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The earliest appearance of this deyiş in print is in Bektaşilik ve edebiyatı by Besim Atalay (1882-1965) published in 1924. Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943) also include the text indicating the sources as Atalay and cönk in the possession of Gölpınarlı. One of the dilemmas for this translation is whether or not to translate the terms mürşid and rehber. While these terms have quite specific connotation in Alevi ritual culture they are to some sufficient degree translatable. I have have therefore translated them, capitalising the terms ‘Teacher’ – not a fully adequate term; perhaps ‘Master’ may be better? – and ‘Guide’ to indicate that the terms have specific rather generic meaning. As Mehmet Fuat (Pir Sultan Abdal, 1999 ed.)  notes in respect to the third line of the second verse – which is somewhat awkward to translate – the reference is to smoking out bees from the hive in order to secure the honey. Fuat also gives guidance in respect to the last line of the lyric which refers to the practice of the novice dervish being brought before the Mürşid during the confirmation ceremony to enter the tarikat and the Mürşid takes the dervish’s right hand in his right hand while the dervish holds the skirt (etek) of the Mürşid with his left hand.

This deyiş has obvious connections to one of the oldest attributable lyrics to the person of Pir Sultan Serseri girme meydana in its theme and imagery.

The curious photograph of the ‘dervish’ is from Alma Wittlin’s book Abdul Hamid: the shadow of God (English translation published by John Lane in 1940).

Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Ben dervişim diye göğsün açarsın’

Translation: Paul Koerbin

You stick out your chest saying ‘I am a dervish’

Do you have the tongue to invoke God?

Look to yourself, what do you want from strangers?

Do you have the strength to reach the state of ecstasy?

Like a fish one day they will ensnare you in a net

They will question you about your Teacher and Guide

Lighting incense, sending you scattering, they will seek

‘I am a bee’ you say – do you have honey?

Do those without affliction complain?

Does a shrewd dervish turn from his vow?

Do all creatures of the air light on a rose branch?

‘I am a nightingale’ you say – do you have a rose?

I am Pir Sultan, your affliction is not laid bare

Those without affliction don’t confront suffering

The ways are not passed over without the Teacher and Guide

Do you have your hand on the Teacher’s cloak?


Original text from Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943)

Ben dervişim diye göğsün açarsın

Hakkı zikretmeğe dilin var mıdır

Sen kendi görsene ilde n’ararsın

Hâli hâl etmeğe hâlin var mıdır

Bir gün balık gibi ağa sararlar

Mürşidinden rehberinden sorarlar

Tütsü yakıp köşe köşe ararlar

Ben arıyım dersin balın var mıdır

Dertli olmıyanlar derde yanar mı

Tahkik derviş ikrarından döner mi

Her bir uçan gül dalına konar mı

Ben bülbülüm dersin gülün var mıdır

Pir Sultan’ım senin derdin deşilmez

Derdi olmıyanlar derde duş olmaz

Mürşitsiz rehbersiz yollar açılmaz

Mürşit eteğinde elin var mıdır