Tear in XII-XIII Centuries’ Georgian Secular Writing

DOI:  10.55804/jtsuSPEKALI-17-13


Fiction, one of the main areas being capable of expressing the inner world of a human being, often uses tears as a symbol. Georgian writing of the Middle Ages is particularly interesting in this regard, which, due to its specificity, oftentimes uses tears, crying and other relevant lexical items. They are mostly common in the episodes of grief, fear, regret, joy, gratitude and supplication. It is rather interesting to see how tears are depicted in secular literature - will it be possible to find a different approach in this regard?

We delved into the original Georgian secular monuments of the 12th-13th centuries, which, from the perspective of the tear phenomenon, we divided into three parts: the first part presents Amirandarejaniani, which prides itself with folklore-mythical and fairy-tale elements; therefore, tears as well have a different application here and they are more related to folk motifs. The second part incorporates Abdulmesiani and Tamariani, which are the works of the eulogistic genre and hence, tears are shed because of not being able to fully express the virtue of the praiseworthy object in words. The third part is dedicated to The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, which introduces the medieval institution of chivalry, the new icon of the hero, and in the light of Renaissance aspirations, reveals the changes in the human’s inner world, the diverse spectrum of emotions, mostly accompanied by crying and the shedding of tears.

As mentioned, the first part of the study discusses Amirandarejaniani by Mose Khoneli, which is the first monument of secular literature after many centuries of religious writing. This might explain the fact that it presents so many heroic-adventure fantastic characters and stories accumulated in the spoken language over the centuries: giants as symbols of evil and three friends, sworn as blood brothers, fighting against these evil giants, charming young man struggling to win over the beauty, etc. In one word, Amirandarejaniani seems to free itself from the clichés of religious writing and starts reviving the fairytale-like childhood memories of in people’s mind.

It is important to learn the phenomenon of tears in folklore considering the relevance of Amirandarejaniani with mythos and spoken language (which has been studied many times in the scholarly literature).

In Georgian folklore, the lexical units of “tear” and “crying” are mostly found as artistic metaphors in romantic poetry. In the mourning poetry and hunting mythos, where the whole genre of mourning with tears and loud weeping is distinguished, tears hardly appear, and this is because Georgian people have shown great restraint when mourning ever since. However, this taboo on crying seems to be breaking in literature.

Mose Khoneli’s characters cry in times of great sorrow and difficulties. They  shed tears because of fear or grief. However, it is significant to note that  one cannot find the phrasing, “tears of joy” in Amirandarejaniani, which is quite common in later writings and can also be encountered in hagiography earlier on.

The cry of Savarsamisdze is often described in this piece of writing. “Old man”, as Mose Khoneli refers to him, cannot remember his master without tears. Every time he sits down to eat with his slaves, he first pays his respect to God standing up, and then “and then turned, gazed upon the portrait of Amiran Darejanisdze, wept, and said, ‘There is a man whose like has never been upon the earth !’[Georgian… 1987: 285]. 1987: 285]. As it can be seen from the given quote, the love for the deceased is so great that he cannot be remembered without tears. In the passage when the nobles are surprised saying that they had not seen such a wonderful man before and considering the virtue of his subject, cannot begin to think what his master would have been like, “Then Savarsamidze  wept, and said, ‘What would Your Majesty have said had you seen my lord, since a pitiful old man can please you thus much!” [Georgian… 1987: 287]. As we can see, out of his love and respect to his master and his superiority, Savarsamisdze presents himself as unworthy and with great humility. Amiran Darejanisdze is a true hero for him – no human being born in this world is equal to him. Savarsamisdze’s tears are an expression of this immense love, the loss of an outstandingly brave man and the longing of his owner.

We find the theme of tears and crying in almost every passage of Amirandarejaniani. For example, Badri Iamanisdze’s servant and a guard, the man with a black horse, is also crying. When Amiran asks him why he is wearing black, “Then the man wept and said, ‘It is all for the sake of my lord” [Georgian... 1987: 289]. The whole city also cries when Badri Iamanisdze has to fight against Azarmanik: „ All the peoples [of the realm] came out on to the walls. Clarions and tabors were sounded, and there was much noise inside the city. All of them though the champion was defeated” [Georgian... 1987: 303]. The “crying” mentioned in the given quotation shows that Badri is a favorite master of all the serfs and the whole city – people deem his ordeal as their own grief, and are terribly concerned about his possible defeat, mourning and crying. Badri is similarly beloved, respected and dear to the king of the seas. When the young man is captured by the giant and the queen is brought to the king of the seas, the narrator notes, “There was weeping and sorrow, and the King of the Seas said, ‘Would that we knew how to rescue him!“ [Georgian… 1987: 306]. As a rule, kings do not cry in fairy tales or in literary monuments. However, this is the occasion when the king also sheds tears. Obviously, this fact indicates his great love for his serf. Apart from his chivalry and the sacrifice he made for people, Badri is the son-in-law of the king, which makes us think that the king may also be mourning his daughter’s tragedy. In any case, according to the discussed passages, tears are still a phenomenon expressing pain and worry.

The young Iaman Dchabuki, the narrator, a woman and Amiran Darejanisdze himself are crying because of Badri. About the young Iaman, the narrator mentions, „a fine-looking old man who must have been a lion-dchabuki once”. It is interesting that the notion established in the Georgian tradition that tears are degrading to a man’s dignity is totally disregarded in this poem. According to the given example, crying can be rather flattering to the distinguished young man; tears express the intensity of his feelings, unbearable pain inside, unleashing his inner pain.

Young Iaman „ He wept bitterly as he said, “No more can I say to you than this: do what you think best — you are now my only hope!“ [Georgian... 1987: 311]. The cry of the old man is truly bitter, because it is caused by the misfortune of his beloved master, protector and supporter. Although Amiran did not personally witness the abduction of Badri Iamanisdze, when he arrived at the spot, „ Amiran Darejanisdze dismounted and wept bitterly“ [Georgian... 1987: 312]. This cry, we believe, is an expression of knightly sympathy and the pain caused by the misfortune of a worthy young man.

Despite being a stranger, he feels a kind of regret for having the knighthood of an unknown young man disrespected. The reason for his remorse is probably caused by the fact that Amiran himself could not witness the abduction, otherwise the story would have ended differently. After reading about the feelings of the heroes, the reader is no longer astonished by the appearance of a crying woman thinking about Badri (“woman who was sitting bewailing“ [Georgian... 1987: 315]). Her mourning is no longer a surprise. On the contrary, it is even a logical continuation of the events developed around Badri.

Crying in “the story of Talismans” is caused by great fear. In this chapter, the caravanners realize that despite having defeated Astarabisdze, young man dressed in red is awaiting them. Even the mention of his name strikes fear into the caravanners, for he seems to be a mighty man of incomparable physical strength. The worries of the caravanners and the fear of the impending tragedy are hyperbolized in Amirandarejaniani: „ such a wailing broke out in the caravan as if the wrath of God had struck them. “ [Georgian... 1987: 376].

Such an intensified crying should be demonstrating the caravanners’  physical weakness and ignorance of the art of war, their fears and lack of courage. The discussed episode will certainly remind the reader of one of the episodes from The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, when Avtandil meets  the caravanners - the caravanners stopped in the middle of the road in fear of pirates begging the commander for help. In Amirandarejaniani, Amiran is the one who acts as the savior of the mourners; however, it is difficult for everyone to let him go to war, and they send him away with the same pain and tears as it was with Badri Iamanisdze. Here you can see the hearty crying of the queen, the Khvarashan woman and the entire population, which is caused by the fear of the possible death of the beloved knight and savior.

It is also interesting to discuss the mourning and crying after the death of the young man: „The man wept and smote his face with his hands  Amiran Darejanisdze, his heart heavy with grief, wept likewise; and for a long time we all did the same, grieving sorely. and for a long time we all did the same, grieving sorely [Georgian... 1987: 487]. Indeed, a great tragedy happened - a young man, a hero with fabulous physical strength and outstanding courage, was killed, but the narrator, as opposed to the reader’s expectations, does not provide emotional and detailed description of saying goodbye to the hero. He briefly mentions that everyone was crying and does not make too much of an effort to evoke intense emotions in the reader. This fact could be explained by the specifics of the genre per se. The purpose of the heroic-adventure literary monument is not to show the tragedy and put particular emphasis to it. More likely, its purpose is to describe the bravery and heroism of distinguished knights, their heroic deeds, to convey the intensity of battles and to present a mighty victory. If the scenes of the death of such young men or the mourning for this death were described with more intensity, it would slow down the dynamics of the main story and, therefore, distract the reader and suppress the divine emotion driven by heroic stories. That is why, not only in the scene of the young man’ s death, but also in the course of the entire work, the mention of “tear” and “crying” is as brief as the narration of the incredible stories committed by the heroes. Neither the emotions of the knights themselves nor those around them are in the spotlight in order not to slow down the dynamics of the battle throughout the work.

As it turns out, the implication of tears and crying in Amirandarejaniani differs from the principles of hagiographic writing. Tears (of mourning, suffering or joy) shed in religious literature are always addressed to God, while in Mose Khoneli’s work, tears are shed because of the emotions accompanying human relationships. Here, a person is a priority, and both his/her spiritual and physical pain are considered worthy of shedding tears.

While discussing the monuments of the first decade of the 13th century - Abdulmesiani and Tamariani, if considering the fact that the essence and the aim of the eulogistic work is to glorify the object of praise and to saturate the story with elevated emotions alone, it will be logical to note that tears and crying in these poems are represented in single instances. It seems that in their praise, eulogists leave room neither for negative feelings nor for tears of joy.

In Ioane Shavteli’s Abdulmesiani, the lexical unit “tear” is mentioned only once. The eulogist writes that he wants with all his heart to find suitable words for a praiseworthy object, but this is such a difficult and responsible task that he is moved to tears and the constant crying breaks his heart:

I should not have my heart so broken,

The stream of tears starts to flow down,

Wisdom apron, not burning fire,

begird with a study like a shirt [Georgian 1988: 101].

Obviously, the tear here is a metaphor expressing  fervent and sincere feelings and contains the emotions evoked in the creative process of the speaker.

There are only four passages containing the lexical units of “tear” and “crying” in Tamariani. We will elaborate on each of them.

If I cry, for whom I should cry,

If I do not see you silent? “  [Georgian ...1988: 8] – writes the eulogist. It seems that the only reason he can cry is Tamar. For she alone deserves to shed a tear for – this is a symbol of pure love and true devotion.

Make cry by broking heart“ [Georgian...1988: 37] - the author writes in some other passage. In the given passage, he speaks of Tamar’s enemies and notes that they will weep with their hearts torn by resentment and bitterness. The cry here will display their defeat and, therefore, Tamar’s victory, her almightiness.

In one passage, when the author describes the love to Tamar, he compares the feelings of a person in love with her with the cry of Cain, who has to carry the burden of killing his own brother:

And cries Cain – like accused

the murder of Cain’s brother “ [Georgian... 1988: 44]. Perhaps, the eulogist wants to show the reader that  love to Tamar is as heavy a burden as the tears shed from the eyes of a brother’s murderer. In this truly wonderful comparison, the tear is an expression of the depth and intensity of a feeling.

Take mercy on me, of eyes of which

The stream of tears flows,

I am dying  and there are no examples of my sorrow

that might be  described,

What have your lieges should do,

who do not have a mother and a father anymore?“ [Georgian... 1988: 52] - In these lines, the author tells us how difficult and incredible it is for him and Tamar’s subjects to imagine living without Tamar. She is both a mother and father to them! The “flow of tears” here is an expression of the mourning and great pain that the thought of Tamar’s loss brings to the author.

It is true that the context of applying the lexical items - “tear” and “crying” in eulogistic poetry is different, but as the common phenomenon, the tear, as a metaphor, is an expression of the intense and strong feeling towards the praised object. Such a scarcity of their use is caused by genre specificity; namely, the fact that eulogistic genre aims to glorify the object of praise by hyperbolizing feelings. There is no place for tears in such texts, because it is mostly associated with the accompanying phenomenon of tragedy.

The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, the true crown of Georgian poetry, presents an interesting picture in terms of tears. The words “tear” and “cry” are used 274 times in the poem, which is quite a large number. The kings and queens of Rustaveli, serfs and knights, slaves and subjects, merchants and, most of all, lovers. The reason for shedding tears may sometimes be one’s own pain or joy, and sometimes - sympathy for someone else’s pain or happiness.

According to the scholarly literature, tears and crying are rather common sign for the Middle Ages. Representatives of one of the highest social class - knights often shed tears, and this is caused by their spiritual condition. Burning with love for a sweetheart, going into the wild, the urge for committing heroic deeds and other norms of the chivalric code all required great mental and physical effort and readiness from the young men. Struggling to follow these high ideals oftentimes left them on their own, face to face with themselves and their feelings, which, naturally, was accompanied by tears – here tears do not constitute to the symbol of weakness, but a symbol of struggle and victory over it. The crying of such a physically strong person demonstrates the tenderness of his heart, the “baby heart”. On the path of social establishment and realization of personal goals, crying was often caused by sympathy for the plight of a fellow man and sharing his happiness or joy.

The heroes of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin strictly adhere to the chivalric code of the Middle Ages, so it is not surprising that the tears appear with such an intensity in the poem. It is significant that only the main characters and those who sympathize with them cry. It is Tariel, Avtandil, Tinatin, Nestan, Rostevan, Farsadan, Asmati, Fatman who shed tears... However, there are characters who do not cry at all such as King Ramaz, Davar, Usen, Chashnagiri... This fact shows that the author of the poem gives symbolic implication to crying and grants the privilege of tears to only those who are filled with the desire to do a worthy deed - those obsessed with revenge and evil intentions cannot cry, because tears seem to be a characteristic of people with a pure heart and conscience.

Not only the characters of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin shed tears, but its author as well. Moreover, he also calls  out to the reader to cry along with him: „Tears of blood flow profusely as I exult our Queen Tamar “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 4]; „Come, let us sit together and weep with undrying/bloody tears for Tariel “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 7]. Obviously, in these lines, the author does not imply tears in literal terms; he more likely calls for a moral readiness to sympathize with the adventures of the main characters and to praise and worship self-sacrificing love of the addressee of the poem, Tamar. Tears and crying here are expressions of the sincere and fervent emotion that comes along when being introduced to such an exciting story.

The very first story of the poem, the enthronement of Tinatin, is accompanied by tears. Tinatin cries as the king-father entrusts his throne to her - „[Tinatin] wept lest she prove unworthy to rule over the kingdom, Shedding her tears like rain over a garden of roses“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 47], states the author, and the woman’s tear serves to add even more grandeur to this eye-catching ceremony, because these tears reflect the humility and wisdom of the heir to the royal throne, and her immense love for her father.

The very first story of the poem, the enthronement of Tinatin, is accompanied by tears. Tinatin cries as the king-father entrusts his throne to her - „[Tinatin] wept lest she prove unworthy to rule over the kingdom, Shedding her tears like rain over a garden of roses“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 47], states the author, and the woman’s tear serves to add even more grandeur to this eye-catching ceremony, because these tears reflect the humility and wisdom of the heir to the royal throne, and her immense love for her father.

After Tinatin’s sincere and innocent tears, we encounter with the tears of the young knight in the panther’s skin in the poem, and these tears do not dry out throughout the entire poem. In addition to his fabulous looks, the uknown knight attracts everyone’s attention precisely due to his endless crying – his tears encompass the whole tragedy, taking away his zest for life and healthy colour on his cheeks, which is so obvious and at the same time intriguing to outsiders. The appearance of the crying Tariel can be considered to be the milestone of the poem where the adventures of the other characters are about to embark. His tears are always caused by being far away from Nestan and not knowing her whereabouts. His tears are a symbol of misfortune, endless longing, suffering and mourning.

In The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, one can often read about Avtandil’s tears. However, his crying does not always stem from one reason. At the beginning of the poem, he weeps for his love for Tinatin, then the reason for his tears is being away from his sweetheart, missing her and suffering from not being able to fulfil the task entrusted to him until he meets Tariel. From that moment, Avtandil already has “two suns” in his sky and two concerns.

The commander shows unparalleled and self-sacrificing friendship to Tariel. He weeps grieving over his friend’s, incomparable knight’s tragedy; he cries tears of compassion, because he feels for his friend and suffers his tragedy as his own: „Avtandil wept with him; fast fell the tears “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 906].

Avtandil’s suffering is truly immense considering the burden he has to endure. Rustaveli states:

but tears run from his eyes, pouring forth as from a spring“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 826]; „From his eyes, as from a fountain, tears flowed fiercely forth “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 862]. His pain and suffering are so great, and the tears shed for his loved ones are so fervent and sincere that it seems as if the whole world, the entire universe, harmoniously unites and sympathizes with him. As “Avtandil’s prayer” convey: „Wending his way he laments to the sky, he speaks; to the sun he says“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 949]; „He sang with sweet voice; he checked not the-channel of tears“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 958]. With such an intense crying, he begs the stars to show some sympathy, help and make him stronger, while telling his story: „Sit down to write my woes! For ink I give thee a lake of tears “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 954]. In this episode of the poem, the heart-burning tears shed by Avtandil act as a force that unites all the elements of the world and directs them for Avtandil’s good. When hearing his crying, even wild animals  “They hearkened, they marvelled, when he wept they wept “[ShotaRustaveli, 1988: 959]. The poem shows that a tear shed out of love and compassion for a fellow human being brings kindness to the world because it is poised with positive energy and pure heart.

Together with the main characters, their loyal friends - Asmati and Fatman cry as well with the desire to have their knights solve their misfortunes and be happy again. Rustaveli tells us the following about Asmat: „The maiden wept and beat her breast, she tore her thick hair“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 223]. She suffers so much because of the tragedy that befell her dear Nestan and Tariel that she says to Avtandil: “As smiling is better than weeping, so I prefer mourning to song“ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 232]. This is how mournful and tearful Asmat is because of her friends. (“The maiden, too, weeps over yonder, her heart! softening towards him [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 241]) And this cry, which continues endlessly for years on, is a symbol of boundless devotion and dedication. It is the same loyalty and love that Fatman feels towards Nestan-Darejan. Even when she tells her story, she can hardly help crying: „Again P’hatman spoke weeping; again the tear flowed from her eyes “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 1203]. She deems being without Nestan a life tragedy for without her, everything will lose virtue and she tells Avtandil the following: „I could not dry the spring of tears flowing forth from mine eyes “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 1205]. Usami should also be mentioned here. It is true that he happened to be the cause of another misfortune that befell Nestan, but he did this without any consideration, when his mind was blurred with liquor. Later, he also cries and mourns because of Nestan, because his feelings are truly sincere and fatherly („Patman, Usam and slaves are crying with hot tears “ [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 1316]).

As the poem unveils, many characters in The Knight in the Panther’s Skin cry because of the unfortunate fate of the main couple of the poem - Nestan and Tariel. This cry is an expression of sympathy and support in the pain and sorrow of a dear person. But sometimes the same emotion is caused by ambivalent feelings in a person. The characters of the poem oftentimes cry not only because of misfortune, but also because of happiness – they cannot contain immense happiness without tears. After having rescued Nestan from the Castle of Kadjet’hi, Tariel, Avtandil, Fatman, King of Indians, the whole army and all those who take a look at this god-blessed couple cry bitterly. Even though, Avtandil says, “Why should we weep now? It behoves us to set about the making of smiles” [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 1340], tears and crying follow the poem until the very last lines, but these tears are sincerely shed out of boundless happiness and immense joy: “They embraced each other, joy made them weep” [Shota Rustaveli, 1988: 1352].

Thus, the tear is an indispensable part of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin and it creates humane harmony as a symbol of sincerity and love for fellow humans.

This kind of perspective on tears is completely different from the one common in hagiographic monuments such as Amirandarejaniani and eulogist literature. Such an excessive mentioning of crying should be explained by the fact that Rustaveli is the first author to have sculpted the characters and their inner world so thoroughly, and tears are an integral part of a human character and personality.


აზიკური ნ.,
„მგოსანნი გლოვისანი“, მეცნიერება, თბილისი.
ვარსალაძე ე.,
„ქართული სამონადირო ეპოსი“, მეცნიერება, თბილისი.
ორბელიანი ს.,
„ლექსიკონი ქართული“, ტ. II, ი. აბულაძის გამოკვლევით, მერანი, თბილისი.
რუსთაველი შოთა
„ვეფხისტყაოსანი“, თბილისის უნივერსიტეტის გამომცემლობა.
აბზიანიძე ა., ელაშვილი ქ.,
სიმბოლოთა ილუსტრირებული ენციკლოპედია, ტ. I, ა - მ, ბაკმი, თბილისი.
აბზიანიძე ა., ელაშვილი ქ.,
სიმბოლოთა ილუსტრირებული ენციკლოპედია, ტ. II, ა - მ, ბაკმი, თბილისი.
უმიკაშვილი პ.,
„ხალხური სიტყვიერება“ 4 ტომად, ლიტერატურა და ხელოვნება, თბილისი.
ფარულავა გ.,
წმიდა გრიგოლ ხანძთელი, თბილისის უნივერსიტეტის გამომცემლობა, თბილისი.
ქართული ხალხური პოეზია,
ტ. 5, გამომცემლობა „მეცნიერება“, თბილისი.
ქართული ხალხური პოეზია,
ტ. 6, გამომცემლობა „მეცნიერება“, თბილისი.
ქართული ხალხური პოეზია,
ტ. 7, გამომცემლობა „მეცნიერება“, თბილისი.
ქართული მწერლობა 40 ტომად,
ტ. 2, გამომცემლობა „ნაკადული“, თბილისი.
ქართული მწერლობა 40 ტომად,
ტ. 3, გამომცემლობა „ნაკადული“, თბილისი.
ქართული მწერლობა 40 ტომად,
ტ. 4, გამომცემლობა „ნაკადული“, თბილისი.
გოგუაძე ნ.,
ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ძეგლების სიმფონია-ლექსიკონი, ნაკვ. 1, ა - ლ, არტანუჯი, თბილისი.
გოგუაძე ნ.,
ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ძეგლების სიმფონია-ლექსიკონი, ნაკვ. 2, მ - რ, არტანუჯი, თბილისი.
გოგუაძე ნ.,
ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ძეგლების სიმფონია-ლექსიკონი, ნაკვ. 3, ს - ყ, ხელნაწერთა ეროვნული ცენტრის გამომცემლობა, თბილისი.