Friday, August 03, 2012

LITERATURE: The Georgian Poet Joseph Noneshvili

( Joseph Noneshvili was born in 1921. His first poem was published in 1938, and his first book of poems came off the press in 1940. Joseph Noneshvili traveled widely and the varied scenes and people he had seen and met are reflected in many of his poems with simplicity of style and mastery choice of words and expressions. His poems have been translated into many languages.

The Georgian Poet Joseph Noneshvili in Africa
Autumn in Tbilisi

by Joseph Noneshvili

Rustaveli Avenue is where you first feel autumn.
Underfoot the leaves, the leaves of chestnut trees are windswept.

Arriving from Kakheti like a messenger in haste
The perfumed air of wine and fruit flows into TbiHsi.

The townsmen stop and turn about, pursued by wine-filled air,
"Perhaps" says one, "this air is breathed by men in all the world."

And lost in thought he enters through the nearest market gate
With the desire to see, himself, a truly Georgian autumn.

Piled and spread on stands and stalls, each man with his own labour
Brings a harvest for display, for praise and for assessment.

Here are all the blessings and abundance of the autumn,
Ο may she feast, may she rejoice, may Tbilisi be glad!

The sea of wine, its shores of fruit give pleasure to the eye,
A shimmering headscarf in the wind like an exotic bird.

Stars on a clear night resemble those lights by the stalls—
Fair-haired girls like sunrays and with faces like the moon.

To the right are hills of apples, oranges to the left.
And like drunkards urns and vases lean against the wall.

"Should there be a better wine my name would be dishonoured!"
Shouts convincingly a boy from Kardenakhi village.

Another man from Imereti tries to win you sweetly,
"Kind sir, just taste my wine—you do not have to buy it."

Grapes are praised from Khidistavi, peaches best from Ateni,
Everywhere fruit is acclaimed, described with exultation.

Here are all the blessings and abundance of the autumn,
Ο may she feast, may she rejoice, may Tbilisi be glad!

Here is autumn in the streets and squares and in the alleys.
Leaves take flight as if with wings from every bustling tree.

A summer breeze? An autumn wind the colour of coral and amber ?
Or was it rustling skirts we heard ? How could it be the wind ?

Even the sun has dared to leave its precincts in the clouds.
Was it a love-song that we heard ? How could it be the wind ?

Here are all the blessings and abundance of the autumn,
And Tbilisi is willing to be host with open arms.

Translated by Tamara Dragadze


It would have become you to be Queen of Georgia

by Joseph Noneshvili

It would have become you to be Q_ueen of Georgia. . . .
It would become you—how much it would become you.
At one word from you, cities would be built
And gardens would blossom in the desert.
You would captivate men's hearts with one glance
And your shining eye would turn to shadows the sun of Tinatin.
You would bless the warriors
And with the memory of that divine prayer
None of your armies
Would ever be in danger.

It would have become you to wear embossed silk. . . .
It would become you—O, how much it would become you.
Your exquisite face would be protected even from dew
By the most splendid tower carved in ivory for you.
At dawn when ring the bells of Kashueti
The holy cathedral would have resounded with your prayers
And in obeisance to your crown would bow
Your lords, the Orbeliani and the Amilakhvari.

It would have become you to be loved by Rustaveli. . . .
It would become you—^Ah, how much it would become you.
Many generations would pass through the many paths of Time
But you would live, my dear, through poetry forever.
A great poet would have endeared you to all the people's hearts.
And we would claim the stars to be your eyes. . . .
And like praises through the ages now long past
I, all the same, would have loved you.

It would have become you to be the Queen of Georgia!....

Translated by Tamara Drazadze


Song of Georgia
by Joseph Noneshvili

You are the cradle that green grapevines shelter,
Wonderful tale that the pipes of Pan told,
Heroic song of the noble heart's rapture.
And all in Rustaveli's lines enscrolled.

Laved in the blood that our fathers shed freely.
Blood ever hot in this land of the sun.
You rise from earth like a magical fountain
With mountains snow-capped, and with nightingale song.

Into penumbra the eagles sail thickly.
Passing deer move like a swift leaping wind,
It is no wonder all passing by call you
Georgia the beautiful land.

Here lavrana, Urmuli and Rero
Echo and sound on the lips of the young,
Trellises clustered and circled with grape vines
Sun-gilded wheatfields . . . such rare sights must be sung.

Ripe fruit and nuts are shared round as with brothers,
Shared among children with no selfish thought.
Men trustfully open their hearts to each other.
All doors are open, all give as they ought.

A guest in the home is received as God-given,
Such is the age-old unchanging command.
It is no wonder the passer-by calls you
Georgia the lovely, the beautiful land.

Children in pony-carts, piping of pheasants
Down where the Tori's swift waters flow,
Ancient Tbilisi, our fortress, hope-bounded.
Powerfully built to bring grief to the foe.

Tangerines, roses that flower in December
Filling the gardens with soft perfumed eyes,
Power-stations' thrust like an avalanche bursting.
In mountain peaks great new factories arise.

SOURCE: Journal 1974 January


Georgian Poesy - Joseph Noneshvili

'By Byron's Monument in Athens' 

By Nugzar  B. Ruhadze 

( No sooner had Innes Merabishvili read the article in GJ about Joseph Noneshvili,  that I received a call from one of her assistants with a proposal to consider her translation of the eminent Georgian poet's poem 'By Byron's Monument in Athens' (1978) for publication. I certainly tried to be a gentleman, and did not say a word about my intention to run the poem anyway in the next issue.  Whatever the story might be, here is the translation of the famous poem. Professor Merabishvili is a translator of Byron into Georgian and of Galaktyon into English, and this is enough to make a history. But I am not talking now how Innes is making a history step by step with the talent of a poet and the confidence of a translator. Feeling a text for turning it into a texture of another language is one thing, but making it sound as close as possible to the precious original, is the animal of a totally different color. Innes Merabishvili has clearly succeeded in an elevated vocation of taming that beast. In her hands, poets are being taken care of so tenderly and wisely that they may not even bother about being misunderstood. Innes's translation is the original's fellow-intellectual, and has the passage to the hearts of thinking humans who want to feel into the vertiginous depths of poesy. To put all these intricate thoughts into a more humane language, Merabishvili has refused to parallel the two linguistic and poetic worlds. She has rather cross-bread them. Am I understood for God's sake? Both poets are dead, but in the living translation of Noneshvili's poem about great Lord Byron, their kinship has become a blessed reality. Wouldn't Byron be as boyishly happy as he used to be? And wouldn't Noneshvili shed a couple of drops of sincere tears to have had a chance of reading into Innes Merabishvili's translation? Innes knows exactly what she is doing with somebody else's property: she never transgresses the divine limits of the respectable and subtle poetic realm. She stays where she is allowed to be, but also, never loses the sense, the charm and the force of the original verse. Innes feather-touches the tandem of thoughts and words of a poet and then, when necessary, gathers momentum, powerfully building the foundation for metamorphosis. I have tried many times to emulate her, but in vain.  Hers is a hard-boiled professional performance. But I am learning! And if some day, I produce something similar to hers, be sure it will be her skill and my diligence to mimic and master that outstanding skill. Joseph Noneshvili's poem, dedicated to the unequaled Byron, was a must. And all the credit should honorably go to Professor Innes Merabishvili.
We consider the original itself a masterpiece, which is beyond any commentary. The beloved poet of the Georgian people Joseph Noneshvili is not meant for usual comments. He is just to be read and understood, as the Georgian people have always treated him. Nothing has changed with his regrettable and untimely death. He is still with us, sounding exactly the same way he used to be when walking the streets of his beloved Tbilisi.

By Byron's Monument in Athens

Your shadow reached me on the spot,
Where you, proud Lord, did cease to breathe,
A poet deserves to die in wars,
Lord Byron, now I speak to thee:
I'm not a coward, but I may
Shed tears, mixed with grief and anger,
I cannot change my country's fate,
How to devote myself to neighbors?
You were no guest to ancient Hellas,
You sharpened verses, sharpened swords,
You fought for Liberty in Hellas,
And died for this sacred cause.
You were a stranger to this nation,
Though words of yours were shining bright,
Named George, you came like George the Saint,
Greece knew, you were like him, in white.
You fought the monster, wounded him,
And now you are a legend, myth,
Your shadow calls, with courage fills
Let out the sails despite strong winds.
I'm not a coward, but I may 
Shed tears, though I'll never answer:
I cannot change my country's fate,
How to devote myself to others?

Translated by Innes Merabishvili, 2007


This said one lovely moonlight night
A dear came wandering to a pool.
The pool surrounded by tall reeds,
Lay motionless and tempting cool.
He saw his image mirrored there,
And at the antlers gazed with pride,
But at the long and slender legs
With deep regret and chagrin sighed.
Then suddenly a lion's roar
Awoke him from his reverie,
And in an instant the slighted legs
Like lightning flew across the lea.
Within the covert of the woods
He dashed to find a safe retreat,
But the branches of the thickets caught
The much-coveted antlers neat.

Now give a thought to this old tale
For like the deer, perhaps, your eyes
See but the beauty of your face
Blind to all beneath the skies.
So if in praise you find delight
Then know, remember well, my dear,
Your beauty may destroy you as
The antlers high destroyed the deer.

* * *
That she would dare climb such a height! Well,
I've never seen the like in all my life!
Yet here she came and deftly carved her name
Upon your bosom with a cruel knife.
You could not rend the skies with screams and cries.
I wonder what her thoughts were. If she knew
That every pain inflicted, stifled sighs.
I know we'll curse her for her cruelty.
But why? She's only venturous and wild.
Now look at me, a pale faced poet am I,
Insignificant, by nature week and mild.
No pity did she show me but devised
Love-tricks and every wile my heart to tame.
She slit my breast and on my heart engraved,
Engraved upon my bleeding heart - her name.
But I do not reproach her or complain,
For all her childish pranks will pass with time.
O sweet is she and fair, so let us all
Forgive and overlook a young girl's crime.

* * *
Why I look?
My eyes desire to see at once
The faults and merits of your features fair,
For if I fall
In love with you then all at once
Of only loveliness I'll be aware.

Translated by Venera Urushadze
Prepared for publication by NBR


Anthology of Georgian Poetry
Editedby M. Kveselava

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