Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Alexander Griboyedov: Two Waltzes; Bulat Okudzhava: Griboyedov in Tsinandali

Alexander Griboyedov was a well-known Russian linguist, officer, composer, poet, playwright, diplomat, and Decembrist sympathizer, born to an aristocratic Muscovite family around the turn of the 19th century (historians dispute the actual date). He was approximately fifteen when he graduated with a master's degree in philology from Moscow University in 1812, after which he served in the military for a few years during the Napoleonic War.

Griboyedov was considered by his contemporaries, including the poet Pushkin and critic Belinsky, as one of the greatest minds of his time. Many of the aphorisms commonly used in the modern Russian lexicon have been lifted from the play he is most known for, Woe from Wit. The play was banned at first by censors, because copies of it were found in many of the Decembrist's homes, and he was considered a sympathizer of the uprising, but it became extremely popular following his demise.

Khmelita Estate in Smolensk Oblast, where Griboyedov often spent his summers entertaining the elite of Moscow and St. Petersburg and observing their antics. The family manor served as a stage for balls, concerts, and plays.


The composition of music was as important to Griboyedov as his other accomplishments, although only two of his waltzes remain extant, one in A flat major, and another in E minor:





Some time after participating in a pair of duels during which one of his hands was wounded, and one of his acquaintances was killed, Griboyedov traveled to Georgia to see his friend, Prince Chavchavadze, and had his piano sent to him so that he could entertain the family with his compositions whenever he came there to visit from Moscow or St. Petersburg. At the time, it was only one of two pianos in Georgia. There, Griboyedov made friends with the prince's children, one of whom later became his future wife, Nino. They were married just before he embarked on a journey to Teheran to become the Russian ambassador to Persia.

I have posted a previous blog regarding the beloved Soviet Georgian composer and poet, Bulat Okudzhava. Okudzhava wrote a ballad in Giboyedov's honor, Griboyedov in Tsinandali, which eulogized his tragic and legendary passing in Teheran at the hands of a maddened mob, and romanticized the mourning of his young bride, Princess Chavchavadze. Tsinandali is an estate which once belonged the Chavchavadze family.

Okudzhava exhibits the power of poetic license over history in his song:



Griboyedov in Tsinandali

Autumn creeps up on Tsinandali Park.
An unexpected rain takes hold.
Not long ago he strolled into the park--
A princess and he nearly became family.

The cocks in Tsinandali screech till first light
Whether celebrating, or in sadness...
Tsars do not love the bespectacled and the witty --
God forgives, but they do not.

The cocks in Tsinandali prophesy the dawn,
and under banner of that alluring cry
Griboyedov, as if after his wedding, walks
Straight along the Way of Love.

As if there never were the wild crowd,
and he might still live a little,
as if it were not him, borne by a creaking cart,
they brought to Mtsamindu to bury,

As if this woman were not yet a widow,
and as if she had no reason
to weep upon a granite slab the words
of death, bitterness, love, and thought.

As if she believed in the rooster's scheme,
Like a harried poet -- in a single stroke ...
No, Princess, I was raised with the best of manners,
And to lie to you -- I cannot.

So pardon me for my awkwardness,
But when one possibly imagines
How wonderful it'd be to fall, to die in battle,
To be resurrected, to rise from the earth!

And, throwing down one's glasses, like a rifle from the shoulder,
And already forgetting about one's self,
To shout about forever love, rashly,
Before a howling crowd!...

Each bush in the princely park murmurs to itself,
But in Persia, in the thick of the storm,
Griboyedov hurries to meet his fate,
Near-sightedly squinting his eyes.

Грибоедов в Цинандали
Цинандальского парка осенняя дрожь.
Непредвиденный дождь. Затяжной.
В этот парк я с недавнего времени вхож -
мы почти породнились с княжной.

Петухи в Цинандали кричат до зари:
то ли празднуют, то ли грустят...
Острословов очкастых не любят цари, -
бог простит, а они не простят.

Петухи в Цинандали пророчат восход,
и под этот заманчивый крик
Грибоедов, как после венчанья, идет
по Аллее Любви напрямик,

словно вовсе и не было дикой толпы
и ему еще можно пожить,
словно и не его под скрипенье арбы
на Мтацминду везли хоронить;

словно женщина эта - еще не вдова,
и как будто бы ей ни к чему
на гранитном надгробьи проплакать слова
смерти, горю, любви и уму;

словно верит она в петушиный маневр,
как поэт торопливый - в строку...
Нет, княжна, я воспитан на лучший манер,
и солгать вам, княжна, не могу,

и прощенья прошу за неловкость свою...
Но когда б вы представить могли,
как прекрасно упасть, и погибнуть в бою,
и воскреснуть, поднявшись с земли!

И, срывая очки, как винтовку с плеча,
и уже позабыв о себе,
прокричать про любовь навсегда, сгоряча
прямо в рожу орущей толпе!..

...Каждый куст в парке княжеском
                            мнит о себе.
Но над Персией - гуще гроза.
И спешит Грибоедов навстречу судьбе,
близоруко прищурив глаза.

                              1965


Not long before his own departure from the world, Alexander Pushkin made the dramatic (although possibly spurious) claim that he met the coffin of Griboyedov in Armenia, while it was being borne in a procession accompanied by torch-bearers and a military band. Imposing monuments were erected to Griboyedov in Armenia, as well as in Georgia, and in Moscow. A major canal in St. Petersburg was named in Griboyedov's honor during Soviet times (it had previously been known as the Catherine Canal, after Catherine the Great.) Griboyedov's final resting place is in Tbilisi, Georgia.


Alexander Griboyedov monument, Chistie Prudi, Moscow
At the base of the statue are depicted characters from the play, Woe From Wit.




After the death of Griboyedov, the shah responsible for the incident sent his grandson Khusro Mirza to St. Petersburg with a letter asking for forgiveness from the Russian people, accompanied by a number of gifts, one of which was the 88.7 carat Mogul diamond known as "The Shah." The diamond is currently on display in the Kremlin.

Fascinated history buffs speculate on Griboyedov's lost musical compositions, and the possible contents of his written archive, which was apparently destroyed twice: once, in Russia when he was arrested on suspicion of being a Decembrist, and then a second time, in Teheran. To this day, the figure of Griboyedov seems to wander like a phantom through the Russian cultural memory and psyche. How strange is this human habit, to love most what we have lost.

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