The pale light of the full moon
Was streaming on the fatherland
And its white ray among the mountains
Hovered in deep blue space.
Nowhere a sound, nowhere a cry
Nothing born of parents stirred
Save sometimes crying in pain
Some Georgian sobbing in his sleep was heard.
Again alone… and the mountain’s shade
Caressed my native land in sleep
Still sleep O God! Sleep, always sleep
When shalt thou deem us worthy to awake?
The wood is clothed in leaf? The swallow twitters again,
In the garden the solitary vinestem
Weeps with excess of joy.
The mead is in bloom,
The mountains blossom,
O beloved fatherland
Why dost thou not bloom?
O OUR ARAGVA…¹
O our Aragva how I love thee!
Thou art the witness of our ancient life
On thy banks my, fatherland
Was at one time a glory.
The ancient greatness of my native land
Flourished before thy holy eye.
I love thee for this, that I a Georgian
There on thy banks was born.
In thy waves in the midst of my land
A long history lies buried
And pure Georgian blood
Has been poured forth on thy banks.
There where thy powerful stream
Mingles with the troubled slow Kura
There once was spilt Georgian life
There thundered the voice of Georgia for
for fatherland’s sake.
Centuries have passed over thy waves
And centuries over — those Georgians
With overflowing heart on thy holy waters
How many times have I gazed with grief —
What sought I ? my country’s past,
In thy sight my ancient fatherland has
sunk in the stream.
And only the tears of blood from my wearied
Give frequently broken-hearted answer.
THE SLEEPING MAID
I gaze on thee so calm at rest,
And look upon thy crystal breast;
Thy heart beats like the placid waves,
When summer shores the water laves.
On thy soft cheek’s a gentle flush;
Thy smiling lips like rubies blush;
Like glimpse of heaven’s thy pure sleep,
While o’er thee angels vigil keep.
Thy breath’s as sweet as thy pure heart,
Oh! blest is he whose love thou art!
* * *
Ah!… She to whom my dear desires
Life’s longings — even self — were given —
This dark land now she ne’er inspires
She dwells beyond the highest heaven
The star of my fair fortune’s gone
An orphan am I here — alone —
The only joy for me that’s left
Is tears — of all else I’m bereft.
Deep down in Bazalethi’s lake,
‘Tis said a golden cradle lies,
And there beneath the welling waves,
An orchard blooms, and never dies.
That garden gay is always green,
Its blossoms never know decay;
The changing seasons of this earth,
That region rare need not obey.
Nor summer’s sun, nor winter’s cold,
Can harm that em’rald orchard gay
For, in those sunlit glades of gold,
Eternal spring doth hold her sway.
In that fair garden’s very heart
The golden cradle aye doth rest,
There man hath never dared to go —
That spot has never known a guest
Of the same school is Prince Ilia Chavchavadze (born 1837), who is in many respects the most remarkable man that Georgia possesses. All his poems, and indeed all his works, whether as a poet, a novelist, a journalist, an orator, or a financier, breathe a spirit of the loftiest patriotism. The return of spring and the awakening of bird and flower to fuller life are to him a reminder of the long-delayed awakening of his beloved land; his elegies on the Kura, the Aragva, the Alazana are all full of the same feeling. It is, however, in “Lines to the Georgian mother” that he most clearly expresses his ideas; after reminding the matrons of Georgia how they have served their country in times past, cheerfully sending their sons forth to the fight and sustaining their courage in the hour of misfortune, he says: —
“…But why should we shed idle tears
For glory that will ne’er return?
The ever-flowing stream of years
Leaves us no time to idly mourn.
“‘Tis ours to tread an untried path
‘Tis ours the future to prepare.
If forward thou dost urge thy sons,
Then answer’d is my earnest prayer.
“This is the task that waits for thee,
Thou virtuous mother of our land
Strengthen thy sons, that they may be
Their country’s stay with heart and hand.
“Inspire them with fraternal love,
Freedom, equality and right,
Teach them to struggle ‘gainst all ill,
And give them courage for the fight.”
Chavchavadze’s tales and poems have done more than anything else to awaken the Georgian people to a sense of the duties they have to perform in the altered conditions under which they now live. His poem, “Memoirs of a Robber”, which portrayed the lazy country squires who lived on the toil of their serfs, made a powerful impression. On the class it was meant for; and the tale, “Is that a Man?” which describes the life of a young noble who spends his whole time in eating, drinking, sleeping and folly, brought a blush to the faces of hundreds of his countrymen, and prompted them to seek a worthier mode of existence. At first, the more conservative part of the nobility were bitterly opposed to the radical ideas of Chavchavadze, but he has now succeeded in bringing round the majority of them to his way of thinking. He is editor of a daily paper, Iveria, which is read by all classes of society, and most of his time is spent between his journalistic duties and the management of the nobles’ Land Bank, an institution founded for the relief of the farmers.
Besides those I have mentioned, Chavchavadze has written many other works; with the following extract from “The Phantom” I conclude this brief notice of him: —
“O Georgia, thou pearl and ornament of the world. What sorrow and misfortune hast thou not undergone for the Christian faith! Tell me, what other land has had so thorny a path to tread? Where is the land that has maintained such a fight twenty centuries long without disappearing from the earth? Thou alone, Georgia, couldst do it. No other people can compare with thee for endurance. How often have thy sons freely shed their blood for thee! Every foot of thy soil is made fruitful by it. And even when they bowed under oppression they always bravely rose again. Faith and freedom were their ideals”.²
1 The river Aragvi
2 The Kingdom of Georgia by Oliver Wardrop, London, 1888,p 150—152.