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img453One of the most evocative of Pir Sultan’s lyrics; especially when sung to the beautiful melody with which it is associated. Tolga Sağ performs the most familar version; while Muharrem Ertaş performs a spine-tingling bozlak version that seems to suggest deeper roots. It illustrates very well the evocation of the Anatolian landscape, Pir Sultan’s world, and how this is reflected in the inner being. The language of this deyiş is somewhat simpler than the earlier ones I have posted, but not without challenges for the translator. While I generally prefer to retain the names of specific places I have translated Kızılırmak as Red River. Firstly, Kızılırmak in its English form “Kizilirmak” is likely to create something of a monstrosity in pronunciation. Secondly, I like the very slight hint to the frontier nature of ‘Red River’.  On the other hand I have left saz untranslated, preferring not to use ‘lute’ as that gives too much of a courtly ‘troubadour’ idea. I have not gone as far as Memet Fuat in his book on Pir Sultan Abdal in associating Zalim Paşa (‘tyrant Pasha) with Hızır Paşa the former follower of Pir Sultan who was later to become a Governor of Sivas and be responsible for Pir Sultan’s execution. Though of course such a connection makes sense and is supportable and indeed both versions of the song I linked to above refer to Hızır (Hıdır) Paşa. Fuat also offers Tanrı (God, lord) as a reading of Dost in the last verse. I have not accepted this and go with Companion as a stronger take on the literal meaning of  ‘friend’. The other word that is somewhat problematic to translate is kul. This literally means slave though as Metin Kunt notes in The Sultan’s Sevants: The Transformation of Ottoman Provincial Government, 1550-1650, the term is possessed of some abiguity meaning not only ‘slave’ but also more generally ‘servant’ as well as the specific meaning of a ‘slave’ reared for an official career in the Ottoman administration. Kul also has specific Alevi-Bektashi meaning: according to Esat Korkmaz in his Alevilik-Bektaşilik Terimleri Sözlüğü it expresses man’s relationship to God (‘Tanrı’ya göre insan‘) or the mürit‘s (disciple, follower) relation to the mürşid (spritual leader). Given the socio-political nature of this deyiş however I have gone with a rendering of kul as ‘mere subject’ that I think best suggests the idea of slave and servant. 

Bu yıl bu dağların karı erimez

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Bu yıl bu dağların karı erimez          

Eser bad-ı saba yel bozuk bozuk

Türkmen kalkıp yaylasına yürümez

Yıkılmiş aşiret il bozuk bozuk


Kızılırmak gibi çağladım aktım

El vurdum göğsümün bendini yıktım

Gül yüzlü ceranın bağına çıktım

Girdim bahçesine gül bozuk bozuk


Elim tutmaz güllerini dermeye

Dilim tutmaz hasta halin sormaya

Dört cevabın manasını vermeye

Sazım düzen tutmaz tel bozuk bozuk


Pir Sultan’ım yaratıldım kul diye

Zalim Paşa elinden mi öl diye

Dostum beni ısmarlamış gel diye

Gideceğim amma yol bozuk bozuk

The snow doesn’t melt on the mountains this year          

The morning breeze blows an ill wind of ruin

The Turkmen don’t start and make for the highlands

The nomads have cleared off and the land is in ruin


I purled and flowed like the Red River

I struck out and threw off the barrage within me

I entered the orchard of the rose faced gazelle

I entered its garden of roses all broken and in ruin


I cannot hold its roses for the gathering

I cannot speak of my sickness for the asking

Nor to give the meaning of the sacred books

My saz is un-tuned, the strings broken and in ruin


I am Pir Sultan I was created a mere subject

To die they say by the hand of the tyrant Pasha

My Companion commanded me, saying come

I will go but the way is broken and in ruin