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Nikoloz Baratashvili

Poems

(N.B. All translations, except for "Napoleon" are by Prof. Venera Urushadze. "Napoleon" is translated by Alexander Mikaberidze)

 

About Nikoloz Baratashvili

BARATASHVILI, NIKOLOZ (NICHOLAS) (1817-1845). One of the greatest Georgian Romantic poets, often described as the “Georgian Byron.” He was born to a prominent noble family and, on his mother's side, he descended from the illustrious King Erekle II. His mother inspired him with a love of literature and the young Baratashvili was influenced by the circle of famous Georgian writers and statesmen who frequented their house in Tbilisi. At 22, he wrote his longest poem, Bedi kartlisa, in which he lamented the tragic fate of his native land. The failure of the 1832 Conspiracy further deepened his patriotic feelings. In 1835, he finished the school for children of the nobility in Tbilisi and entered government service as an official in the court. In 1845, he was transferred to Ganja as deputy governor of that province where he became seriously ill and died. His poetry was mostly unpublished and unnoticed by the time he died, but as poems were published posthumously, he came to be idolized. His remains were brought back to Georgia in 1893 and his funeral turned into a great national celebration. Nikoloz Baratashvili is buried in Tbilisi, in the Pantheon of Georgian writers and statesmen on Mtatsminda, on the slope of the mount he loved so dearly. 

Despite leaving only some 40 poems and lyrics, Baratashvili is considered the preeminent poet of Georgian romanticism. His ingenuous squib portrayed a complex inner world of the human soul. The feeling of loneliness run thorough his early poems (Twilight over the Mtatsminda, 1836, and Reflections on the Kura's Banks, 1837) and reached its climax in the poem Lonely Soul (1839). In his poems, Baratashvili sang of high moral ideals and sought his own path to improve society. The poet's struggle against the powers of pessimism and darkness found expression in one of his best poems, Merani, which has been influential on later Georgian poets. With its mystical vision of the future, it also served as a symbol of progress and eternal movement forward. 

TWILIGHT OVER MTATSMINDA

O Mtatsminda ! Thou Holy Mount ! the sight does haunt
The soul to thought - a place that wilderness has wrought
The dew divine like drops of pearl does grace the site
And, trembling, mingles in delight with soft twilight.

Both solitude and silence rule the place in proud and haughty state!
And from that mount my eyes behold a scene that rapture does create!
Below, the plain with ambrosial flowers is like a heavenly altar spread;
The fragrance like the incense sweet its blessings on the Mount does shed.

I still recall that lovely eve when full of grief
Your paths I trod, O dusky Mount, to seek relief;
My lonely soul in longing clung to twilight fair,
Which sorrow veiled with heaving sighs and beauty rare!

Ah! Nature wove a gentle dream of loveliness and sadness there.
O sky! O sky! You has engraved your image on my heart forever!
And when I gaze upon your blue my thoughts enraptured towards your fly
Alas, they cannot reach your heights, and in the air dissolve and die

Your radiance conceals this fleeting world of woes!
Beyond your realm my soul takes wing to seek repose
From dreary haunts where every cherished hope expires...
But woe! the gods shun man and all his heart's desires.

In pensive thought entranced I viewed the waning of the heaven's glow;
Soft twilight wrapt me in her arms and filled with dusk the glens below,
Where rivulets hummed in low response to gentle winds that haunting sighed;
My soul to nature seemed to cleave, and in her bosom's depth to bide.

O glowing Mount! whose smiles and tears enthrall the breast;
A sight that cheers the heavy heart by cares oppressed.
My grieving soul with gladness now does seem to blend,
And yet, O Mount, your silent mourn'st, my gentle friend.

Deep silence quivered in delight as twilight dimmed the heaven's dome;
And eve's sweet star of love and dreams pursued the moon throughout the gloam.
O have you seen a virgin soul, aweary with excess of prayer?
And so the pale and languid moon came floating through the misty air.

Remembrance brings to mind again that eve in May
When twilight veiled the Holy Mount in purple gray,
When over-burdened and distressed, the soul in pain,
Found vent in thoughts that ever in my heart remain.

O lovely eve! your solitude does soothe the soul by sorrow prest!
To you I baste when anguish floods the frenzied brain and burning breast!
The sorrowed heart - the saddened heart - will find its balm and hope in thee,
For morn will break and sunshine's beam will make the shades of darkness flee.



MEDITATIONS BY THE RIVER MTKVARI

In sadness wrapped, I strolled along where the waters hum and fret;
I longed to rest in solitude and all my cares forget.
And there beside the flowing stream, in utter weariness,
I sank upon the soft green grass and wept in bitterness.

Borne on the sigh that silence heaves the Mtkvari's murmur rose,
And in its lucid beds the azure skies found sweet repose;
And here beyond the strife of life, beyond all sordid noise,
The mountains brooded over the land in calm unvarying poise.

I listened to the river's hum, I saw the heavens bend
And kiss the mounts that with my soul and sorrow seemed to blend.
What means your purl, O Mtkvari old, forebodes it joy or woe?
You are witness true of bygone days, yet hum in speechless flow.
But why this life of maddening strife, if all its visions fair
Are bubbles light, illusions bright, that burst and fade forever?
Our life is but a passing dream in a fleeting hectic world.
A never-filling boundless chaos, wherein our hopes are hurled.
The mortal heart, though sate and full is a slave of surging fires,
That blast the soul and steep the heart in avariced desires.
Even sovereigns great whose wealth and power is the wonder of the day
Feel greed and envy stir their breasts for realms that others sway.
They crave and strive for more and more, and their impassioned lust
Is for that earth wherein they're doomed to mingle with its dust.
Or does the king who for his noble deeds knows only praise
Know peace amid the storms or cares that darken all his days?
The welfare of his native land and heirs brings him delight;
His aim in life's to keep the honor of his country bright.
If death holds glory in its power and the world to void is whirled,
Then on whose lips will lie the sin and glory of the world?

If mortals of this world we are and bear the form of man,
Our duty is to serve our land and walk the ways of man.
Unworthy is the one who's but a mass of worthless clay,
Who dares to shun all mortal cares, yet in this world does stay!


TO A CHONGURI

Your strains of woe - a mournful flow-
At times they groan, at times they moan;
Each throb recalls the vanished hour and bids the soul to thought!

Oh! Chonguri! if ever your voice
Would flood my ear with murmuring joys,
And soothe the heart that sorrows sway and turn its tears away!

Where can I find your smile so fair,
Adorned with joy and beauty rare?
I hear but sobs that anguish feeds, hurled from a heart that bleeds!



A SOUL-FORLORN

Let none bewail the bitterness of orphancy,
Nor weep if destitute of friend or kin is he,
But pity him whose soul's bereaved by ruthless fate;
Once lost-'tis hard to find again a worthy mate.

Deprived of kin and friend the heart seems lone and dead
Yet soon it finds another one to love instead;
But if the soul does lose its mate, then it must bear
The curse of yielding all its hopes to black despair.

His faith is lost, he trusts no more this world of woe;
Distraught and wild, he shuns mankind, and does not know
To whom to trust the secrets of his troubled breast,
Afraid to feel again the faith it once possessed.

'Tis hard to bear the anguish of a soul forlorn,
To shun all worldly joys and smiles or pleasures scorn;
The lonely soul forever mourns its friend and mate,
And heavy sighs bring calm to him thus doomed by fate.



MERANI

It runs; it flies; it bears me on; it heeds no trail nor spoor;
A raven black behind me croaks with ominous eyes of doom;
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knoweth no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts in raging darkness found.

Go onward! onward! cleaving through roaring wind and rain
Over many a mount and many a plain, short'ning my days of pain;
Seek not shelter, my flying steed, from scorching skies or storm;
Pity not thy rider sad, by self-immolation worn.

I bid farewell to parents, kin, to friends and sweetheart dear
Whose gentle voice did soothe my hopes to a hot and bitter tear.
Where the night falls, there let it dawn, there let my country be;
Only the heavenly stars above my open heart will see.

The sighs that burn, that rend the heart to stormy waves I hurl;
To thy inspired, wild maddened flight, love's waning passions whirl.
Speed thee on, and onward fly, with a gallop that knoweth no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts, in raging darkness found.

In foreign lands thou lay me low, not where my fathers sleep;
Nor shed thou tears nor grieve, my love, nor over my body weep;
Ravens grim will dig my grave and whirlwinds wind a shroud
There, on desert plains where winds will howl in wailings loud.

No lover's tears but dew divine will moist my bed of gloom;
No dirge but vultures' shrieks will sound above my lowly tomb;
Bear me far beyond the bounds of fate, my Merani,
Fate whose slave I never was, and henceforth - never shall be!

By fate repulsed, oh bury me in a dark and lonely grave:
My bloody foe, I fear thee not - thy flashing sword I brave.
Speed thee on and onward fly with a gallop that knoweth no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts in raging darkness found.

The yearnings of my restless soul will no in vain have glowed,
For, dashing on, my steel has paved a new untrodden road.
He who follows in our wake, a smoother path will find;
Daring all, his fateful steed shall leave dark fate behind

It runs; it flies; it bears me on; it heeds no trail nor spoor;
A raven black behind me croaks with ominous eyes of doom;
Speed thee on, and onward fly, with a gallop that knoweth no bound,
Fling to the winds my stormy thoughts, in raging darkness found.



O EVIL SPIRIT!

O Evil Spirit! You fiend of hell! who bade you be my guide,
To storm my life, to burn my brain and every joy to hide?
Why did you steal my peace and calm, my soul besteep in grief?
Why did you crush my youthful heart and kill its faith, belief?

Is this the pledge, the promised bliss my youth did hope from thee;
My soul to wing in fancied joy to realms of liberty?
Midst burning tears and woe-rent fears bright smiles I thought to find;
In hell I sought a paradise-to truth my eyes were blind.

Your words so false, though wondrous bright, where have they
Why did you tempt my wishes true - to be by furies led?
Reply! You fiend! You are silent now? 'Tis late to slink away;
Your power to charm, to lure, to blind, why has it lost its sway?

O cursed be that day when I blindly placed my faith and trust in thee,
And yielded up my fondest hopes, and let them martyred be!
Henceforth my soul does sob and sigh; its peace I flung away;
Its raging fires, its hopes, desires,- no passion's flame can slay!

Avaunt! Begonel O demon false! You harbinger of woe!
At random driven, my tortured soul no safe retreat does know.
My mind lacks faith, my heart mistrusts, my soul in pain sinks low.
O woe to him who feels the sting of your deadly smiting blow!

CHINNARI

An aloe stands in solitude upon a lofty precipice;
The sunbeams mingling with the shades the myriad boughs caress and kits.
'Tis Joy to dream beneath her shade - a refuge from this world of woe-
Where rustling leaves give soft response to murmurs of the stream below.

The wind the slender aloe bends; the river hums in harmony;
And all these sounds sweet slumber lure, where dreams expire in melody.
'Midst nature's things there is a tongue - the essence of a flow divine:
In vain can mortal lips express a sound more eloquent and fine!

In hopeless love the Mtkvari heaves; the rushing waters swish and hiss;
It cannot reach its loved one's feet, and beats with wrath the precipice.
The fair chinnari from its height in proud and haughty dignity,
Inclines its head and sadly sighs as Mtkvari groans in agony.

As gentle breezes sway the tree, the waters whirled from passions deep
By jealous frenzy rendered white, burst on and lash the rocky steep...
The heart must suffer endless pain if love sincere within it hides,
And if the love thus cherished dear in scorching fires of passion bides!


SKY-BLUE

The azure blue, the heavenly hue,
The first created realm of blue;
And over its radiance divine
My soul does pour its love sublime.

My heart that once with joy did glow
Is plunged in sorrow and in woe,
But yet it thrills and loves anew
To view again the sapphire blue.

I love to gaze on lovely eyes
That swim in azure from the skies;
The heavens lend this color fair,
Arid leave a dream of gladness there.

Enamored of the limpid sky,
My thoughts take wing to regions high,
And in that blue of liquid fire
In raptured ecstasy expire.

When I am dead no tears will flow
Upon my lonely grave below,
But from above the aerial blue
Will scatter over me tears of dew.

The mists about my tomb will wind
A veil of pearl with shadows twined;
But lured by sunbeams from on high
‘Twill melt into the azure sky.


NAPOLEON

Napoleon glanced over France and said:
"What is the result of reign of mine?"
And seeing his glory shed around,
A light cast down upon his mind.

"That is enough" - he uttered
"My dream’s fulfilled: the world is bewildered by my name,
France is flourished by my glory
and foes are crushed for my wondrous fame and story"

"Yet my soul cannot rest in this body!
The Fate is playing with my crown,
And I must praise her to the utmost;
The time is mine and I am her only hope!"

"But, what if the Fate turns back to me,
And crowns with my fame another fellow?
No, I do not believe she can betray me:
She gave me birth and would not sacrifice her Son!

Napoleon cannot tolerate his rivals.
"No matter how powerful or skillful man,
I still cannot learn from him, nor he equals me.
The grave itself would be too small for me if I had a peer!

The years will pass until we comprehend him!
The Death itself reveals his fame:
The smoldering fire and roar of waves
uncovers his fiery soul and boundless heart!



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