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

Stormy Weather by Galaktion Tabidze  and William Tell by Friedrich Schiller


Part of Galaktion Tabidze’s poetic work was composed through the impressions and inspirations which the poet received while reading a certain author. “Galaktion himself was the source of inspiration for many poets. However, not infrequently, he too welcomed the creative sparks from other writers,“ argues Teimuraz Doiashvili, a literary critic [1, p. 148].

Sometimes the poet explicitly points to the source he got the inspiration from and in most cases such references are preserved in his manuscripts. Certainly not all the notes made on the original manuscript are equally significant but each reference of this kind that has survived in a manuscript deserves special attention.

The collection of Galaktion Tabidze’s works, consisting of twelve volumes, fails to depict a complete picture of his marginal notes and thus makes it difficult to perceive clearly what was happening in the creative laboratory of the poet.
A recent study of Galaktion Tabidze’s manuscripts yielded several interesting facts. There were cases when we found out about the sources of the poet’s inspiration in his marginal notes.

Our article deals with one such case.

* * *
The poem by the title Stormy Weather is included in the first volume of the above mentioned collection of Galaktion Tabidze’s works. The poem in question was first published in 1940 although the author himself dates it back to 1916. The editors shared his approach and this poem, together with other pre-1917 poetic works by Tabidze, became part of the first volume of the above-mentioned edition.

Two author manuscripts of the poem have survived to the present day. One of them (kept in the Galaktion Tabidze fund, N 1572) reveals some alterations while the other one is presented without any changes from the author.

According to the scholarly edition the poem title in the first version of the manuscript is entitled William Tell and is followed by the subtitle The Fourth Praise [2, p. 489].

Having studied Galaktion Tabidze’s manuscript I found out that the information provided by the editors’ commentary of the scholarly edition was not accurate since the words William Tell. Act Four written instead of the title at the top of the manuscript were crossed out by the author himself.

However, this is not the main issue. The problem is that there is no reference to the connection indicated between Stormy Weather by Tabidze and Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell in the commentary accompanying the poem.

After studying the poem it became obvious that Tabidze’s manuscript contains the reference to the inspirational source of the Georgian poet; namely, to the very first scene of William Tell, Act Four, by Friedrich Schiller where a severe thunderstorm is described. It depicts the stormy weather with the lake growing tempestuous, the thunder roaring together with the lightning flashes and a heavy hail.

Galaktion Tabidze’s poem also portrays stormy weather with frighteningly rising waves and a gale, the darkly overcast sky, tall pines as they moan while being broken by the hurricane, the moon’s reflection caught in the leaden muddy water.

While comparing the Georgian poem with the specific episode from William Tell, one circumstance attracted my attention: Schiller does not describe the stormy weather from the author’s perspective but the reader learns about it from the characters. It is not possible that the stormy weather thus represented in the dialogue could have inspired Galaktion Tabidze.

While exploring, however, it became obvious that there may have been a deeper bond between the two texts than suggested by the first reading…To define the type of relationship between the two pieces of writing it was necessary to analyse the whole content of Schiller’s drama and determine the significance that the stormy weather, depicted at the beginning of Act Four, bore.

The alternation of sunny and stormy weather bears a great significance in the plot development of William Tell. The main protagonist makes his first appearance against the background of the raging stormy weather. William Tell braves the tempestuous waves, the storm and safely steers the boat to the other side of the lake and thus rescues the man who flees his adversaries while defending the honor of his family. This episode clearly demonstrates William Tell’s remarkable physical strength and courage against the stormy weather.

As for the scene of the stormy weather in Act Four it is not merely a depiction of the stormy weather.

According to the plot, Gessler, the Governor of the Swiss cantons, forces William to shoot an apple from Tell’s own son’s head or both father and son are to die. William shoots the apple with his arrow without harming his son. However, at Gessler’s command William Tell is still captured and taken aboard a boat in order to be moved to prison. At this very time the storm breaks out.

Another character of the play, a fisherman gets greatly upset when hearing this story. He thinks that even nature has revolted against such injustice to force the father to risk his son’s life. The fisherman considers the stormy weather as a divine retribution and he wishes the storm would get worse and fiercer. This is how he addresses the storm:

“Rage on, ye winds! Ye lightnings, flash your fires!
Burst, ye swollen clouds! Ye cataracts of Heaven
descend, and drown the country! In the germ
destroy the generations yet unborn!
Ye savage elements, be lords of all!
To level at the head of his own child!
…Never had father such command before.
And shall not Nature, rising in wild wrath,
revolt against the deed?” [3, p. 120].

Careful exploration of the poem by Galaktion Tabidze proves that it does not depict only bad weather but the poem also begins with the phrases full of apprehension:

“WPA horrible waves,
What a horrible gale…” [2, p. 355].

Both the portrayal of the stormy weather – the overcast sky wrapped in black, two pines creaking atbeing broken by the storm, a desolate house lit by the mournful moon and the wording that the poet employs – a captive, mournful, black attire, squalor, decayed, desolate, leaden (used twice) suggest something ominous:

“...The sky too is wrapped in black,
leaden clouds set in rows.
The tall pine is creaking on the shore
as it is broken down.
The lightning is here to splash again
and the thunder is ready for another lightning bolt.
The moon, the captive of the leaden pond,
now and again shines through
among the clouds.
And then it lights up
the abandoned house,
desolate and decayed,
left withouta yard or trees…” [2, pp. 355-356].

Like the fisherman from the German play, Galaktion Tabidze’s lyrical hero also wished the stormy weather would get fiercer (“The lightning is here to splash again”) as he also thinks it is a divine retribution (“The sky shoots lightnings of wrath…”).

William Tell goes back to the shore to the fisherman’s hut through the untrodden paths and steep, hazardous rocky cliffs; as for the lyrical hero in Tabidze’s poem, when seeing the small house he says: “I, a stranger came here, through the mountains and ravines”…

Schiller’s drama is dedicated to the struggle against tyranny and deals with the essential issues of freedom and violence.

The questions that arise are the following: when and under what circumstances was Galaktion Tabidze influenced by this work of Schiller and what are the issues it deals with? When was Tabidze’s Stormy Weather written?

As I have already mentioned, the poem dates back to 1916. Yet, it was first published in 1940. The manuscript of the first draft of Stormy Weather is preserved in the poet’s sketchbook of 1935-1940. Thus it will be more trustworthy to assert that the poem was written during this period.

Another entry into this sketchbook made by the poet on the next page of the manuscript B speaks in favour of our supposition: “1937. August 27. There was a heavy hail in Tbilisi that lasted nearly 10 seconds. Hailstones were large, like walnuts and it was hailing very hard. I was standing on the balcony and thought that the hailstones that were blasted onto the windowpanes would smash them completely”.
With reference to Schiller’s work, Stormy Weather can be interpreted as an allegory. Galaktion Tabidze points to the tyranny, the cruelty of people and the divine retribution. It can be said that Stormy Weather is the poet’s evaluation of the 30s of the 20th Century. When we look at the poem from this viewpoint the reason why the poet included Stormy Weather in the separate section of Volume III entitled From the Old Motives, published in 1940 becomes obvious. When his Selected Poems came out in 1954, Tabidze must have indicated a fictional date – the year of 1916 as the time when the poem was composed.

Finally, we believe that the endings of both pieces of writing are very significant and meaningful; in Schiller’s drama evil gets punished, and Tabidze’s poem ends on the note that suggests eternity of the stormy weather:

“The second pine is creaking
on the shore
as it is being broken down.
The sky shoots
the lightning of wrath.
The gale is still roaring” [2, p. 355].

Thus, to conclude, our research revealed that Stormy Weather by Galaktion Tabidze was written as a result of the inspiration sparked from reading Schiller’s drama. Understanding the main message of William Tell as a primary source helps us to analise and appreciate the deeper layers of the Georgian poet’s work.

1. Doiashvili, T., With Tears and Smiles, Publishing House “Sitkva”, Tbilisi 2013 / დოიაშვილი, თ., მოტირალ-მოცინარი. გამომც. „სიტყვა“, თბილისი 2013.
2. Tabidze, G., Works in twelve volumes; Volume I. Publishing House “Sabchota Saqartvelo”, Tbilisi 1966 / ტაბიძე, გ., თხზულებანი თორმეტ ტომად. ტ. I. გამომც. “საბჭოთა საქართველო“, თბილისი 1966.
3. Friedrich von Schiller, Wilhelm Tell. Translator: Theodore
4. Martin.

• The manuscripts mentioned in our article are kept in the Galaktion Tabidze section of Giorgi Leonidze State Museum of Georgian literature.