Translated from the original Georgian by Rebecca Gould
The Late Horse Race
I dream of a horse race.
I mount my nag.
From every poem I know
only my shame remains.
Neither crusader nor knight,
my battlefield has fled.
Fly away with me, my dream,
do not linger, wretchedly.
My pool of blood stirs sadly.
Armed or weak, we swim in words.
We will battle fatefully.
Our fight will be brave.
My blood swells like a second sea.
Who will lance my wounds?
Who will pierce the bubble of my pain,
and release the fluid into the ocean?
When will my wounds be clean?
One word remains to this swan whose throat is slit.
She is the voice of my poetry.
I await her melody, my sad Agamemnon.
Titsian Tabidze (1895–1937) was one of most eloquent and innovative Georgian literary modernists of the twentieth century. His poems were translated during his lifetime by the Russian poets Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam. Like many Russian and Georgian poets of his era, Titsian perished in a purge organized by Stalin and his subordinates. To date, Titsian’s work has only been systematically translated into Russian, but an interview with his daughter and granddaughter illuminates his struggles as an outspoken poet in a time of political oppression. His poems have appeared in English translations by Rebecca Gould in Prairie Schooner, Seizure, Lunch Ticket, and RHINO.
Rebecca Gould is the author of Writers and Rebels: The Literatures of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016) and the translator of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016), and The Prose of the Mountains: Tales of the Caucasus (Central European University Press, 2015). Her translations from Georgian, Persian, and Russian have appeared in The Hudson Review, Nimrod, The Atlanta Review, and Washington Square. She teaches Comparative Literature and Translation Studies at the University of Bristol in the UK.