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.
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