The Kartvelologist

The Kartvelologist” is a bilingual (Georgian and English) peer-reviewed, academic journal, covering all spheres of Kartvelological scholarship. Along with introducing scholarly novelties in Georgian Studies, it aims at popularization of essays of Georgian researchers on the international level and diffusion of foreign Kartvelological scholarship in Georgian scholarly circles.

“The Kartvelologist” issues both in printed and electronic form. In 1993-2009 it came out only in printed form (#1-15). The publisher is the “Centre for Kartvelian Studies” (TSU), financially supported by the “Fund of the Kartvelological School”. In 2011-2013 the journal is financed by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation.

 Natia Sikharulidze

Literary Parallels: Galaktion Tabidze and Henry Longfellow


Galaktion Tabidze (1891-1959) is the greatest Georgian lyricist. Two reforms of Georgian poetry are linked with his name. Galaktion’s role in the history of Georgian literature is as significant as that of the best representatives of symbolism in Europe and Russia. Early in the 20th century creatively conceptualizing the achievements of the new poetry, Galaktion blended the peculiarities of European culture with national traditions; as a result Georgian poetry entered the general cultural area.

There are two mutually opposed views regarding the early poetry of Galaktion Tabidze. According to the traditional view, the 1908-1914 periods are that of his literary apprenticeship [1, p.111]. His lyrics of the cited period are imprinted with stylistic diversity, subjected to the inertia of 19th century poetry [7, p.13].

According to another view, Galaktion’s early lyrics is a special stage in his creative work - judging by his first book he is an accomplished poet with a definite world view and style [2, p. 77], accordingly, 1908-1914 was the road of Galaktion to “Artistic Flowers” [3, p. 319].

Regrettably, the majority of the researchers that speak of Galaktion as an imitator restrict themselves to citing only separate lines.

The present paper discusses those works of Galaktion that evince affinity with the poetry of the popular American romantic writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), and the character of Galaktion’s relationship to the well-known works of the cited author.

“…once, somewhere, in solitude” and “The Arrow and the Song”
In a poem of Galaktion, without a title (“…once, somewhere, in solitude”) several lines are reminiscent of Longfellow’s poem: in both cases the lyrical character finds the lost song in the heart of a friend:

“Time passed, I forgot
The song said somewhere, once,
Until I found it in the heart of a friend
Deeply woven and preserved.” [5, p.126]
“And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.” [11, p. 68]

This resemblance did not remain unnoticed. I. Kenchoshvili pointed to the link between the poems. “G. Tabidze’s “Song” (“... once, somewhere…”, 1911) is a variation of Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and the Song”, - the researcher writes [6, p. 281].

If we share the view regarding the apprentice character of Galaktion’s early poetry, his poem “…once, somewhere, in solitude”, dated in 1911, may be taken for a variation of Longfellow’s poem. However, it would be right first to compare these two works.

As is known, Galaktion did not know English. “The Arrow and the Song” was translated into Georgian only in the second half of the 20th century. Presumably, the poet must have familiarized himself with the Russian translation of Longfellow’s poem. “The Arrow and The Song” was translated into Russian in the 19th century, while early in the 20th century numerous Russian translations were available. Chronologically closest to Galaktion’s work is A. Miloradovich’s translation of “The Arrow and The Song” (,,Сказки, переводы и стихотворения”, 1904).

In comparing the poems of Longfellow and Tabidze, a significant difference in content between them claims attention. “The Arrow and the Song” comprises three stanzas: in the first and second stanzas the lyrical character tells us about the loss of the arrow and the song, and in the third about finding them:

“I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.“ [11,p. 68].

Nothing is said in Galaktion’s poem about the arrow. He concretizes the situation in which the lyrical character found the song ( “Once, when I was travelling on the road / I heard my own sorrow…”), and which is most important, the content of the “forgotten” song is disclosed: “My song was sobbing / the lyre groaned the solitude of the soul”, - the poet writes. It is the solitude of the soul, the motif of loneliness that differs Galaktion’s poem from that of Longfellow.

In Galaktion’s poem the lyrical character discloses the reason of spiritual solitude. It is “belated love”:

“And I cannot forget the image of the maiden
Somewhere, once dreamt in thought,
Then come true in reality,
But… rather belated.’’ [5, p.126]

The theme of belated love, as well as that of spiritual solitude, links this work to Galaktion’s early lyrics. Let us recall, for that matter, “I Curse Love”, in which the feeling of spiritual solitude is caused by love. The lyrical character curses love, because “now it is late” and “neither the soul nor heart is capable of such love…”

It should also be foreseen that the motif of forgetting (or on the contrary, hearing) of a “sad”, pensive song repeats often in Galaktion’s works (“To a Friend”, “The Word of the Poet”, “Love from Afar”, “On the Turf). From this standpoint too, “…once, somewhere, in solitude” is closely connected with Tabidze’s early lyrics.

Galaktion’s attention seems to have been attracted by the last phrase of Longfellow’s work (“And the song, from beginning to end/I found again in the heart of a friend”). He repeated these lines in his poem. But the resemblance between the work is limited only to this. The Georgian poet places the words of the American writer in a different context, characteristic of his own lyrics, turning them into an element of his own poetic system. Obviously, Galaktion was familiar with this poem by Longfellow, and it gave an impulse to the Georgian poet. Yet because of this “…once, somewhere, in solitude” cannot be considered a mere variation of Longfellow’s work.

“The Autumn Day” And “The Rainy Day”
“The Autumn Day” is considered one of the best specimens of Galaktion’s early lyrics. Akaki Khintibidze considered this poem to be a first-rate work of the 1914 collection (8, 188), while Revaz Tvaradze noted that the mood and images of “The Autumn Day” were unexpected for Georgian poetry of the twentieth century (4, 109).

The impressive force of the poem will probably not fade if I say that, in my observation, it evinces some closeness to Longfellow’s “The Rainy Day”. Both poems begin with the description of an almost same “dreary” day:

“The Autumn Day”:

The autumn day, the autumn day!
A day sad day and sapped of strength;
A dark shadow covers the sky
The robbed forest sways
The autumn day, the autumn day!

The leaves of the trees keep falling,
Turned yellow, withered prematurely;
It will blow with anger, the wind will blow,
The field has turned yellow, the sward has turned yellow…
he leaves of the trees keep falling. [5, 136]

“The Rainy Day”:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary. [11, 16]

Apart from landscape, these poems have other things in common as well: the lyrical character with Galaktion, as well as with Longfellow, is sorry for the vanished, lost dream (hopes) (“The pure dream of my soul has vanished”; “the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast”), and despite sadness, both try to calm themselves (“Be calm, heart”; “Be still, sad heart!”).

Sad mood connected with autumn is a widespread motif in lyrics and, were it not for other circumstances, talking of the resemblance of the poems according to this motif alone would not be convincing. Especially noteworthy in determining the interrelationship is, I believe, the sameness of the structure of stanzas. Both poems are composed of five-line stanzas. This variety of stanza, barring the classic iambic and mukhambazi forms, is hardly characteristic of Georgian poetry.

The link between the systems of rhyming should also be taken into account; to be sure, the aabba arrangement of Longfellow’s work is not repeated exactly by Galaktion, but the peculiarity characteristic of “The Rainy Day” is preserved: in each stanza three lines are interrhymed, while the remaining two have a different rhyme. A. Khintibidze notes that this combination of the rhymes of a five-line stanza essentially differs from the rhyme combinations of traditional five-line stanzas [9, 71].

The same principle of the use of refrain is also highly important: with Longfellow all stanzas of the poem begin and end similar lines, the first line of the third stanza being the only exception. The first and second stanzas of “The Autumn Day” have a similar structure.

When discussing the relationship of other works of Galaktion and Longfellow (“…once, somewhere, in solitude” and “The Arrow and The Song”), I supposed that the Georgian poet must have acquainted himself with the works of the American writer through the book of A. Miloradovich (”Сказки, переводы и стихотворения”, 1904). “The Rainy Day” appears in the cited collection:

“The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! And cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is a common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.” [11, 16]

Taking all this into consideration, it may be said that a trace of an impression received from “The Rainy Day” is clearly seen in Galaktion’s poem. However, apart from resemblance, there is a considerable difference in content between the poems: the “mysterious sensation”, “inexpressible relief” of Galaktion’s lyrical character are unknown to the work of the American poet.

“I am full of some mysterious sensation,
I am fascinated by an inexpressible relief.
What is it – a misfortune
Caused by happiness
Or ill-fatedness caused by bitterness and passion?” [5, 136]

In each poem sad mood has differing causes: in Longfellow’s work cold and dark times, with Galaktion – disillusionment caused by love. Accordingly, both lyrical characters calm themselves in different ways: one takes comfort in the fact that all are suffering around him, and the other with the hope of the return of the vanished passion and love:

“Be calm, heart, you’ll love
Someone in this world… calm, heart!
The joyless days will go away,
The vanished passion will rise again,
My dream and love!” [5, 137]

Galaktion names the poem “The Autumn Day”, which is not only a mere indication of the season of the year. Through this title the poet brings it close to his other works on the autumn theme. It is significant also that in Galaktion’s early lyrics (“The Tender Autumn is Coming”, “The Horizon is Swaying Slightly”) the recalling or expectation of “the tender, sweet dream” of a love scene once are connected with an autumn landscape, “cold of wilting”.

Thus, Galaktion retains the mood of “The Rainy Day” and the peculiarities of form, but the cause of this mood and the principle of the use of form elements are altered. I believe, in this case, the difference in the semantic content is more essential: as a result of introducing a love motif against the backdrop of a similar landscape, “The Autumn Day” deviates from the sphere of the problems of Longfellow’s poem, naturally finding its place among Galaktion’s works created on the theme of love.

It must be said by way of conclusion that such typological relation – both with Georgian and foreign authors – constitutes one of the noteworthy aspects of Galaktion Tabidze’s early works. Frequently, the poet creates a new work by the impression received from a poem he has read. The new work is related to the literary source, yet it is an independent poetic text. In Galaktion Studies this fact is – on the basis of relevant argumentation – evaluated as transformation of traditional material, effected at different degrees: at times it is manifested in a re-evaluation of a poetic image or local semantic opposition, sometimes it assumes the shape of difference of conceptions (3, 484). I think, the above analysis of Galaktion’s relation to Longfellow is one more proof of this point of view.

1. Asatiani, G., "The Poetics of Galaktion Tabidze (period of symbolism)": Tsiskari, 8, 1967. (in Georgian)
2. Doiashvili, T., "At the Source of Galaktion’s Poetics (metrics, rhyme, strophes)": Coll. Papers “Chashniki”. Tbilisi, 1984. (in Georgian)
3. Doiashvili, T., The Road to “Artistic Flowers”: Literaturuli Dziebani, XXVI, 2005. (in Georgian)
4. Tvaradze, R., Legend of the Life of Galaktion. Tbilisi, 2000. (in Georgian)
5. Tabidze, G., Works in 12 Volumes. v. I, Tbilisi, 1966. (in Georgian)
6. Georgian Soviet Encyclopedia. v. VI, Tbilisi, 1981. (in Georgian)
7. Chkhenkeli, T., Letters. Tbilisi, 1972. (in Georgian)
8. Khintibidze, A., Galaktion or the Blue Horns. Tbilisi, 1992. (in Georgian)
9. Khintibidze, A., Galaktion’s Poetics. Tbilisi, 1987. (in Georgian)
10. Милорадович, А., Сказки, переводы и стихотворения. 1904. (in Russian)
11. Longfellow, H.W., The Complete Poetical Works. Boston: Mifflin, 1911. (in Georgian)