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Georgian Literature and Poetry

Galaktion Tabidze

By Nugzar B. Ruhadze

One of Galaktion's literary characters, Mary, as an evoked image of a remote and unshared love, is an exceptional favourite. She emerges in a number of his lyrical poems and some are specifically dedicated to her. The most beautiful and popular is the poem Mary that has been already published by the Georgian Journal. Georgian readers have connected the poem with a famous beauty, Mary Shervashidze, the poet's contemporary. However it is a known fact that Galaktion never met her, although he might have imagined her. In Galaktion's poetry the name 'Mary' acquires at least two meanings: the name of a beloved lady as a symbol of lost love and constant sorrow and the name of the Virgin Mary as a symbol of divine j love, eternal purity and Christian devotion.
With regard to the first image it is more than likely that Mary as a symbol of lost love must have ' derived from Lord Byron and largely because of the prominence of Byron's Mary in Russian poetry (principally Pushkin, Lermontov and Blok). One of Galaktion's lyrics dedicated to Mary under the title With Mary's Eyes is clearly a free translation of Byron's Hills of Annesley (the 1805 fragment). But this instance is neither a case of a simple influence nor mere imitation. In that Galaktion goes far beyond his source when he develops Lord Byron's vision and creates his own 'Queen of a Fantastic Realm'. The plot of one of the most successful poems of this cycle, Mary must be associated with the marriage of Miss Mary Chaworth, Lord Byron's early unshared love. Galaktion frequently speaks of Byron in his letters and often alludes to him in his poems. He translated various fragments from Byron's Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte, Darkness, The Deformed Transformed and was greatly moved not only by Byron's poetic achievements but also his personality. Lord Byron's lyricism and expressed sorrow were especially close to Galaktion's own poetic vision. Many aspects of Galaktion's poetic vision inspired his colleagues and friends to give him the name of the 'Georgian Byron' (kartveli baironi).

Galaktion refers to Mary Chaworth and Lord Byron in a small poem dedicated to his first wife Olga Okujava addressing her with a pet name Ol-ol. The first version of this poem was inscribed by Galaktion on the back of a post card showing Lord Byron in a boat in the company of Shelly, Mary Godwin, Claire Clairmont, Dr. Polidori and others.

With Mary's Eyes (to ol-ol)

For several days and several nights
My heart has darkened been, closed tight.
As if a solitary cell,
A door that's locked with sealing wax.
No joy can reach my soul, no light
From skies that ever were so bright.
Each second of my being, my life
Has now become a desert wild. For several days and several nights.
But now, you all, stop! Stand aside!
I long, long only for a Death,
Enjoying no Poesy, no friends.
The sphere is deeply poisoned here,
I ceased to trust the Heavens dear.
Let skies go dim! No more they'll shine
And brighten up with Mary's eyes!
The two great seas have met each other.
Stormy is one, calm is the other.
Both in excitement are saying anew:
The life's coming soon with hopes so new.
Green turf s parting from a fairy boat,
The proud lord is standing, time is old.
To Byron's words is harking Mary,
Through colours fine is floating Shelley.
A boat is swinging low by the shore,
The waves're dozing like a fate remote.
With billows high is sighing my lady,
A snow slide of Poesy's gliding.

Translation and commentary by
Innes Merabishvili


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