Modernist Lyrical Discourse and ‘Blue Horses’ by Galaktion Tabidze

‘Blue Horses' by Galaktion Tabidze has always been of special importance in modern Georgian Literary Criticism that can be explained by an interesting and distinguished ‘modernist' nature of the text apparent on different levels of discourse,   such as ideological-philosophical as well as structural-formalistic.   In the text of ‘Blue Horses', on the one hand, we have the tendency of denial of the traditional lyric hero seen in the reasonable discourse of the lyrical text, which is the poetical manifestation of the a priori human existential crisis of in the epoch of modernism. The lyric hero of   ‘Blue Horses' is unable to identify himself in the world and is alienated from the metaphysical origins;  As a result, in the lyric ‘self' a priori can be seen the tragic understanding of the disharmony of existence. On the other hand, in the lyric text by Galaktion  a priori can be seen the overwhelming sentiments of poetry (which is the most important feature of the modernist lyrics, in this case symbolist lyrics). These sentiments can be noticed in the absolute aspiration for musicality and in the intentional usage of poetical speech when inside the characteristic words for traditional lyrics (as well as phrases, sintagmatic connectivity) the unity of meaning and designation as well as the unity of image and idea of poetical symbols are being decomposed and ‘neutralized'.

Some of the noteworthy articles on ‘Blue Horses' belong to R.Siradze [Siradze, 2008: 215-229], R. Khalvashi [Khalvashi, 2010: 129-140] and B. Tsipuria [Tsipuria, 2009]. R.Siradze and R. Khalvashi in their articles show and discuss the intertextuality , whereas B. Tsipuria gives on one side the world outline of symbolism and poetical principles, and on the other -  hermeneutical interpretation of the lyrical text in the context of general Christian concept (It should be noted that the interpretation given by B. Tsipuria is a paradigmatic example of understanding and seeking the idea that lies in the depth of the lyric text). ‘Blue Horses' can be analysed from philosophical, comparative, poetical, intertextual or versification perspectives, which can be found in the works by G. Kankava [Kankava, 1964: 7-11], M. Kveselava [Kveselava, 1977: 61-64], R. Burchuladze [Burchuladze, 1980: 169-178], M. Kostava [Kostava, 1990: 129-135], A. Khintibidze [Khintibidze, 1992: 126-128], I. Kenchoshvili [Kenchoshvili, 1999: 92, 131, 158], S. Baramidze [Baramidze, 2003: 150-15]), Z. Shatirishvili [Shatirishvili, 2004: 97-99].

One of the main poetical and structural characteristics of modernist lyric which makes it different from traditional one is that it is not focused on abruptly expressed subjectivity of the lyrical hero/lyrical ‘I' and on the ideology and emotional phases that the hero undergoes (for example, sentimental, romantic, or realistic poetry); The principles, compositional-structural system and outlines on which the traditional ideal of the lyrical text is based in modernist lyric becomes either of secondary importance or is not mentioned at all. Accordingly, in the modernist lyrical texts lyrical "I" is not established as the most important basic structural unit, or the author and the text of the main ideological and emotional integrity of the media, around which the traditional lyrics of the later built a lyrical text of the whole structure - the formal system (Topic, Rhetoric, Versification). As a result, in the modernist lyrical text the lyrical "I" and its subjectivity, is either balanced or even cancelled and moved to the back part. (As for or example, in Expressionist Lyric).

Structural ‘turbulences' of Modernist Lyric is caused on one hand by modernist writer's distrust and unacceptability of harmony in the world (denial of Hegelian Stream), and on the other hand, by the skepticism in the enlightening powers of mind and in the self-awareness of the subject (denial of Kant and Fichte Stream). Here, the global and universal changeability of mentality is present (Mentalitätswandel) - Theocentist and anthropocentrism archetypal paradigms are being destroyed, which is caused by Nitzschean Death of God. This is why, modernist lyrics is an expression of the crisis the subject undergoes, and the lyrical hero is empty of any kind of subjectivity, he is impersonated (Entpersönlichung). All, this can be seen on the structural level in modernist lyrics, where the lyric hero is de-subjected, isolated, divided, and the abolished subjectivity is not the basic structural element of lyrical text anymore.

The symbolist and post-symbolist lyric of Galaktion Tabidze is a clear example on one hand of the structural transformation and on the other of the decline of subjectivity because of mental unsteadiness (Ichdissoziation), the depersonalization of the subject (Entpersönlichung) which is paradigmatically represented in ‘Blue Horses'. In the structure of the lyrical text we do not have a solid lyrical ‘I', with his/her vision and deep, exciting feelings and emotions, but a dismissed, disharmonial, depersonalized lyrical hero. Correspondingly, the ontextuality of the lyrical text portrays the world as it is, a world that is beyond the conscious will of the lyrical hero and exists independently from him/her (the abolition of Stream): so we have the condition when in the conscious and emotional Pikhtean experience of the lyrical hero life is based on appropriable disharmoniality and unreasonability; although it cannot be changed it can be opposed. The lyrical hero of ‘Blue Horses' exists in this disharmonial, desubjective, dismissed world and in the end disappears in nothingness.[1]

In the full text, i.e. in the ontotexuality of the verse, ‘Blue Horses' by Galaktion Tabidze we come across the declaration of the atheological absurd of existence, the vanity of human existence, which is empty of any kind of purpose or aim. And, according to ontological picture given in the lyrical content, human existence, which on its behalf is devoid of any reason of existence, is based on the irrational element- Will (Wille) - the a priori initial start. The imagery of Blue Horses is based on this ontological irrational element of Will, becoming an artistic symbol in the text: The eternal and aimless race of Blue Horses is a symbol of the absolutism of the Will, and not Mind. It represents the vital energy, the aimless, spontaneous, inconstant nature of fundamental will, the atheological essence of universal will, which results in the a priori invalidation of any kind of sense in human existence:

In the mist's rampant storm, eternity's realm,

In heaven or tomb, by dark curse deplored:
at a hurricane's rate, like a swift turn of fate,
my blue horses dart with a thunderous roar! [Tabidze, 2011:79]

Accordingly, the existence, depicted in Galaktion's Blue Horses, excludes any kind of teleology, as in the ontotextual space of the lyric text human existence is given as  purposeless and aimless that lacks any prospects.   Since transcendentalism (‘Eternity's realm') is separate monad existence, is an object per se, which is unperceivable for the individual. As a result, it rules out teleology and Theo-centrism of human existence:

Like snowdrifts of mist gilded in sunset,

the shore was sun-lit in eternity's realm.
No promise in sight, nothing to look at,
Only the quiet - nomadic and numb.
Only the quiet: the cold, rampant storm
of eternity's realm holding nothing but grief [Tabidze, 2011:78].

Thus, due to the fact that existence is void of meaning, in this ontological condition human existence becomes meaningless, human being become purposeless manifestation of infinite individual will, in which the only finale can be  transition into nothingness, i.e. the complete disappearance and absence: By the topos of Death and the intensity of apocalyptical visions (‘Through a thin forest of disfigured faces') the vanity and nonentity of human existence is revealed:  Human existence is seen, as a constant and eternal suffer and despair, stipulated by the absurdity and aimlessness, where on the contrary to Schopenhauer Nirvana can never be achieved:

There are no bouquets, no calm reveries,

only your new home - this grave's sepulcher.
Who'll remember your face? Who'll speak your name?
If you moan, who'll come? Who'll hear you whisper?
There's no one for solace upon those strange shores,
where cryptic chimeras sleep, darkly twisted [Tabidze, 2011:78-79].

This is why I believe that the lyric discourse of Galaktion Tabidze's text is not full of the pathos of ‘Breakthrough the borders defined by Fate' and ‘Overcoming human limits' [Kveselava, 1977:63-65], the imagery of Blue Horses does not represent ‘the immortality of soul, eternal race' [Kenchoshvili, 1980:45], ‘The immortal nature of poetry' [Kankava, 1964:9], or ‘One of the aspects of Lucifer' [Kostava,1990:131], but the symbolic of Blue Horses in the lyrical text becomes the Topos of Death. Within this, on the one hand, we have the symbolic embodiment of the complete disappearance of the individual and the end-point of human existence, on which the race of Blue Horses towards heaven instantly indicates: ‘I've terrible visions of my blue stallions bearing your coffin, as the world looks on', comp: Horse, as a symbol of Death, and in the imagery of the color Blue, it is also the Symbol of Death [Metzler, 2008: 47, 274];  On the other hand Blue Horses symbolize the blind, primordial, Dionysian, irrational, purposeless and aimless start of existence - absolute will, which is displayed in the universe, as a cycle of life and death, as an infinite, original formation and disappearance.[2]    

I believe that, in the ontotextual space of Blue Horses, the discourse of God's Death, resulting in the destruction of a solid existential support and the lack of perspective in existence (‘Eyes covered in ash, you lie prone in your tomb, lying in heaven, and still your soul grieves'), in general matches the metaphysics of Will by Schopenhauer and the eternal return of one and the same by Nietzsche.  But Galaktion, gives his own understanding of an individual loss of subjectivity and the decline and destruction of the orderly and harmonious universe (which has its roots in Schopenhauer's and Nietzsche's Philosophy), esthetically deepens it, expends it, takes it to extremity, adds to it a new scope, resulting in the transformation of new dimensions of reason and esthetics, from being just impulses and inspiration coming from philosophers, which makes Blue Horses an original and absolutely esthetic piece of literature.

Blue Horses reveals the two a priori dimensions characteristic to modernist lyrics - It provides specific structural and mental ‘volatile': on the one hand, the destruction and denial of the traditional lyric hero, as the basic structural element of the text, on the other hand, the collapse of harmonious existence, which is the result of the decomposition of theocentric mentality. Other poetical features of modernist lyric can be seen in the text: the cancellation and decomposition of unity, in the frames of poetical symbol - image-idea (Bild-Sinn), and within poetical speech sound-opinion (Laut-Sinn), which results in the accentation of poetical speech and striving towards absolute Music.  Thus, according to the poetical and existential characteristics seen in Blue Horses, we can asses, that by the publication of this verse (1915) a line can be drawn between traditional Georgian lyrics and modernist lyrics, and we can see Blue Horses as a beginning of Georgian modernist lyrics.

Differently to traditional lyrics, the hero of Blue Horses, is not the structural basis of the text, because the subjectivity of the hero has not got a simple position or world outline and is loaded with emotions, which was totally on the contrary in the structure and poetics of traditional lyrics. The lyric hero of Blue Horses is a manifestation of absolute personal decomposition, which is seen in his world outline (No promise in sight, nothing to look at), as well as in the impossibility of self-identification (Who'll remember your face? Who'll speak your name?). Therefore, in the understanding of the lyric hero, existence can be seen as a disharmonic condition. As a result, the hero of Blue Horses is impersonal, he is ‘neutralized' or moved aside, and vanishes in the composition. The hero of Blue Horses narrates in the first and second persons of the grammar. This is a rhetorical tool characteristic to traditional lyrics. It is being used to show the solid and monolithic subjectivity of the hero and his complete harmony with the universe, but this traditional tool of rhetoric in Galaktion's Work has another function, showing the destruction of harmony between the hero and the universe. Consequently, instead of the subjectivity of lyric hero, as the main structural basis of the text we get the meta-subjective dimension, which is purely ‘object' - Blue Horses.  

The above-mentioned disassociate discourse developed in the images of ‘Blue Horses', in which concurrently Triple semiosis occurs, in which the following ontological and existential features can be seen:

A.     ‘Blue Horses' symbolize the irrational beginnings of universe / existence - absolute will / life and its worthlessness in time and space, its arising and disappearance, its  birth and death;

B.     Blue Horses represent the essence of existence (Wesenheit), so that how existing ones, as well as existing ones, are the form of existence. Accordingly, in the imagery of Blue Horses the ever repetitive essence of existence is depicted that can be seen in existence as well as in the living of each individual as a senseless, eternal, one and the same ontological act of arising and disappearance, birth and death.

C.     The imagery of ‘Blue Horses' is based in the ontotextuality of the lyric text, on one hand as a symbol of foolishness of existence/being, on the other hand the symbol of disappearance of the existence of the disassociated individual.  From this the imagery of ‘Blue Horses' is the most important ideological and structural element (that is coded already in the title of the text), on which the disassociate semantics, tropic, versification and rhetoric is being based.

[1]    From Ideological-philosophical as well as structural point of view it is noteworthy that, the title of the lyrical text ‘Blue Horses' , on one hand shows how existence is ruled by blind will, rather than mind and tries to codify this ontological condition, on the other hand the title is an indication on the wilful discourse of the lyrical text. The leitmotif of the verse is the race of Blue Horses (at a hurricane's rate, like a swift turn of fate, my blue horses dart with a thunderous roar!), which at the same time can be seen as a suggestive artistic tool used by the poet. 

[2] Noteworthy is the fact, that Galaktion himself gives the interpretation of his own lyrics, after thirty years, in 1947, in a note, where he underlines the domination and totality of disassociation in the text: ‘1. Blue Horses is an innovative piece of work. 2. The basis of it lies in reality. 3. Its content is realistic. 4. The form is utterly musical, that is unusual for other works. 5. It is written about a scientific theme. In science there is a thesis that around the universe there exists eternity, enlightened place, where there is no life. 6. Snowdrifts of mist - gilded in sunset, the shore was sun-lit in eternity's realm. The word - gilded- is given in a hyperbolical sense. 7. No promise in sight - is a talk about religion, which tells people, that after Death, there is life, i.e. heaven. 9. The cold silence of the eternity's realm (Death and not Life) 11. Silence and Cold - Frost and no Life 12. Mournful eternity's realm 13. No fire - fire as an image of life, flames in eyes - lifeless eyes. (Tabidze, 2004: 17-18)


Baramidze S.
Being and Time in Galaktion’s Poetry, Galaktion Studies II, Tbilisi
Burchuladze R.
Only Integrals, Tbilisi
Kakanava G.
Literary Studies, Tbilisi
Kenchoshvili I.
Poetics of Galaktion Tabidze, Tbilisi
Kenchoshvili I.
The Wordl of Galaktion Tabidze, Tbilisi
Kveselava M.
Poetical Integrals. Galaktion Tabidze and modern Poetry, Tbilisi
Kostava M.
Galaktion, Mnatobi N6
Siradze R.
Blue Horses’ by Galaktion Tabidze and ‘Blue Rider’ by Wassily Kandinsky (Intertextual Reading) Galaktion Studies, IV, Tbilisi
Tabidze G.
Fragments Galaktion Studies, III, Tbilisi
Tabidze G.
Selected Works, ‘Georgian Writing’, Vol. 36, Tbilisi რჩეული, “ქართული მწერლობა”, ტ. 36,თბილისი.
Shatirishvili Z.
Poetics and Rhetoric of Galaktion, Publishing House ‘Logos Press’, Tbilisi
Tsipuria B.
For the Understanding of ‘Blue Horses’ Website: http://www.burusi. tabidze/2009/06/06/
Khalvashi R.
Intertext of ‘Blue Horses’ - Semiotics. N7, Tbilisi
Khintibidze A.
Galaktion or members of Blue Horn. The modern reform of Georgian Verse, Tbilisi
Andreotti M.
Die Struktur der modernen Literatur, 4. Aufl., (UTB) Haupt Verlag, Bern / Stuttgart.
Metzler Lexikon literarischer Symbole, Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart.