Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Poetry of Galaktion Tabidze in Translation: From The Fields

This is one of my favorite poems by Tabidze. Written in 1925, it seems to mark a change from Tabidze’s earlier, more experimental writing, to a simpler, more naturalistic style, which he was to carry into his later poems. Note the vignette-like feel of the poem, this could be a description of a painting, one imagines, from one of the Impressionists, or perhaps the Russian Formalists.

And yet, its’ also deeply musical — the “soulful hymn of farewell” the village virgin is singing could easily be the poem itself. There’s a distance, a remoteness to the poem, with its end-of-day imagery, and its undescribed woman, whose form appears on the horizon. There’s also, you might note, some strongly christian imagery. In the original poem, the last two lines read “ the lambs are driven home by a village madonna / madonna will return to the huts.” — the obvious play on the word “madonna” — to stand for a young woman, and for the Mother of God — is evident. Also note her role as shepherd.

While the poem is, overall, quite straightforward, there is still some evidence of Tabidze’s suprising symbolistic imagery, and the image of the setting sun, like a spider, descending into the web-like branches of distant trees is one of my favorites.

The Fields

Swaying, a slender figure appears
walking alone, sickle in hand,
singing a song, her voice is the pasture
at village’s edge, where an old outpost stands.
The song is a soulful hymn of farewell
sung to a row of cranes facing the sea,
while the sun, like a spider is closing itself
in the delicate criss-crossing thicket of trees.
But what does the soul know of slavery? Nothing!
The rustle and braying of sheep fill the streets:
a young village virgin and flock are returning.
And the Virgin will soon return to the huts.

First published in Georgia Today

1 comment:

Jessica K. said...

Beautiful job.