For the Typology of Galaktion’s Symbolist and Novalis’ Romantic Poetry

The poetic discourse of Galaktion Tabidze (1891-1959) is inspired not only by French symbolism, but by the tropologic poetic concepts of  German Romanticism as well. In Galaktion’s poetic texts we meet the tropologies ofthe night, the Virgin (Madonna) and the beloved. Their inner essence shows an ideological closeness and an esthetic identity with the corresponding poetic concepts of the German romanticist poet and philosopher Novalis (Freidrich von Handerberg, 1772-1801). From this point of view, the typology of the tropology of the blue (colour) is very important in the works of Galaktion and Novalis. Hence, it’s worth mentioning, that on the basis of esthetic mastering and reception of the above mentioned concepts, Galaktion creates an individual and a unique tropology.

     The leading article of Galaktion Tabidze’s journal (2, 1922) can be regarded as the clear manifestation of the conceptual-tropologic identity of Galaktion and German Romanticism. Tabidze connects the poetry of German romanticists – Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder and Navalis – with the ontological essence of his poetry and the genuine poetry in general. From the conceptual point of view, it implies the aspiration towards the transcendentalness given in the poetic texts, which is contradicted with pragmatism, transient and vanity:

        “I knew, there were no connections between the human beings except heartless calculations. They vainly craved for the ideal and harmony. Egoistic calculations wholly overflowed the aspiration towards an unworldly dream. Disappeared the sadness of  Wackenroder. Disappeared the illusions of Novalis” [Tabidze, 1975:20].

        On the one hand, Galaktion’s poem “No Minstrel Any More” can be interpreted as an original dedication to Novalis and his romantic poetry. On the other hand, it can be considered as a conceptual-aesthetic declaration of the identity of German Romanticism and Galaktion’s poetry. Therefore, in the given poem the poetic concept of Novalis’ flower or the blue flower is not an accidental component of the creative process. It expresses (consciously or unconsciously) creative inspiration and impulses of Novalis’ poetry:

This dream is motley

The thought of the dark night,

No Minstrel any more

Of the tenderest lady.

There was the harm around    

And the wailing of the ravens

The snow left Novalis’

Flower to the sand.

Do not hold the sorrow in your heart,

Do not part from the dream,

Everything will repeat once again

I mean” [Tabidze,1973:192].

       The poem reveals the following poetic images and concepts: the night, the dream, (Novalis’) flower. From the point of view of poetic tropology, there is nothing particular here, because in any epoch any poet could have beloved poetic images and concepts like the night, the dream and the flower. Hence, if we take into account the whole essential-aesthetic context of the poem, these poetic images will appear as poetic icons having concrete original content (inner logos). They connect creatively and conceptually and point at Novalis’ romantic poetry. On the one hand, Galaktion directly speaks about the blue flower (“Novalis’ flower”) – the central symbol of Novalis’ romantic poetry. On the other hand, the poem presents allusions about Novalis’ novel “Heinrich von Ofterdingen”[1] indicated by the poetic images of the flower and Minstrel.

        In the text of Galaktion’s poem the poetic concepts of Minstrel and Novalis’ flower create one tropologic flatness and fall within the framework of the common poetic conception. The poetic concept of Novalis’ flower has similar artistic functions in the poem and in Novalis’ novel. Moreover, the flower is the symbol of transcendental divine reality, which is “called up” for denoting an existential stymie stipulated by reducing the divine in the human being’s existence and spiritual life – “The snow left Novalis’ flower to the sand”.

         From this artistic concept follows, that in the given poem the poetic concept of the dream (like in Novalis’ poetic texts) is an allusion of remembrance and a dream about the lost divine existence. The chronotope ofthe night denotes a metaphysic night. Later the divine light is created in its bowels. 

        The following question of interest is the conceptual-aesthetic and tropologic identity of Galaktion’s and Novalis’ poetic texts and the form of the manifestation of creative inspiration stipulated by Novalis’ romantic poetry. It’s worth mentioning, that there are four common points in Novalis’ and Galaktion’s poetry:

  1. The understanding of the poetic image of the beloved as the symbol of transcendental divine reality. Compare: Galaktion’s cycle of the poems about Mary and Novalis’ poetic cycle “Hymns to the Night”.
  2. The understanding of the night as the symbol of transcendentalness. Compare: Novalis’ “Hymns to the Night” and Galaktion’s “I and the night”, “The Moon of Mtatsminda”, “No Minstrel Any More” and others.
  3.   One more common feature of Novalis and Galaktion is the poetic reception of the cult of the Divine Virgin, Madonna, where the poetic image of the Mother of God appears as the symbol of Divine love and transcendentalness. Compare: Galaktion’s “Azure or Rose in Sand”, “White Madonna Follows the ship”, “Evening”, “Farewell” and Novalis’ poetic cycles “Hymns to the Night” and “Spiritual Songs”.
  4. In Galaktion’s and Novalis’ poetic texts the color symbolism of the blue (light blue, azure) shows an aesthetic and a tropologic closeness[2].

          As it was already mentioned, in Novalis’ poetic texts the understanding of the image of the beloved as the symbol of transcendental divine reality is met in the poetic and mystic cycle “Hymns to the night” [Bregadze, 2009:121-123]. Its varied variant is presented in his novel “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” [Bregadze, 2009]. In Novalis’ poetic texts the hero’s passion for the beloved is not a mere “burgher” love. It symbolizes the aspiration of the cognitive subject towards spiritual perfection, infinity and transcendentalness [Bregadze, 2009]. Therefore, in Novalis’ poetic texts the poetic image of the beloved is the symbol of transcendentalness and paradisiacal existence:

         “The mountain was absorbed in the fog and I saw the beloved’s lit features. Her eyes were settled with eternity. I touched her and the tears turned into shining beads. Millenniums went far away like the winds of the bad weather. My tears of beatitude fell on her neck. This is the only dream. After dreaming it, an eternal invincible belief of the sky and its light (the beloved) “settled” me” [Novalis, 2007:18].

        The similar artistic function has the poetic image of the beloved in Galaktion’s cycle of poems dedicated to Mary (“Mary”, “Mary, you Walked along the Seaside”, “With Mary’s Eyes”, “Oh, It’s Autumn Today”). In this case, if we take into account the specificity of Galaktion’s poetic texts (it means, that they are the samples of transcendental poetry. Therefore, their poetic-aesthetic intention can be regarded as the “opening” and cognition of transcendentalness[3]), the reduction of the theme of love and the beloved’s (Mary) poetic image to a mere “burgher” love will be excluded.  Therefore, in the cycle of poems about Mary a poetic image of the beloved must be understood as a symbol of transcendentalness and the lost divine origins. Hence, in contrast to Novalis’ poetic texts, in Galaktion’s works the divine existence symbolized by the beloved’s image represents inaccessible sphere. Ontologically, it “produces” (for Galaktion and his lyric hero) the existential stymie and fear: the passion and love of the (heavenly) beloved do not provoke spiritual perfection and immortal existence in the infinite transcendentalness:

[…] And rustled the branch of the asp,

What about – who knows! Who knows, Mary!

The destiny I was not honored with -

Went with the wind like a snow-drift.

Tell me: Why did the sudden illumination

Put out? Whom I entreat?

Why did my dream rustle

As the wings of the flying eagle?


The wind and the drops of the rain

Stopped as I grieved

And I began crying – as King Lear,

Lear, left by every human being” [Tabidze, 1973:63].

            In Novalis’ and Galaktion’s works the image of the beloved is connected with a poetically comprehended image of the Divine Virgin (Madonna). Like the beloved’s poetic symbol, it represents a divine existence. In Novalis’ poetic texts a mystic aspiration of the lyric hero towards the Divine Virgin (Madonna) symbolically represents the return of the lost divine existence and therefore, implies the belief of the return of this divine existence at will of the lyric hero (Fichtean stream). Galaktion’s lyrical ego does not show a personal will. It stands in front of the nameless nothing and subordinates an empiric or a metaphysic relation of subjects offered by the existence – “How can we stand the existence without the Divine Virgin (Madonna)? Disappeared the illusion, disappeared the fairy…” [Tabidze, 1973:174].

“Mariam, I saw you among thousands of icons,

No one will recognize you like my soul.

I know that the transient world

Will disappear in my dream after that,

And the sweetest inexpressible heaven

Will settle my soul” [Novalis, 1981:198].


Mother of God, the sun Mariam!

As the rose in the wet sand,

The path of my life is a dream

And the azure of the distant sky.         


Where is the return for me?

Where is a happy soul?

As Alighieri from the paradise

I am “covered” with the hell!    

And when I see the specter of the death

On the cursed road,

During the carrying-out sacrament  

I will not remember you!

I will cross my hands and the fast horses

Will whirl me away like a hurricane!

Sleepless and drunk

I will sink into my grave” [Tabidze, 1973:141].

          In the works of both authors the poetic symbol of the night is comprehended interestingly. The night is presented as a sphere of a divine mystery and a spiritual cognition. Novalis as well as Galaktion connects poetic concepts of the death, the dream and the beloved with the image of the night. The poetic images of the death and the dream represent a transitional stage of transcending. After its passage a lyric hero reaches a spiritual perfection and “settles” divine existence”[4]

      Novalis: “And I aspire to the inexpressible secret holy night […] the noble balsam pours from your (of night – K.B.) bunch of poppies. You are lifting the soul to the heaven. The admiration of our souls is inexpressible and inaccessible for the minds of the human beings [Novalis, 2007:9-10].

      And the cover of a desired eventide comes down from the blue remoteness. It cleared away the light of the day – shackles of the soul - to my joy. Disappeared the grandeur of the transient world. My grief was cleared away by the new inexpressible world. The night and the sky endowed me with an eternal sleep. The world tightened and my new-born and liberated soul flew up in the sky [Novalis, 2007:18].

      My secretly speaking heart is loyal to the night and its daughter – the beloved” [Novalis, 2007:23].


I wish I die singing as a sad swan of the lake,

After saying how the night looked into the soul,  

How the dream flapped the wings from sky to sky

And set the blue sail of the dreams.

How the closeness of the death changes

The waterfalls and roses of tunes of the dying swan,

How I feel, that for the soul reared by the sea

The path of death is only the rosy road;

On this road the courage of the poets is a fairy tale,

And the night has never been so calm.

Shadows, close to you I meet the death,

I am a king and a poet and I die singing,

My lyre will accompany you through the centuries…

Such a calm moon has never been born”.

                                                                           [Tabidze, 1973:64]   

         According to the above mentioned, the typology of the symbolics of the blue is very important. The poetic-tropologic reception of the blue represents a conceptual-aesthetic identity of Galaktion and Novalis (Georgian Symbolism and German Romanticism).

         In Novalis’ artistic texts the symbolism of the blue represents a cognitive path towards transcendental, the passion towards the divine origins, unquenchable yearning for the divine reality within a lyric hero (Sehensucht) and the emanation into the empiric reality of the divine transcendental reality or the divine transcendentalness itself [Metzler…2008:48].

        In Novalis’ poetic texts the symbolics of the blue is connected with a poetic symbol of the flower – the blue flower (die blaue Blume), which can be regarded as a famous symbol of Novalis’ novel “Heinrich von Ofterdingen”. “The blue flower” is the central symbol of Novalis’ tropology, which represents spiritual perfection, the divine transcendental reality, heavenly love, harmony and cognitive state [Metzler, 2008:52]. Therefore, Heinrich’s (the main protagonist of the novel) aspiration (Sehensucht, Erfüllung) towards the blue flower symbolically represents “standing” on the path of the self-knowledge (orphic initiation). It shows the process of transcending, which will be followed by the procurement and establishment of the divine transcendental reality [Bregadze, 2009].

        In the novel the symbolics of the blue flower is connected with the poetic image of the beloved (Matilde). Tropology of the blue flower and the beloved creates an indivisible entity, which represents the divine transcendental reality and the subject of Heinrich’s aspiration. It is not occasional, that the poetic images of the beloved and the blue flower as identical symbols and the elements of the tropologic entity appear in the reality of dreams (in the first dream of Heinrich) or in the transcendental space just from the very beginning of the novel [Novalis, 1981:242].

         The blue - as the symbol of the divine transcendental space - is met in the poem “The Song of the Dead” (“Das Lied der Toten”) given in the novel. The poem contains the following line: “The sky settled the soul, the cloudless azure” („Steht der Himmel im Gemüte, / Wolkenloses Blau”) [Novalis, 1981:400].

        The tropology of the blue is met in Novalis’ poetic cycle “The Hymns to the night” (“Hymnen an die Nacht”). The blue with the poetic concept of the eventide/night[5] represents the divide transcendental reality: “And the cover of the desired eventide comes down from the blue remoteness” („Da kam aus blauen Fernen – von den Höhen meiner alten Seligkeit ein  Dämmerungsschauer”) [Novalis, 2007:18].

          If we take into account the general context (inner logos) of Novalis’ novel and poetic cycle, it will be obvious, that “the cloudless azure” (“wolkenloses Blau”) and “the blue remoteness” (“blaue Ferne”) are not the mere poetic epithets. They can be regarded as the poetic symbols of the divine transcendental-mystic reality.

          The symbolics of the blue is presented in Novalis’ “Hyacinth and Rose Petal” („Das Märchen von Hyazinth und Rosenblütte”). In this fairy tale the blue symbolically represents the path of self-knowledge and the hero’s aspiration towards the origins: the path to the dwelling-place of the goddess Isida was “decorated” with the blue - “The air was warm and blue” (“Die Luft lau und blau”[6]) [Novalis, 1981:217].

         Therefore, it’s worth mentioning, that in German Romanticism and especially, in Novalis’ color symbolism the blue is the symbol of the divine transcendental reality. Its tropology is related to the concepts of the beloved and the flower. Therefore, since the appearance of Novalis’ works the blue (the blue flower) has become one of the major tropologic paradigms of the romantic poetry.

         Hence, if in Novalis’ artistic texts tropology of the blue represents the divine transcendental reality, in Galaktion’s symbolist poetry the homogeneity of the tropology is “violated”. In Tabidze’s poetic texts the poetic semantics of the blue acquire the sense of apocalyptic ending. Therefore, the symbolics of the blue represents the existential desolation and finality, which thematically characterizes the modernist poetic texts (for example: G. Trakl, R.M. Rilke).

        It’s worth mentioning, that in Galaktion’s poetic texts the tropology of the blue has ambivalent and dualistic features. On the one hand, it comprises the divide transcendental reality and the semiotics of paradisiacal space. Its tropologic aspects are the symbolics of Novalis’ blue and German Romanticism in general (the same can be said about Baratashvili’s                            tropology of the blue. Hence, in this case Novalis’ stream is the question of interest). On the other hand, in Galaktion’s poetic texts the tropology of the blue comprises the semiotics of death, nothing (das Nichts), apocalyptic times, existential desolation and fear.

       The blue represents the divine transcendental reality in the poems “The Moon of Mtatsminda”, “White Days Come…”, “I.A.”, “Snow”, “Consolation”, “Whether You Remember”, “Azure or Rose in Sand”, “The Strange Palace” and others. Hence, it can be regarded as a poetic symbol of death, existential fear, apocalyptic space and “nothing” in the following poems: “Azure Horses”, “Late Dream”, “Will Come…But When?”, “I Have Had Wings Not Only Once”, “The Blue Ship”, “Cemeteries” and others.  

       The following extracts from Galaktion’s poetry shows the ambivalentness of the symbolics of the blue

“Do you remember

The days of Karaleti,

The blue arch of mountains –

Unknown paradises?”  [Tabidze, 1973:160].

The edge of azure,

Covered with illusion

Blue Montevideo

With the tight gloves” [Tabidze, 1973:208].

Like a snowdrift of mist gilded in the sunset

The shore was sun-lit in the realm of eternity

No promise in sight, I saw nothing,

Only the quiet – cold and homeless.


Through the forest of mad faces

The barren days appear and go to nether world.

In the raid of the mist, on the eternal land,

In heaven or tomb, by dark curse deplored,

As the wandering of the sea, as the turn of fait,

The blue horses dart with a thunderous roar!” [Tabidze, 1973:71].

           The given poetic texts show dualistic nature of the tropology of the blue. In one case, it is an allusion of paradisiacal life (“The blue arch of mountains, unknown paradises”; “The edge of azures, covered with illusion”), while in the other, it is a suggested poetic image of apocalyptic times, nothing and absence (“With the dreamy apparition - on my blue horses you are carried out towards me, everybody is here”). Actually, the tropology, narrative space and poetic rhetoric of “Blue Horses” are wholly “occupied” by the color symbolism of the blue. Moreover, the symbolics of the blue can be regarded as the poetic image of the apocalyptic times and the death (as an existential ending).

          Therefore, it’s worth mentioning, that in Galaktion’s poetic texts the tropology of the blue is determined by creative dualism and its examples can be given here endlessly.

         The results of the comparative analysis of the above mentioned Galaktion’s and Novalis’ poetic texts can be summarized in the following way: Galaktion’s symbolist poetry offers a new poetic interpretation of the tropology and poetic concepts characteristic to Novalis’ romantic poetry. These concepts are integrated into Galaktion’s unique poetic tropology and become its inherent elements (it can be qualified as the creative inspiration and not the influence). Therefore, along with the French symbolism, the creative inspiration of Galaktion’s poetry was fostered by the impulses coming from German Romanticism.

[1] The symbol of the blue flower is met in this novel.

[2]  The semantic field of symbolism of the blue is entered by the light blue and azure and denotes the divine transcendental space in Galaktion’s poetic texts (compare: “Azure or Rose in Sand”), where the concepts of the light blue and azure unambiguously represent the divine transcendental reality. Hence, the blue is also a poetic symbol of chaotic and apocalyptic transcendental space (compare: “Blue Horses”). Therefore, according to the context the blue and the light blue (accordingly, azure) can be regarded as “synonymic” or “antonymic” poetic images as well.

[3] The reference to “Blue Horses” will be enough from this point of view.

[4] It’s interesting, that in this case, Galaktion diametrically contradicts French symbolists. For example, in Paul Verlaine’s works the night is a symbol of apocalyptic end and destruction. In contrast to Galaktion’s and Novalis’ poetic texts, it is not the sphere of spiritual contemplation and the bowels of the beginning of the new divine existence (see Verlaine’s poem “The Effect of the Night”). 

[5] In this case azure and the night are comprehended as identical poetic concepts.

[6] Compare: Galaktion: “The Air is a Blue Silk”.


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The Hymns to the Night, translated by K. Bregadze. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Tabidze G.
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Tabidze G.
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Metzler Lexikon literarischer Symbole, Verlag Metzler. Stuttgart.
Werke in einem Band, hrsg. von H.-J. Mähl, Carl Hanser Verlag. München.