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Lake Eğirdir, 1996

Lake Eğirdir, 1996

The opening line declares this lyric as a little nefes (hymn) – a song of praise or worship. We may still understand this as an Alevi deyiş in its synonymous sense or course – it is Pir Sultan – but it does fit will with the Bektashi sensibility and indeed there are at least two musical settings of this nefes in the Bektashi tradition. The first is in the gerdaniye makam and is published in the second edition of Gölpınarlı’s Alevi-Bektaşi Nefesler (the piece is sourced from Rauf Yekta’s publication of nefesler in the 1930’s for the Istanbul Konservatuvarı). The other setting is from Vahid (Salcı) Dede and was first published in Cahit Öztelli’s 1971 book on Pir Sultan Abdal and also in the final volume (vol. 5) of İsmail Özmen’s Alevi-Bektaşi Şiirleri Antolojisi. Both settings are in 8/8 time, interestingly, as the lyric itself is in semai form with an eight syllable count (the greater majority of Pir Sultan’s lyrics are in koşma form with an 11 syllable count. The language is simple though it uses some terms with specific meaning in Alevi-Bektaşi culture. In this case I have thought it preferable to attempt translations of these terms rather than leave them in their original form because of the overall simplicity of the language. In the first verse are terms suggesting a watery symbolism – derya (sea) and umman (ocean), but these also have meaning relating to the kamil insan (perfect person), a person of depth, integrity and knowledge. Ideas that the translator needs to try and convey. The Meydan can mean simply an open space, but here it refers to the specific place where the ritual ceremonies (ayin-i cem) are conducted. The Dar here refers to the central place of the Meydan where the main services are conducted and where a person confesses faith to the way.

Pir Sultan Abdal: Bir nefesçık söyliyelim

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Bir nefesçik söyliyelim

Dinlemezsen neyliyelim

Aşk deryasın boylıyalım

Ummana dalmağa geldim


Aşk harmanında savruldum

Hem elendim hem yuğruldum

Kazana girdim kavruldum

Meydana yenmeğe geldim


Ben Hakkın ednâ kuluyum

Kem damarlardan beriyim

Ayn-i Cem’in bülbülüyüm

Meydana ötmeğe geldim


Ben Hak ile oldum aş’na

Kalmadı gönlümde nesne

Pervaneyim ateşine

Şem’ine yanmağa geldim


Pir Sultan’ım yer yüzünde

Var mıdır noksan sözümde

Eksiğim kendi özümde

Dârına durmağa geldim

Let us sing a little hymn

If you don’t listen what should we do

Let us traverse the depths of love

I came to plunge into that vast ocean


I was winnowed in the harvest of love

I was both sifted and kneaded

I entered the pot and was roasted

I came to attain the Sacred Place


I was the lowest of God’s slaves

I was clear of malicious streaks

I was the nightingale in the Ceremony

I came to sing for the Sacred Place


I was well acquainted with God

Nothing else reamained in my heart

I am a moth unto your flame

I came to burn at your candle


I am Pir Sultan here in the world

Is there anything deficient in my word

Anything lacking in my very self

I came to stand right before you