Georgian poet, scholar, and journalist. Raphael Eristavi was descended from the powerful noble family of the Eristavis of Aragvi and studied in gymnasiums in Telavi and Tbilisi before starting his service in the Russian viceroy’s administration. He eventually became a member of the Caucasian Censorship Committee. Eristavi contributed articles on various issues to the journal Kavkaz and played an important role in establishing the Georgian Museum, Georgian theater, and the Society for the Advancement of Learning Among the Georgians. From 1884–1886, he directed the Georgian Drama Society and participated in the scientific study of the text of Shota Rustaveli's Vepkhistkaosani (The Knight in Panther's Skin) poem in 1882.

Eristavi’s first major work appeared in 1852 when the journal Tsiskari published his story Oborvanets (in Russian) followed by his first Georgian novelette, Nino, in 1857. In later years, he wrote the poems Ghvino (1868) Tandilas dardi (1882), Beruas chivili, Beruas chafikreba (1883), Aspindzis omi, Tamariani (1887), Dedaena, Neta ras stiri dediko?, Ras erchi mag bichs tataro (1881), Samshoblo khevsurisa (1881) ,and others. Eristavi also tried vaudevilles, and his first play, Mbrunavi stolebi, appeared in 1868 followed by Dedakastma tu gaitsia, tskhra ugheli kharis umdzlavresia (1870), Jer daikhotsnen, mere iqortsines, Suratebi chveni khalkhis tskhovrebidan, and others.

Through his journalism and scholarship, Eristavi played an important role in the development of Georgian ethnography and folk studies. He traveled widely all over Georgia and studied in detail the traditions in the mountainous regions of Georgia, especially in Khevsureti, Pshavi, Tusheti, and Svaneti. His works attracted the Russian public by their fluent Russian narrative and the interesting materials which Eristavi retrieved from his travels. Together with Ilia Chavchavadze, he published Glekhuri simgherebi, leksebi da andazebi which compiled folk songs and poems; in 1873, he also published Kartuli sakhalkho poezia on Georgian folk poetry, and four years later, he authored a book on Georgian proverbs and riddles. In the 1870s, Eristavi helped develop Georgian lexicology and technical terminology and produced several dictionaries, including the Latin-Russian-Georgian Plant Dictionary, Georgian-Russian-Latin Language Dictionary, and the first edition of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s Kartuli Leksikoni (1884). His fiftieth jubilee was a national event celebrated by many poets and public figures.



Poems

THE LAND OF THE KHEVSURIS


The land where I was born and reared on lullabies and loving care,
Where I with youthful hand and heart flung flashing arrows in the air,
Where now my parents' bones repose, is my dear motherland so fair.
Not for all the trees in Eden would I these rugged cliffs exchange,
Nor for paradise undreamed of would I my native land exchange!
I love the mounts that rear their heads adorned with never-melting snow,
The crags where eagles dare not perch, where mighty torrents deafening flow,
And there to banquet on deer's flesh as did my fathers long ago.
Not for all the trees in Eden would I these rugged cliffs exchange,
Nor for paradise undreamed of would I my native land exchange!
Though beautiful are flowery vales where silver brooklets winding sigh,
Yet towards Khevsuri's rocky mounts my heart and soul with yearning fly,
Life in the valleys I'd renounce for death midst native mountains high.
Not for all the trees in Eden would I these rugged cliffs exchange,
Nor for paradise undreamed of would I my native land exchange!
I never longed for wealth or fame that fortune lavishly can pour,
Nor dreamed of golden palaces with warriors and slaves galore;
My wish is but to live and die for the highlands I adore!
Not for all the trees in Eden would I these rugged cliffs exchange,
Nor for paradise undreamed of would I my native land exchange!
Can anything be dearer, sweeter than my mother's smile or hand,
Or gem as precious as the rocks and mountains of my native strand?
The lives of men are swayed by love for one God and one 'motherland.
Not for all the trees in Eden would I these rugged cliffs exchange
Nor for paradise undreamed of would I my native land exchange!

SESSIA'S THOUGHTS


Dust am I, to dust I cling;
A rustic born, my life is one
Eternal strife and endless toil,
And endless woe... till life is gone.
I plough, I sow, I labour on,
With muscles strained, in sun and rain.
I scarce can live on what I earn,
And tired and hungry I remain.
The owner of the land torments me;
Even the tiny ant's my foe.
For townsfolk, priests and native country
In blood-like sweat I plough and sow...
How long, O God, this endless grind,
This life of sorrow and of toil?
Alas! I fear that death alone
Will bring me rest within this soil!

Georgian romantic poet. Related to the Bagrationi royal family, he received an excellent education and began military service in the Russian army in the 1820s. Orbeliani participated in the Russo-Persian and Russo-Turkish Wars, distinguishing himself and quickly advancing through the ranks. In 1832, however, he was implicated in the conspiracy of Georgian nobles seeking the restoration of the Bagrationi dynasty and was exiled for six years. Returning to Georgia, he distinguished himself in the Russian campaigns against Imam Shamil in Chechnya and served as a governor of Avaria and Daghestan. In later years, he attained the rank of general and performed the functions of the governor of Georgia. In the 1880s, he played a leading role in establishing a standard text for Shota Rustaveli’s Vepkhistkaosani (The Knight in Panther's Skin) poem. Orbeliani’s poetry is noteworthy for its patriotism and humanity, and his major works include Iaralis, Mukhambazi and Sadghegrdzelo anu omis shemdeg ghame lkhini Erevnis siakhloves.

BEFORE THE FRESCO PAINTING OF QUEEN TAMARI IN
THE CHURCH OF BETANIA

Thy saintly face
In beauteous grace
Doth shine with virgin beauty sweet.
I humbly pray
And homage pay,
O'erwhelmed by sorrow at thy feet.
In joy I gaze,
In grief I gaze,
Oh, let me gaze thus e'er on thee.
Oh, let me sleep
In slumber deep,
My country's downfall not to see!
A bower sublime,
This realm of thine;
Thy glory o'er it shines no more!
No splendour bright
Doth pierce with light
The gloom that shrouds its fame of yore!
Though like a dream,
A flashing gleam
A glorious sunset hid by night,
Thy past inspires
And kindles fires
In souls devoid of joy and light!
Though grieved and mute,
In solitude,
Hear thou my prayer of deep distress...
Thy land restore
To joy once more,
And once again thy country bless.
Let valour grand
Inspire thy land
And make it as of yore renowned
With faith divine
And language fine,
With knowledge deep and wisdom crowned!
Let victory's cry,
Resounding high,
Redeem thy might of former time!
With eager ear
We crave to hear
Great Rustaveli's word sublime!
We beg of thee
To make us free
And lead us on to liberty...
But woe, thy eyes
See but the skies
And not thy son in slavery!
Thus humbled low,
Thy son below,
A wretch unmanned, is stricken mute!
All hopes have fled,
All joy is dead:
By cruel despair I stand subdued!
Woe if thy name
And gloried fame
Will never rise again to bloom...
Perchance what fell
Was hurled to hell
By ravens black to death and doom!
A world of lies
Where honour dies,
And all that fades ne'er revives...
Of glory's flame
That crowned thy name
Is this the relic that survives?
Midst grass and weeds
And tangled reeds
The temple's ruins stand grim and tall,
Where Tamari's face
In hallowed grace
Is traced upon a crumbling wall!

WHEN I WAKE


Thy features every vision of my sleep adorn,
And when I wake the eyelash of my eyes adorn.
Thy willing slave, devoted am I e'er to thee,
Thou mayest slay me, yet such death is life to me.
Thou art the sweetest flower that ever grew for me.
Thy breath the fragrance of the rose does seem to me.
Thou art the gleaming star that lights the dark for me.
Thy features every vision of my sleep adorn,
And when I wake the eyelash of my eyes adorn.
Thy slender waist's a graceful aloe branch to me.
The girdle round it twined a rainbow seems to me.
Thy sparkling eyes dark flashing lightning seem to me.
Thy snow-white bosom is a realm of bliss to me!
The echo of thy voice is music sweet to me.
Thy features every vision of my sleep adorn,
And when I wake the eyelash of my eyes adorn.
My ways in life so manifold all lead to thee!
Before my every thought and dream thy face I see!
What makes my heart a flaming ball? O it is thee!
Let me in one long kiss draw thy whole soul to me!
The very essence of my joy thou art to me.
Thy features every vision of my sleep adorn,
And when I wake the eyelash of my eyes adorn.
In Ortachala thou canst see, dear, what I am:
A gallant knight of wondrous strength and might I am;
The champion in every contest fair I am.
With bowl in hand a tamada of skill I am.
O wouldst thou come and see but once how brave I am
And then perhaps thou'lt say how bold and dear I am-
Thy features every vision of my sleep adorn,
And when I wake the eyelash of my eyes adorn.