As the Head of the Chair of Translatology with MA and PhD programs at Tbilisi State University, I have been promoting for decades a comparative analysis of translated versions and their original texts. From this point of view, the most distinguished piece is Rustaveli’s XII century poem “The Knight in the Tiger’s Skin”. There are five English versions of the poem and all of them deserve due attention and appreciation, though the winner, in my opinion, is Marjory Wardrop. To tell more about this talented and devoted lady, I prefer to offer in parts the text of the Foreword that I wrote for the following book: Shota Rustaveli, The Man in the Panther’s Skin, translated by Marjory Scott Wardrop, Rustaveli 850 Publishing House, publisher Guram Akhalaia, Tbilisi, 2019.
Once upon a time, “many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea… a maiden there lived whom you may know by the name of Marjory Wardrop. She was young, beautiful, very talented, well-read and well-mannered, as a real princess should be, though she did not descend from a noble family. She was blessed with loving parents and a no less loving brother, her greatest friend, named Oliver, who was five years senior to her.
Brother and sister were brought up in a happy atmosphere of love and friendship. They spent their childhood in Scotland and southern England which endowed them with special admiration for nature and its moving scenes. The children, who at an early age became voracious readers of travellers’ tales, were especially fascinated by the story of the Argonauts. Their minds and emotions travelled together with the ship Argo that sailed from Greece to the Kingdom of Colchis, located on the Black Sea Coast in Western Georgia. Their hearts were thrilled by Medea’s sufferings and tragedy, as she fell in love with Jason, helped him to obtain the Golden Fleece and eloped with him to Greece… Brother and sister would certainly share Lord Byron’s sorrow for the Colchian Medea:
O, how I wish that an embargo Had kept in port the good ship Argo! ………………………………………………. But now I fear her trip will be a Damn’d business for my Miss Medea.
When the ship Argo floated from Iolcus to Colchis, the ominous wing-beats of a huge eagle were heard by the Argonauts with Jason. Flattering her enormous wings that bird of prey flew to the Caucasian mount where Prometheus was nailed on a crag in today’s Georgia. The bird would rip open his flesh and tear his liver.
Later, Oliver and Marjory would also learn that the Georgian mythological tale about Amirani corresponded to the myth about Prometheus. It has been shown that the legend of Amirani originated in the latter half of the second millennium before Christ. That ancient legend found its way to Greece where it became known as Prometheus. Prometheus and Medea, that are of Georgian origin, were universally spread as uniquely impressive figures through their Grecian versions and Greek civilization as a whole.
Besides the heartbreaking myths, brother and sister would definitely come across those rare but impressive comments on Georgia by different authors, e. g. Edward Gibbon: “It is in the adjacent climates of Georgia, Mingrelia (apparently Edward Gibbon considered Mingrelia as a separate land, though it has always been one of the western regions of Georgia), and Circassia, that nature has placed, at least to our eyes, the model of beauty, in the shape of limbs, the colour of the skin, the symmetry of the features, and the expression of the countenance: the men are formed for action, the women for love!” They would also know that young Lord Byron referred to Georgia as to “beauty’s native clime” and planned to visit it. In “Lalla Rookh” Thomas Moore described the Georgian maids and natural hot springs in Teflis, though the above mentioned authors had never reached Georgia. Among those men of letters, who experienced a long journey to Georgia and depicted it in their writings, Alexandre Dumas (père) was to be distinguished. In his book “Voyage au Caucase” (1859), that comprises over 400 pages including itinerary, map and illustrations, one can find not only well-investigated and presented history of the country but scrupulous accounts of personalities, life and customs. Besides, Dumas is to be appreciated for the following emotive estimation: “Greece is Galatea of marble, Georgia is Galatea alive.” No doubt Marjory and Oliver read Dumas in French, the language they spoke fluently as far as the English translation of its short version appeared in London only in 1952.
Time passed and the charming siblings grew older. With them grew stronger the desire to see the world and visit the fabulous land of Georgia. Most probably, that ambition, together with profound education at Oxford, encouraged Oliver to become a successful career diplomat. As for Marjory, her contemporary attitude towards women’s education in the UK was not duly favorable. It was only in 1869 (the year of Marjory’s birth), that nine women sat down to take their exams at the University of London where the first female students in Britain were admitted for studies. Ten years later, two women’s colleges came to be established in Oxford, followed by one more in 1886 and another in 1893. Regretfully the Wardrop family never shared the progressive initiative and gave priority to their son’s university education only. The same could be said about travels that opened prospects mostly to men. Here is what Marjory wrote: “If I had been a man, I should have run away long ago and seen the world. You cannot think how rebellious against my situation I often feel… Nobody seems to understand that the soul strives and longs for something more than a well-built house and good things to eat.”
It was the English tradition that encouraged young gentlemen to explore the world after graduating from universities. At the age of twenty-three, Oliver set off on a “grand tour” and after France and Italy finally reached Georgia, the land of his dream. Oliver diligently studied the Georgian way of life, its history and traditions, and met the leading figures of the nation. As a result of his travels, he produced an impressive book “The Kingdom of Georgia” that he published in London in 1888 on his return. “Georgia’s chief attraction lies in its people. The Georgians are not only fair to look upon, but they are essentially a loveable people… To live among such gay, open-hearted, open-handed, honest, innocent folk is the best cure for melancholia and misanthropy that could well be imagined,” – this is how Oliver accepted Georgia.
Oliver’s book and the stories on Georgia, personally shared with his sister, provoked contagious emotions for Marjory. Her untiring desire to comprehend Georgia and its people soon proved to be the main idea of her life. Marjory, who had spent only two years at school and was educated at home, was exceptionally knowledgeable and spoke several foreign languages, decided to learn the Georgian language and literature. She started with the unique Georgian alphabet and the Gospel, with the help of provided dictionaries, and soon gained great success in her studies. Still more noteworthy is the fact that in those times there were no English-Georgian dictionaries at all. But Marjory would consult the Georgian-French-Russian dictionary by M. Brosset and D. Chubinashvili (Chubinov), published in 1840, as she was fluent both in French and Russian. Here, the spirit of enterprise won and Marjory made up her mind to compile an English-Georgian dictionary on her own. Today, that unaccomplished glossary in Marjory’s handwriting comprises only 1000 entries, but has full right to be acknowledged as the first English-Georgian dictionary. As for Marjory, she undoubtedly is the first lexicographer on English and Georgian languages.