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THIS is an attempt to give a faithful rendering, word by word, of a book which is the mirror of the soul of a cultured people with a great past; the mirror is chipped and tarnished by time and mischance, but the loving labour of scholars may soon renew its lustre and repair some of its injuries. Even in the state in which it is here presented the work can hardly fail to provoke interest. The history of the poem makes it worthy of perusal, for it has been in a unique manner the book of a nation for seven hundred years; down to our own days the young people learned it by heart; every woman was expected to know every word of it, and on her marriage to carry a copy of it to her new home. Such veneration shown for so long a period proves that the story of the Panther-clad Knight presents an image of the Georgian outlook on life, and justifies the presumption that merits tested by the experience of a quarter of a million days, most of them troublous, may be apparent to other races, that such a book may be of value to mankind, and chiefly to those peoples which, like the Georgian, came under the influence of Greek and Christian ideals. Here we are dealing with no alien psychology, but with a soul which, though readily responsive to the great cultural movements of nearer Asia,1 showed in a thousand years of struggle that its natural gravitation was towards Western Europe, whither with pathetic constancy it kept its gaze fixed. 2 Iberia of the East and Iberia of the West, the high-water marks of Arab conquest, were both fertilized by the Semitic flood, and, whether or not they have some ancient ethnic affinity, this has given them not a few common characteristics; Spain had Christendom at her back, Georgia carried on her glorious crusade in isolation till the struggle was hopeless, and a century ago she was forced into an alliance with the Russian Empire. From her situation, geographical and political, Georgia was the country most likely to show that approximation of Eastern and Western thought typical of the epoch of the Crusades, and in these latter days it is largely due to the infusion of Iberian blood that Turkey and Persia have still sufficient vitality to attempt reforms. It might have been expected that a people whose life was a ceaseless fight to keep for Christendom the bridge between Asia and Europe would have put into its greatest artistic effort an uncompromising confession of faith; but freedom of thought rather than fanaticism is characteristic of Shot’ha, so at various times, down to the eighteenth century, the orthodox clergy destroyed manuscripts of the poem, and the editio princeps of 1712 could only appear because its royal editor appended to it a pious mystical commentary. We find one reference apiece to Mohammed (1010) and Mecca (1144), and three mentions of the Koran (339, 514, 1144); the official representatives of Islam are spoken of with scant sympathy (339). To Christianity as an ecclesiastical system we have, possibly, allusions (Easter Eve, 536; icon, 247; shrine, 1345; halo, aureole, 226, 229, 1110, 1410); there may be a few quotations from the Scriptures ("gall of bitterness," 99; "hart and waterbrooks," 835, 1564; "tinkling cymbals," 772 ;" charity faileth not," 1520; "through a glass darkly," 110, 656, 707, 1431; "hidden treasure," ? 882; "be content," "judge not," 18; "rivers run into the sea," 49); the Biblical personages incidentally mentioned are--Adam, Beelzebub, ?Ezra, Goliath, Levi, and Satan, and the geographical, names Eden, Euphrates, Gihon, Pison, and Gibeon, are used in similes; there seems to be a reference to the doctrine of regeneration (184), and another perhaps to purgatory (785). When he wrote his poem, Rust’haveli had evidently no violent prejudice for one religion more than another, but was of a critical and eclectic turn of mind, and formed for himself a working philosophy of life, showing Persian and Arabian tendencies, but with so much of Christianity and Neo-Platonism as to bring it near to Occidental minds. "The Georgians in the tenth and eleventh centuries interested themselves in the domain of philosophy in those same questions which occupied the leading minds of the Christian world of that period both in the East and the West, with this distinction from the others-- e.g., Europeans--that in those days the Georgians responded earlier than others to the newest tendencies of philosophic thought, and worked in a panoply, exemplary for its time, of textual criticism directly on the Greek originals." 1 There is throughout the poem manifest joy in life and action: God createth not evil (1468, 1485); ill is fleeting (1337); since there is gladness in the world, why should any be sad? (687); it is after all a good world, fair to look upon despite its horrid deserts, a world to sing in either because one is happy or because one wishes to be so (946); there are flowers to gaze on, good wine to drink, fair apparel and rich jewels to wear, beasts worth hunting, games worth playing, foes to be fought, and friends to be loved and helped. There are grievous troubles, but they are to be battled against; it is a law with men that they should struggle and suffer (776); for them is endeavour, and victory lies with God (883); however black the outlook, there must be no shirking, for the one deed especially Satan's is suicide (728, 768, 815, 854, 1169); the game must be played to the end manfully, and God is generous though the world be hard (911, 1338); He will make all right in the end (1365), and sorrow alone shows a man's mettle (945). The keynote is optimism quandmême . Life is a passing illusion (1572), brief and untrustworthy (1575), in itself nothing but a silly tale (697); we are gazers through a cloudy, distorting glass (110, 656, 707, 1431); our deeds are mere childish sports making for soul-fitness. The one way of escape from illusion is in the exercise of that essential part of ourselves which unites us with the choir of the heavenly hosts (771); love lifts us out of the mundane marsh (772); brother must act brotherly (914); we must loyally serve our chosen friends, those with whom we have formed a bond stronger than the ties of blood: for such we must die if need be (296). The poem is a glorification of friendship, and the story is of the mutual aid of three starlike heroes wont to serve one another (6); even the gratification of the tenderest love must be postponed to this high duty; the betrothed, the newly-wedded, must part for this (292, 685, 688, 1541); friend makes of himself a road and a bridge (685) by which his friend passes to joy. That women have their share in such friendships is shown by the fraternity between Asmat’h and Tariel, and it is a proof of the deep culture of the people that such bonds still exist; there is probably no country where men have so many pure ties with women, where they are bound by affection to so many with whom the idea of marriage is never permitted to present itself. It is to the influence of such customs that we may partly attribute the high civilization of the race; it is equally true that respect for women is a sign of ancient culture. Rust’haveli is the poet of the whole people, and refinement of manners is not limited to, or absent from, any rank of life; the passage (234, 235) in which Avt’handil forgets for a moment that he is a "gentleman" makes every Georgian blush, and even in these days of comparative degeneracy one never hears of any man behaving with discourtesy in the presence of a woman. Woman is man's equal; the lion's whelps are alike lions (39); the three heroines are queens in their own right, free to dispose of themselves in marriage, fitted to rule kingdoms; Dame P’hatman is Acting Collector of Customs and Master of the Merchant Guild in her husband's absence

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