Shota Rustaveli's "The Knight in the Panther Skin"

translated by Lyn Coffin



Four years ago, I was teaching at Ilia University in Tbilisi, Georgia. My friend, Gia Jokhadze, and I were just beginning our anthology of Georgian Literature in translation (Slavica). He said we had to begin this book with a section from The Knight in the Panther Skin, the Georgian national epic written by a 12th century monk. I think I may have groaned. I was troubled with dire imaginings- a monk from ancient times, droning on about abstruse topics? Egad.

And then I started reading. I had only a btskaredi to go by, and a couple of old prosaic translations, but the story shone through. This was a suspenseful narrative of knights, an adventure story that came sweeping across the ages and landed in my lap. And what knights! These knights wept at the drop of a hat. They wept for their own sorrows, and for those of their friends. If they didn't weep enough out of sympathy, they scratched their faces, and hit their heads on walls. They were emotional, hot-headed and reflective by turns; they pursued ladies, dealt summarily with pesky intruders or wrong-headed bridegrooms, competed with kings. They loved strong women, and they loved strong men. And woven into the adventure story were proverbs and parables, advice and humor, religious insights and philosophical complaints. The whole gamut of human life was here, all delivered to us in sixteen syllable lines with a floating caesura, rhymed a a a a, b b b b, for 1661 quatrains.

Who was this man, Shota Rustaveli? No one knows for sure. We don't even know his name, since "Rustaveli" just means, "from Rustavi." He seems to have been a minister at Queen Tamar's court. (And who was Queen Tamar? Only the most fascinating woman ever to have lived- so brave and warlike, she was called King Tamar, which is sort of like King Betty.) There is a fresco at the formerly Georgian Monastery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem which depicts a man with the same name, described in 1757/8, rediscovered in 1960, defaced in 2004.

He probably wrote the Knight in the Panther Skin right at the dawning of the 13 century, beween 1205 and 1207. Everyone in Georgia claims him. The Georgian Orthodox say to understand this work, you have to know Christian theology. The neoplatonists say you need to know all of neoplatonic thought. The historians-Well, you get the idea. But what I knew or sensed immediately was that Rustaveli belongs to us, to the world. This is a great great story, beautifully told. Of course my translation cannot hope to equal the original. But I sincerely believe there is a great deal here of Rustaveli's spirit. Sometimes, his ghost seemed to come and help me when I was having a tough time, and wanting to scratch my cheeks or beat my head against a wall.

My translation could not have been completed with the loving support of three people: first, Gia, who brought me to Georgia in the first place, and introduced me to Rustaveli; second, Dodona Kiziria, a native Georgian, professor for years at Indiana University and now retired, who gave unstintingly of her good sense and good scholarship, who laughed and cried with me as I continued; and Nato Alhazishvili, who overheard me saying early on that it was my life's dream to translate The Knight in the Panther Skin and committed her time and money to helping me do so. The renowned Rustavelologist, Notan Noldar, helped enormously in correcting the manuscript. Vaho Muskheli and Zaal Zurabashvili and Nino Svanadze were my Georgian tutors.

The Georgians are the most generous people on the planet, and I trust that they will forgive my inevitable transgressions. I love them. I love Shota Rustaveli.

The Story of ROSTEVAN, King of Arabs

33 Once there ruled in Arabia, Rostevan, a king by God's grace Thriving, majestic, generous, modest though in the highest place. So just and merciful, many vassals did his service embrace. Himself a fearless warrior, a peerless speaker, never base. 34 Rostevan had one child, a daughter, to the world a shining light, Like unto the stars she was, or a moon that makes the heavens bright. Whoever looked on her was bereft of his heart and soul and sight. It needs a wise man to praise her with words both masterful and right. 35 The name of this daughter was Tinatin, let it be known to all! When she'd grown to be a woman, her beauty held the sun in thrall. One day the king, in highest spirits, to his viziers sent a call, And he spoke graciously to them when they'd assembled in his hall. 36 He said: "I need your wisest counsel on a matter I'll declare: Every rose will fade and wither, no matter though it once was fair. The dry rose falls within the garden, a new rose arises there. The sun has set for us, the night is dark. Why should we not despair? 37 "I grow cold. Old age is like a sickness, a raging plague in me. It's the sorrow of the world. Only a few tomorrows we'll see. Of what worth is a light when it's becoming darkness by degree? So let us crown my daughter now. No sun is worthier than she." 38 The viziers said, "King, why do you insist that you are old so soon? For though it's true our rose has faded, we all know it as a boon. It still excels in scent and color though its day is far past noon. What kind of star dares offer challenge even to a waning moon? 39 "Oh, king, please don't speak thus to us: your rose is not faded today. Bad counsel from you is better than the good another might say. It is right to do whatever will make your heartache go away. It is best to give the kingdom to her who holds the sun in sway. 40 Although a woman, she is a sovereign, ordained by God's decree. We are not flattering you; but even in your absence agree. Like her radiance, her deeds are as bright as the sunshine to see. Lion's whelps are equally lions, though female or male they be. 41 Avtandil was a general, the commander-in-chief's own son. Tall and slim as a cypress he was-- his presence, the moon and sun His visage was as pure as the clearest crystal; beard he had none. By Tinatin's luxurious lashes he found himself undone. 42 He kept his love-madness hidden, lodged deep within him like a dart. Whenever he couldn't see her, though, his rose's fading would start; Whenever he saw her, fire leapt up, his wound more sharply would smart. Love alone should be blamed-- Love with the power to break a man's heart. 43 When he heard that Tinatin would soon come into her queenly own Avtandil felt as if water on torturing flames had been thrown. He said: "Now her porcelain face more often to me will be shone, Perhaps her presence will cause my pallor's cure to make itself known." 44 The king sent messengers through the country, the happy news to bring: "I, her father, have by my edict, crowned Tinatin as our king. Like the shining sun, she sheds her light on every person and thing. All her subjects should come behold her, that they may her praises sing!" 45 All the Arabs arrived- the number of nobles swelled to a crowd. Avtandil, young general, was there, radiant-faced and unbowed. And Sograt, vizier, the king's close adviser with wisdom endowed. When the throne was installed, they said: "It is priceless!" and they were proud. 46 Tinatin was led in by the joyful king to where the throne stands. He seated her and set the crown on her head with his own two hands. He gave her the scepter, clad her in the robes a ruler demands. The maiden seems to be like the sun: all-seeing, she understands. 47 The king and his reverent retinue stepped back a pace or two, Men from many places blessed Tinatin: their praises were not few. Their strong voices blessed her. Cymbals played sweetly, and the bugle blew. Tears slanted down the queen's raven lashes; she wept, and wept anew. 48 Tinatin feared she was unworthy to sit on her father's throne. With each tear that streaked the rose garden of her cheeks, her doubt was shown. The king said: "Every father's surpassed by his heirs; that much is known. The sight of you now has put out the fire that had within me grown." 49 Then he said: "Weep not, my daughter, but hear what I'm about to say: You are an Arabian king, named by me a sovereign today. From this moment on, this kingdom is yours, to do with as you may. You who do things wisely, be calm now and compose yourself, I pray. 50 "The sun shines alike on roses and dung, on everything we see. You, alike to the greatest and the lowly, merciful should be. The one, who's getting bound, binds himself; the generous bind the free. The sea's waters flow in and flow out: be generous like the sea. 51 "Bounteousness, like Eden's poplars, is planted in kings to use. The generous are obeyed even by those with treacherous views. Whenever food and drink are offered you, accept them- don't refuse. What you give to others, you will keep, whatever you don't - you'll lose." 52 The maiden listened: her father's wise counsel never sated her. She bent to his words: his teaching never anticipated her. The king drank and sang, pleased by his daughter and what awaited her. Tinatin made the sun seem flawed, the sun that imitated her. 53 The new queen then summoned her trusty tutor and was heard to say, "Bring hither to me now all my treasure, as quickly as you may. Bring me all my sealed up riches, everything which is mine today." They did her bidding, and without measure she gave her wealth away. 54 With seeming pleasure, she dispersed her treasure, everything she had. Enriching both the low-born and the high-born seemed to make her glad. She said: "I am doing what I was taught, so do not think me mad. Let no one keep back any treasure, this is as my father bade." 55 She ordered them: "Go now and open up my vaults full of treasure. You, Stable Master, lead in all my horses, such is my pleasure." They brought everything she said, and she gave to all without measure, The soldiers were sweeping up riches like pirates at their leisure. 56 All her wealth, like booty from the Turks, they took as they were able. They took her pampered Arab stallion, a steed worthy of fable. Gifts whirled down like a snowstorm falling from the sky to the table . None left empty-handed, not serving maids nor lads from the stable. 57 One day passed and still the wining and dining in no way decreased. The great gathering of merry-making troops continued the feast. The king hung his head and seemed unhappy, to say the very least. People asked each other what ailed him, and their worrying increased. 58 At the head of one table sat Avtandil, with his face so bright, Leader of men, swift as a tiger or lion, known for his might, While Sograt, the worthy vizier, sat proudly at Avtandil's right. Both wondered aloud, "What ails the king? Why is he so pale tonight?" 59 "He must be in a bad mood to find no joy in this evening's sport. Nothing bad has happened. He's received no calamitous report," Avtandil said. "Let's ask if he's mad at us, or someone at court. Approaching him with banter might bring his unhappiness up short. 60 So Sograt and slender Avtandil filled their glasses to the brim, And walked with slow and easy gait to where the king sat looking grim, And obediently knelt, with smiling faces, in front of him. The wise vizier, in good spirits, spoke lightly, as if on a whim. 61 "The reason you look so unhappy, king, is one we guess or know. To see all your treasure squandered must have been a terrible blow. Your open-handed daughter has let all your vast possessions go. She should not be sovereign! Why did you bring upon yourself such woe?" 62 The king looked at the vizier with a broad smile when he heard this speech. He was astonished: how had the vizier dared to so over-reach? "You speak honestly," the king said. "I don't consider it a breach, Though if you think me avaricious, you don't know whereof you preach. 63 "What has hurt me, vizier, is not the loss of everything I own But knowing I am old, and all the days of my youth have been sown: And yet there is no man in this whole kingdom that is to me known, Who has learned from me manly arts and thus to my level has grown. 64 "I've tenderly nurtured my daughter, and watched proudly as she grew. But God hasn't given me a son who could do the things I do. There's none to rival me in archery, that's the thing I most rue. Only Avtandil is like me at all, because I taught him true." 65 Thus spoke the king and the noble lad listened calmly all the while. He bent his head respectfully, as was his customary style. But he seemed to light up the plains with the shining white of his smile. The king asked, "Why do you smile? Have I shamed you, or put you on trial?" 66 "Why do you smile?" he asked again. "Be so kind as to let me know." The youth said, "I'll speak, but do not let my words seeds of anger sew. Be not offended by what I say, nor let your wrathfulness show. Don't consider me as insolent, or punish me as a foe." 67 Said the king, "I'll try not to get angry at your honest reply. I swear on my Tinatin's life: you have no reason to be shy." Avtandil said, "Calm words are convincing- all boasting I decry. You shouldn't boast of your archery skills, and now I'll tell you why." 68 "I'm earth under your feet, but as an archer, you to me must yield. Let's wager, your men as witnesses, and see the best man revealed. You boasted that none could best you, so let our bargain now be sealed. Let them declare the winner when we take our contest to the field." 69 The king, ever more cheerful and eloquent, responded with glee. He joked with the knight "You're so bold because you're like a son to me. You know I won't be angry, that's why you confront me recklessly. I think you'll need exceptional luck to win, but we'll have to see. 70 "I will not let you thus dispute with me!" the king affirmed with zest. "Say the word and we will compete: let neither of us shirk the test. Let's make good men witnesses as we endeavor to see who's best. And the archer whose praises should be sung will soon be manifest." 71 The answer was not long in coming. "I agree," Avtandil said. They no longer acted like warlike men, but joyful youths instead. They set the terms of the wager, to which each of them would be wed: Whoever is beaten must walk around three days with a bare head. 72 "We've decided to take with us twelve good riders," the king said when The feast was over. "To bring me my arrows, another twelve, then. "Your Shermadin alone is equal to all those twenty-four men. They'll count throws and hits without mistakes or lies, then they'll count again." 73 To the gathered huntsmen the king said: "From the great plains' level ground, Beat in uncountable herds of game, as many as can be found. Invite soldiers to witness the contest, good men from all around!" The wassail and banquet then ended with many a pleasant sound.

The Hunt of King ROSTEVAN and AVTANDIL Go Hunting

74 At daybreak, Avtandil rode forth, clad in crimson like a flower. His face was crystal, his mouth a ruby, even at that hour. Sheathed in chain mail, he sat on his white horse like a golden tower. He invited the king to come forth and test his skill and power. 75 The king was arrayed and mounted; they left for the hunt right away. The soldiers surrounded the field as if it were a siege they lay. There was much mirth and excitement; armies kept the people at bay. People were waging their own bets; everyone had something to say. 76 The king ordered his twelve servants: "Come with us, go the way we go. Prepare quivers of arrows and bring each of us a springy bow. Where each animal is struck and every arrow falls, you should know." He finished, and huge herds began arriving in a steady flow. 77 There came running uncountable herds, herds of every kind of game. There were deer and goats, antelope, high-leaping gazelles even came! The lord and the vassal pursued them. What fairer sight could one name? Behold the bow and arrow! The tireless arm, lifted in aim! 78 The dust that flew from their horses' hooves cut off the rays of the sun. Arrows sped. They slew. Blood soaked into the field before they were done; As the shafts were lost in shooting, slaves brought more until there were none. After being wounded by them, beasts staggered, unable to run. 79 Driving the herds of game before them over blood-soaked ground, they sped. They slew and slaughtered, angering God, by their fierce ambition led. The fields turned crimson. With animal blood their faces were streaked red. "He is like a poplar from Eden," those who watched Avtandil said. 80 Over the whole of that untraveled plain, they chased stampeding prey. Until they both came to its farthest edge, where stream and thick woods lay. The game fled into this forest, where horses could not make their way. Both Rostevan and Avtandil were tired by the end of the day. 81 Each laughingly said to the other: "You have to admit I won!" Merry were they; hither and thither they frolicked and had their fun. Then came the slaves who'd followed them from the start until they were done. The king said: "Who was the better? Be truthful. I don't want lies spun." 82 The slaves said: "We'll speak plainly. We won't try to deceive you, forsooth. You are a great hunter, oh king, but a little long in the tooth. Slay us at once if you will: we speak nothing but the honest truth. All the beasts he shot fell in their tracks: you were bested by this youth. 83 "The two of you in the course of the hunt have killed a hundred score. As many as you have killed today, Avtandil killed twenty more. Every animal Avtandil aimed at lies dead or at death's door. But picking your arrows out of the dirt was a usual chore." 84 The king heard the words blithely, like the clicking of dice in a game He was glad the man he loved like a son had won that day some fame. He loved Avtandil as the nightingale loves the rose, without blame; All grief was gone from his heart; smiling, he made merry without shame. 85 They both sat down to cool themselves at the foot of towering trees; Soldiers assembled, countless as chaff: they were surrounded by these. Nearest were the twelve brave slave who'd won favor not trying to please. The two rested, gazing at the stream, and leaves that moved in the breeze.

How The King of Arabia Saw The Knight in The Panther Skin

86 A warrior sat weeping on the bank of the stream-- a strange knight. Holding his black horse by the rein, he looked strong and ready to fight. His pearl-studded armor, saddle and bridle were all glossy white. His ruddy cheeks were wet with tears: they had never seen such a sight. 87 He wore wrapped around his body a luxurious panther skin And on his head he wore a panther cap that came down to his chin. In his hand was a whip thicker than a man's arm has ever been. The way he looked made them like to look, though looking made their heads spin. 88 The king said, "That man appears to be a stranger by looks and dress. He ordered a servant: "Hurry to him and make him acquiesce. Tell him the king declared, "You are not one of my soldiers, I guess. Whoever you are, approach. I demand that courtesy, no less." 89 They sent a slave to speak to him whose heart had been stricken by woe, Who with downcast head was weeping, and it was clearly not for show. From the jets of his eyelashes, clear waters could be seen to flow. The slave approached, but could not speak to a knight who was weeping so. 90 The slave dared not address him, and was unsure whether he should stay. A sudden loss of courage caused him for a long time to delay. Then he said: "The king commands your presence. You must not say him nay." The knight wept on as though he had not heard what the slave had to say. 91 The woe-stricken knight did not hear a word said by the timid slave. He was oblivious to the shouts the surrounding soldiers gave. He was moaning strangely, his heart was in flames-- he started to rave. Tears mingled with blood, and flowed forth as from floodgates, wave after wave. 92 The knight's mind seemed to have flown away, so deeply was he in thought. To deliver the message, the persistent slave once again sought. The weeping stranger heard nothing, he was so terribly distraught. Those rose petal lips did not open as politeness would have taught. 93 Since the knight did not say anything, the slave to the king returned. He told Rostevan, "He wants nothing from you: this much I have learned. My heart was troubled when I saw the way his warrior eyes burned; But he said nothing: all my advances on your behalf, he spurned." 94 The king was astounded and angry at the strange knight to the core. He sent the same twelve slaves he'd ordered to confront the knight before. He commanded: "Go to that strange knight-- take with you weapons of war: Go and bring hither the weeping lion who refuses to roar." 95 The slaves went forth in clattering armor; to the knight, they drew near. At this, the weeping knight started up, and looked around without fear. He saw the band of warriors, each carrying a bow or spear. He said aloud only, "Woe is me, that I should find myself here." 96 Then he passed both his hands over his eyes, and did not further cry. He made fast his saber and his quiver. His eyes, they saw, were dry. He mounted. The slaves knew it was their last chance to stop him or try. He was about to wend his way onward, and not even say why. 97 The twelve slaves then sought to pull that knight down from his ebony steed. He fell on them-- even their foes would have pitied their plight, indeed: He beat one against another; some he slew did not even bleed. Some he smote with his whip, cleaved them to the breastbone with lightning speed. 98 The king was furious; he called upon his soldiers to give chase. Till his pursuers caught up to him, the knight did not turn his face, But everyone who overtook him, he left for dead in that place. He threw down man after man. Rostevan lamented the disgrace. 99 The king and Avtandil pursued the knight, meaning to make him yield. Proud and haughty, the strange knight kept galloping straight across the field. His horse seemed to fly. His pursuers pursued till their senses reeled. The knight looked back just once and must have seen King Rostevan revealed. 100 When he saw the king, he struck his horse; what came next was strange but true: In the blink of an eye, he had vanished: he disappeared from view. He could have sunk in an abyss or flown to heaven's gate, and through. They sought, but found no trace of his course: there was nothing they could do. 101 His hoof prints they sought in the soil, and marveled that they could find none. Leaving no trace, he had vanished, like many a Devi has done. The soldiers mourned their dead, while they bandaged the wounded, every one. The king said: "I have seen cause for grief; my joy has set like the sun." 102 He said: "God wearies of the happiness that hitherto was mine: Therefore has He turned my sweet drink into the bitterest of wine; He has deeply wounded me; as I draw near my life's finish line, I concede to Him: "All grace and all will and all desire are Thine." 103 Thus he spoke, and turned away, leaving the rest saddened by his tone. No one galloped gaily across the field; groan was mingled with groan. The hunting party dispersed at that: everyone went off alone. Some thought him right; others, God forgive them, thought weakness had been shown. 104 The king went into his bedchamber sad and frowning, feeling ill. None followed except he who was like his son, namely Avtandil. Everyone went his own way; the household dispersed, as households will. All merriment ceased, as did the lute; even the sweet harp was still. 105 News had come to Tinatin of how her sad father retreated. She rose and came to the door; she with whom the bright sun competed. She asked the chamberlain: "Is he asleep or awake and seated?" He answered: "His color has faded; he sits brooding, defeated. 106 "Avtandil is with him, sitting in front of him in a low chair. The strange knight they pursued today: this is the cause of all his care." Tinatin said: "Now is not a good time for me to go in there. If he asks, say: 'She was here a moment ago, but went somewhere.'" 107 Time passed; and the king inquired: "Where is my daughter Tinatin? Where is my solace and jewel, my life's source, my help through thick and thin?" The chamberlain said: "She was here, face paler than it's ever been. She learned of your sadness and turned back, unsure whether to go in." 108 "Go, call her; how can I bear to be absent from her?" the king said. "Say to her: 'Why did you turn back, leaving the king as if for dead? Come back. Drive off grief, heal his heart. You are the bread on which he's fed. Come back, and your father will tell you the reason his joy has fled.'" 109 Tinatin did as her father wished: she rose and came right away. Her face shone like a high-riding moon when night has vanquished the day. Her father sat her down and kissed her, then said what he had to say. "Daughter, why did you not come here before? Why did you stay away?" 110 The maiden said: "O father king! Seeing you frown, who dares ask why? Few dare to approach you when you are sad, even those far from shy. This sadness of yours casts shadows on the highest stars in the sky. A man, I think, should seek to solve problems, not sit alone and cry." 111 "The sight of you brings me joy, and being near you brings me relief," He answered. "My child, however much this sad affair brings me grief, You calm that grief like a balm; I'm no longer shaking like a leaf. After what's happened, my groans are justified, that's my firm belief. 112 "A matter of some hours ago, I saw a magnificent knight; The firmament, the bounds of the earth, he illumined with his light. I could not find out for whom he wept, nor the nature of his plight. I summoned him, he didn't come: I was angry when he took flight. 113 "When he saw me, he wiped the tears from his eyes, and rode away fast. When I ordered him seized, he destroyed all my men, down to the last. He saluted me like some spirit on whom evil has been cast. Even now I don't know: was he real, this man who left us aghast? 114 "Did I see him, or was he part of a dream? I really don't know. He killed each servant and soldier I sent for him: he made blood flow. He had to have been flesh, but if he was flesh, then where did he go? I was happy till now by God's grace; now He sees me as a foe. 115 "God's tender mercies at length have become to me like so much gall; I have forgotten the past, when joy was great and sorrow was small. Words intended to console me will only make my spirits fall. However long my days may be, I'll not again rejoice at all." 116 "Let me offer my humble words," his daughter Tinatin replied: "I think to rail like this against God or fate is a sign of pride. Why accuse of bitterness He who for us will always provide? And why would He who created good, create evil by its side? 117 "This is my advice to you: you are a ruler, you are a king: Wide is the realm within which you have power over everything. Send out men to learn about this knight, and their tidings to you bring. To learn if this man be mortal, bid your scouts to their horses spring." 118 Rostevan liked what Tinatin had said, and he found her words wise. He put his hand on her cheek. Again and again, he kissed his prize. Then he said: I shall follow your words, daughter- do as you advise. All is as God wishes: my savior out of earth has made me rise. 119 Men were summoned and sent forth to the far corners of field and plain. The king commanded them to seek the knight and spare themselves no pain. "Search for him," he said. "Let nothing hinder you or make you refrain. Send letters where you cannot go, and pray your search may not be vain." 120 The men did as he bid: about a year they looked as best they might. They sought him again and again; they looked everywhere for that knight. None of God's creatures had seen him: he seemed to have vanished from sight. Then weary to the bone, they came home, failure on them like a blight. 121 The slaves said: "King, we have wandered hither and yon over your land. There is no part of our part of the world one of us has not scanned. No one admitted seeing this knight when we made of them demand. We return joyless, knowing this was not the conclusion you planned." 122 "My daughter Tinatin told me the truth," they heard the king respond. "A Devil has played one of his tricks, of which devils are so fond. This knight has been sent here as my foe; he has flown down from beyond. Henceforth, I'll let go of grief, and thus slip free of his curséd bond." 123 Thus he spoke, and all rejoiced to have their king feel once again free. After the best musicians entertained with song and minstrelsy, The king gave gifts to everyone: no one could more generous be. Among all the living, nobody could be more giving than he.

TINATIN Sends AVTANDIL to Look for The Knight

124 Avtandil sat alone in his room, to all bad feelings immune: He was sitting at a harp and singing, sounding a merry tune. Tinatin's ebony servant came and said: "I pray, sir, go soon: "She who calls you is slim as a poplar, her face is like the moon." 125 Avtandil rejoiced when he heard his dearest dream was coming true. He arose and put on his best garments and brightest coat, still new. He had longed to meet her; they'd never met alone as lovers do. It's thrilling to be with beauty, to have your belovéd with you. 126 Avtandil came openly to Tinatin: he was bold and proud. He came openly to her for whom he had sometimes wept aloud. His peerless loved one sat mournfully as if with lightning endowed. Her brightness would have eclipsed the moon, or stars in a lustrous crowd. 127 She wore that evening an ermine mantle, suitable for a queen, And priceless red veils the likes of which Avtandil had never seen. The flash of her brilliant eyes beneath heart-piercing lashes was keen. She had long, thick hair and a white neck, glimpses of which he could glean. 128 Looking at him through her crimson veil, pensive and thoughtful she stayed. She greeted him softly, and bade him sit down: he gladly obeyed. The servant placed a low seat; he sat calmly in front of the maid. And face to face, he gazed on her, full of great joy and unafraid. 129 Tinatin said: "By what I'm going to tell you, I've been distressed. I would wish not to speak about it but cannot avoid this test. Do you know the reason you are summoned here? Have you perhaps guessed Why I feel so overwhelmed? Why you were brought here at my behest?" 130 The knight said: "My mood now is so bright, nothing dark can find a chink". If the bright moon meets the brighter sun, it will fade away and shrink. You have caught me at a loss: I am no longer able to think. Please tell me why you're distraught and what will pull you back from the brink." 131 Then the maiden replied with elegant, well-chosen words, and said: "Many times you could have been near me. I kept you away instead. I wonder how you got what you wanted this time, with no tears shed? But first I'll name the malady by which, like a plague, I am bled. 132 "I'm sure you remember when you and Rostevan killed so much game. The strange knight you all saw weeping vanished as quickly as he came. Since then I have been prey to thoughts of him, and wondering his name. I beg you- Search the bounds of sky for him, and thereby you'll earn fame. 133 "Though this is the first time I have been able to converse with thee, Yet from afar have I perceived your great and certain love for me. I know that on my account your eyes from tears have seldom been free. Love holds you prisoner; your heart's a captive- that much I can see. 134 "This service I bid You do benefits you in two ways, it's clear. First, you're a knight and such a test as this hardens you against fear. Second, you're in love with me, and this quest shall make you doubly dear. Go then, and seek that strange weeping knight, be he far or be he near. 135 By seeking this knight, you'll strengthen your love for me and, when you're done, You shall have delivered me from grief, and crippled the evil one, Planted violets of hope in my heart, strewn roses one by one. Then return, and I shall come to meet you, my lion and my sun. 136 "Seek for three years the one I bid you seek, constant and not jaded; If you find him, come gaily: your victory shall be paraded. And if you fail, I shall know he was a vision my mind braided. You shall return and find your rosebud unwithered and unfaded. 137 "I shall not wed now any husband but you, this much I can swear: Even if the sun becomes man, incarnate for me, and stands there. If I don't stay true to you, may I be caught in a Hellish snare; May my love for you kill me if I give you reason to despair. 138 The knight replied: "O sun, whose eyelashes are made of darkest jet. What have I said to you or done, that you doubt my worth even yet? I longed for death; you have renewed my will to live. I'm in your debt. I obey you like a slave; your commandment I shall not forget." 139 He went on: "O sun, since God created you a sun in the sky, The heavenly planets obey your commandments, or humbly try, The words you've given me are my greatest reward, and you know why. Since your rays shine generously on it, my rose shall never die. 140 How could I regret being in the service of one such as you? I will not delay, but will leave tomorrow: accept this as true. The misery of my heart has turned into happiness undue. There's nothing more precious to me than this, that you my life renew. 141 They promised each other, and many a solemn oath they both swore. They confirmed vows to each other, and made promises by the score. The grief they had borne lightened until it was easy to ignore. Like white lightning reflected, their teeth flashed, and their bright eyes said more. 142 They sat together, they made merry, saying all there was to say. In their clear faces, ruby lips and jet-black eyes, their hearts held sway. The knight said: "All go mad who gaze on you as I have done today; The hot fire whose source is you has turned my fond heart to ashes gray." 143 The youth got up to leave, but kept looking back, unable to part. His eyes were dazed: every backward glance was like a love-poisoned dart. Hail rained down and froze the rose; in his body, he felt trembling start. Urged on by his great love, he had tied his heart to another's heart. 144 He thought, "Sun, the rose suffers when it's separated from your light. My crystal and ruby are duller than amber: they are not bright. What shall I do when, for a long time, you will not be in my sight? To die for my belovéd will become the one rule of this knight." 145 He lay down and wept. He wiped away his tears-- his weeping increased. Like an aspen in a strong wind, he swayed; his trembling never ceased. He fell asleep and dreamed his belovéd was with him at a feast. He startled and cried out, his sorrow twenty times greater at least. 146 Sadness grew in his separation from his love, though it was short. He shed pearl tears: his cheeks softened, and seemed then of a paler sort. When day dawned he appareled himself, to ensure a fair report. He mounted his horse, and went looking for an audience at court. 147 He sent a chamberlain with a message to give to the king's hand. The message said: "O king, I venture to say what I understand: All of the earth is subject to your sword and under your command. Now, if it be thy will, I shall go on a quest throughout the land: 148 "To the farthest reaches of your ruling, there quickly shall I go. I shall make Tinatin known by piercing the heart of every foe. The loyal shall rejoice, the disobedient shall I bring low. I shall often send you news; in sending gifts, I shall not be slow." 149 The king thought to himself gratefully, in words that were like a song, "O lion Avtandil, in looking for battle, you are not wrong. Your words and acts show you to be a man both sensitive and strong. Your wish is here granted, but what shall I do if you tarry long?" 150 The knight came in, did homage, and had many words of thanks to say: "O king, single out noble others for your highest praise, I pray. If God lightens for me the gloom of going my separate way, I'll rejoice at seeing you again on some future joyful day." 151 The king thereupon embraced Avtandil and kissed him like a son. As a loving parent and child, like unto them there have been none. The knight rose and went away: for Rostevan, all delight seemed done. He, so wise and kind of heart, wept for him whose journey had begun. 152 So young Avtandil rode out into the world, a courageous knight. Twenty days he journeyed, riding from light to dark, from dark to light. The treasure of the world, its obligation, its most joyous sight, Was in his mind always Tinatin, she for whom his love burned bright.