November / The Birth of Poetry

November

Bats circle amid the yellow withered plane trees
that hover above the old church cupola.
The sad singing of the flying cranes
grieves the meadow. Autumn toasts
white winter. The storm on the other side
has no pity, even for itself, and the fire
will melt the wind’s rabid song.
Twilight masters the soul—it’s Saturday.
Evening fog blankets the earth.
The priest has finished praying.
Melted prayers glimmer on his white beard.
The eye is blind. The wind-demon tears the world to rags.
My feet sink heavily into amber mud.
I drown in yellow leaves: please bury me.

1916

 

The Birth of Poetry

1.

Sky and earth
make a bridge on Mt. Elbrus.
The mountain’s ringing recalls
the giant who fought Prometheus.
You created the poplar tree
from a lovely Circassian women.
The mountaineer’s cloak
does not tear easily.

2.

Burgundy sky, mountain of wine,
the Black Sea soaks the earth.
Elbrus stands, an ancient guard.
The storm grows furious.
I have nothing to fear except the snow
that collects into an avalanche
and melts in my body beneath the sun.

3.

Sky and earth
make a bridge on Elbrus.
The mountain’s ringing recalls
the giant who fought Prometheus.
My heart is buried here.
We await the flood.
Our wings will stay the storm.
We share an abyss,
and wait for time to come.

1936

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ნოემბერი

გაყვითლებულა, შეხმობია ფოთოლი ჭადარს,
მეღამურები ევლებიან თავზე ძველ საყდარს.
მიმფრინავ წეროთ სევდის მღერა ატირებს მდელოს
და შემოდგომა თეთრ ზამთრისას სვამს სადღეგრძელოს.
გაღმა ქარიშხალს თავისთავი არ ეცოდება,
ველურ სიმღერის ველურ ცეცხლში იწვის, ცოფდება.
მწუხრის ჟამისას შეეპარა სულს კაეშანი,
მწუხრის საღამოს ეფარება ნისლის საბანი.
გამოილოცა უკვე მამამ, – შაბათი არი
და თეთრ წვერებზე თითქო მოჩანს ლოცვა დამდნარი.
დაბნელდა, თვალი გარეშემო ვერაფერს ხედავს,
კუდიანივით ქარიშხალი მიდამოს სწეწავს.
ქარვის ტალახში ეფლობიან მძიმედ ფეხები,
ყვითელ ფოთლებში მე ვიხრჩვები და ვიმარხები.

1916

 

ლექსის დაბადება

1
ცისა და ქვეყნის შესაერთები,
შენ იალბუზი ხიდად გადევი;
საძირკველიდან დაიძრენ მთები,
როცა ამირანს შეაბი დევი.
მიეც ალვის ხეს ყალიბად ჩერქეზის ქალი ტანადი;
არ გაიჭრება ადვილად სარმათელ ლეკის ნაბადი.

2
ცა შვინდისფერი, მთაც შვინდისფერი,
შენამულია ევქსინის პონტი;
დგას იალბუზი, როგორც გრიფელი,
თუმცა ასტეხეს ზვავებმა შფოთი:
ეს არის მხოლოდ საფიქრი,
ანდა მას ფიქრიც არ უნდა;
გადნება მზეზე გაფენილ ფიფქად
ლექსების ზვავი, გულს რომ დაგუბდა.

3
ცისა და ქვეყნის შემაერთები
შენ იალბუზი ხიდად გადევი;
საძირკველიდან დაიძრენ მთები,
როცა ამირანს შეაბი დევი.
მხოლოდ ეს გულიც იალბუზია
უცდის ქარიშხალს ფრთებით რომ გასხლას,
ლექსები უფსკრულს მტრედათ უზიან
და ანიშნებენ წარღვნის გადასვლას.

1936

Translator’s Note

Over the course of over a quarter century (from roughly 1911 to 1937), the Georgian modernist Titsian Tabidze crafted a visionary poetics that was formally innovative and politically courageous in equal measures. While like many of the greatest poets of the Soviet era Titsian suffered for his disloyalty to the Soviet state, Titsian’s suffering has a more existential source in his love for his native culture and the pain induced in him by his alienation from it. The poignancy of this pain is intensified by his ties to Georgia’s affecting landscapes, as reflected in the poems translated here.

Writing in an age of atrocity, Titsian’s robust conception of his literary craft is an inspiration to readers interested in expanding the domain of poetry to the political realm. Across different genres and settings, Titsian reveals how the literary imagination effects political change in the world.

In “A Poem’s Pain,” Titsian writes: “Dear reader, if you want / to know me, listen to my
verse.” Although his verse is suffused with existential suffering, with each poem variously crafting a compelling authorial self, in the end Titsian’s primary subject is poetry. For this Georgian modernist, the pain inscribed into his poems resulted from being alive in an unjust world. Unfortunately for readers today, Titsian’s own existence was circumscribed when he was only forty-one years old by the power structures he contested and overturned in his work: after publicity siding with his friend, the modernist poet Paolo Iashvili who was targeted by the Soviet state, Titsian was then himself accused of working as a spy against the state. He was executed in 1937, and much of his writing was destroyed.

Rebecca Gould

Rebecca Gould is the author of Writers and Rebels (Yale University Press, 2016), which discusses Titsian’s poetry and life in depth. She is also the translator of Alexandre Qazbegi’s The Prose of the Mountains: Tales of the Caucasus (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2015) and After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016). She was awarded an American Literary Translators Association Travelling Fellowship for her translations of Titsian Tabidze, and her translations of Qazbegi have been supported by the Georgian Literature in Translation Program, Georgian National Book Center, Georgian Ministry of Culture. She teaches translation studies at the University of Bristol.

 

Titsian TabidzeTitsian Tabidze (1895–1937) was one of most eloquent and innovative Georgian literary modernists of the twentieth century. Among his friends and translators, he counted Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, and Paolo Iashvili. Like many Russian and Georgian poets of his era, Titsian perished in a purge organized by Stalin and his subordinates. To date, Titsian’s work has only been systematically translated into Russian, but an interview with his daughter and granddaughter provides insight into the dangers he faced as an outspoken poet in a time of political oppression.