Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu (1894-1973) was born in Sivrialan near Şarkışla in the Sivas region, was and is the most renowned and generally loved of all 20th century Turkish aşık-s. His identity is strongly associated with Republican Turkey and indeed there is a statue of him in pride of place near the entrance of Gülhane park in Istanbul. His songs have a strong philosophical and humanistic character and he tended to avoid a strong (and hence political) expression of his Alevi identity, although of course it is evident in his songs. The finest recordings available are the field recordings made by Alain Gheerbrant in 1957 in which Veysel played more naturally to his Alevi identity. Gheerbrant, out of consideration for Veysel did not publish the recordings until after the aşık’s death. They are available on the Radio France Ocora double ablbum published in 1985 (558634/35) from which the photograph here is taken.
Muhlis Akarsu recorded Beni hor görme on his recording titled “… gönül” although, interestingly, with Veysel’s mahlas replaced by the word “insan” (human) and the order of verses changed with the mahlas verse sung as the second of three verses. Arif Sağ also recorded a similar version on his 1981 recording Gürbeti ben mi yarattım with the mahlas verse back in place but, like Akarsu, with “insan” replacing Veysel’s mahlas. Sağ over a decade later produced what remains Nuray Hafiftaş’s finest recording, Şimdi oldu, which also includes the song, but with the Veysel’s mahlas restored.
Translation challenges include getting a workable reading of the form of the refrain line with it’s half question and answer. It implies a conditional sentence although it does not use that construction. One writer, the wonderfully named Azeri scholar Sednik Paşeyevi Pirsultanlı, does in fact read the line in this way, e.g. “sen yolcuysan ben baç mıyım?”. I have tried a slightly different more direct approach. The second line in the penultimate verse also provides a challenge to convey in a line a satisfactory sense of the original. It refers to the concept of the true spirit or soul of person not being able to ascend to a higher level until the carnal and worldly desires and self (nefs) are done away with.
Aşık Veysel: Beni hor görme
Translation: Paul Koerbin
Don’t look down on me, my brother
You are gold – so am I then bronze?
We are of the same existence
You are silver – so am I then thin metal?
Whatever exists is in you and in me
The same existence in every body
That tomorrow is headed for the grave
You are full – so am I then empty?
Some are mullahs, some dervish
God, it seems, gave to us whatever
Some might talk of the bee and the flower
You are honey – so am I than a heap of grain?
All of our bodies come from the earth
Kill off the carnal self before the dying
So the creator seems to have commanded
You are the pen – so am I then the nib?
Veysel is disposed to be a lover
We are brothers made out of the earth
We are the same as fellow travellers
You are the traveller – so am I then the toll?
Original text from recording by Aşık Veysel on the CD Aşık Veysel Klasikleri
Ben hor görme kardeşim
Sen altınsın ben tunç muyum
Aynı vardan var olmuşuz
Sen gümüşsün ben saç mıyım
Ne var ise sende bende
Aynı varlık her bendende
Yarın mezara girende
Sen toksun da ben aç mıyım
Kimi molla kimi derviş
Allah bize neler vermiş
Kimi arı çiçek dermiş
Sen balsın da ben cec miyim
Topraktandır cümle beden
Nefsini öldür ölmeden
Böyle emretmiş yaradan
Sen kalemsin ben uç muyum
Tabiata Veysel âşık
Topraktan olduk kardaşık
Aynı yolcuyuz yoldaşık
Sen yolcusun ben bac mıyım
This is really great, I love the work you are doing. I wish I was able to translate these lyrics as you have, I do not understand enough to do them justice. If and when you ever publish these in a collection please let me know.
Would it be okay to take some of your English renderings and put them to music sometime? All credit due in its proper place of course.
thank you, I am very delighted to find your blog, I will be reading all of the posts eventually. – kevin
Thank you for wonderful translation and of course historical details.
It is interesting how study of this great man, has a tight relation with the recent history of the Turkey. To me, it is if he is the symbol of humanistic values, folklore and tought carried over from the old Ottoman to the republic era.
He welcommed the change, optomistically, hoped for the better and he seems to be correct. His Ataturk is a father figure that has done so much for Turkey. Even so his view may be in contrast to many other views who tend to differ. The end result, being the todays Turkey, with strong root in the east and comfidance steps toward democrasy proves correctness of Veysels hope.
Gonul on behalf of Nefes Folk Music Group, London said:
Given that we don’t have many attemps at translating these lyrics into English, I totally agree with your approach; giving a clear insight into the meaning should be have priority. Well done and thank you very much!