This is one of the most well known and performed deyiş of Dertli Divani (real name Veli Aykut, born 1962 in Kısas near Şanlıurfa). Divani is arguably the most important living Alevi aşık and a remarkable individual who straddles, with ease, the worlds of the Alevi source culture and that of the modern recording artist. He is also tireless in his efforts to explain and promote an understanding of the true nature and spirit of Alevi culture to as wide an audience as possible. Divani is from dede lineage (his father is the late Aşık Büryani) and leads cem services in Turkey (Kısas, Nurhak, Banaz) and throughout the world (Europe, North America and in Australia) and is the source and composer of many of the finest Alevi lyrics of the last quarter century. Though clearly he has the ambition to make Alevi culture widely understood his lyrics are still deeply mystical and present challenges for the translator, even more overtly social lyrics such as this one.
This deyiş is somewhat remarkable for the fact that it has a refrain (bağlantı) that introduces new text – many deyiş when sung introduce refrains though more commonly they are repetitions of the words of the verses. Adding to the interesting form is the fact that the verses are in 8 syllable metre while the refrain is in 11 syllable metre. While I generally aim to translate deyiş line by line, in this case it is necessary in some parts to treat two lines together for the purpose of coherence in the translation. Another difficulty was what to do with the “ne … ne” construction particularly in the first refrain. This construction normally means “neither … nor” though the conjuctions are usually placed before the words to which they refer, not after them as in this lyric. For this reason I have read “ne” in this instance as its other meaning of “what” which makes more sense in the theme of the lyric. In the last refrain I was tempted to use the word “wayfarer” for “yolcu” to pick up on the assonance of the Turkish, as in “the wayfarer who does not take the way” – but I did not completely convince myself of the desirability of this. I did, however, for good or ill, fall for the use of “hence”, in its archaic mean of “from here/this” for a translation of “bundan“.
Divani recorded the lyric on his album Serçeşme and in a repeat of the third line of the second verse he replaces “yârin” (beloved) with “pirin” (spiritual guide) as he does also in this live performance of the deyiş. The text given below is from Kısaslı Aşıklar by Halil Atılgan published in Şanlıurfa in 1992. The text printed in the CD/cassette booklet for Serçeşme is the same. Curiously in a later publication by Atılgan (with Mehmet Acet) titled Harran’da Bir Türkmen Köyü Kısas published by the T.C. Kültür Bakanlığı in 2001, the last line includes an odd reading (or editorial mistake) contracting “Şaha ne” to “şahane” (royal, regal, magnificent).
Update #1: Again my most dedicated reader, Olga, has made some very pertinent and helpful comments (see comments section). She has articulated the theme of the lyric, which I completely agree with. She also, most usefully, notes the misreading in regards to “sana ne bana ne“. As Olga notes this construction means “I/you don’t care” or as I would re-phrase it “what’s it to you, what’s it to me”. And of course this suggests an allusion to the aşık that Divani himself has said is one of his greatest influences, Aşık Daimi and his great lyric titled Bana Ne. Interestingly that lyric includes the mahlas form “Dertli Daimi” – the full line is “Dertli Daimi’yim yardır sevdiğim“. This form of the mahlas is very uncommon in Daimi’s lyrics. Is this a deliberate allusion by Dertli Divani? Also, as Olga notes, the last line of the lyric suggest the famous Pir Sultan Abdal cry “Gelin canlar bir olalım” though that line can also be attributed to another great and influential Alevi poet Aşık Sıdkı, a poet who is also a strong influence on Dertli Divani. In revising some lines upon Olga’s suggestion, and my reluctance to use her suggestion of “pilgrim” for yolcu, I have given in to my original inclination and used ‘wayfarer’. And I removed my “hence” – a shame about that.
Dertli Divani: Diktiğimiz fidanlar
Translation: Paul Koerbin
We could not eat the fruit
Of the shoots we planted
Whatever was their fault
(Hold on tyrant!) we cannot say
So saying, what’s it to you and what’s it to me?
Thus we’re fodder for lord and master
The doctor caused my wound to smart
Inflamed by my sweet soul
The love of the beloved sets me
To wandering through foreign lands
I have been hurt by the hand of the blind ignorant friend
I have grown tired and disgusted with reproaches
Divani speaks freely of conceit
This ignorance casting us down
Hand to hand, heart to heart
Let us give and be as one
The uncommitted wayfarer is at fault with the way
And so, what concern for the subject one to the Sultan or Shah?
Original text from Kısalı Aşıklar by Halil Atılgan, Şanlıurfa, 1992
Ne suçu vardı onların
Dur be zalim diyemedik
Sana ne bana ne hep diye diye
Böylece yem olduk ağaya beye
Tabip yaramı azdırdı
Tatlı canımdan bezdirdi
Beni bir yârin sevdası
Diyar be diyar gezdirdi
Yanmışam kör cahil dostun elinden
Bıkmış usanmışam acı dilinden
Der Divani senlik benlik
Bizi yıkan bu cahillik
El ele gönül gönüle
Verelim olalım birlik
Yolcu yola gitmez yola bahane
Bundan kula Sultana ne Şaha ne
Dear Paul! Thank you for presenting a wonderful poet Dertli Divani. I have heard the name but haven’t listened to his music before.
I dare drop few remarks again. In Turkish the phrase “Bana ne!” is used to mean “I don’t care!” , in the meaning similar to “no skin off my back”. In my opinion, the main idea (and message) of the deyis is criticism of our losing the sense of solidarity as a result of our sticking to individuality or individualism (“ben”lik, “sen”lik – bana ne, sana ne). For that reason we were entrapped by powers that be (“aga” and “bey” designate not a divine power and authority here but a mundane one. I have never come across adopting these words to refer to Master in mystical poetry). And the call for uniting, alluding to classical “Gelin canlar bir olalim”, rounds off the deyis suggesting the way to appropriate the fruit of our efforts:)
“A pilgrim excuses himself from taking the way/
Why Sultan should care, or Shah, or a servant of theirs”
Dear Olga, once again many thanks for your excellent and helpful reading and comments. I’d be interested to know a bit more about your interest in Alevi lyric. Are you an academic? Your Turkish is clearly better than mine. I appreciate your interest and willingness to share your comments with me.
Dear Paul! I would say I was an academic but my subject was philosophy of science. Soon after getting PHD degree I gave up all the research work feeling a kind of disappointment. While traveling around Turkey I occasionally heard a kurdish alevi deyiş in one of türkü evi’s in Istanbul and I fell in love with that music. Already by that moment I was interested in sufi mysticism, but after my returning back to Moscow I went to Turkish language courses and, amazingly, I met there the only Russian scholar expert in Bektaşi order and alevi culture. Our talks nourished my interest. I also took a short workshop in Ottoman Turkish and not long ago started learning Farsi. My interest is focused mostly upon aşıklar tradition. Once I even dreamed of making a doc on the subject. But I would say I am at the very beginning of my research. That is why I was so happy to come across your site for your investigations and you efforts inspire my own work. I believe that for any real knowing and aspiring for the truth communication, discussion and sharing of ideas is both the prerequisite and bliss.
Dear Olga, thank you for the information about your academic background and interests. You are clearly much more qualified in this area than I am. If you intend doing work on Alevi deyiş will you do it in Russian or English? Your English is clearly fluent and I would assume there would be a wider academic audience in English. Though I am not particularly qualified in this area – my Turkish is entirely self taught and though I have visited Turkey a number of times I have not lived there for any period of time – I have set up this site and worked on a PhD on the subject because there is very little interest otherwise in the English speaking world. In English there is virtually nothing on Pir Sultan other than the occasional passing mention in academic books, and that mostly in the context of the 1993 Sivas massacre or passing mention of kızılbaş uprising and support of the Safavid Shah in the 16th century. Most of my ‘qualification’ in this area is practical, having been collecting and listening to Alevi deyiş since the mid-1980s and playing the songs on bağlama for nearly as long.
Dear Paul! I envy you:) I wish I could play the baglama, too. I want to learn to. To my mind, your way to approach and handle the subject matter is more relevant or appropriate to it. Nowadays, science is not the key player on the field of Human Spirit. Science is a closed society, highly specialized and suffering from fragmentation of knowledge within each and every not even discipline but sub-discipline. What if you or me write a brilliant piece of academic work on a great poet Pir Sultan Abdal or Aşık Veysel? It will probably provoke a couple of highbrows’ responses, tnen being doomed to be buried under dust. Using forms essential to science, its technical language and ways of conveying content, will we touch people’s hearts, will we change anybody’s worldview and ways. I think not. What’s the point then? While if you play the baglama, sing deyis and plunge your listeners into the context, it will work the way it’s meant to work. I don’t want to say though that research is not needed at all, but, in my opinion, it is just a preliminary stage, a mean, not an end in itself. That is how I see it:)