Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Galaktion Tabidze in Translation: My Heart - Today The Black Sea - Drums

Written in 1934, this is one of Tabidze’s poems in celebration of his country. Note the rhetoric — the way that it seems, at first, to be a love poem, and then moves toward a national poem, confusing and conflating the two, and never fully explaining itself, or its subject matter.

Is the metaphor that of woman as country, or of country as woman? There are elements that suggest each.

Typical themes in Tabidze’s work — darkness, bitterness, suffering, endurance and just enough hope to survive. Many of Tabidze’s poems read like dirges — but what is interesting is that they don’t sound like dirges.

The lines are short, and almost spry, with flutters of internal rhyme liberally sprinkled among the stanzas, giving the sound of it an almost sing-songy music. Although I wasn’t able to capture all of the internal rhymes, read just the first line in the original: “chemi gulia dghes es shavi zghva” — the rhymes between “gulia” and “shavi zghva” as well as the “dges es” punctuation make this a nearly unforgettable first line.

It’s the tension between the darkness of the subject matter, and the poem’s musical insistence on making it sound lighthearted that makes the poem as interesting as it is. Sort of like dancing in a thunderstorm.

My Heart - Today The Black Sea - Drums

I was travelling, night approaching,
The sea showed me its gardens.
—Shota Rustaveli

My heart — today the black sea — drums
and leans against Adjaran slopes.
I have weathered here such furious storms —
Let them miss your placid boats.

And though the others cannot tell,
Your pine and fir will understand
that I’m not carved from mud or shale,
but made of doubt and faith — a man.

As such, I’ll suffer what may come:
Thirst, thunderstorm or freezing rain,
As long as, with the rising dawn
one hope has light enough to shine.

I’ll suffer every obstacle —
each prison cell, each bitter slight
As long as I can still see well
enough to know my country’s plight.

The darkest taste of loneliness,
the saddest unbefriended state:
I’ll suffer all, as long as I
can see my country’s shining light.

First printed in Georgia Today

1 comment:

Michael Ferguson said...

Hey Chris! I hope you've been doing great man. It took me forever to hunt you down. I remember you telling me about your plans to stay in Georgia. I finally found you through Google. I really hope your having a blast there with your wife. I read some of your poetry that you translated. The verses are very fascinating and captivating! Anyhow, I was trying to get a hold of you to also tell you thanks so much for everything. I took your advice and submitted the essay I wrote, "The Mystery of Sappho" to the English department and ended up winning The Miami University Bookstore Award for Literary/Film Analysis. Just wanted to say that I cannot thank you enough for helping me improve my writing skills to become a better writer. Hook me up with a call sometime if you ever have any free time to chat...and I would love to catch up and hear about your poems. Well take care and I wish the best for both you and your wife!
Michael Ferguson