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Kırklar meydanı at Banaz with view towards Yıldız Dağı (Photograph: P. Koerbin, 2002)

This is my translation of one of the few Pir Sultan deyiş that survive from a near contemporary source. The oldest source for Pir Sultan’s poems is the Menâkıb ül-Esrâr Behçet’ül Ahrâr the büyük buyruk or İmam Cafer buyruğu assumed to date from the time of Shah Tahmasp (and possibly the work of Kul Himmet) although the surving manuscripts are early 17th century CE. The Menâkıb includes a small number of nefes (deyiş) although different manuscripts include different poems. Also included are poems by Şah Hatayî (Shah Ismail of Iran) along with Pir Sultan, clearly linking Pir Sultan to the Safavid Kızılbaş (Qizilbash) cause.

This particular lyric is from a manuscript of the Menâkıb that belonged to the the great Turkish literary and sufi historian Abdülbâkî Gölpınarlı and is included in what is still the most useful book on Pir Sultan, published originally in 1943 by Gölpınarlı  with the great folklorist Pertev Naili Boratav (with an expanded edition published in 1991). Unfortunately, as has also been lamented by Fuat Bozkurt in his edition of the İmam Cafer-i Sadık Buyruğu, we do not have access to the manuscript that was in Gölpınarlı’s possession, so the details cannot be confirmed or expanded nor the manuscript dated. Gölpınarlı identifies three nefes in his manuscript as being by Pir Sultan. In the editon of the Menâkıb published by Ahmet Taşğın there are only two nefes from Pir Sultan, and they are different to the three given by Gölpınarlı. The manuscript used by Taşğın and produced in (fairly rough) facsimile in his 2003 edition dates from around 1612 or 1613.  Anyway this lyric, Serseri girme meydana, gives a good sense of the feisty and robust lyric along with a pithy turn of phrase that seems to be authentic Pir Sultan. The language, as is often the case with this material, is both simple in essence and difficult and elusive in parts. It uses quite a bit of older Turkish and terms associated with the mystical pursuit. I have incorporated what I felt I reasonably could into the English translation, except for meydan (meanıng open space, but specifically the space where the ritual ceremonies are conducted) and aşık, meaning one who wishes to enter the tarikat (mystic order) way.

Pir Sultan Abdal: Serseri Girme Meydana

Translation: Paul Koerbin


Vagrant, don’t enter the meydan

They require conditions from the aşık

Don’t come the high and mighty with deceit

They want affirmation for the outward show

Awake from this somnolent stupor

They require proof of the inner person

From the conversation of every aşık

They require the way with declaration

Those who reach truth play a sure bet

There is no trick attached to this way

Here there are no baubles peddled

They require the ruby and the pearl

They go through parts splitting hairs

They grasp the one way and they go

The don’t count much for mere talk

The condition they require is within

Pir Sultan Abdal what do you do?

You say you have done the hard yards

You are a bee working over the flower

Tomorrow they will require honey from you


Original text from Gölpınarlı and Boratav, Pir Sultan Abdal (1943)


Serseri girme meydana

Aşıktan ahval isterler

Kallâşlık ile urma dem

Tasdik ehli kal isterler

Uyan bu gaflet hâbından

İsbat isterler bâtından

Her aşıka sohbetinden

İkrar ile yol isterler

Erenler oynar utulmaz

Bu yola hile katılmaz

Bunda harmühre satılmaz

Ya gevher ya la’l isterler

Kılı kırk pâre ederler

Birin yol tutup giderler

Dile n’ itibar ederler

Hâl içinde hâl isterler

Pir Sultan Abdal n’eylersin

Müşkil halledip söylersin

Arısın çiçek yaylarsın

Yarın senden bal isterler