Tag Archives: Tbilisi

Byron in Georgia: Julia Markus at the International Byron Conference

photograph of Tblisi at sunset

“Tbilisi sunset-6” by Vladimer Shioshvili – Flickr: Tbilisi sunset. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tbilisi_sunset-6.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tbilisi_sunset-6.jpg

The trip from Connecticut  to the Fortieth International Byron Conference held in Tbilisi, Georgia this June was  complicated enough as to make me admire Lord Byron  for having gotten there by horse two centuries previously.  As I found out at the crowded opening ceremony,   Byron only dreamed of getting to Georgia—2 lines in one poem,  1 line in another.

Painting of Lord Byron

«Lord Byron in Albanian dress» de Thomas Phillips – Desconocido. Disponible bajo la licencia Public domain vía Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lord_Byron_in_Albanian_dress.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lord_Byron_in_Albanian_dress.jpg

As the present Lord Byron said in his opening remarks that evening,  the tv cameras and media following his every word,   Byron’s “DNA” was finally  making this trip in the poet’s  honor.  Both he and his cousin the  Earl of Lytton  attended and participated in the week-long  Byron conference..  The hospitality of the Georgians was unending.   I spoke the second morning, as on the first day we were offered  a trip to the country that ended  with an enormous out -door feast including dancing under the stars to Georgian music, Greek music, and finally rock and roll!   We didn’t roll back to our Tbilisi  hotel till one that morning.  Still, there was Lord Lytton,  Lady Byron’s direct descendant,  in the first row,  bright and early that next morning,  to hear me discuss  Sir Walter Scott’s awe of  Lady Byron  whose ill-fated one -year marriage  to Lord Byron  had  ended in scandal.   A reinterpretation of that marriage and Lord Byron’s  angry reaction to it in his poetry will be part of my   biography of  “Lady Byron After Love”  (W.W. Norton in Fall, 2015).

The entire  week in the Republic of Georgia was a most moving  and varied experience.  One day we all visited Gori   where Stalin was born and toured the controversial Stalin museum which many Georgians object to and others point out as part of their heritage–Stalin remains, after all,–  Georgian.

Photlo of monumnet enclosing Stalin's birthplace

“Stalin birth house” by Nenad Bumbic – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stalin_birth_house.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Stalin_birth_house.jpg

That evening the municipality of Gori offered all eighty of us a magnificent feast. In the middle of  the eating and drinking and toasting,  the head of the municipality brought the news that Georgia had just signed a trade agreement with the  European Union.  The explosion of joy was incredible, even though we were far from  the fireworks and concerts that spontaneously erupted in Tbilisi.   The desire of the Georgians to be part of the West  overwhelms one.   Lord Byron wished to fight for Greek independence  two centuries ago.  In Georgia today, the poet  remains  the symbolic  champion of  political liberty.  In that sense,  Georgia shares the poet’s dream.

Julia Markus

“Thence shall I stray through Beauty’s native clime,
Where Kaff is clad in rocks, and crowned with snows sublime.” –Byron, “English Bards, And Scotch Reviewers”

Find more information about Professor Markus and “Lady Byron After Love” at JuliaMarkusWrites.

Democratic Republic of Georgia map.jpg
Democratic Republic of Georgia map“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.