The story of nuradin p’hridon when tariel met him on the seashore – By Shota Rustaveli

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574. I landed by night; I came ashore where gardens were seen. It seemed as if there were a city: we came near, on one side the rocks were hollowed out. The sight of men gave me no pleasure; brand were imprinted on my heart. I dismounted to rest at a spot where there were lofty trees.

575. I fell asleep at the foot of the trees; the slaves brake bread. Then I woke sad, the sooth (of sorrow) made night in my heart; in so long a time I learned nought, neither gossip nor sooth; my tears pressed from mine eyes wet the fields.
576. I heard a shout. I looked round, a knight cried out haughtily, he was galloping along the seashore, he was hurt by a wound, his sword was broken and soiled, blood flowed down; he threatened his foes, he was wrathful, cursed, complained.
577. He sat upon a black steed, the same which I now possess; like the wind he swept along, enraged, wrathful. I sent a slave (to tell him) I was desirous to meet him; I bade him say: “Stand! Declare unto me who angers thee, O lion!”
578. He looked me over, and said to God: “How hast Thou made such a tree!” Then he said to me: “Now will I tell thee what thou askest me: Those enemies whom I had hitherto esteemed as goats have proved lions to me; they fell upon me traitorously when I was unready, I could not don mine armour’.
580. I said: “Stand, be calm, let us dismount at the foot of the trees! A goodly knight whitdraws not when cuts are given with the sword.” I led him with me; we went away fonder than father and son. I marvelled at the tender beauty of the knight.
581. One of my slaves was a surgeon, he bound up the wound, he drew out the arrowheads so that the wound hurt not. Then I asked: “Who art thou, and by whom was thine armour hurt?” He set himself to tell me his story; he bewailed himself.
582. First he said to me: “I know not what thou art, not to what I can liken thee. What has thus consumed thee, or who first made thee full? What has turned thee sallow who wert planted rose and jet? Whay has God put out the candle lighted by Himself?
583. “Near by is the city of Mulghanzanzari, which belongs to me. My name is Nuradin P’hridon, I am the king ruling there; here where ye are stationed is my boundary. I have little, but in all its parts it is of excellent quality!
584. “My grandfather shared his territory between my father and uncle. In the sea is an island, this he said was my share, it had fallen into the hands of that uncle whose sons have now wounded me; the hunting remained to them, I did not give it up to them, they quarreled with me.
585. “To-day I went forth to the chase, I hunted on the seashore, I wished to cross over there, so I took not many beaters; I told the troops : ‘Wait for me till I return.’ I kept no more than five falconers”.
586. “I went by ship ; from the sea came forth a creek. I gathered not those divided from me: I said to myself: ‘Why should I take precautions against mine own folk?’ They seemed timid to me; their multitude appeared not. I hunted and hallooed; I withheld not my voice.

 

 

Shota Rustaveli

The Man with the leopard skin

 

Rustaveli is considered the national poet in Georgia, the Transcaucasian country east of the Black Sea, located right on the point that marks the division between Europe and Asia. The Georgian Republic, formerly included in the Soviet Union, has been inhabited since ancient times, and was known in the classical world as Colchis, mythical land of fabulous wealth, to which Jason set off to conquer the golden fleece.
From a  historical point of view there is little certain information: Shota Rustaveli was born around 1172 in Rustavi, a Georgian village in the region of Meskhezia, from which he took  his name, and died in Jerusalem around 1216. Many episodes of his life are still a mystery, but we know that he lived during the reign of the great Queen Assi Tamar, in whose honor he composed odes, and at whose court he served as treasurer.
Her reign was a period of great splendor, as the Queen promoted arts and sciences, and Georgia had a key role in the Caucasus, which stood for a moment in perfect balance between the Turks and the Mongols, who invaded shortly after the Georgian Kingdom, putting an end to the Eastern European Renaissance.
The relationship between Rustaveli and his queen has been  investigated for a long time, and it is assumed that the poet was deeply in love with his sovereign, to whom he dedicated his work. Perhaps because of this hopeless passion, he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in Jerusalem he painted his own portrait in the Monastery of the Holy Cross, perhaps the place where he may have been buried.

 

His poem, The Man with the leopard skin, translated by some as The Man in the panther skin, is a chivalric epic known as the fundamental work of Georgian literature. Its conception  is placed in the period between 1180 and 1210 because it refers to historical events that took place during the reign of Queen Assi Tamar. But only after several centuries for the first time the manuscript was printed in Tbilisi, so that scholars and readers could discover it. For more than five hundred years prior to printing, the work probably suffered a series of manipulations and changes by copyists, and we can tell because some verses appear disjointed or contradictory compared to the overall context they are located in.

 

The Man with the leopard skin is a chivalric epic and consists of about 1600 lines of rhymed sixteen syllable quatrains, and shows a strong influence from the Persian world and literature, as the writer himself states in the prologue.
The protagonists and heroes of the poem vividly render the building and everyday life of Georgian society in the twelfth century, with all its characters: aristocrats, knights, warriors, but also merchants and servants. At the same time, the world described also naturally mingles the magic and fairy-tale characters or supernatural persian sagas  such as Kagi, goblins and devils, and Devi, evil spirits.
The story tells of the abduction, by the forces of evil, of the woman loved by Tariel, one of the main characters, a brave knight wearing a leather vephki, the meaning of which in Georgian oscillates between the leopard and the panther, which is a recurrent animal also in Persian epic literature.
Avtandil, is a knight dedicated to helping Tariel in his dire  quest, with devotion and a friendship stronger than blood ties. This is one of the most intense themes of the poem; in addition to friendship, the strong themes narrated are loyalty to the king, loyalty to one’s word of honor, love, and a deep sense of ethics.

The real quality of the poem is not set in the plot or the themes, common in many epics of the time, even more to the West, in the Provencal or Breton cycles, but is found rather in its style, in the setting and in the characters’ complexity. The narrative is eventful and it’s never boring, with an ever increasing tension and a masterfully logical and natural concatenation of facts. There are also several monologues and lyrical letters describing the feelings and inner conflicts of the protagonists.

The lengthy period of neglect and the belated publication is partially due  to the fact that the language in which it was written, Georgian, is little known because it is spoken by a small number of people. It’s a language with an alphabet of its own and that has a very complex structure, rich in expressive potential and sounds, which make the understanding of the text extremely difficult even for scholars.
This has limited the spread of the work in the West, so thathis masterpiece is still barely translated in Europe and especially it is little known, as is much of the literature far from our cultural habits.
Thanks to Marjory Scott Wardrop, a scholar and translator of Georgian literature, we have one of the best translations into English, started in 1891 and ending in 1912.

 

 

Translation by Silvia Accorrà (edited by Irene Tossi)