The book features some works of Ilia Chavchavadze translated into English by brother and sister Oliver and Marjory Wardrop. The translations have not lost their literary value to the present day. The publication is intended as a gift to the Georgian reader in connection with the 150th anniversary celebrations of the birth of the outstanding Georgian writer and public figure. Text prepared for publication, with a preface and notes by Ia Popkhadze. Edited by Dr. Guram Sharadze.
The special interest shown by, Marjory and Oliver Wardrop for Georgian spiritual culture is well known. By translating a number of literary works they gave the versatile English reader an idea of Georgian literature with its centuries — old tradition.
The spiritual affinity of the Wardrops with Ilia Chavchavadze, a great son of Georgia, was not accidental. Their genuine sympathy was confirmed by the translation of the eminent Georgian writer's literary works, which they did with affection and reverence.
Hitherto the reading public was aware only of Marjory Wardrop's English translation of Ilia's "The Hermit" (London 1895). In recent years (1981, 1984) Prof. Guram Sharadze has discovered some other translations in the Wardrop collection of the Bodleian Library, at Oxford pointing to a broader scale of the translational activity of the Wardrops. Apart from "The Hermit", the following renderings of Ilia's prose are presented for the first time here: "Notes of a Journey from Vladikavkaz to Tiflis", "Is that a Man?!" (fragments), "The Sportsman's story" (several chapters)," Autobiography".
Chavchavadze's poetic heritage is represented by these titles: "Spring", "The Sleeping Maid", "Elegy", "Ah!... She — to whom My Dear Desires..." an extract from the poem "The Vision" ("O our Aragva"), "Bazalethi's Lake" (abridged).
The texts of these translations were prepared for publication according to the autographs preserved at Oxford, the xeroxed copies of which were brought from England by Prof. Sharadze and kindly transferred to the present writer for publication. The text of "The Hermit" is published according to the London edition of 1895, the latter now being a rare book.
Today the greatest merit of these translations would seem to lie in the inner warmth and affection with which they were done, which will always be remembered by the grateful Georgian people.
Of the same school is Prince Ilia Chavchav adze (born 1837), who is in many respects the
most remarkable man that Georgia possesses. All his poems, and indeed all his works, whether
as a poet, a novelist, a jo urnalist, an orator , or a financier, breathe a spirit of the loftiest
patriotism. The return of spring and the awakening of bird and flower to fuller life are to him a
reminder of the long-delayed awakening of his beloved land; his elegies on the Kura, the Aragva,
the Alazana are all full of the same feeling. It is, however, in "Lines to the Georgian mother" that
he most clearly expresses his ideas; after re minding the matrons of Georgia how they have
served their country in times past, cheerfully send ing their sons forth to the fight and sustaining
their courage in the hour of misfortune, he says: —
"...But why should we shed idle tears
For glory that will ne'er return?
The ever-flowing stream of years
Leaves us no time to idly mourn.
"'Tis ours to tread an untried path
'Tis ours the future to prepare.
If forward thou dost urge thy sons,
Then answer'd is my earnest prayer.
"This is the task that waits for thee,
Thou virtuous mother of our land
Strengthen thy sons, that they may be
Their country's stay with heart and hand.
"Inspire them with fraternal love,
Freedom, equality and right,
Teach them to struggle 'gainst all ill,
And give them courage for the fight."
Chavchavadze's tales and poems have done mo re than anything else to awaken the
Georgian people to a sense of the duties they have to perform in the altered conditions under
which they now live. His poem, "Memoirs of a Robber", which portrayed the lazy country
squires who lived on the toil of their serfs, ma de a powerful impression. On the class it was
meant for; and the tale, "Is that a Man?" whic h describes the life of a young noble who spends
his whole time in eating, drinking, sleeping and folly, brought a blush to the faces of hundreds of
his countrymen, and prompted them to seek a wort hier mode of existence. At first, the more
conservative part of the nobility were bitterly op posed to the radical ideas of Chavchavadze, but
he has now succeeded in bringing round the majority of them to his way of thinking. He is editor
of a daily paper, Iveria, which is read by all classes of societ y, and most of his time is spent
between his journalistic duties and the mana gement of the nobles' Land Bank, an institution
founded for the relief of the farmers.
Besides those I have mentioned, Chavchavad ze has written many other works; with the
following extract from "The Phantom" I conclude this brief notice of him: —
"O Georgia, thou pearl and ornament of the wo rld. What sorrow and misfortune hast thou
not undergone for the Christian faith! Tell me, what other land has had so thorny a path to tread?
Where is the land that has maintained such a fight twenty centuries long without disappearing
from the earth? Thou alone, Georgia, couldst do it. No other people can compare with thee for
endurance. How often have thy sons freely shed their blood for thee ! Every foot of thy soil is
made fruitful by it. And even when they bowed under oppression they always bravely rose again.
Faith and freedom were their ideals".*
* The Kingdom of Georgia by Oliver Wardrop, London, 1888,p 150—152.
While most English readers are, to some exte nt acquainted with the literature of Persia,
there are but few who are aware of the existence of Georgian literature. Yet Georgia is well
worthy of attention. The Man in the Panther's Sk in, by Rust'haveli, the great epic poet of the
XIIth century, loses nothing by comparison with Firdausi's Shah Nameh; but what modern
Persian can be placed beside Barat'hashvili or Chavchavadze ?
Endowed by nature with exceptional gifts, assi milating alike the cultu re of the East and
West, the Christian kingdom of the Caucasus achieved a high degree of refinement and
enlightenment at a very early date; and, despite the fierce blasts of war that have swept
ceaselessly over the land, the light of literature has been kept alive.
Prince Ilia Chavchavadze was born in 1837. His family has produced many remarkable
men, including the poet Alexander Chavchav adze (1786—1846), who was much influenced by
the writings of Byron. Prince Ilia received his education in the Tiflis grammar-school and the
University of St. Petersburg.
In 1863 he published a journal, Sakart'hvelo s Moambe, which had a great influence on
his countrymen. In the same year he wrote his novel, "Is that a Man?" in which he drew a picture
of the aimless life of the average country squire . This tale raised a st orm of ill-will, but it
achieved the object of its author: the landed gentry saw their faul ts mercilessly mirrored forth;
first of all they were angry, then ashamed, finally awakened to self-improvement.
Chavchavadze's literary activity extends over a period of well-nigh forty years, and falls
into three divisions. In the first, he is critical and satirical, endeavouring to rouse men from the
lethargy in which they lay. In the second, he enc ourages them to lead a nobler life, by reminding
them of the glorious past of their country, and by depicting the heroic deeds of patriots. Finally,
he has passed into a phase which may be described as almost purely aesthetic.
To this last division belongs The Hermit, written in 1883. Based upon a legend, the poem
has, in my opinion, a symbolic meaning added. Is not the hermit meant, perhaps, to represent
mediaevalism, and the shepherd girl, so bewitchi ng and bright, the Renaissance, which has come
so much later in Georgia than in the West? Befo re her beauty and gladness the old life cannot be
lived, and must either share in her joy or die. From ancient Buddhist legend to modern French
romance, many stories have been written on the temptation of holy recluses. The Hermit differs
from all these in its wonderful simplicity. Here , we have no theatrical machinery, no dazzling
wealth, no dreams of power to tempt the monk from his solitude, poverty and suffering; no
vision of Cleopatra or Semiramis to wile him fr om the path of duty., but only a simple maiden,
innocent and lovely, who tells him of the pure loves of mankind and of the joyousness of life.
Yet, we feel that the temptation is all the more subtle and strong for its very simplicity. In the
original the style is dignified and harmonious, a nd the descriptions are full of poetry, and tender
sympathy with nature in all her moods.
It is not as a poet and novelist alone that Prince Ilia is distinguished. He is the Editor of a
daily paper, Iveria, published in Tiflis, managing director of the Land Bank of the Nobility (an
institution which devotes all its profits to educational and other philanthropic work), an eloquent
orator, and in all the social life of the nation the most prominent figure.
I regret that my translation is so far from doing justice to the original. The difficulty of
learning a tongue hitherto unknown in the West, and of rendering an idiom unallied to any
known family of languages may be pleaded as some excuse for my shortcomings.
Kertch, Crimea,* October 1895.
* The Hermit a legend by Prince Ilia Chavchavadze translated from the Georgian by Marjory Wardrop, London,
Ilia Chavchavadze - Works (Translated by Marjory and Oliver Wardrops)