Nino Bakradze # 2
On the Role of the Poet and Poetry
According to Novalis and Grigol Robakidze’s Creations
Man has been striving for knowledge of the hidden since the origin of the world. The fact that intuition plays significant role in cognitive process is clearly evidenced from the history of philosophy which suggests several interpretations of intuition: 1. Intuition is thought of as intelligible phenomenon distinguished from the non-sensory perception (Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Nicolas Kazansky) of “true” reality (contrasted to empirical); 2. Intuition as supreme form of intellectual cognition, achievement of new knowledge not relying on direct assertions of reason (Descarte, Spinoza, Leibniz); 3) Intuition as immediate cognition of the world (Kant); 4) Intuition as a mystic wholeness of penetrating into the depths of individual consciousness, comprehension of the “I”, will, life, existential and mystical essence (the representatives of the existentialism, Neo-Thomism, realism, paragmatism Fichte, Shelling, Bergson, Husserl, Locke)” (World… 2001: 425). In the same place we read: “It (intuition – N.B.) is typical for every human being but manifests itself in different ways with account of individual experience, knowledge, interests, demands, goals set by man, solved tasks and conditions in which he exists ” (World …2001:425).
A poet is a remarkable example of intuitively cognized man. The mission of the poet and poetry has often become the subject of dispute. However, this time our purpose is to study the concept of a creative personality and creative process treated by German poet romanticist - Novalis and Georgian modernist – Grigol Robakidze, and to show how the theme of a poet and poetry is presented in their works; how the writers themselves view the idea of a creator and creative process.
The closeness of the world outlook and aesthetic principles of the romanticism and modernism make it possible to draw a parallel between the mentioned writers. There is a whole century between these two literary phenomena but “two realities”, extreme subjectivism, irrationality and mysticism are those common properties due to which modernism is regarded as successor of romanticism and continuer of the line. They strive to see divinity in everything, aspire for super-consciousness, and endeavor to cognize the idea of a thing or phenomenon, soul. Due to the fact that for both writers knowledge can be attained only through intuitive perception without rational thinking and judgment, the study of the essence of a poet and poetry in this context is of particular interest.
Throughout the ages the attitude of a society to a creative personality was different. In the antique “epoch of Gods”, art is regarded to be a sacred thing. As poets are inspired by Apollo and Muses, they are considered wise people. It is not accidental that a majority of philosophers render one’s own ideas in poetic texts (Plato, Aristotle). A little bit later, during creative activity of the Roman poet Catullus (87-54 BC), poetic activity is perceived as a private activity without public loading. Horace (65-8 BC) separates the poet and prophet from each other. In his view, the poet should inspire a man, raise emotions, educate rather than make predictions.
In the middle Ages, poetry is regarded a kind of art. The poet is represented as an interpreter, the one who shares divine knowledge with people. Only in the Renaissance epoch poet is perceived as an artist who creates new world like God; the cult of a genus originates. If earlier the poet’s personality was in the background, now individual talent of a creator is put in the foreground which implies not only his creative talent but rich spiritual world which becomes even more intense in the epoch of Romanticism. A well known theoretician of German romanticism, Friedrich Schlegel wrote: “The true poet is the one who is capable to show the most ordinary and routine things completely anew and without embellishing in one’s poetic world, put into it the highest sense and […] guess its great depth of meaning […] the inderect rendering of reality and the present makes possible for a creator to express eternal, always and everywhere beautiful, significant and universal” (Schlegel 1980: 66-67). According to A.von Armin, the purpose of poetic works is to “return the lost unity of spirit and material to the world” (Armini 1980: 152). Due to the fact that “to explain or penetrate into the universe is impossible, but merely unlocking and contemplation” (Schlegel 1980 a: 150), it is only within poet’s power.
Novalis claims that in comparison with a science, poetry conceives the universe best of all, perceives its depth better because the so-called sixth sense makes the cognitive process easier. Novalis gives the following interpretation of the essence of a poet: “The genuine poet is all-knowing; he is a real world in miniature” (Novalis 2001: 401). The conclusions made by him are more truthful than those made by a scientist. Between the scientist’s rational mind and poet’s intuition the romanticists give preference to the latter. Creators, in contrast to a scientist, can cognize the external world more globally and deeply. For the scientist, the knowable is something conceived by the power of reason. Phenomenon which goes beyond the limits of logic remains inexplicable. Only poetry, the product of creator’s work, can unfold the covered mystery to a reader and give answer to eternal questions.
In the majority of cases, main characters of the German romanticists are the artists, people granted with creative talent. Anyway, favorite personage is a poet – the owner of limitless imagination, magician who reconciles opposite to each other events in imaginary world, overcomes the difficulties. Of the small but voluminous in terms of meaning creative work of the representative of the Jena school - Novalis, it is worth noting the novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen in which the author shows the formation of the main character, an ingenuous youth called Heinrich as a poet through spiritual evolution.
Novalis does not exclude rational path of cognition. He contrasted ratio with the intuition. We read in the novel: “The history of humankind can be learned following two roads: one road is rather distant and difficult to traverse. Besides this, it is cut up with numerous impassable paths; this is the road of experience; another road – can be passed in one leap by man; this is the road of inner contemplation. The one who decides to take the first road must summarize the events and conduct dull calculations; a man who chooses the second road directly conceives the essence of each story or event (Novalis 1989: 53).
The novel aims to show the role of a poet and poetry. The artist’s mission is to open the mysteries of nature, overcome the alienation between man and nature and restore the lost contact. In author’s idea, the novel itself would have been an “apotheosis of poetry”. The first book describes Heinrich’s longing to become a poet; it serves the enrichment of the future poet with knowledge and various impressions and in the second book, the fulfillment of the dearest dream is shown. While traveling from Eisenach to Augsburg preparation of the hero occurs for this great mission. Through his many encounters with people of various professional background and experiences he learns much; the expansion of his mental and spiritual world outlook occurs, romantic spirit is deepening in him. Then a great change comes over the hero, who meets a great poet - Klingsohr and his daughter – Mathilde. It is Klingsohr’s talks that inspire Heinrich to enter the realm of true poetry. Poetry is represented as inner power which goal is not a description of the events in external form but penetration into the essence, immersion into its depth. The “true poet” as the one “born on another star” is capable of learning the hidden mystery and transferring this knowledge to ordinal mortals. He unlocks the world unknown before, and reveals its mysteries which represent the initial essence of the poetry. Heinrich still recalls his mentor’s teaching: “The poet would be a person granted a mission directly by God, therefore being excited by the invisible closeness with Supreme Being he can announce divine wisdom to the earth with magic chants” (Novalis 2001: 54). Moreover, as chosen by God, he is the one with extraordinary ability. Along with imagination and eloquent language he has an ability to influence the forces of nature.
In the novel, there can be heard nostalgia about old time poets who possess magic forces. They had special instruments with which they produce remarkable hymns, could get in touch with the souls of nature’s forces, tame the fierce animals, and quiet the violent rivers… That was the time when poets and priests were theirs” (Novalis 2001: 56).
Such poets are the main characters of the fairy tales included in the novel. In the first of them, a legend about Greek poet – Arion is treated. We become the witnesses of magic force of his art and talent. Along with the art of composing songs, Arion has a remarkable ability of influencing the nature. Natural stichions and fierce monsters subordinate him by their own wish.
The hero of the second fairy tale is also a poet like his precursor. Here, we do not see his ruling over the powers of nature but beneficial effect of his art on humans is evident: how his own creations win him favor of the king and whole royal court.
In the third fairy tale it is shown how the poetry delivers the country from the evil: Arthur’s court, which symbolically represents the residence of divine forces, is immersed in complete serenity, quietness, coldness and freeze. From this witchcraft it is liberated by Eros – the god of love and parable, i.e. poetry. Peace, love and harmony come down to the world, the prose is defeated and we become the witnesses of a triumph of poetry. Poetry is opposed to the evil, avarice, avidity, arrogance in the tale and overcomes them.
In much the same way as romanticism, typical for modernism is to display the hidden motion of a soul, powerful feelings and “shadowed” sides of man. Modernists also point out the helplessness of a science.
Logics and rationalism as cognitive path were denied for the second time in the beginning of the 20th century. Bergson’s idea that man can conceive the reality by means of intuition, instinct and not by means of intellect became very popular.
Most of G.Robakidze’s main characters are devoted to the service of art. Among them, we should mention the poets Otar (in the play To Londa) and Levan Orbeli (in the novel The Guards of Grail).
Georgian modernist also appreciates poetry highly: “In essence, a poet is the same as an inventive artist. This feature is inherent to all human beings who subconsciously are in constant recollection, in search for themselves, but this feeling is particularly keen in a poet. For him it is easier to get at the roots because the artist goes away from empirical and personal boundaries while creating…(Robakidze 1994: 311). G.Robakidze imagines creative process as a “dream with open eyes”. This is an abstract symbol that means knowledge of the “essence of the world itself” by means of contemplation. Only “perception” is needed. The main thing is to conceive, to feel intuitively. In the “dream with open eyes” man joins the infinite reality. The poet approximates eternity in the process of creative burning and with his art makes man a participator of immortality.
The important and distinguished character in the play “To Londa” is the poet Otar. Out of his mouth speaks wisdom; on cosmic ordering of the universe the following concept is set: the world is boundless, it has neither end nor beginning or who knows maybe its end is its beginning and the beginning is its end:
“The world has neither beginning, nor ending” (Robakidze 2003 a: 27).
Poet is the most sensible person, the one who advances progressive ideas. It is a poet in whom the feeling of protest germinates when because of drought the priest decides to offer Londa as sacrifice. The poet is against killing a human as sacrifice; in a whole crowd he is supported by nobody but Tamaz Batonishvili. It seems people love him; they are listening to his stories with interest. These stories contain important information. It is the poet who informs the gathering public about Londa’s strange, hidden and mystic origin. He tells about love story between the goddess and young hunter which had fatal ending. It seems as if a legend with invisible thread gets in touch with Londa and Tamazi’s love affair. In both cases love and fate solve and determine the final. If it were not for love, the action would have developed in quite different way; this would have been one of the sacrifice rituals, the analog of which used to take place in heathen past and if not it were fate – the occurrence of drought due to which Londa is offered as sacrifice by a priest, probably Londa’s and Tomaz’a love would not have continuation or would have quite trivial ending. It is just the clash of love and fate that turns drama into mystery. It looks like everything has been predicted and contemplated by Otar the poet.
The poet is not the one who subordinates blindly and it is he from whom the ideas different from the universally recognized and accepted views come. Similar to him, as is known, Tamaz Batonishvili is also against offering Londa in sacrifice and he even tries to protest this terrible decision. However, his behavior is subjective; it is love that calls him to act. As to Otar, the poet in relation to concrete case is a totally impartial man.
The folk poet ranks higher than heathen priest by his religious views. It is known to him the essence of the wholeness of the universe, the existence of divinity in a man and human in divine:
“God is every one and every one is God.
Man is real God” (Robakidze 2003 a: 32) - says he.
Similar to the characters of Novalis’s poets, in the personage of the poet Otar a wish of transformation of the world, bringing about the change and a new world view is felt. Devotion to heathen views, prejudices and the rituals is weakened in him that gives rise to contrast between the hero and his native people.
Levani (The Guards of Grail) is a special character. From the very beginning of the novel the author presents his detailed psychological portrait. His friend Avala characterizes him as a person with “strange”, refined and subtle soul who exists in different dimension and has nothing common with the real life. “He takes imaginary as a reality” (Robakidze 2003 b: 26) which causes his sadness. He cognizes the divinity from such simple things as a stone, flower, etc. If we believe Avala, Levani is a real romantic hero by his outlook. At the birth of the verse, a remarkable psycho-emotional charge originates in him. In this way Levan Orbeli’s works are created. His friends also become the witnesses of this moment. It is just because of contemplation and dream that he becomes aware of Grail.
Poetic intuition and mentioned contemplation make Levan experience the wholeness of the universe. His thinking binds the centuries – “When vision attended me, I had a feeling as if it already appeared earlier, therewith I remembered its all details. Sometimes it seems to me that somebody has already told me something like this long time ago. But I don’t know who. Maybe this somebody whispered me everything in a dream? Anyway, I am not convinced. Maybe this happened before my birth? Of course, you can blame me in self-assurance but sometimes it seems to me it was in this way” (Robakidze 2003 b: 121) – says he in conversation with Norina and prince Giorgi.
From the very first meeting prince Giorgi is charmed by a young poet who is a man concentrated in himself and remarkable force comes from him. It is not accidental that the prince presents him an opal. The shine of a precious stone which is reflected to him is compared in the novel with the process of man’s self-immersion.
Comparative study of the essence of a poet and poetry in the creative work of two writers shows that the image of a creative person as well as creative process is presented in a similar way by the authors. The answer to mystic questions, overcoming of disconnection between the individual and universe, insight into future, bringing positive, progressive changes into public life is the mission of a poet and poetry.
The only difference between Novalis and G.Robakidze’s poets is that they are comparatively more realistic in Georgian modernist and in Novalis they look like mythic personages who influence the external world and even physical transformation is possible for them. After transformation Heinrich goes through the road: man, stone, tree, sheep and again man. And after picking the blue flower he becomes unearthly, appears in quite different light, elevated over everyday existence as of the body loses the strength, whereas G.Robakidze’s poets are the ordinary earthly men and distinguished from others only by subtle soul.
Finally, an ideal of both writers is a seer poet. G.Robakidze in his letter “On Russian Talent” agrees with Novalis’s notion and recites a quotation that a poet and priest sometime in the past had the same meaning and their ideal fusion will happen again. If Novalis put the goal of fulfilling this mission before romantic art, in G.Robakidze’s view, symbolism can do it. It is poet-priest that represents the image of a creative personality embodied in their personages.
1. Armin…1980: Armin von L.A. Poetry and history. In: Literary Manifests of West European Romanists. M..1980. (in Russian).
2. World…2001: World Encyclopedia: Moscow, Minsk. 2001 (in Russian).
3. Novalis… 1989: Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Tbilisi, 1989 (in Georgian).
4. Novalis… 2001: Novalis Werke, herausgegeben und kommentiert von Gerhard Schulz, München 2001.
5. Robalidze... 2003a: Robakidze Gr., Drams, Tbilisi, 2003 (in Georgian)
6. Robalidze... 1994: Robakidze Gr., The Cursed, v.2, Tbilisi, 1994 (in Georgian)
7. Robalidze... 2003b: Robakidze Gr., The Guards of Grail Tbilisi, 2003 (in Georgian)
8. Schlegel… 1980a: Schlegel Fr., Ideas. In: Literary Manifests of West European Romanists. M..1980. (in Russian).
Schlegel… 1980b: Schlegel Fr.History of Ancient and New Literature. In: Literary Manifests of West European Romanists. M..1980. (in Russian).