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.
Towards The Relation Of Rustaveli’s Poetic Theory To The Classical Tradition
In the Prologue to "The Man in the Panther’s Skin" (MPS) the reasoning about the definition of shairoba / minstrelsy, i.e. poetry begins with the following stanza [see, resp.: 5, 12 / 9, 19 ]:
შაირობა პირველადვე სიბრძნისაა ერთი დარგი,
საღმრთო, საღმრთოდ გასაგონი, მსმენელთათვის დიდი მარგი,
კვლა აქაცა ეამების, ვინცა ისმენს კაცი ვარგი,
გრძელი სიტყვა მოკლედ ითქმის, შაირია ამად კარგი.
That the 12th / 19th stanza just cited is the most important of those reflecting the poetic theory of Rustaveli does not seem to need much discussion. Indeed, in the other, i.e. 20th-24th / 13th-17th stanzas the author of the MPS speaks only about poets of various categories. These are: a veritable poet (lit.: “experienced...”, i.e. well-known “...poet”, / „და გამოსცდის ... მელექსესა“ [see, resp.: 9, 20-21 / 5, 13-14]; a kind of rhymester, who “cannot be called a poet”, / „მოშაირე არა ჰქვიან“ ( 22/15); the poet of the so-called “second minor poem”, / „მეორე ლექსი ცოტაი“ (23 / 16); and the poet of the so-called “third poem”, / „მესამე ლექსი“ (24/17). But the reasoning about the essence of minstrelsy („შაირობა“), the definition of poetical work („შაირი“), the concept of poetry in general is found only once in Rustaveli’s entire poetic theory, precisely in the 19th / 12th stanza. Hence it is obvious, that without comprehension of the essence of the poetic conception reflected in it, it is impossible to understand fully the subsequent strophes, i.e. Rustaveli’s whole poetic theory.
What is the structure of the 19th / 12th stanza? Clearly enough it lists the characteristic features of shairoba / shairi, i.e. poetry. Formally, their number is eight. At first sight, it seems that these features are non-uniform, and hence in the case of a superficial analysis, it is unclear whether they create a single, harmonious concept of poetry or we are dealing with an unsystematic listing of separate features. Thus, for example, poetry is “divine, divinely intelligible”, / „საღმრთო, საღმრთოდ გასაგონი“ (19, 2 / 12, 2), and on the other hand, “a listener will be pleased also here [below]...”, / „კვლა აქაცა ეამების, ვინცა ისმენს კაცი...“ (19, 3 / 12, 3), i.e. it affords pleasure in this world too. An impression of inconsistency is also created by the list under discussion beginning with ethical and philosophical terms (the first five features of poetry, - 19, 1-3 / 12, 1-3), but ending with three terms (19, 4 / 12, 4) of which the first two are doubtless of poetic and aesthetic character - “a long discourse” (lit.: “a long word” / „გრძელი სიტყვა“) and “in few words he utters” (lit.: “is told shortly” / „მოკლედ ითქმის“). The third, and last in order - “the excellence” (lit.: “good” / „კარგი“), i.e. presumably “beauty” seems to be of poetic and aesthetic character too, but in this case it is hard to understand how “good”, i.e. a poetic and aesthetic term sums up a reasoning mainly followed in an ethical and philosophical line. Hence, bearing in mind, in fact, the two-dimensional nature of the reasoning within the stanza 19 / 12, the question arises whether “good” / „კარგი“ too is a term of dual meaning, or if one may put it so, an ambivalent term. I think that after we have an answer to this question, i.e. after full comprehension of the word “good” / „კარგი“, we shall gain an insight into the point of view found in Ristaveli’s poetic thesis, that “shairoba ... shairi (i.e. poetry) is therefore good”, / „შაირობა... შაირია ამად კარგი“ (19, 1...4 / 12, 1...4).
In my view, by this summarizing thesis Rustaveli proclaims his own original standpoint according to which poetry is considered to be goodness, i.e. kindness. In Rustaveli studies attention has not been focused on the possibility of interpreting the “good” / „კარგი“ of the last rhyming word of line 4 of quatrain 19 / 12 as “goodness” / „სიკეთე“. Observation of the cases of the use of “good” / „კარგი“ in the Concordance to the MPS [see 8, p. 158] has shown that, apart from its principal meaning – that of “good” / „კარგი“, the word under discussion in some stanzas (e.g.: 645, 3 / 660, 3; 184, 4 / 183, 4) is used as a term of philosophical and ethical meaning – “goodness”, i.e. “kindness” / „სიკეთე“. However, this is most obvious in the quatrain related to Dionysius the Areopagite (1468 / 1486).
“A man so furious of heart can do nought well” (645, 3), i.e.: “such a hasty man [like you] will not be able to do anything well”, / ,,კარგად ვერას ვერ მოავლენს კაცი აგრე გულფიცხელი” (660, 3), - at first sight, it seems that, according to the context under discussion, the word - „კარგად“ is an adverb and means “well”. However, it is clear at the same time that in this line the word - „კარგად“ / “well” is used not in its principal meaning, as “good” - “well” / „კარგი“ - „კარგად“, i.e. “not bad” – “not badly”, but in the narrow sense, in particular - as “beneficial” / „სასიკეთო“ [cf. 6, p. 198]: such a hasty man will not be able to do anything beneficial, / გულფიცხელი კაცი სასიკეთოს ვერაფერს მოიმოქმედებს.
In my view, the possibility of interpreting the adjective “good” / „კარგი“ as the abstract noun “goodness” / „სიკეთე“ is more obvious in line 4 of stanza 184 / 183: “No man can turn evil to good; none can be born again of himself” (i.e.: “nobody can substitute evil with good (i. e. with goodness), nobody can bring himself into the world anew”, / “ავსა კარგად ვერვინ შეცვლის, თავსა ახლად ვერვინ იშობს”). The context under discussion causes no doubt that „კარგად“ is not the adverb “well”, but noun in the so-called adverbial case, with the meaning of “with goodness” / „სიკეთე-დ“: nobody can substitute evil well / „კარგად“, i.e. with good / „კარგით“ or with goodness / „სიკეთით“.
However, the fact of using “good” / „კარგი“ in the meaning of “goodness”, i.e. “kindness” / „სიკეთე“ is most obvious in the stanza related to Dionysius the Areopagite (1468 / 1486):
This hidden thing Divnos the sage reveals:
God sends (i.e. creates) good (i.e. goodness / kargsa), He creates no evil (i.e.: [and therefore] gives no birth to evil / borotsa),
He shortens the bad to a moment, He renews (? repeats) the good continuosly (? for a long time), (i.e.: [God] minimises evil / avsa, [and] makes goodness / kargsa everlasting),
His perfect self He makes more perfect, He degrades not Himrelf. (i.e.: [God] makes Himself, [which is] supreme goodness / uketessa, flawless, [and] does not make [Himself] flawed).
That in the above quatrain “good” / „კარგი“ means “goodness” / „სიკეთე“ causes no doubt [see 6, p. 430]. It is clear at the same time that in this passage of the poem “good” / „კარგი“ is used in the meaning of “goodness” / „სიკეთე“ not only as an abstract noun but as a philosophical term as well.
Thus, bearing in mind that similarly to the quatrain 1468 / 1486, the quatrain 19 / 12 also contains a discourse of theoretical character, I think that Rustaveli’s concluding thesis - “shairi is therefore good” / „შაირია ამად კარგი“ should be interpreted as – “poetry is, therefore, goodness” (i.e.: “kindness” / „სიკეთე“).
Taking into account the innovative character of Rustaveli’s poetic and aesthetic concept, the discourse carried on towards determining its relation to relevant traditional conceptions of the classical period should, in my opinion, be directed not towards tracing the conjectural sources of Rustaveli’s poetic theory itself but to bringing to light, if one may put it so, the methodological sources [cf. 19, pp. 7-64] of the deductive logic used by the author of the MPS while arguing his original standpoint. Why precisely of the classical period?``` Because, in Christian Georgia of the late Middle Ages or the pre-Renaissance period, similarly to Byzantium and Western Europe, an intensive process was under way towards all-out study and re-interpretation of the classical tradition [cf. 13], which took, as is known, Western Europe, that unlike Georgia and Byzantium had escaped a geopolitical catastrophe, to the Renaissance some two centuries later [cf. 12, pp. 245-377]. As well as from many other standpoints, from the point of view of the extensive knowledge of the classical tradition and consistent considering of it, Rustaveli, along with Dante, was the most distinct poet and thinker of his age, i.e. of the turn of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance [see 19, pp. 87-114, 361-496, 550-786]. But in order to trace the methodological sources of the deductive logic, used by the author of the MPS within his poetic theory, naturally, first the arguments must be brought to light, and hence the deductive logic itself, on the basis of which Rustaveli declares poetry to be goodness.
As I noted at the beginning, in my view, Rustaveli argues his summing up statement - “poetry is therefore goodness”, / „შაირია ამად კარგი“, by means of two differing from each other reasonings, namely ethical and philosophical, on the one hand, and poetic and aesthetic, on the other. The former is extended - with five arguments, the latter - relatively briefer, of two arguments. The summarization of stanza 19 / 12, containing two reasonings differing from each other with one common concluding thesis - Rustavelian definition of poetry, in my view, became possible due to “good” / „კარგი“ being, as it was maintained, an ambivalent word: taking into consideration the overall context of quatrain 19 / 12, it may and should primarily be interpreted from the ethical and philosophical viewpoint, as “goodness”, but at the same time as ... again “goodness”, but this time from the poetic and aesthetic standpoint, i.e. as “good” proper - “beauty”. Bearing the aforementioned in mind, one of the presumable methodological sources of Rustavelian poetic theory is, in my view, Aristotle’s Poetics , in particular its opening and concluding passages.
According to Aristotle, art, in particular poetry, is not goodness . However, the very first sentence of Aristotle’s Poetics, as well as the summarizing passage of the whole treatise, among others, contains the view that one of the principal purposes of the author is to discuss by what artistic devices can a poetic work become “good”, “perfect”, successful”. These two identical views, expressed by the author of Poetics are usually rendered by translators of the treatise into other languages with the abovesaid words or their synonymous terms [see e.g. 2a]. But Aristotle himself, at the beginning of the treatise uses the adverbial form - kalos and at the end toy ey . Thus, while conveying their concept of poetic and aesthetic character, both Aristotle and Rustaveli use words of ambivalent type that may be comprehended in the meaning of “good” both from the poetic and aesthetic points of view, as well as from the ethical and philosophical standpoint. Besides, whereas Rustaveli uses a single but ambivalent word that can be simultaneously interpreted as “good” and “goodness”, Aristotle comprehends “good” as “goodness” through the use of two different, though polysemous, words (kalos - toy ey).
Thus, both from the angle of the so-called short reasoning, as well as from the standpoint of conveying the conclusive statement with an ambivalent word “good” / „კარგი“ - “goodness” / „სიკეთე“ (“kindness“), Aristotle’s Poetics should, in my view, be considered the methodological source of Rustaveli’s poetic theory. As to the five-argument, extended reasoning of ethical and philosophical character, taking into account the rhythmic, semantic and syntactic structure of quatrain 19 / 12, to which it belongs, as I think, it is obvious, that of the five features, only two are of principal, i.e. summarizing character: useful (“margi” – „მარგი“) and pleasant (“eamebis” – „ეამების“). Poetry is “good” (“kargi” - „კარგი“), i.e. “goodness” („სიკეთე“ - “kindness“), because (“amad” - „ამად“) it is simultaneously useful and pleasant. The remaining three features, from the structural point of view, have, if I may put it so, an auxiliary function to play within the entire reasoning, for, on the one hand, they convey separate characteristics of poetry independently, yet at the same time define and argue the “useful” („მარგი“) as well – “poetry is, first of all, a branch of wisdom, // divine, divinely intelligible, very useful for listeners”: clearly enough, Rustaveli, on the one hand, lists the first four qualities of poetry, but, I think, he has a different “aim” too. Namely, not only to mention “useful” („მარგი“) in the list of various qualities, but to explain at the same time why poetry is useful for the listeners.
The abovesaid, in my view, reveals one more methodological source of Rustaveli’s poetic theory - Plato’s Republic, in particular, one universally known passage from its tenth book. The point is that Plato winds up his extensive discourse on the art of poetry with such words: if lovers of poetry proved – even in prose – that poetry is not only pleasant (ἡδεῖα) but useful (ὠφελίμη) as well for the state and its citizens, then Plato would himself bring it back to the state from “exile” (Rep., X, 607d). But of the features, in view of Rustaveli, defining poetry only two are found in these words of Plato: pleasant and useful. Hence, Plato’s Republic may be considered only as one of the methodological sources of Rustavelian definition of poetry.
I believe, in one of Aristotle’s ethical works passages may be detected within which the deductive logic – from the methodological viewpoint - maximally corresponds to the so-called extended reasoning of ethical and philosophical character found in quatrain 19 / 12. The Point is that the purpose of this work of Aristotle was to solve the main ethical and philosophical issue (namely, what the greatest goodness, i.e. happiness is) that in the very first quatrain of Rustaveli’s poetic theory links poetics and aesthetics with ethics and philosophy. This work of Aristotle is Nicomachean Ethics, and like Plato’s Republic, as already established, Rustaveli must have known it, too, well.
In my view, in book VIII of Nicomachean Ethics, which Aristotle, along with book IX, wholly devotes to the determination of the essence of friendship as one of the most important virtues, distinguished from others, in order to give the definition of kind or good friendship – the best variety of friendship – he uses the same deductive method of reasoning, which is found within the poetic theory of Rustaveli as well. I mean that in both cases “good”, i.e. “goodness” / “kindness” is comprehended through “useful” and “pleasant”, actually through their synthesis.
According to Aristotle (NE., VIII) friendship is of three kinds: good or kind, pleasant and useful. The most perfect of these is “good”, this containing the features of the other two extremes. As already said, Rustaveli pronounces poetry too as goodness on the basis of an analogous, namely, of the so-called extended reasoning: shairoba is at the same time useful and pleasant.
But from the methodoligical viewpoint, the similarity between the reasonings of Aristotle and Rustaveli is more far-reaching and is manifested in the use of Aristotle’s ethical principle for determining the virtuous mean by Rustaveli in the process of classifying the poets (quatrains 20-24 / 13-17): according to Aristotle, of the two extremes the pleasant variety of friendship is closer to good friendship, i.e. actually the virtuous mean, while the useful is relatively at a longer distance from it. I think the case is the same with Rustaveli’s poetic theory: of two inferior kinds of poetry, i.e. of two exremes, the one that is “long word”, but is not “told shortly”, i.e. taking into account the general context of the entire poetic theory, is only “useful” (23 / 16), according to Rustaveli, is closer to the “good” poetry (19, 4 / 12, 4) of the “experienced” (i.e. well-known) poet than the one that is told only („ოდენ“) clearly, i.e. in an easily perceptible manner (24, 3 / 17, 3), thus, taking into account the general context of the entire Rustavelian poetic theory, it is said only shortly and hence, it is only pleasant (24, 3 / 17, 3), and therefore, it is not, at the same time, “long word” and “useful”. Thus, unlike Aristotle, “useful” seems to be more valuable to Rustaveli than “pleasant”. Therefore, in his view, less talented or a novice but still epic poets (23 / 16) bear a stronger resemblance to “experienced’, i.e. well-known poet – the creator of “good poetry” (19-21/12-14) than lyric poets (24 / 17).
But, as noted above, in the course of the so-called extended reasoning of ethical and philosophical character found in quatrain 19 / 12 other features of poetry are also listed. In particular, poetry is “good”, i.e. goodness as far as (“ამად”, - 19, 2 / 12, 4), in Rustaveli’s view, it is characterized, according to the order of listing, by the following five features: first of all / „პირველადვე“ (19, 1 / 12, 1), 1) it is fruit of wisdom („სიბრძნისაა ერთი დარგი“ (19, 1 / 12, 1); 2) it is “divine” / „საღმრთო“; 3) it is to be divinely cognized through the mind: “divinely intelligible” „საღმრთოდ გასაგონი“ (19, 2 / 12, 2); 4) it is “very useful for the listeners” / „მსმენელთათვის დიდი მარგი“ (19, 2 / 12, 2); and also / „კვლა“ (19, 3 / 12, 3), 5) it is pleasant (lit.: “it pleases”) “in this world as well, for a person, who is fit to listen to [poetry]” / „კვლა აქაცა ეამების, ვინცა ისმენს კაცი ვარგი“ (19, 3 / 12, 3). Hence, Rustaveli speaks about pleasure experienced by a person, fit / „ვარგი“ for listening to the poetry, i.e. appropriate for its perception.
Thus, I think it is clear, that both poetry as a whole (which is “useful” / “long word” and at the same time, “pleasant” / “shortly told”) and only one of its main characteristics - “pleasant” (“here as well”, i.e. “in this world too”, but for “fit man to listen to”) is defined by Rustaveli through the synthesis of two dissimilar features or principles - actually, of two extremes. The methodological source for such kind of defining, I believe, is again Aristotle’s ethical principle for determining the virtuous mean. I think, Rustaveli’s words - “divinely intelligible” / „საღმრთოდ გასაგონი“ (19, 2 / 12, 2) should be interpreted similarly. In this case, too, synthesis or symphony of two dissimilar principles, in particular, of intellectual activity (broadly comprehended as knowledge) and faith is in evidence [for details, see 20, pp. 170-175]. On the one hand, poetry is a fruit, product of thought, intellect, hence it should be rationalized, i.e. cognized through the mind. On the other hand, poetry is divine, hence it should be rationalized, i.e. cognized divinely. Therefore, according to Rustaveli, poetry is highly useful / „დიდი მარგი“, because it is simultaneously the object, the phenomenon of intellectual activity or cognition, on the one hand, and faith or transcendental perception, on the other, i.e. of two basic, though dissimilar human principles.
However, let us revert to the question under discussion. In quatrain 19/12 Rustaveli argues his conception that poetry is goodness. As I have noted, one of the methodologically possible basic sources of Rustavelian deductive logic, in my view, must be found in Aristotele’s NE. Aristotle formulates his own definition and argumentation of the greatest goodness, i.e. his own definition of perfect human happiness in the concluding 6th-10th, and especially 7th chapter of the conclusive Book X of NE [cf. 13a, p. 689]. At the same time he reasons his own conception of contemplation [cf. 10, p. 32 n. 2], towards which, in my view, he presents five principal arguments.
Aristotle asserts that the greatest goodness or perfect happiness is such ethical or virtuous activity, i.e. life that is the best among man’s possible activities, for 1) it consists in activity in accordance with the best human part, i.e. wisdom or/and intellect; 2) it is divine as it is ruled by intellect or/and wisdom, which is the only divine part of us; 3) it is theoretical life or activity of the intellect, consisting in contemplation, which, for its part (chapter VIII), is characteristic of God, for the activity of God is the activity of contemplation; 4) it causes a pleasure peculiar to itself. According to chapters V and VI of the same Book X, such or highest human pleasure is not bodily pleasure or amusement, but what appears to be pleasant to a virtuous man (cf.: “it pleases in this world as well, a person, who is fit to listen to [poetry]” / „კვლა აქაცა ეამების, ვინცა ისმენს კაცი ვარგი“, - 19,3 / 12,3); 5) it is self-sufficient or it is itself an end and thus, it aims at no end beyond itself. According to Rustaveli, however, goodness or kindness of poetry is conditioned not only by the “pleasant” but by the “useful” as well, which in my view, is a difference of conceptual character in relation to Aristotle’s aesthetic viewpoint.
In particular, for Aristotle theoretical life or activity, consisting in contemplation is self-sufficient or “absolutely useless” (he repeats this view on many occasions), i.e. it has no practical application, yields no useful result and because of this it is the greatest happiness [cf. 25]. It is in relation precisely to this thesis – so essential to Aristotle, but receiving a mixed reception from modern researchers – that a methodological difference takes shape: “divinely intelligible” poetry, according to Rustavelian poetic theory, is highly useful for the listeners. In this respect, Rustaveli’s concept of poetry is, from the methodological standpoint, similar to the Platonic conception of contemplation, which is also orientated to a practical result [cf. 16, p. 167]. But the similarity ends here, for, according to Plato, contemplation is of philosophical character and it ennobles a person, while poetry degrades him morally (Rep., X). In Rustaveli’s view, however, “divine cognition of poetry through mind” is, along with intellectual, an aesthetic phenomenon as well and its practical result - usefulness lies in the fact that through such contemplation, i.e. perception of poetry, man experiences pleasure in this world too. Thus, from the aesthetic standpoint, Rustaveli’s poetic theory comes to the same conclusion to which Aristotelian does, according to which, poetry causes pleasure characteristic of it (Poet.). Yet these two conceptions are not identical: Aristotelian pleasure is cathartic – it is attained through pity and fear, or it is an emotional-sensuous and not intellectual phenomenon (that is why he does not consider it – unlike philosophy – to be the highest good), while Rustavelian pleasure along with aesthetic (“heart-piercing words” / „სიტყვათა გულისა გასაგმირეთა“, - 23, 2 / 16, 2) is, at the same time, intellectual phenomenon, for the listener of poetry experiences pleasure in the process of thinking and cognition too. It is because of this that poetry, according to Rusatveli, is along with poetic and aesthetic, of ethical and philosophical character as well, based, at the same time, upon the, naturally, Christian values.
Finally, the question arises of why Rustaveli uses Aristotle’s ethical conception to argue his own, original concept of poetry. I think, 1) for Rustaveli poetry is not only an aesthetic phenomenon but ethical and philosophical as well, which is seen in the fact that he defines it precisely with the term “good” / „კარგი“ which, along with poetic and aesthetic is a word of ethical and philosophical semantics as well. Thus, the argumentation of such viewpoint should naturally take place with account of Aristotle’s precisely ethical conception as well and not only of aesthetic, the more so that Aristotle himself considers not poetry but philosophy to be the highest good; 2) it transpires that Aristotle’s ethical and aesthetic system – in comparison with Platonic-Neoplatonic – is on the whole more acceptable to Rustaveli – but not wholly. Thus, the author of the poetic theory, found in the MPS’s Prologue, formulates his own aesthetic point of view in the process of internal dialogue with Aristotle (without mentioning his name).
This is how in the very first quatrain, relating to the poetic theory from the Prologue to the MPS’s the classical, traditional conceptions of poetic and aesthetic character, on the one hand, and those of ethical and philosophical, on the other meet, as a result of which, in my view, an absolutely original and innovative artistic and intellectual conception / system, quite different from those just mentioned, and typical of the pre-Renaissance period, is formed, which can be given only one name – Rustavelian.
Abbreviations used in the Paper: