Aşık Veysel ‘Beni hor görme kardaşım’


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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


Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Gel seninle ahd ü peyman edelim’ (‘Ne sen beni unut ne de ben seni’)


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The text here is from Cahit Öztelli’s 1971 collection which, to the best of my knowledge, is its first publication. Some of the language suggests its been around for some time so it is curious that it slipped through the efforts of Ergun, Atalay and Gölpınarlı and Boratav.  Part of its attraction is surely in the wonderful refrain. My translation of this line remains very clumsy compared with the Turkish – needs some inspiration.

Arif Sağ recorded a version of this deyiş collected from the great Sinemilli (Maraş) dede and deyiş source Tacim Dede (sometimes Tacım) on Sağ’s most eccentric recording Biz İnsanlar / Kerbela from 1990. The album includes odd programmed ‘casio’ like rhythms and synthesised instrument colours and sounds. It remains the Arif Sağ recording that I listen to most perhaps. The arrangement of this song in particular is peculiar in that the last verse changes melody, rhythm and tempo to that of the song that follows it, another Pir Sultan song İnsan olan nura çevrilir collected from İsmail Özden. While this is clearly one of the more striking arrangements on a strange album, Zafer Gündoğdu does a redux of the arrangement for his recording of the song on his 2002 recording Bahçe biziz gül bizdedi. The main differences in the Tacim Dede version are in verse 4 (very different) and verse 3 (somewhat different) with some other changes in the other verses that present a slightly simpler lyric but not a change in the substance of meaning. For example ‘iman’ instead of ‘peyman’ in the opening line and ‘İrfan meclisine vardığın zaman ‘ as the third line of the second verse. There are a number of other variations. As with many Pir Sultan deyiş from this region the mahlas form is Abdal Pir Sultan’ım which is just one of the pieces of evidence that raises questions about İbrahim Aslanoğlu’s conclusions in regards to the six putative Pir Sultan Abdallar.

Pir Sultan Abdal: Gel seninle ahd ü peyman edelim

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Come and let us make a pledge with you

Neither you forget me, nor I forget you

Let the two of us cherish a vow

Neither you forget me, nor I forget you

For mercy, how her eyebrows are finely wrought

We pursued pleasure, we did so without end

When I was among the cultured crowd

Neither you forget me, nor I forget you

I am inclined towards the saz and conversation

I am inclined towards you and prosperity

By your love I fell out  upon the foreign land

Neither you forget me, nor I forget you

My beloved’s beauty like the moon and sun

Does your lover not draw forth his moan?

Bring forth and let us imbibe the word of God

Neither you forget me, nor I forget you

They drew Abdal Pir Sultan to the gallows place

I fell down for your love and suffer for you

Behold there erenler that one going to the beloved

Neither you forget me, nor I forget you


Original text from: Cahit Öztelli Pir Sultan Abdal : Bütün Şiirleri, 1971

Gel seninle ahd-ü peyman edelim

Ne sen beni unut, ne de ben seni

İkimiz de bir ikrarı güdelim

Ne sen beni unut, ne de ben seni

Aman kaşı keman elinde aman

Sürdük safasını, etmedik tamam

Ehl-i irfan içre olduğum zaman

Ne sen beni unut, ne de ben seni

Hem saza mailem hem de sohbete

Hem sana mailem hem de devlete

Aşkın ile düştüm diyar gurbete

Ne sen beni unut, ne de ben seni

Yârimin cemâli güneşle mâhı

Sana âşık olan çekmez mi âhı

Getir and içelim Kelâmullahı

Ne sen beni unut, ne de ben seni

Abdal Pir Sultan’ı çektiler dâra

Düşmüşüm aşkına yanarım nâra

Bakın hey erenler şu giden yâra

Ne sen beni unut, ne de ben seni

Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Gelin canlar bir olalım’


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One of the most renowned Pir Sultan songs and one of the most political being something of an anthem for the political left from the 1970s.  Performances more commonly only include the first, second and last verses, leaving out the more overtly aggressive third and fourth verses. While all of the Pir Sultan lyrics can only be considered to be attributed to him this lyric is perhaps one of the more doubtful and some assert the lyric originates with Aşık Sıtkı. Muhsin Gül in his book on Sıtkı includes two lyrics that seem to be models for this song, one of which is very similar although it does not include the outright injuction to murder the Sultan (Padışah) and is in fact a more sophisticated lyric. But whether Sıtkı’s is a reworking of the Pir Sultan original or the other way around can hardly be established definitely. Hayrettin İvgin in his 1976 book on Aşık Sıtkı Pervane states that is is a Pir Sultan lyric, though this seems based on the inclusion of the lyric in Gölpınarlı and Boratav’s 1943 book on Pir Sultan and İvgin’s book predates the more substantial work by Gül. The source of the text given by Gölpınarlı and Boratav is again Aşık Ali İzzet Özkan who obtained it from a mecmua (manuscript collection) belonging to one Muharrem from the village of İğdiş in the Şarkışla region of Sivas.

In regards to translation issues, choice of language will determine the degree of political and religious interpretation. For example, how to translate ‘canlar’? Literally this means ‘souls’ but can be understood as ‘friends’ or ‘brothers’ or ‘companions’. Given the political nature of the lyric and its adoption as such in popular culture, I have preferred ‘comrades’.  ‘Münkir‘ also presents some problems. This means ‘deniers’ and may be understood in a religious context. Finding the term ‘deniers’ a bit cumbersome I have tried ‘false hearted’. References to the Umayyad caliphs Yezid and Mervan (Marwan) are fairly straightforward – although it is uncertain whether the reference to Mervan is to the short rule of Marwan I or the last Ummayad caliph Marwan II, though more probably is a reference to the despised Ummayad caliphs generally –  as these caliphs in their actions of opposition to Shi’a and in the murder of Hüseyin represent the essence of treachery and for the Alevi these names are metonyms for treachery and falsehood and are used as invectives.  To convey this adequately in the English remains a challenge, perhaps.

This song presents a good example of the complexities of expressions of identity in Turkey through the shared and yet specific heritage of Turkish Alevi culture. For example this song, besides its historical political associations, was one used to dramatic effect in at the Cologne Bin Yılın Türküsü event at the beginning of 21st century – an event asserting Alevi identity in a transnational context – see video here; while it is also performed on Turkish Radio and Television in the context of the standard national folk orchestra and choir in a concert expressing a particular musical mode  – see this video. Interestingly, the conductor in both instances is Zafer Gündoğdu and the musical arranger for the latter the Alevi virtuoso Erdal Erzincan. Both versions include only the first, second and final verse.

Pir Sultan Abdal: Gelin canlar bir olalım

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Come comrades and let us be as one

Let us strike swords against the false hearted

Let us avenge the blood of Hüseyin

I put my trust in God

Let us bind ourselves together

Let us murmur like the waters

Let us take up the march

I put my trust in God

Let us unfurl the banner of red

Let the time of  deceitful Yezids pass

In our hand is the dagger of passion

I put my trust in God

Let us strike at the race of Mervan

Let us ask for the blood of Hüseyin

Let us kill the Padishah

I put my trust in God

I am Pir Sultan, I’m at boiling point

The false hearted shall be driven mad

What is destined shall come to pass

I put my trust in God


Original Turkish text from Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943)

Gelin canlar bir olalım

Münkire kılıç çalalım

Hüseynin kanın alalım

Tevekkeltü taâlâllah

Özü öze bağlıyalım

Sular gibi çağlıyalım

Bir yürüyüş eyliyelim

Tevekkeltü taâlâllah

Açalım kızıl sancağı

Geçsin Yezidlerin cağı

Elimizde aşk bıçağı

Tevekkeltü taâlâllah

Mervan soyunu vuralım

Hüseynin kanın soralım

Pâdışahın öldürelim

Tevekkeltü taâlâllah

Pir Sultan’ım geldi cûşa

Münkirlerin alkı şaşa

Takdir olan gelir başa

Tevekkeltü taâlâllah

Aşık İbreti ‘Gördümde geldim’ (İlme değer verdim)


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Walking in Cennet

Cennet Mağarası (grotto of heaven in near Narlıkuyu in Mersin Province)

This is probably Aşık İbreti’s most famous deyiş and the one that gives the title to collection of İbreti’s works prepared by Adil Ali Atalay (Vaktidolu) and published under the title İlme Değer Verdim by Can Yayınları in 1996. This title reflects the influence of the performed rather than the published version of the deyiş since the phrase  “ilme değer verdim” does not actually appear in the published text. The title given the lyric is ‘Gördümde geldim’ and the opening line is “ilme hizmet edip uykudan kalktım”. The popular version as recorded by Musa Eroğlu on his 1994 recording Yolver Dağlar sharpens the focus of the words reducing the verses from five to three (a common performance practice) singing only the first and last two verses. A number of changes are made to the words in Eroğlu’s performance. Besides the small change from hizmet to değer in the opening line most notable changes are in the second last verse with the change of softa to yobaz which gives it a stronger invective and the substantially changed last two lines. The performed version has a somewhat more straightforward and clarifying sentiment replacing the original metonymical lines with  “cahil cühalaya edemem minnet / bütün zincirleri kırdımda geldim”.

Aşık İbreti whose real name was Hıdır Gürel (1920-1976) was one of the finest mid-twentieth century Alevi ozans and his lyrics are sharp, passionate and with a great feeling for the central place of the  human. Musa Eroğlu’s recording is worth a listening too and may surprise those looking for the exotic in Turkish music. The arrangement using bağlama, guitar and bass guitar is wonderfully engaging, appropriate and sympathetic to the lyric.

Note: I revised this translation in February 2018. Mostly some subtleties and refinements; not changes of substantive meaning.

Aşık İbreti: Gördümde geldim (İlme değer verdim)

Translation: Paul Koerbin

I gave myself to knowledge and awoke from sleep

I let go of the turban and the prayer mat

I was tired of the daily preaching of sermons

I came and tossed Ramadan to the torrent

As long as I was angry inside my grief increased

Listen, the matter of the Hajj was another worry

The rich were just about the only ones who went

I came and saw while they were stoning Satan

I placed the Four Books in a suspended bag

I ceased my interest in the heavenly Houris

I fell mute thinking – don’t believe the conjuring Hodja

I came to the point of giving them no attention

I don’t entertain the distractions of the next world

I have consideration for the concerns of humanity

For the illusion of heaven’s private garden

I came and banished the mob of bigots

Ibreti – my desire is service to humankind

My wife is my Houri, my home is my heaven

There remains no obligation to the Hajji and the Hodja

I came and broke the rosary and cruet


Original text from Aşık İbreti İlme Değer Verdim prepared by Adil Ali Atalay Vaktidolu (Can Yayınları, 1996)

İlme hizmet edip uykudan kalktım

Sarık, seccadeyi elden bıraktım

Vaizın her günkü vazından bıktım

Ramazanı sele verdim de geldim

Karnım acıktıkça kederim arttı

Hele hac kaygısı ayrı bir dertti

Paralılar hemen hac’ oldu gitti

Şeytanı taşlarken gördüm de geldim

Dört kitabı koyup torbaya astım

Cennet hurisinden ilgimi kestim

Muskacı hocaya sanmayın sustum

Ağzının payını verdim de geldim

Aklım ermez ahret eğlencesine

Saygım var insanın düşüncesine

Hayal cennetinin has bahçesine

Softa sürüsünü sürdüm de geldim

İbreti, emelim insana hizmet

Eşim bana huri, evim de cennet

Hacıya, hocaya kalmadı minnet

Irbığı, tesbihi kırdım da geldim

Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Şu kanlı zalimin ettiği işler’


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Pir Sultan statue at Çilehane hill at HacıbektaşA song dealing with the demise of Pir Sultan as he proceeds to his execution while Hızır Paşa – the bloody tyrant referreed to – orders the people to cast stones at him. Legend has it that Pir Sultan’s friend, Ali Baba, tossed a rose; a dissembling act that wounds Pir Sultan the deepest. This of course, as Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943) the first to publish the text note, revisits the story associated with the martyrdom of Mansur al-Hallaj in 922 when his friend Shibli threw a rose when the people began to stone Hallaj. As Annemarie Schimmel describes it (Mystical Dimensions of Islam, 1975), when Shibli did this Hallaj sighed since those who threw stones did not know what they were doing, but Shibli did. And this has much the same theme in the Pir Sultan context – it is the betrayal that wounds.

Aslanoğlu  (1984) rejects this as a Pir Sultan text and claims it as a composite of verses from Aşık Hüseyin and Tarsuslu Sıkdı. I have not been able to locate the full text of Aşık Hüseyin although Avcı gives a mahlas verse from Aşık Hüseyin (probably 18th century) from a mecmua provided by Adil Ali Atalay that reads: ‘Hüseyin’im eyder can göğe ağmaz / Hakk’tan emr’olmazsa ırahmet yağmaz / Şu illerin sözü hiç bana değmez  / İlle dostun sözü yareler beni‘ (Ali Haydar Avcı Osmanlı gızlı tarihinden Pir Sultan Abdal, 2006 p. 342-343).  Tarsuslu Sıdkı Aslanoğlu refers to Aşık Sıdkı (Pervane) and a text is found in the major collection of Sıdkı’s lyrics compiled by his grandson Muhsin Gül (1984) that bears some similarity. Indeed a number of Sıdkı’s lyrics do bear the language of some of the most renowned lyrics attributed to Pir Sultan including Gelin canlar bir olalım and Kul olayım kalem tutan eller. The source of the text published in Gölpınarlı and Boratav is Aşık Ali İzzet who was forthcoming in his openness about attributing texts as he felt appropriate (see again Ali Haydar Avcı’s monumental work Osmanlı gızlı tarihinden Pir Sultan Abdal (2006 p. 236-351) for a consideration of Ali İzzet’s influence in respect to these lyrics). So Aslanoğlu’s assertion may have merit – but only so far, since it remains without question an important and fixed text of the Pir Sultan of tradition. It is sung to a fine tune, and perhaps the finest recording is that by Feyzullah Çınar made in Paris for Radio France in 1971 under the sponsorship of the late Irene Melikoff.

Pir Sultan Abdal: ‘Şu kanlı zalimin ettiği işler’

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Those blood tainted tyrant’s deeds

Make me moan like a lonely nightingale

Stones rain down like a torrent upon me

But it is the friend’s mere pinch that wounds me

Friend and foe are revealed in my dire straits

My troubles that once were ten are now fifty

The order for my death is fixed to my neck

So let them strike me down or let them hang me

I am Pir Sultan Abdal my soul does not flee

If not decreed by God mercy does not rain down

The stones of those strangers will never touch me

But it’s the rose of that friend that wounds me 


Şu kanlı zalimin ettiği işler

Garip bülbül gibi zareler beni

Yağmur gibi yağar başıma taşlar

Dostun bir fiskesi yaralar beni

Dar günümde dost düşmanım bell’oldu

On derdim var ise şimdi ell’oldu

Ecel fermanı boynuma takıldı

Gerek asa gerek vuralar beni


Pir Sultan Abdal’ım can göğe ağmaz

Hak’tan emr olmazsa irahmet yağmaz

Şu illerin taşı hiç bana değmez

İlle dostun gülü yaralar beni 


Kul Himmet ‘Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek’ (Düaz-ı imam)


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Istanbul Maarif edition cover 1966While working on a chapter of my PhD devoted to identity issues concerning Kul Himmet and Kul Himmet Üstadım for the thesis it seemed a good time to introduce Kul Himmet to the blog. Kul Himmet ranks with Şah Hatayi and Pir Sultan as the third in the triumvirate of great lyric and didactic Alevi poets. Even less about Kul Himmet is known than of Pir Sultan and certainly Hatayi (Shah Ismail). We do generally understand from the internal evidence of the deyişler that Kul Himmet was the murid (disciple) of Pir Sultan and provides the connection to another great aşık of Alevi ritual culture, Kul Hüseyin; also that he was educated. I will leave the issue of Kul Himmet Üstadım for another day.

This düaz-ı imam is another favourite of Alevi expressive culture. In performance it is sung to a powerful and deeply mysterious melody, somewhat unusually for Alevi music using a garip tetrachord for the lower part of the melody; although this modulates to the hüseyni ayağı for the third, sixth and ninth verses. The tune can be heard in the opening of the unbearably tragic film Journey of Hope.

The main difficulties in translation arise from names and some specific Alevi concepts that are reluctantly translated. For example, what to do with ‘erenler‘? My instinct is to leave as Erens, but I try a translation of ‘enlightened‘. A good translation for ‘vird‘ continues to elude. I have succombed to ‘prayer’ but not happily. This düaz goes beyond the twelve imams and brings in other identities such as Kanber, Salman and Fatma and the especially interesting Bibi Shahrbanu (Şehriban). Will perhaps add some explanation later.

Interestingly the earliest printed version of this text in Besim Atalay’s Bektaşilik ve Edebiyat (1924; republished in modern Turkish translation by Vedat Atila in 1991) does not take the form of a düaz-ı imam and does not include reference to the twelve imams though it does retain the references to Fatma, Şehriban and İmam Hüseyin. The text translated here is from Cahit Öztelli’s Pir Sultan’ın Dostları (2nd ed 1996) with one change to the order of the verses. The verse beginning “İmam Zeynel paralandı, bölündü” appears in Öztelli as the second last verse. Following the recordings by Arif and Tolga Sağ I have moved this to the fifth verse where it makes more sense logically and chronologically in respect to the invocation of the imams.

Kul Himmet ‘Ali bir Muhammed Ali diyerek’ (Düaz-ı imam)

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Every morning the birds sound together

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

The nightingale begins a lament for the rose

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Our fate shall turn upon the direction we face

Veysel Karani went to the land of Yemen

We are bees and we fly off for almighty manna

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Let us endure mourning for the Imams

Hear the true voice of the enlightened

Imam Hasan drank the poisoned challice

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

The one who seeks is sifted through a fine mesh

The one who believes turns to the True way

Shah Hüseyin was soaked in scarlet blood

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Imam Zeynel was torn to pieces and portioned

Humble respect was given to the Imam Bakir

The essence of direction was given to Cafer-i Sadık

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

The heart is a bird’s ramshackle nest

The Shah’s desire become our prayers

The prayer of Kâzım, Musa, Ali Rıza

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Shah Taki and Naki went on as light

Hasan-ül Askerî went on as the brave

The Mehdi went on mysterious in the cave

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Kanber, Salman, Fatma stood for the prayer

Shahrbanu was stripped and mounted on the camel

Jesus was distressed and passed unto the air

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Four books were written and passed to four faiths

The Kuran became Muhammed’s prayers

Kul Himmet passed to the sorrow of his saint

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali


Original text from Cahit Öztelli Pir Sultan’ın Dostları (2nd ed. 1996)

Her sabah her sabah ötüşür kuşlar

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Bülbül de gül içün figana başlar

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Kıblemizden kısmetimiz verile

Veysel’kara gitdi Yemen iline

Arıyız uçarız kudret balına

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Biz çekelim İmamların yasını

İşit gerçek erenlerin sesini

İmam Hasan içdi ağu tasını

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Tâlib olan ince elekden elendi

Mümin olan Hak yoluna dolandı

Şah Hüseyin al kanlara boyandı

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

İmam Zeynel paralandı, bölündü

Ol İmam Bâkır’a yüzler sürüldü

Cafer-i Sadık’a erkân verildi

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Gönül kuşun Kalb evinde yuvası

Virdimize düşdü Şah’ın havası

Kâzım, Musa, Ali Rıza duası

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Şah Takî’yle Nakî nur oldu gitdi

Hasan-ül Askerî er oldu gitdi

Mehdî mağarada sır oldu gitdi

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Kenber, Selman, Fatma durdu duaya

Şehriban soyundu, bindi deveye

İsâ kahreyledi, çıkdı havaya

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Dört kitap yazıldı, dört dine düşdü

Kur’an Muhammed’in virdine düşdü

Kul Himmet pîrinin derdine düşdü

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Sefil Selimi ‘İnsana muhabbet duyalı (bana yer kalmaz)’


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This deyiş is one of my favourites since first hearing it on Arif Sağ’s 1983 masterwork, İnsan Olmaya Geldim, where he performs it with an accompaniment of restrained intimacy and intricacy on the bağlama. It was only recently that I learned that the musical arrangement is in fact by Feyzullah Çınar and heard his recording on the album Aşkın Çilesi. Hearing the way Sağ develops Çınar’s arrangement, particularly in the instrumental bridges between verses,  into an intricate bağlama ornamentation only heightens my admiration for Sağ’s interpretive mastery. It is interesting to note the different emphasis given the lyric by the titles the performers give the song: Sağ (and Sabahat Akkiraz who also recorded the song in 1984) title it ‘İnsana muhabbet duyalı’ (Since feeling love for humanity) while Çınar titles it on his recording ‘Bana yer kalmaz‘ (There is no place for me).

Sefil Selimi, whose real name was Ahmet Günbulut (1932-2003), was born in Şarkışla a place renowned for great aşıks, both Aşık Veysel and Aşık Ali İzzet both coming from this area. Selimi was not from an Alevi family but many of his lyrics show a great interest and empathy with Alevi culture and belief and his work has received reciprocal respect from Alevis. Mahmut Erdal in his book Yine Dertli Dertli İniliyorsun mentions being given a manuscript of Selimi’s by İhsan Öztürk in which, some time later when he looked at the poems, he recognised the remarkable talent and picks out this lyric as an example.

The text given here for my translation of all five verses is taken from Uğur Kaya’s book Şiirleri ve türküleriyle Aşık Sefil Selimî (Sivas, 2001). The recorded versions use only the 1st, 2nd and 5th verses although in this wonderful live recording of Sağ and Akkiraz performing the song together (which looks to be around the mid-1980s) Sağ includes the 4th verse. There are some variations in the versions which are mostly minor and don’t affect the meaning. The main differences affect the 2nd line of the 3rd verse which also occurs as ‘Ne bir hatır sorar, göz yaşım siler in the versin‘ in Erdal (and also in Bekir Karadeniz’s book Elâ Gözlüm); and the 2nd line of the 4th verse which Karadeniz gives as: Kapıya bacaya konmaz dediler.

Sefil Selimi ‘İnsana muhabbet duyalı’

Translation: Paul Koerbin

I have no friends nor any to help me

Since I dressed in the cloak of bravery

Were the world entirely empty there is no place for me

Since I felt love for humankind

My belief is monarch, my conceit is captive

I loved the Sacred Lineage, they said I’m at fault

Some speak cowardly, some bravely

Since I pastured the sheep with the wolf

Those striking my back smile at my face

They scarcely share the butchered morsels

Everyone whets their knife on my neck

Since I presented myself to the open

‘These are Kızılbaş, unwashed’, they say

‘Their sacrifice is forbidden, inedible’, they say

‘They don’t halt at a mosque, great or small’, they say

Since I set out to follow the Shah Imam Hüseyin

Often some seek written proof in me

Not knowing the condition, ask of my forbears

Friends, some decide on my death

Since I called myself Sefil Selimi


Original text from Uğur Kaya Şiirleri ve türküleriyle Aşık Sefil Selimî (Sivas, 2001)

Kimse bana yaren olmaz, yar olmaz

Mertlik hırkasını giydim giyeli

Dünya bomboş olsa, bana yer kalmaz

İnsana muhabbet duydum duyalı

İmanım hükümdar, benliğim esir

Ehl-i Beyt’i sevdim, dediler kusur

Kimisi korkak der, kimisi cesur

Kurt ile koyunu yaydım yayalı

Ardımdan vuranlar, yüzüme güler

Kestiği az gibi parçalar böler

Herkes kılıcını boynumda biler

Başımı meydana koydum koyalı

‘Bu Kızılbaş olmuş, yunmaz’ diyorlar

‘Kestiği haramdır, yenmez’ diyorlar

‘Camiye mescide konmaz’ diyorlar

İmam Şah Hüseyn’e uydum uyalı

Çoğu, bende kağıt hüccet arıyor

Hâl bilmeyen, dip dedemi soruyor

Dostlar, ölümüme karar veriyor

‘Sefil Selimî’yem’ dedim diyeli

Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Seher vaktı kalkan kervan’


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This deyiş is a fine example of an ostensibly simple lyric that is as keenly wrought as a knife. It evokes the Anatolian highlands in austere and simple terms  as only lyrics attributed to Pir Sultan seem to do, in straigthforward even conventional language with common mystical images of rose gardens, departing caravans and distant beauties. Then within the space of four short verses (and  in the sparce eight syllable metre) the lyric darkens with the appearance of the rival or enemy (‘engel‘) and proceeds to a defiant even violent close – remarkable stuff.

The first publication of the lyric is in Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943) from which I have taken the text for translation (though it includes a typographic error that is perpetuated in the 1991 reprint). Boratav gives the source as Hamdi Bayran son of Ahı from Öyük village in the Şarkışla region of Sivas. The song has, perhaps, a stronger Erzincan resonance however due to the unmatchable version performed by Davut Sulari on his 1974 recording Üç Telli Turnam. Sulari’s clear and energetic performance is perfectly suited to the lyric. His version is slightly different from the printed versions in Gölpınarlı and Boratav and later Aslanoğlu (1984), but curiously the version printed in Erzincan Türküleri by Fahri Taş and Salih Turhan (2004) in which Sulari is given as the source follows the text of the earlier printed versions rather than that of the recorded version by Sulari.

Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Seher vaktı kalkan kervani

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Day dawns and the caravan sets out

Moaning and lamenting

The heart falling for a beauty

Blossoms and is safely tended

In our garden roses bloom

On the branch nightingales sing

A rival comes and adds his piece

The one doing the deed remains behind

The nightingale comes to land on the branch

The nightingale has no reproach for the rose

The rival casts a stone at the lake

The duck swimming there is wounded

Pir Sultan Abdal let us pass over

Let us drink wine from the hand of the Pir

Let us flee from the one who refutes

One day the denier will be torn to pieces


Original text from Gölpınarlı and Boratav (1943)

Seher vaktı kalkan kervan

İniler de zaralanır

Bir güzele düşen gönül

Çiçeklenir korulanır

Bahçenizde güller biter

Dalında dülbüller [sic, i.e. bülbüller] öter

Engel gelir bir kal katar

Olan işler gerilenir

Bülbül geldi kondu dala

Bülbülden hata yok güle

Engel bir taş atar göle

Yüzen ördek yaralanır

Pir Sultan Abdal göçelim

Pir elinden bad’ içelim

İnkâr olandan kaçalım

İnkâr bir gün paralanır

Pir Sultan Abdal ‘Ben dervişim diye göğsün açarsın’


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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

Türkü ‘Küstürdüm barışamam (dert bende)’


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View south towards mountains on approach to Erzincan

This song is a somewhat unusual inclusion here as my focus is Alevi deyiş while this is an anonymous türkü (folksong) from Erzincan. Not withstanding the fact that türkü is sometimes used as an all embracing term that includes deyiş, structurally they are different. This türkü has a metre of seven syllables while deyiş commonly have eleven or eight syllables. There is the refrain (bağlantı) which is more common in türkü and the absence of a mahlas. That said, the personal quality of this lyric suggests that a mahlas would not be out of place should an additional verse turn up. It is interesting that this is the opening song on the first of the renowned and influential Muhabbet series of recordings instigated in the mid-1980s by Arif Sağ, who also sings this song on that recording. On the evidence of his recordings Sağ has a particular fondness for songs from the Erzincan region, especially those from the Çayırlı (Erzincan) aşık Davut Sulari – and indeed he has said himself that even at the age of six he exerted himself to see Sulari (Değirmenin Bendine p. 40). This is perhaps not surprising given that Sağ is from Aşkale on the Erzincan side of Erzurum. By opening the Muhabbet series with this song Sağ declares his roots and the sound, mood and performance style of these recordings. This is one of the most bleak and beautiful Turkish folksongs, certainly as performed by Sağ. The source of the song, Erzincanlı Şerif (Tanındı) – although Bekir Karadeniz published a version with Sulari given as the source (Ela Gözlüm Türküler, p. 229) – performs it with a bit more swagger and with and instrumental colour (clarinet, violin, percussion etc). But it is in Sağ’s version that the stark and haunting qualities of the song are truly revealed.

This video shows Arif Sağ and Belkıs Akkale  performing the song (sort of) in 1983.

Küstürdüm barışamam (dert bende)

Translation: Paul Koerbin

I caused offence and cannot be reconciled

I have parted and cannot meet again

I opened my eye and I saw you

I cannot speak among strangers

I am suffering, I am unfortunate

I am suffering, I am unfortunate

Nothing can be done for the pain within

Like the birds without a nest

I’ve become scattered and confused

I pursued her to this mountain’s end

I awoke to the voice of my love

She is a partridge and I a hunter

And so I followed after her

I am suffering, I am unfortunate

I am suffering, I am unfortunate

Nothing can be done for the pain within

Like the birds without a nest

I became scattered and confused

I am estranged, my mate is estranged

My mate my fellow traveller is estranged

I do not grieve for my dying

My stone on the grave is abandoned

I am suffering, I am unfortunate

I am suffering, I am unfortunate

Nothing can be done for the pain within

Like the birds without a nest

I became scattered and confused


Küstürdüm barışamam

Ayrıldım kavuşamam

Göz açtım seni gördüm

Yad ilen konuşamam

Dert bende kara bende

Dert bende kara bende

Eylenmez yare bende

Yuvasız kuşlar gibi

Olmuşum perâkende

Bu dağın ensesine

Uyandım yar sesine

Yar kekliktir ben avcı

Düşmüşüm ensesine

Dert bende kara bende

Dert bende kara bende

Eylenmez yare bende

Yuvasız kuşlar gibi

Olmuşum perâkende

Ben garip eşim garip

Eşim yoldaşım garip

Öldüğüme gam yemem

Mezarda taşım garip

Dert bende kara bende

Dert bende kara bende

Eylenmez yare bende

Yuvasız kuşlar gibi

Olmuşum perâkende