The Knight In the Panther's Skin
THE KNIGHT IN THE PANTHER’S SKIN
Shota Rustaveli (c. 1160-1250), often called simply Rustaveli, was a Georgian poet who is generally considered to be the preeminent poet of the Georgian Golden Age. “The Knight in the Panther's Skin” or “The Man in the Panther’s Skin” is considered to be Georgia’s national epic poem and until the 20th century it was part of every Georgian bride’s dowry. It is believed that Rustaveli served Queen Tamar as a treasurer or finance minister and that he may have traveled widely and been involved in military campaigns. Little else is known about his life except through folk tradition and legend.
The Knight in the Panther's Skin
by Shota Rustaveli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
excerpts from the PROLOGUE
I sing of the lion whose image adorns the lances, shields and swords
of our Queen of Queens: Tamar, the ruby-throated and ebon-haired.
How dare I not sing Her Excellency’s manifold praises
when those who attend her must bring her the sweets she craves?
My tears flow profusely like blood as I extol our Queen Tamar,
whose praises I sing in these not ill-chosen words.
For ink I have employed jet-black lakes and for a pen, a flexible reed.
Whoever hears will have his heart pierced by the sharpest spears!
She bade me laud her in stately, sweet-sounding verses,
to praise her eyebrows, her hair, her lips and her teeth:
those rubies and crystals arrayed in bright, even ranks!
A leaden anvil can shatter even the strongest stone.
Kindle my mind and tongue! Fill me with skill and eloquence!
Aid my understanding for this composition!
Thus Tariel will be tenderly remembered,
one of three star-like heroes who always remained faithful.
Come, let us mourn Tariel with undrying tears
because we are men born under similar stars.
I, Rustaveli, whose heart has been pierced through by many sorrows,
have threaded this tale like a necklace of pearls.
NOTE: It is not clear if the skin is that of a panther, tiger, lion, or other large cat. The three star-like heroes mentioned are Tariel, Avtandil and Nestan-Darejan, a woman so beautiful that men fell in love with her at first sight. She allegorically represents Queen Tamar, who was renowned for her beauty.
Keywords/Tags: Shota Rustaveli, Georgia, Georgian, epic, knight, panther, tiger, skin, queen, Tamar, praise, praises, Tariel, Avtandil, Nestan-Darejan, love, sweet love, star, stars, hero
Copyright © Michael Burch | Year Posted 2021
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