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Akaki Tsereteli

 Poems

About Akaki Tsereteli

TSERETELI, AKAKI (1840-1915). Georgian writer, public figure and benefactor, one of the leaders of national movement in the late 19th century. Tsereteli was born into a prominent noble family in Imereti and was related to King Solomon I of Imereti. Educated at Kutaisi Gymnasium, he continued his studies in St. Petersburg University in 1859-1863. Tsereteli started writing poems early on and, returning to Georgia, he began publishing his poetry and prose as well as publicist works. He joined forces with Ilia Chavchavadze and campaigned against the older generation of Georgian nobles that refused to accept changes. He sought to revive the Georgian culture and language and published a series of articles in the magazine Tsiskari. He co-founded the Society for the Advancement of Learning Among Georgians and the Georgian Drama Society and played an important role in the development of Georgian journalism. He established and edited several popular magazines, including Akakis tviuri krebuli and Khumara. By the 1900s, Tsereteli, together with Ilia Chavchavadze, had become one of the most important leaders of the national movement, known simply as Akaki, and was crucial in reviving the Georgian national consciousness. 

Tsereteli’s reputation as one of the finest Georgian writers is based on the numerous poems and novels he authored throughout his life. Among his major lyrics are Alexandra (1860), Simghera mkis dros, Glekhis aghsareba (1863), Tsitsinatela (1869), Mukhambazi, Aghmart-aghmart, Rom itsode chemi gulis dardebi (1876), Gazapkhuli (1881), Khanjals, Qebata qeba (1882), Amirani (1883), Chaghara (1886), Satrfos, Gantiadi (1892), Tqveni chirime (1905), Momakvdavis fiqrebi (1911). Many of his poems were turned into songs and Suliko (1895) still remains one of the most popular songs in Georgia. Tsereteli’s epic poems include Bagrat didi (1875), Tornike Eristavi (1883), Tamar Tsbieri (1885), Kikolis Naambobi (1889), Patara Kakhi (1890), Natela (1897), and Gamzrdeli (1898). He proved to be an equally talented writer of prose, authoring Bashi-Achuki (1895-1896) and the insightful autobiographical Chemi tavgadasavali (1894-1908).

Tsereteli’s public prominence was fully revealed in 1908 when his 50th jubilee and trip to Racha-Lechkhumi were turned into a national celebration attended by many Georgian writers and public figures and produced the very first Georgian documentary film. 

SALAMURI

O where are you, my sylvan reed,
Whose notes of sadness sweetly ring;
And over the heart of Georgia's son
'Neath northern skies their music fling?

When shepherds play on tnee and send
Your crystal song o'er vale and hill,
Your smiles aspire to heavens blue;
In blackest hell your sobbings thrill.

As soul to soul my thoughts entwine
About your voice and ringing song,
My Georgia's grief and bitter fate
Your sighs recall in grievous throng.

At times the Turks and Tartar hordes
Made Georgia weep and wail in woe;
And even the Scythians, wild and fierce
Profaned its peace with savage blow.

My pipe of slender reed, your voice
Bids my lone heart to sob. Then why
Have I the wish to hear your song
And for my native land to cry?

At times your clear and soothing notes
To rest and peace my soul compel;
Or all my maddening thoughts and dreams
Your flingest down to burn in hell.

In gallant strife against the foe
The Georgian true I then behold:
I hear his cry: "Advance and strike!"
I see his charge, so swift and bold.

Your soothing voice, my sylvan reed,
So murmuring sad, so joyous sweet,
O'erfloods my soul with longings wild,
And makes my heart with gladness beat.

The Georgian soul in you does moan,
You strain the Georgian bosom warm.
And deeds and glories of our past
In fond remembrance round you swarm

But ah, alas, my pipe of reed,
That whistles sweet over dell and lea
Let shepherds only hear your sighs
For now there's none to list to you.



SPRING

The swallow twittered, shrill and gay,
-Arriving from across the main.
"This spring!' 'This spring!" it called to me;
My heart with hope was filled again.

I flung my window open wide;
How changed and fair was all the world!
And cleaving to my throbbing breast,
Delight its rosy wings unfurled.

Spring's fragrance filled the air; and I
Inhaled the sweetness, and was glad.
The future seemed so rosy that
I cried with joy: "O why be sad!"

I will attain my heart's desire
By wintry frosts made cold and drear;
In wedlock will all nature smile,
And Hymen's anthem will I hear.

Sweet is the essence of the rose;
The violet droops before my eye;
The nightingale her lays of love
Pours forth in thrilling melody.



DAWN

In pensive thought the Holy Mount
Upon the star of morn does gaze,
As o'er the valiant hero's grave
The star sheds soft and misty rays.

Here solemn silence reigns save that
The Mtkvari breathes in murmurs light;
The Mountain listens to the stream
As it hums to the sleeping knight.

Mtatsminda to its bosom folds
That tomb illustrious and grand,
And sends St. David fervent prayers
To shield fore'et his native land

O azure sky, O emerald earth,
I hasten to you, native strand;
I come, afflicted; ease my heart
That inly bleeds, O mother-land.

I stand entranced upon the Mount
And feel once more revived and whole.
My bosom swells, and then in song
I pour the worship of my soul.

Exiled from home I wandered on
And wept to live from you apart;
I yearned for you, to you made haste
With ardent soul and eager heart.

As I drew near, your sun and moon
Bid me glad welcome from on high;
The stars seemed conscious of my joy,
And shone the brighter in the sky.

O land of beauty and of song,
Your blossoms droop and withering sigh;
Restore them once again to life,
And dry the tears that blind the eye.

O azure sky, O emerald earth,
My one and only cherished land,
For your I live, for you I'll die,
For you I mourn, O native strand.

Protect and bless me - living, dead;
Refuse me not your sheltering care;
And when I die, of you I beg,
To heed and listen to my prayer:

Let me be buried in a grave
Upon your bosom, native strand,
With your green turf above my breast,
Beneath your skies, O mother-land.


SULIKO

"In vain I sought my loved one’s grave;
Despair plunged me in deepest woe.
Overwhelmed with bursting sobs I cried:
O where are you, my Suliko?"

In solitude upon a bush
A rose In loveliness did grow;
With downcast eyes I softly asked:
"Isn't that you, O Suliko ?"

The flower trembled in assent
As low it bent its lovely bead;
Upon its blushing cheek there shone
Tears that the morning skies had shed.

Midst rustling leaves a nightingale
Was singing to the rose below;
I hailed the bird and gently asked:
"Isn't that you, O Suliko ?"

The songster fluttered nearer to
The rose, and on it pressed a kiss;
Disburdening its soul in song
That breathed of ecstasy and bliss.

A twinkling star shed shimmering light
Upon me in a silver glow;
I turned to it, and whispered low;
"Isn't that you, O Suliko ?"

As I gazed on the star that shone
In light that glimmered bright and clear
A gentle breeze came passing by
And stopped to whisper in my ear.

"What thou dost seek is found at last.
Henceforth your heart but calm will know;
The night will bring you sweet repose.
And lay will chase away your woe.

"Your Suliko was changed into
A nightingale, a star and rose;
Your souls that true love bound as one
To realms divine in heavens rose."

I seek no more my loved one's grave,
No more do I in sorrow weep,
The world no longer hears me sigh;
Nor sees me drowned in anguish deep.

None can express the bliss I feel
To hear the nightingale from far,
To breathe the essence of the rose;
And gaze upon the shining star.

My bosom throbs once more in joy;
No more am I oppressed by woe;
I seek no tomb, for now I see
Thy dwellings three, my Suliko !"



WHO CAN COUNT THE SAND IN OCEANS?

Who can count the sand in oceans,
Or the stars in skies at night?
Who can praise the sons of Georgia
Men who fought for Georgia's right?
Wonder speaks of deeds exalted
In a loud and ringing cry,
Of the grace of God and blessings
Shed upon our land from high.
Gone is all that former glory
Relics of it ever glow
In the colors of the rainbow,
Pouring light on us below.
A symbol chaste of Kingdoms seven,
Shining forth in colors bright,
Whispering: Georgia still is sleeping
For it waits the dawn of light"



SONG OF NATELA

I gently strung my chonguri,
And tuned its chords with softness low,
Till every string rang harmony...
Odela-dela-delao!

It hums; then swells. O chonguri,
Your sounds delightful over me flow
In unison of melody…
Odela-dela-delao!

But if a chord were rent in twain,
Its song would sink to hummings low,
So, quickly string the chord again. . .
Odela-dela-delao!

The chonguri is Georgia fair;
The chords whose strains to anthems grow
Are we - her sons, her love and care...
Odela-dela-delao!

The broken chords turned glory bright
To darkness and to endless woe
Alas! can we sing in the night?
Odela-dela-delao!

The tiny ants together cling
In unity through weal or woe;
Then, why do we divided sing?
Odela-dela-delao!

A throne or us is unity;
A hangman’s halter for the foe! -
And while be sings: "O woe is me!"
We'll sing: "Odela-delao".

I bend my head as solitude
And sorrow bid my tears to flow;
My song is done; the chords are mute...
Odela-dela-delao!



GAMZRDELI

A tiny hut that seems to be
From far away a swallows nest
Stands high upon a mountain steep;
And nestles closely to its breast.

Though frosts may bite and sunbeams scorch,
And thunders roar or lightning flash,
The hut stands sheltered midst the clouds
Above the tempests' rage and crash.

But when the moon sheds all her silver,
Or morning stains the skies in rose,
The hut looks down on fields and valleys
That lie below in sweet repose.

The little hut was made of twigs,
That hand and love ha4 rudely tied;
Though simple was its modest guise,
With palaces of gold it vied.

Before the rustic little bower
A steep and winding pathway lay;
And only one who knows no fear
Would dare to tread that narrow way;

Or one who rides a sprightly horse,
A well-breathed one of mountain breed,
As hot as fire, as light as wind,
Unmatched for strength and lightning speed.

Who bides within that distant hut?
Whose heart thrills there in happiness?
Perhaps that heart but anguish knows
Midst nature's wondrous loveliness.

A handsome youth, courageous, true,
A mountaineer, Abkhazi's son;
Content with what life gave to him,
All worldly wealth and pomp he shunned

A trusty gun and sword be
A sprightly horse and nabadi;
Can man desire for more when bred
A mountaineer, and brave, and free?...

One thing there is, and that is love;
The balm that soothes all wounds of life.
It s the light that guides us in
This world of troubles and of strife.

Even this did fate bestow on him;
And made him burn in gentle fires.
Love filled his soul with ecstasy,
And thrilled his heart with sweet desires.

‘Twas but a month that to a maiden
In happy wedlock he was tied.
His bride be deemed in worth the equal
To all beneath the heavens wide.

His mate was Nazibrola called;
Mingrelia's daughter; her sweetest flower;
She was a star rent from the skies,
An aloe fair from Eden's bower,

As radiant as a rose was she,
As gentle as a violet blue;
Her bosom thrilled to feel the glow
Of virgin love, sincere and true.

To Nazibrola was her mate
The Sin that over the world did shine.
Her heart and soul with his entwined
Like clinging tendrils round a vine.

O happy they whose lives are linked
In sympathy or mutual love,
Whose hearts and thoughts and being blend,
Whose pledge on earth is sealed above.

Yet in this world who e'er has known
But joy and lasting happiness?
Gall mixed with honey, tears with smiles
Is all man knows of happiness...

II

The slumbr’ing world is wrapt in darkness,
Deep lowering hang the wrathful skies.
So dreadful is the raging tempest
That even the beast in terror cries.

The winds in whistling fury blow;
The rain in hissing deluge pours;
The lightning glares; in chasms dark
The thunder bursts and deaf'ning roars.

Bell flings its madness from below;
And all the world in terror groans
Even the devil seeks a place
Of shelter as he shiv'ring moans.

The tempest rages wilder still;
Upon the world its fury wreaks...
But lo! before the Abkhazi's door
A stranger stands and refuge seeks.

He knocked upon the door and called:
Is none within to shelter here
My horse and me, a God-send guest,
From such a night of hell-wrought fear?"

The Abkhazi thought: "who can it be?
Who dared to come in this downpour?7'
He stirred and lit anew the fire;
Then opened wide the locked door.

He led the guest into the room,
Bedrenched and tired, with welcome meet,
And there before a cheerful fire
He offered him a three-legged seat.

As he his nabadi untied,
The stranger uttered not a word;
His face a kabalakhi hid;
And chuckling laughter soft was heard.

He placed his cloak in a corner dark;
In movements slow removed his hood,
Then turning suddenly about
Before the youth he smiling stood.

"O honored host!' he laughing said,
"In vain I tried in sport to jest.
You know me not, or aye perchance
My visit late has vexed your breast?"

:Ah, Sapar-beg, I welcome you
And glad I am to see you here.
Your mother's breast did nurture me;
So welcome, welcome, brother dear"

He clasped him in a warm embrace,
And kissed him with affection true;
Then went to wake his wife that she
Might welcome Sapar as was due,

He begged her rise and tend the guest,
Who tired before the fire lay,
To do the honors of their home,
And every courtesy to pay.

"I thank you, Batu," Sapar said
"No food nor rest of you I crave.
I feel but hunger of the mind,
And madd’ing wishes make me rave

Altow me, Batn, to relate
The cause of all my misery,
And why in spite of storms I roam
With tempests for my company.

'You know the youth named Almaskhiti;
Courageous is he, bold and gay;
And priceless is the value of
His gun, his sword, or steed of gray.

"A brave and handsome youth is he,
Of stately mould and manly mien;
When riding on his matchless steed
He flies like lightning o'er the green.

"By all is Almaskhiti praised;
Where'er he goes - a welcome guest.
His manly beauty kindles love
In every maiden's throbbing breast.

"But one there is, Zia-Khanoum named;
Indifferent to his charms is she;
Yet well she knows that Almaskiti
Will never to her bend his knee.

Admired by all is Zia-Khanoum;
Renowned for loveliness and grace.
And many a heart is captive held
By her sweet form and beauteous face.

"But like the moon Zia-Khanoum sheds
A cold though splendid silvery light
Which lures all souls and makes them writhe
In thralls of anguish and delight.

"She said to me: ‘If in your heart
There is of love a single ray,
Then bring to me within three days
Almaskhiti’s dappled gray'.

"His horse will Almaskhiti yield
To none beneath the spacious skies;
And who ever tries to steal the horse
In deadly combat he defies.

"But I must take the horse from him,
And with it to my lady ride,
Ev'n though I know this paltry act
Befits no honest man of pride.

In silence Batu heard the tale;
And long he sat in troubled thought
For Sapar's words distressed his soul
And to his mind misgivings brought.

"To hear your words brings pain,' he said,
This deed I deem an act of shame,
Yet if true love burns in your heart,
And all your thoughts and feelings claim,

"Then you must serve your lady love,
And every wish of hers fulfill;
To do the utmost that you can,
And show true valor and good will.

"All this, my Sapar, you know well,
True dignity is yours by right;
As firm as rock and fearless ever
You never yielded in a fight.

"And victory never can be attained
With but a fearless arm and heart;
The truest valor, I esteem,
Is heedfulness and wisdom's art.

"But why this haste, now, Sapar mine?
It's true your eyes are sharp, yet stay,
You are a stranger to this place
And in the dark may lose your way.

"Entrust me to keep firm your pledge,
And in your stead fulfill the deed.
In token of our friendship dear,
I’d rather die than lose the steed.

"So rest a bit while I am gone;
Sleep peacefully before the fire.
And if by fate I'm not betrayed,
A payment from you I'll require."

He dressed and opened wide the door;
Then rushed where rain like torrents poured
The flashing lightning lit his way
As whirling winds with thunders roared.

III

The dawn has chased away the storm;
Serene and lovely is the morn.
Lo! Batu leads the stolen horse
To Sapar-beg, his brother sworn.

He ties the steed and hurries in
The hut with stealthy footsteps light.
The guest wrapped ill a cloak is seen
Asleep before the embers bright.

He passes Sapar by and goes
To his beloved slumb'ring wife
Whom he loves more than all the world;
For whom he'd gladly yield his life.

He thought: "O let me gaze but once
On Nazibrola in her sleep,
Ev'n though I know her beauty will
Like fires through all my body sweep."

He steps into the inner room.
What makes him start confusedly?
He sees his Nazibrola weep
And moan in silent agony!

She bent her head against the wall
And tore her cheeks and loosened hair;
The bedding in disorder thrown
Her husband sees in wild despair

His glance divined the awful truth,
And thunderstruck he seemed by woe
Overcome, bestunned, and rendered mute,
He sank beneath the crushing blow.

God knows how long he speechless stared
Upon his loved one's anguish dire...
At length his passions be allayed,
And reason overcame his ire.

Then towards his bride he nearer drew
And whispered "Dearest, do not weep;
Forget, my love. what you have seen;
'Twas but a nightmare in your sleep.

"The hand of fate is ever over us;
No destined ill can mortal shun;
None call avoid the wrath of heaven
So why complain? God's will be done!

"Cast from your mind this fantasy;
This evil dream, O dearest mine.
Our love gleams bright a torch on high,
In soft resplendent light divine."

He wrapped her in a fond embrace,
And kissed away each falling tear;
With soft caresses, gentle words,
He soothed her agony and fear.

With heavy steps he went once more
Into the room where Sapar lay.
"You've had enough of rest," he called
"Awake, it's time to go away."

The guest sprang up and trembling stood
Before his host, abashed and pale;
But when he saw a gentle smile
The handsome face of Batti veil,

He wond'ring thought: O thanked be God!
It seems he knows not of the deed,
Or else his sword or bullet would
Have pierced my guilty heart, indeed.

"And she whom I have sinned against
Forebears to tell my grievous shame;
So who can judge or ever condemn
The act that secrecy does claim?'

Then to his kinsman turned and said:
"You smile and seem to be content
Have you fulfilled the promised pledge
That nigh my pride in pieces rent?'

"The errand’s done. The steed is here,
And time to leave, my Sapar, too.
Forgive me if the cheer I give
Befits not such a man as you.

They whiled away the time in talk,
While Batu served his kinsman, lest
He turn aside from honor and
Forget the reverence due a guest.

His horse he saddled for the guest;
The stolen one himself did ride;
Then spurring on the steeds they dashed
Like lightning down the mountain side.

With crackling whips and trampling loud,
They bounded down the narrow path,
With unabated speed and zeal,
And gallop breathing fire and wrath.

As near a field the riders came
The Abkhazi sudden drew his rein,
His lowering eyes with fire were filled,
His voice with bitterness and pain.

"Sapar-beg! You traitor black!
Perfidious is your friendship sworn!
From this day forth let hatred build
Between us mounts of briar and thorn.

"Be silent, wretch! There are some sins
Which speechless awe can best give tongue-
So black that even law forebears
To pardon or forgive the wrong.

"Begone! but know if e'er you cross
My way when in a bitter mood,
That passion-tossed I may forget
Myself and spill your guilty blood."

Re sudden words made Sap'at start,
And from his bosom burst a groan',
Overwhelmed by shame and pale as death,
He seemed to stiffen into stone.

"I stand before you, shamed and grieved;
At your disposal is my life.
Destroy me! slay me! do your will.
My breast is ready for your knife.

"My sin is great; my life, a woe;
So let me find relief in death,
And there within a grave to hide
My wretched life and anguished breath.

"Alas, my bullet will not pierce
Your heart unworthy and defiled,
For by my mother were you nursed;
By her who loved you as her child.

"That what was pure and chaste you have killed
The blessing sent from heavens high;
The thought will torture and torment;
So, more than this you cannot die

"Now go! Farewell! but stay, give heed!
And listen to me ere you go;
One thing you must fulfill for me;
That when you come to Khabardo.

"Go straight to him, who reared and loved you;
Confess your Sin and let him know
How you have brought our happy friendship
Eternal doom and lasting woe."

Down from the dappled steed he sprang,
And to the other gave the rein.
Then bent his head and turned about,
And staggered up the mount again.

IV

Not for his noble name or rank,
Nor for his wealth, nor deeds of might,
But Haji-Iusub was renowned
For knowledge great and wisdom bright.

A wished-for guest where'er he went
He shared the people's joy or woe.
A Mohammedan true, whose faith
Like heaven's balm from him did flow.

He knew of lands beyond the seas,
Of all the wonders beneath the sky.
Though aged he had a stately form,
An arm of iron and eagle's eye.

'Twas he who taught the youth to tread
The path of glory and of fame,
To love and serve their native land,
To cherish ever an honored name.

Thus Sapar was by Haji-Iusub
Taught wisdom deep and honor's worth.
But say, call training mould the being,
By nature base, though high of birth?

Thus he who had God's law profaned,
And stained the purity of truth,
Sought Haji-Iusub, his trusty guide,
The wise instructor of his youth.

As Sapar-beg told Haji-Iusub
The story of his infamy,
His head was bent in shame and grief,
And tears streamed from his downcast eye

Stone-still did Haji-Iusub sit
Astonished at the shameful tale.
The words that fell from Sapar's lips
Were piercing pangs that left him pale.

With sorrowing eyes and heaving sighs,
He asked. "What did the husband say?'
"He willingly forgave the wrong,
And bade me go from him away;

"However he said before I came:
To him who brought you up relate
How you have broken honor's ties,
And say,- his prompt response I wait!"

"Distressed am I to bear your words;
And humbled low I am by fate.
For honor's sake I must revenge
The wrong done Batu and his mate."

Then slowly on one upraised knee
He placed with care his loaded gun;
Ten aimed at Sapar-beg whom he
Had reared, and loved more than a son

"O Sapar-beg," he gravely said,
"Unworthy even for death are you.
'Tis I who am unfit to live
For bringing up a man like you"

A sudden flash... a bursting shot...
A bullet pierce through temples gray...
And on the ground in wreaths of smoke
Haji-Iusub lifeless lay. 

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