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Doğu Ekspres near Divriği mid-1990sHere is a relatively simple but very beautiful lyric that makes an appearance in the earliest Pir Sultan anthologies of Ergun (1929) and Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943). This is possibly an old lyric and related to the verses of Yunus Emre (see Izzet Zeki Eyuboğlu)- not unknown in the Pir Sultan canon. Later collections show little variation, not surprisingly with a short and perfect gem like this, though Fuad (1977 and 1999) has some slight variations, one of which I follow.

The two Fuad variations are in the first and last lines of the lyric. In the last line Fuad has kor olmuş (a glowing coal) rather than üfrülmüş, meaning to be blown upon, as for example a hot cinder. Fuad’s version seems to be a clarifying or simplifying variant and for reasons of assonance I have gone with üfrülmüş incorporating both variations into my rendering of the line. In the first line the earlier anthologist have benden rather bizden. Given the ‘shifty’ – to use Losensky’s term –  nature of the lyric identity common in these lyrics this is not substantive change. I have used Fuad’s plural version as it aligns with the assonance of the lyric generally. Indeed this is one of the beauties of this lyric for, in the Turkish, the assonance and rhyme express the trance like mystical quality of the lyric. For this reason I have tried, rather more than I usually do, to retain something of this in the English. This does not always, or even often, work since rhyme, alliteration, assonance is much easier and more natural in Turkish with its vowel harmonisation.  Talat Halman is the best at such renderings. I don’t try and replicate the Turkish, but where I have been able to bring in rhyme, near-rhyme and alliteration without diverging from the content of the lyric, I have done so.

Other translation issues to note include the rendering of ehli hal. In the context of the mystical path, ‘hal‘ has the meaning of a transcendent state, a mystical ecstacy even. Hence my version. Erkan means the main points, principles or fundamentals of religion. I did not want to refer to ‘fundamentalism’, perhaps for obvious reasons, so ‘liturgy’ seemed to fit the bill well with its additional help in the rhyme.  Dilden dile means the same as dile düşmek: that is, to become the subject of common talk. I’m not sure I’ve rendered this entirely successfully, though I do get something of the sense and the alliteration was too felicitous to let go. Finally, elden ele causes some problems. It can literally mean ‘hand in hand’ though in this context ‘el‘ would seem to refer to land rather than hand. Fuad certainly indicates this meaning. I did contemplate a line reading ‘we will travel the land hand in hand’ having a bet each way, but perhaps wisely though better of it. My rendering as ‘we will travel the lands far and wide’ is perhaps not too removed from the literal and helps a little with the near-rhyme.

To return to the ‘shifty’ nature of the lyric persona common in Alevi lyric song, this is a great example of this device. The first two verses stress the first person plural (biz, –iz, –elim) then there is the sudden shift in the first line, the mahlas line, of the last verse to the first person singular (I am … ‘-im)) and then the second person (you, –sın) before finally returning to the first person plural. The functions of such shiftiness engaging the lyric voice of the poet with the performer and the audience, I have discussed in my PhD thesis.

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Come, do not desert us, my beauty

We are the nightingale, no stranger we

We are brothers in dervish ecstasy

We are the way within the liturgy


Let us converse on the states of joy

Let us talk ‘til tongues are tired

We will travel lands far and wide

We are the rose freshly opened


I am Pir Sultan, for what do you cry?

You shed tears of blood from your eye

What you expect from us, is it fire?

We are ashes of embers blown and burned

Gel güzelim kaçma bizden

Yad değiliz bülbülüz biz

Biz hâl ehli kardaşlarız

Erkân içinde yoluz biz


Söyleşelim hâlden hâle

Dilleşelim dilden dile

Biz gezeriz elden ele

Taze açılmış gülüz biz


Pir Sultan’ım ne ağlarsın

Gözünden kan yaş çağlarsın

Sen bizden ateş m’umarsın

Yanmış üfrülmüş külüz biz