while the quote “Come, ye new peoples, Eat of my bread and drink my wine (lines 11-12) parallels the Words of Institution for Holy Communion.

Although the song consists of 13 couplets, only the first two are traditionally performed, due to the extended, melismatic nature of each couplet. While the original melody (written in neumes by Narekatsi) is currently uninterpretable, a later version composed by Komitas Vardapet (1869 – 1935) has given this ode a new life — a resurrection, if you may.

Original manuscripts with Narekatsi’s neumes (obtained from a lecture of Maestro Haig Utidjian):

Score and Words in Armenian available for download below.