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MINSTREL LITERATURE

A type of poetry in Turkish Popular Literature that emerged at the beginning of the 16th century. The minstrel’s poetic powers come from dreaming of drinking from the ‘wine of love’ offered by an elder and seeing the image of his true love. The minstrel generally sees his lover or a saz, a stringed instrument. Other elements may be a white-bearded dervish and one or maybe three full goblets. The goblets frequently occur in the dream in the form of a bowl. The liquid offered to the bards in these goblets is said to be ‘full of love.’ It is sometimes known as ‘bade’ literature under the influence of Persian literature.

Such poets are generally trained by a master. That way they learn both the master’s words and ways and means of performing their art. After having fully grasped these masters’ ways of expressing their art in the coffee houses, these poets then take on apprentices of their own, and the tradition thus continues.

The minstrel reveals his knowledge, feelings and abilities in battles of poetic repartee. The aim in these is to compete and win. At least two bards are involved in such matches. It begins with the recital of a verse by a master poet or other respected individual. The bard who is unable to add a further verse in the same style and meter is eliminated.

One of the main elements of this style of poetry is storytelling. Most poets who accompany themselves on the saz draw from a traditional range of stories, although some also had stories of their own invention to the main body of the tale. Some bards who have contributed in this way are Çıldırlı Aşık Şenlik, Elcişli Emrah and Sabit Müdami.

The shamans of the Tonguz people, the bo or bugues of the Mongols or the Baryat peoples and the ozans of the Oğuz peoples expressed, as representatives of that same tradition, the attitudes to life and feelings of their societies by means of their poems.

The best known representatives of the tradition are Yunus Emre, Pir Sultan Abdal, Köroğlu, Dadaloğlu, Karacaoğlan, Erzurumlu Emrah, Dertli and Aşık Veysel.

The tradition is still alive and flourishing in Anatolia today.

Dervish Poetry

This style is also known as mystical or religious popular poetry, and is the product of a form of literature that emerged in the 11th and 12th centuries, created as bards expressed their love of God and feelings about the hereafter. The most important exponents of the style are Ahmet Yesevi, Yunus Emre and Hacı Bayram-ı Veli.

Minstrel Traditions

The minstrel tradition in which cultural heritage, customs, knowledge, mores and behaviour are expressed and respected because of their age is, like other cultural values, a cultural value created by a general culture to meet a particular need rather than perform a particular function.

In popular verse, minstrels’ poems are in the form of quatrains. Metre is also a feature of the quatrain form, and seven, eight, and eleven syllables are the general traditional forms.

Minstrel traditions can be set out along these lines:

1. Using a pen name
2. Becoming a minstrel after a dream (drinking wine)
3. Master – apprentice
4. Repartee – opposition
5. Sound restriction
6. Riddle
7. Dialogue form
8. Teaching history
9. Inspiration by another poem
10. Playing the saz

1. Using a pen name:

This is a name poets use when writing instead of their own names.

In popular literature, the use of a pen name is a practice based on tradition. Most minstrels’ real names have been forgotten, and their pen names are employed instead. Dadalopluis real name was Veli, Sümmani’s Hüseyin, and Gevheri’s Mehmet etc.

Traditionally, the minstrel takes the pen name he will use by one of these methods;

a) Choosing His Own Pen Name

  • Taking his name or surname as a pen name
  • Taking another name he feels suited to his life and art

b) Taking one from a master minstrel, elder or religious leader

  • The master tests the apprentice
  • The master chooses an appropriate name for the apprentice
  • A name is taken under the influence of an elder or religious leader

c) Taking a name in a dream while drinking wine

2) Becoming a minstrel after a dream (drinking wine):

The dream motif is one frequently encountered in popular literature. This motif generally appears in popular tales, as well as in accounts of minstrels’ lives.

Minstrels generally ascribe the way they started out on that path, or learned the trade and became masters of their profession, in one of two main ways, either being raised by a master, or else drinking wine in a dream.

This can be wine, sherbet, water, or even foods such as apples, pomegranates, bread or grapes.

In minstrel literature, drinking wine is generally an obligation of the dream motif tradition. The belief is that in order to become a minstrel one must either be trained by one or else drink wine from the hand of an elder.

3) Master - Apprentice:

One of the most important of the centuries-old traditions in minstrel literature is that of the master and apprentice. Minstrels generally mature by studying at the feet of a master in the profession.

It is a requirement of the tradition that a would-be apprentice should take lessons in playing and verse composition from a master. The apprentice needs to display the greatest patience during the learning process. At the end of this, the master will recite a prayer of blessing on the young man, and give him his permission to appear before the people in public.

4) Minstrel Repartee:

Mutual banter between minstrels and the audience, designed to be barbed and yet humorous at one and the same time.

This is one of the ways in which a minstrel attempts to prove his superiority over others, by means of questions and answers and checkmating the opposition.

Minstrels also engage in mutual improvisation within the context of generally accepted rules. This consists of at least two opponents, within the context of musical and poetical rules.

5) Sound Restriction:

A demonstration of skill by which minstrels demonstrate their mastery of their art. It consists of creating verse in which certain sounds (B, P, M, V, F) are excluded. This is a kind of context in which minstrels place a needle between their lips to demonstrate their technical virtuosity.

6) Riddle:

This, in popular verse, is a form in which the name of a person or object is concealed. The riddle has a special importance in minstrel literature. Creating and solving riddles requires special minstrel virtuosity and knowledge.

‘Murat Uraz’ describes the performance of the riddle in these terms:

On nights when riddle are to be performed in the coffee houses, cigarette and nargile smoking are banned, nobody may speak in a loud voice, and everyone sits in an orderly manner. The riddle that has been prepared by the minstrel is written down in large letters that can be read from a distance on piece of paper and pinned onto a bit of wood. One millimeter of wax is then smeared over the wood. The minstrels greet those coming to the café according to their occupation and standing. The person thus greeted sticks money onto the wax on the wood in accordance with the greeting he has received. Whoever guesses the riddle takes the money, and the minstrel composes a musical improvisation. If the riddle remains suspended on the wall of the café for several nights and nobody manages to guess it, then the minstrel announces the answer and himself takes the money.’

7) Dialogue Form:

A particularly widespread form in popular verse in which the minstrel and his lover take it in turns to make statement, in either free form or quatrains.

8) Teaching History:

When the minstrel wishes to deal with famine, fire, flooding, epidemics, important battles and other such matters of close concern to the social life of the community and to include his own birth date in the poem. The date is generally mentioned in either the first or last quatrain, and occasionally in the main body.

9) Inspiration by Another Poem:

Known as nazire, this is when one minstrel produces a poem closely model on one by another, with the same metre and measure.

10) Playing the Saz:

The saz is an instrument that inspires the minstrel, and one of the most important element of the minstrel tradition.

Variety Within Minstrel Literature

Variety Within Minstrel Literature

A) Syllabic Varieties

1. Koşma: The commonest form of popular verse. Syllabic measures of 6 + 5 = 11 or 4 + 4 + 3 = 11 may be employed. In terms of subject matter, this may be ‘güzelleme’ in praise of individual or natural beauty, ‘koçaklama’ in praise of heroism, or ‘taşlama’ in criticism of an individual or a community. Poems dealing with mourning are called ‘ağıt.’

2. Semai: Wıth an eight syllable meter along the general lines of the koşma, semai are poems generally accompanied by a melody. They generally consists of at least three and at most five quatrains. The subject matter tens to concern nature, beauty and separation.

3. Varsağı: The varsağı, or varsak in southern Anatolia, is a verse form accompanied by a melody. The number of quatrains ranges from three to five. Similar to the semai in form, it has an eight-syllable measure. There differences are mainly in recitation and melody.

4. Destan: Similar in form to the koşma, destans differ in the number of quatrains, subject matter, melody and recitation. They are generally folk poems in which the bards tell of their loves, incidents of heroism, or daily life.

B) Prosodic Varieties

1. Divan: Classical Ottoman court poetry, known as divani in popular verse, distinguished by a particular combination of long and short syllables.

2. Selis: Possesses a different combination of long and short syllables.

It was particularly popular among bards in the 19th century, and is most commonly found in gazel form, a lyric poem of 4-15 couplets, with the first couplet rhyming, and the second lines all rhyming with those of the first couplet.

3. Semai: As well as being found in syallabic form in minstrel literature, semai are also found in prosodic form in divan literature. They possess their own particular prosodic form and are recited with specially composed melodies.

4. Kalenderi

5. Satranç: Again possessing a particular prosodic form.

6. Vezni Aher: Again with its own prosodic form.

Dervish Poetry

This is known as religious or mystical popular verse, and is a form of literature that emerged in the 11th and 12th centuries in which minstrels expressed their love of God and feelings about the hereafter. The most important exponents were Ahmet Yesevi, Yunus Emre, Hacı Bayram-ı Veli etc.

Varieties

1. İlahi: Poems which set out mystical views and ideas, divine wisdom and secrets, yet which bear no distinguishing signs of belonging to any particular religious sect, contenting themselves with praising God, His greatness and power. Generally written in quatrains or couplets. Quatrains tend to consist of 7, 8 and sometimes 11 syllables. Those in couplet form consist of 11, 14 or 16 syllables. These may also appear in prosodic form.

2. Nefes: İlahi verse written by Alawaite-Bektaşi poets. Subject matter generally consists of the oneness of God, Alawite-Bektaşi principles or sect rules. Similar to koşma in form, they employ a very simple style of Turkish. They are written as quatrains of 7, 8 or 11 syllables, and some prosodic examples exist, although relatively few.

3. Ayin: Peculiar to mystics, and intended for the depiction of various states and movements. The term ayin was first employed by the Persians and then passed into Turkish mystical literature. The ayin was particularly used during assemblies at which dervishes performed their whirling dances.

4. Tapuğ: Poems recited during religious assemblies of the Gülşeni sect.

5. Durak: Employed by most religious sects apart from the dervishes, these are free form poems particularly popular with the Halveti sect, and are recited by one or two readers after the reading of the first part of the holy names of Allah and before moving on to the second part.

6. Cumhur: Divine poems for group recitation in all but Dervish and Bektaşi communities.

7. Hikmet: Religious verse expressing the poet’s opinions and feelings.

8. Devriye: Poems from the religious popular verse tradition dealing with the cyclical theory. This is a reference to the way that man and the universe came from God and will return to Him.

9. Şathiye: poems from the religious tradition containing humurous elements. They express sect beliefs, are written and performed by mystical poets, and require an element of analysis to be understood.

10. Tevhid: Poems dealing with such elements as the essence of creation and the universe. May be seen in gazel, kaside and mesnevi form.

11. Nutuk: Didactic verse read by senior members of Dervish lodges.

12. Deme: Verse from the Alawite sect regarding the sect and its activities and dealing with its problems. Generally in eight-syllable form and accompanied by the saz.

13. Duvaz: Works in praise of the 12 caliphs.

Minstrel

Asik Veysel (1894-1973)

Veysel Şatıroğlu was born in 1894 in Sivrialan Village of Sivas, District of Şarkışla. The story of how he was born is somehow similar to that of almost every child in Anatolian villages. But it is interesting and extraordinary for the ones to have a different point of view especially today. To tell the story, his mother Gülizar started having labor pains on her way to Ayıpınar pastures nearby Sivrialan where she was going to milk the sheep, and she gave birth to Veysel just over there. She cut the umbilical cord herself, wrapped the new born with a piece of clothing and went back to the village on foot.

The family of Veysel is called “Şatıroğulları” in this region. His father is a farmer named Ahmet and nicknamed “Karaca” – the roe. In times when Veysel was born, smallpox was prevailing allover Sivas. Before Veysel was born, two of his sisters died of smallpox.

In 1901 when he celebrated his 7th age, there occurred another smallpox outbreak in Sivas, and he got this disease as well. He tells us about those days as follows: “Before I got bed ridden because of smallpox, my mother sewed me a nice dress. I wore that dress and went by Muhsine Kadın to show her my new dress. She caressed me. That was a foggy day, and I slipped on the way back home. And I could not stand up again. I got smallpox... It was though. My left eye was pockmarked. And cataract developed in my right eye, I think because of being compelled too much in the absence of the left eye. Ever since that day, the world is a misery for me.”

After having slipped this way, a color penetrated into his memory: Red. Probably, he hurt his hand when he slipped and the wound bled. His mother Gülizar explains it as follows: “You know, he remembered only red among all the other colors. He slipped and fell before his eyes turned into his heart, I mean before he got smallpox. He saw blood. He remembered only the color of the blood. Red... He used to like and find green with his hands.”

His right eye had the chance to see, he had the sight of light  with his right eye. In those days, there was a doctor only in Akdağmadeni which is close to their village. People told his father “Take the child to Akdağmadeni, there is a doctor who can make him see there.” His father got very happy.

However, negativities did not leave Veysel. “His father came by him while he was milking the cows some day. When Veysel had a sudden movement backwards, one end of the stick his father had in his hands thrust into his hand. Thus, that eye got blind too.”

Veysel had a brother named Ali and sister named Elif. All the members of the family got very sad and cried to this situation for days. From that day on, his sister, Elif, started to take Veysel for a walk by holding his hand. Veysel got more and more introvert every other day. In that area of Sivas named as the region of Emlek which was generous in âşıks and ozans, Veysel’s father was also interested in poetry and was too intimate with the dervish lodge, the tekke. He gave Veysel a saz to make him forget about his troubles just a little bit. He tried to sooth his son by reciting the poems of the folk poets. Moreover, the poets of the region also started to drop in Şatıroğlu Ahmet’s house with their friends. They played instruments and sang songs. Veysel used to listen to them carefully. Their neighbor Molla Hüseyin used to tune his saz and repair the broken strings.

Veysel first had courses from Çamışıhlı Ali Aga (Âşık Alâ) who was his father’s friend from a village of Divriği. He devoted himself whole-heartedly to playing saz, and started playing and signing the superior works of art. It was Çamışıhlı Ali who introduced him to the world of ozans that enlightened his world of darkness. Thus, he got to know about the worlds of  Pir Sultan Abdal, Karacaoğlan, Dertli, Rühsati.

“The second significant change in the life of  Âşık Veysel came about with mobilization. His brother Ali went to war, and little Veysel was left alone with his broken stringed saz. After the outbreak of war, all the friends rushed to the frontiers. Veysel was deprived of doing that ... Thus, his soul living in solitude retreated once more. The pain of being left alone without any friend and the misery he lived in, made him so unhappy, desperate and depressed. He started sleeping beneath the pear tree in his little garden, and relieved his pain and troubles out in the skies and darkness by climbing the highest points of the trees in nighttime.”

Âşık Veysel told Enver Gökçe those days as follows:

“I went into the house putting on a face; my mother and my father could not understand me. I did not tell them about my problems not to upset them. They thought I was defying them. But I, on the contrary, recoiled from telling my problems and I was about to loose my enthusiasm for my saz.”

Although this was a result of the way people approached the ‘boys’, the main effective factor was his patriotism and the feeling of paying his debt to his motherland. He expresses those feelings as follows:

“Unfortunately it was not in my destiny
When the people of my country eradicated the enemy
Fate broke my legs, did not let me keep watch
Wield a sword in the heads of the enemy.
If those days were facilitated to me by God
I would not be indebted for a spoonful of blood
Nothing happens but the predestined
What has befell to Veysel?”

Through the end of the mobilization, Veysel’s mother and father made him marry a girl named Esma from among their relatives with the idea that they might die and “his sister would not take care of him anymore.” Veysel had one daughter and a son from Esma. His son died when he was only 10 days old while being nursed by his mother... Veysel’s suffering was not that much; unfortunate events continued one after the other. First his mother died on February the 24th of 1921. Then his father passed away eighteen months later after getting bed ridden for 17 days. Meanwhile he put himself into gardening. Many âşıks were visiting the village and were playing the Iyrics of folk poets such as Karacaoğlan, Emrah, Âşık Sıtkı, Âşık Veli. Veysel did not miss any of the performances of those âşıks.

When his brother Ali had another daughter born, they find a servant to help them in the house works and take care of the children. This servant later becomes the reason for another wound to be made deep in the heart of Veysel. One day, while Veysel was Iying in bed ill and Ali was out collecting milk vetch, this servant persuaded Veysel’s first wife Esma to run away together. Thus another pain was included in Veysel’s chain of pains.

When his wife left him all alone, she left her daughter only six months old with Veysel. Veysel carried his daughter in his nap for two years, but unfortunately she did not live as well. He says in one of his poems:

“Faith associated itself with suffering,
It does not leave me in peace everywhere I go.”
In short, a chain of redoubled pains...            

“Now, he wanted to get away from the world, from this place and was in a mood to emigrate. He decided to emigrate to Adana with his best friend, İbrahim in 1928. But a person named Deli Süleyman from the village Karaçayır of Sivas persuaded him to give up this idea. Let’s listen to Veysel:

“This man listened to me when I played the saz, interrupted  me when I started singing. When I say, let me go, he says “oh, my friend, the kids and everybody are crying, please don’t go.” Finally, I could not take it and gave up the idea of leaving this place.”

Veysel’s first travel away from his village takes place as follows: Someone named Kasım from the village Barzan Beleni of Zara took Veysel to his village. There they lived a couple of months together. Deli Süleyman who did not let Veysel to go to Adana and Kalaycı Hüseyin from Sivas accompanied Veysel on the way. On the way back, Veysel dropped by the village Yalıncak of Hafik and Girit of Zara, and bought a nice saz for 9 liras. On the way back from Sivas to Sivrialan, his friends were stopped by a group of “swindlers” and lost all their money. His friends took 9 liras of Veysel and lost it in gambling. After a short while from this event, Veysel got married a girl named Gülizar from the village Karayaprak of Hafik.”

In 1931, Ahmet Kutsi Tecer who was a literature teacher in Sivas High School and his colleagues founded the Association For Preservation of Folk Poets. And on December 5, 1931, they organized  the Fest of Folk Poets that lasted for three days. Thereupon, a new turning point started in Veysel’s life. We can say that having met Ahmet Kutsi Tecer pointed out a new starting for Veysel.

Until 1933, Veysel played and sang the poems of master ozans. In the tenth anniversary of the Republic, upon the  directives of Ahmet Kutsi Tecer, all folk poets wrote poems on the Republic and Mustafa Kemal. Veysel was one of those poets. The first poem of Veysel that came into the daylight was the poem starting with the line “Atatürk is the revival of Turkey ...” This poem came into daylight only after Veysel left his village.

Ali Rıza Bey, the mayor of Ağcakışla to which Sivrialan was then affiliated, liked this tale of Veysel very much, and wanted to send the poem to Ankara. Veysel said he himself would like to go and visit the Great Leader Atatürk, and set out for Ankara on foot with his faithful friend İbrahim. These two pure hearts who started their travel on bare foot under tough winter conditions, arrived in Ankara after having trampled down the roads for three months. Veysel was hosted by his hospitable friends for forty five days in Ankara. Although his aim in traveling to Ankara was to present the letter to Atatürk, it was not possible for him to do so. His mother Gülizar says “He felt bitter regret for two things in life: first not having been able to visit the Great Leader, second not having recruited the army...”6 However, his tale was printed in a printing house named Hakimiyeti Milliye (in Ulus) and was published in the newspaper for three days. Then, he started to travel around the country and to play and sing everywhere he went to. He was loved, he was respected.

He tells us about those days as follows: “We left the village. We could arrive in Ankara only in three months after having passed through the villages of Yozgat, Çorum and Çankırı. We did not have enough money to stay at a hotel. We thought a lot about “What to do? Where to go” People told us, “Here lives a Pasha from Erzurum. He is a very hospitable man. “The Pasha had a house built in the then called Dağardı (which is now known as the Quarter of Atıf Bey). We went there. This man really put us as a guest in his house. We stayed there a couple of days. At that date, there were no trucks or anything in Ankara, like today. Everything was run by horse carriages. We met a man named Hasan Efendi who had horse carriages.He took us to his house. We stayed at his house for forty-five days. During our stay there, we used to go out, rambled around an returned house, and we used to see that he prepared our dinner, our bed and everything. Then I told him: -Hasan Efendi, we are not here to ramble around! We have a tale. We would like to give this to Mustafa Kemal. How can we do that? What can we do?

He said: -To tell you the truth, I don’t know about such things. There is a deputy here. His name is Mustafa but I cannot remember his surname. We have to tell this to him. May be, he can help you.

Then we went by Mustafa Bey and told him the issue. We said that we have a tale that we want to give it to Mustafa Kemal. We asked for help!

He said: -My God! This is not the right time so loose time with poetry. Go and sing it somewhere else!

We said, “No, this is not possible! We will sing our tale to Mustafa Kemal.!”

The deputy Mustafa Bey said “Okay, sing it to me first!” We sang him and he listened. He said he would talk to the Newspaper named Hakimiyet-i Milliye that was being published in Ankara at that date. He said “Come and visit me tomorrow!” We went by him the other day. He said, “I can not do anything!” We thought a lot about what to do. At last, we decided to go to the printing house ourselves. We had to renew the strings of the instrument. The bazaar in Ulus Square was then named Karaoğlan Bazaar. We walked to that bazaar to buy strings.

We had sandals on our feet. We were wearing woolen baggy trousers and woolen jackets. We braced a big cummerbund on our waists. Then came the police. He said: -Do not enter! It is forbidden!

And he did not let us get in the bazaar to buy strings. He insisted: -I say it’s forbidden! Don’t you understand what I say? It is crowded there. Do not get into the crowd!

We said “Okay, let’s not get in there.” We went on walking pretending as if we got rid of him. He came by, and rebuked my friend İbrahim: -Are you nutty? I say do not get in! I’ll just break your neck!

We said: -Gentleman, we do not obey you! We are going to buy strings from the bazaar!

Then the police said to İbrahim: -If you are going to buy strings, then have this man seated somewhere first. And then go and buy your string!

Then, İbrahim went and bought the strings. But in the morning we could not pass through the bazaar. Finally, we found the printing house.

-What do you want? Said the Director.

We said: -We have a tale; we want to have it published in the paper.

He said: -Play it to me first, I want to hear it!

We played the tale and he listened.

-Woo! Very well done! I liked it a lot. He said.

They inscribed the tale, and said “It will be published tomorrow. Come and take a paper tomorrow.” There, they gave us some money for the copyrights. The other morning, we went there and took 5-6 copies. We went to the bazaar. The policemen came by and said: -Oh! Are you Âşık Veysel? Relax sir! Get in the coffeehouses! Take a seat! And they started making compliments. We rambled around in the bazaar for a while. But still we could not take any news about our visit to Mustafa Kemal. We said to ourselves: This is not going to come true. But they published my tale in the paper for three subsequent days. Again nothing about my visit to Mustafa Kemal... We decided to go back to our village. But we did not have any money for the traveling expenses. We met a lawyer in Ankara. He said: -Let me write a letter to the mayor. The municipality can meet your traveling expenses.

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Then he gave us a letter. We went to the municipality with the letter. There they told us: -You are artisans. You can go back the way you came!

We came back to the lawyer. He asked us what we did. We told him. He said “Let me write another letter to the governor this time”. He wrote a letter to the governor. The governor undersigned the letter and told us to apply to the municipality. we went to the municipality. But they said: -No! We don’t have any money. We won’t help you.

The lawyer got offended and yelled out: -Go! Go away! The municipality of Ankara does not have any money to spend for you!

I felt sorry for the lawyer.

We thought about what to do, how to solve the problem. And then we decided to stop by the Community Center. May be something useful would happen there! “If we can not visit Mustafa Kemal, let’s go to the Community Center.” We thought. This time the doormen did not allow us get in there. As we were standing by the door, a man came by and said: -What are you doing here? What are you looking for?

-We are going to get in the Community Center but they don’t let us, we replied.

-Let them get in! These are well known men! This is Âşık Veysel! He said.

That man who came by us sent us to the director of the literature department. There people said: -Oh, please come in!

There were some deputies in the Community Center. The director called them: -Come here! There are folk poets here, come and listen to them!

Necib Ali Bey, one of  the ex-deputies said: -Well, these are poor men. Let’s take care of them. We have to have good clothes sewed for them. They can give a concert at the Community Center on Sunday!

They really bought us a pair of suits. That Sunday, we gave a concert at the Community Center of Ankara. After the concert, they gave us some money. We returned from Ankara to our village with that money.”

The first folk song Âşık Veysel recorded, is the poem of Âşık İzzetî, an ozan from the region of Emlek:

“I am the Mecnun, and I saw my Leila,
Who looked but once and passed by.
Neither she talked, nor asked I
She knitted her brows and passed by.
Did not dare saying anything
Was it the moon or the sun, her face
Thought it was the Venus
Burnt me down and passed by.
So destroyed that I could not stand the fire
That I could not solve the mystery
Could not see her at dawn
She flew like a star and passed by.
Don’t know which constellation she is
This sorrow wounds my feelings
Your dimples, the arrows at times
Sweetheart stroke me in the heart and passed by.
İzzetî, what to do now
I had a dream sleeping
Her lock of curls, the love-locks
And wound around my neck and passed by.”

Upon the establishment of village institutes, with the initiatives of Ahmet Kutsi Tecer he worked as saz teacher in the Village Institutes of Arifiye, Hasanoğlan, Çifteler, Kastamonu, Yıldızeli and Akpınar, respectively. In these schools, many intellectuals who later stigmatized the cultural life of Turkey found the opportunity to meet the artist and improved their poetic capacity.

In 1965, Turkish Grand National Assembly resolved upon allocating a monthly salary in 500 TL to Âşık Veysel in return for “his contribution to our native language and national solidarity.”

On March 21, 1973 at 3.30 a.m., Veysel closed his eyes to this world in Sivrialan, the village he was born in, which is now used as a museum.

The following words of Erdoğan Alkan would be the best depiction to sum up his life: “Kızılırmak looks like a question mark. It sources from Zara, and leaves the territory of Sivas passing through Hafik and  Şarkışla. Taking the from of a bow, irrigates the lands of  Kayseri, Nevşehir, Kırşehir, Ankara and Çorum. Spills its water to the sea in the District of Bafra of Samsun. The life story of  Âşık Veysel is like that of Kızılırmak. It has one end in Bafra, and the other in Zara. A tragic life stretching up to Bafra, leads to an end after being fed by the abundant waters of Kızıldağ in the east of Zara.”

The Art of Veysel

His philosophy of life

Due to the effects of the village / town culture he leaned upon, and the fact that he could not have a modern education, the fatalist philosophy is very dominant in him. I believe it would be very beneficial to consider his mood as well. There is no doubt that we could not ignore how the negative factors that he experienced in his childhood and early youngster, affected his philosophy of life and pushed him into a disagreement.

Of course, an artist’s philosophy of life is shaped by the social environment he lives in. To make it more concrete, it is the financial living conditions that shape his philosophy. The social environment Âşık Veysel lived in contained all the peculiarities of the village and town culture, it was based on agriculture in economic terms, pre-capitalistic means of production were dominant and the industrialization even did not emerge... Also, in addition to the economic structure, if we consider the poorly qualified education-training opportunities, the economic inefficiency of a community beaten by war, and the geography of the people dying of smallpox, it would be easier for us to grasp the social environment that shaped Veysel. Furthermore, understanding the facts that the communal / social environment was so deprived of the written culture, and that all the literary / artistic accumulation was based on oral culture, would help us a lot in perceiving the type of artists we are dealing with. Moreover, when the physical disability of a person having lost his sight is added to this social environment, one would clearly understand Veysel and interpret his poems very easily.

The lack of sight affected him so deeply that he emphasizes the depth of his aspiration in his poems:

“Could you not dare escaping from me, even if you were a bird
If only I could see you with my eyes”

Adnan Binyazar, making an interpretation of his lack of sight through his lines, says “Salt was added to honey.”

Although Âşık Veysel, most of time, accused the faith and searched for the reasons there, he recited poems on investments and positive aspect that contribute in the life concretely such as the schools, factories, hospitals, etc. In this respect, one should not perceive his faithbased approach as fatalism against science and a careless obsession.

“The world changed, so did the conditions
One goes to moon, and the other to heaven”

In these lines, he pricks up his ears to scientific developments, on one hand, and creates a significant perspective in terms of evaluating the factors he makes comparisons with. He uses the concepts of “moon” and “heaven” as two different means of believing, in one sense.

Then in another poem, he says:

“I saw the wealthies mind in the world
Asked it the outlay, the school it replied.
It is serving the humanity, the help you provide
My mercy, my feelings, the school it replied.
Creating fire from water, that is the best art
The idea to spread many more light
Did I discover them with this thought
These are my guides, the school it replied.

Is that a miracle or a talent
Would the heart perceive that if the eyes do not
Would an unclaimed soil be plowed
With the combine, the school it replied.            
You would fly in the sky, if you wear wings
You would pass through the seas ungratefully
How would you perceive the cold and the rain
They have built observatories, the school it replied.
Various vehicles, and the trains
Doctors who find cures for all pains
Is it you who did that
This is not all it can do, the school it replied.
I was amazed by the radio
Can speak in every language, but not alive
Created by science,  by the human mind
Its light is its wave, the school it replied.
Human mind is inventing these things
It is the science, the essence of the world
The core of all those works
Believe in this Veysel, the school it replied.”

This and other similar examples prove that metaphysical concepts such as god / faith are not reflected as fanaticism or as the only solution to problems in Âşık Veysel. Therefore, he does not appear to be strict. He is flexible.

Although he gets faded away with the feeling of desperateness and nothingness, he does not give up holding onto life. His struggle to understand and explain life always prevails. Furthermore, the concept of “the next world” is not that strong in him.

Ruhi Su replies the question “Did Âşık Veysel have a specific philosophy?” as follows: “If you ask me whether the world ‘philosophy’ contained a way of thinking proposed or adopted by Veysel within the society or not, I would reply yes, of course. Like all the good-willed and dependable people, he used to advise working. Depending on the situation, there were times he used to advise adhering to traditions. His own belief was based on love, tolerance and the creative power of human, but when he was asked what he thought about the developments in the society, he was clever enough to discern what people wanted him to say.”

“Another thing that is peculiar to Veysel is that he could not stand the pressure of religious formalism and he talked to God in familiar terms. Better to say, he was so loyal to the Bektashi tradition. Like he said in his poem addressing the God:

“It was you who created the universe
It was you who brought everything into existence
It was you who kicked me out
Is this your generosity?”

Nejat Birdoğan says “In his very first poems, we see Veysel as emotionally enthusiastic, but poetically inefficient. In fact, even in the later versions of this kind of poems, we see Veysel as a public educator, rather than a poet. In his works, Veysel considers poetry as a tool for preserving the Republic and helping in the solidarity of the nation. His actions are also in parallel to this approach. One can observe a man with pure ideas, with honest, self-devoted actions and with correct diagnoses. The fact that he traveled village-to-village to have a bridge built over the Stream Kaplan onto the River Kızılırmak, is a good evidence on how deep the feeling of responsibility manifested itself in him.

But according to us, the most mature poems of Veysel are those that focus on the human beings and elements related to human beings. In those poems, he tells about the revival of human within a body starting from is very first source, how he works throughout this process, how he should behave and his return to the source at the end of this road. In other words, there lies Veysel, the Sufi poet in those poems. These feelings instilled in him by his beliefs in an isolated Anatolian village, blossomed in Veysel in the heart, and he solved the great mystery of Alaouism in his heart.”

Veysel being aganinst superstitious beliefs and outdated approaches, is very sensitive in this matter as well.

“It is the Republican period, it is the twentieth century
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
The world in revolt, going to moon
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Let the blond ox go lazy
Don’t block your eyes, let them get sober
Let’s have a factory in each corner
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Don’t pull back the going traveler
Take notice of the ant and the bee,
When it goes this way, can’t you reunite with the houri
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
It ain’t hurt you, don’t be afraid of the saz
We can’t get rid of the far of sin
Not telling you to give up praying
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Help the poor, get the orphan educated
Are those charities bad in our religion?
Learn the hydrogen and the atom
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
The kilogram of the rain dropping
Measured by you say meter, I say square
If you sleep a lot, you’ll deepen my pain
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
So many rockets are launched in the sky
Ain’t those works lessons to be learnt for us
He wants us to find out the mysteries of the moon
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
The existence of God prevails in human
Science, mind and perception are the wealth for you
Make the ship go and steer the rudder
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Don’t you know anything, plant some trees in earth
They will call you vagabond if you wander around this world
Don’t close your eyes, take a look out
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.
Veysel, why do you stay still, everyone on their way
Time won’t fit you, you should fit time
Science is swallowin’a huge miracle
Get up from this negligence, don’t sleep my fellow.

Even this poem alone can clarify what I have told about him above. As you can see, he criticizes the values in the society by showing examples from the concrete realities of life. He becomes a side at this point. He becomes a side supporting the science, illumination, development and concrete realities. Saying “Let the blond ox go lazy”, he mocks with the belief that “the world stands on the horns of the blond ox”. He says don’t block your eyes. Then he personifies God, and says The existence of God prevails in human.

“However, if we consider the basic views, perspectives of Veysel, we would understand that he did not approach this matter from the point of view of a socialist consciousness, from a conscious perspective. Veysel, mentioned all these privileges that are so natural to him in reference to God, faith and several other natural powers. It is not the social order, but the natural order he is against.”

Approaches such as “His way of art is the art that praises the accessible and that is satisfied with the existing”6 oriented towards recognizing Veysel from a narrow perspective, and making estimation based judgments, would neither contribute in understanding Âşık Veysel, nor prove the efficiency of the researchers, the tradition and the ones carrying the tradition forward. However, Âşık Veysel exists with his life, with his works, with his poems. If we make our evaluation based on this reality, we would have a meaningful contribution.

As I have underlined above, Âşık Veysel is a person grown up in the social environment of the village-town and was shaped by the social order fed with the values of such environment. Another typical peculiarity of peasantry is inconsistency. To say in the terms of the culture he arose from, “unfaithfulness” can be seen in him as well. Especially, Veysel always supported and wrote praising poems about the institutions such as Community Centers, Village Institutes that contributed in his development, that made his voice and poetry be known, but he did not show any reaction when these institutions were closed. This is his greatest weakness.

Tradition and Âşık Veysel

Like in every community, the oldest pieces of art of Turks also are based an magical ceremonies. The way of thinking of primitive communities are also magical.

The reason why there does not exist perfect sources on the history of Turkish literature is not only that they have spread over a relatively large area and they were continuously moving from one place to another, but also that written literature started to emerge late in history. Even the fact that we do learn the oldest information regarding Turkish literature and history from Chinese sources, clearly manifest this point. “The most ancient Turkish poets are the sahir-şairls who were named as Shaman by the Tungus, bo or Bugué by Mongolians and Buryats, Ouiun by Yakuts, Kam by Altaic Turks, Tadibei by Samoyeds, Tietoejoe, the attendant, by Finnoas, Baksı-Bakşı by Kyrgyzs, Ozan by Oguzs. These men who possessed many skills such as magic, dancing, music or curing, had an important status and prestige within the society. The level of importance attributed to those men in different times and places, varied depending on their clothes, music instruments they used and the content of the work they conducted, however it was always their duty to present evil works such as wickedness, diseases and deaths caused by  evil spirits, to cure diseases, to send the souls of the deceased to the skies and to keep their memory alive. Of course, there were several rituals for this variety of tasks. Although some of those rituals were forgetten or altered in some way, some of them still survive in Kyrgyz, Altaic and Kazakh traditions. Shaman or baksı gets totally immersed in ecstatic contemplation, reads some poems and plays those poems with his own music instruments. These lyrics accompanied by a melody and considered to have a magical content, constitute the oldest from of Turkish poetry.”

There is no doubt that one of the music instruments used in those rituals is drum, and that the other is the kopuz which is a lute-like instrument. Based on the information provided by Gardizi, a historian of the Xlth century, Abdülkadir İnan  states that the ancient Yenisey Kyrgyz tribes played saz, a stringed instrument in shaman rituals. Abdülkadir İnan further states “The Kyrgyz Kazakh baksıs today use kopuz. In ancient Oguz tribes, the ozans who continued with the traditions of shamanism after Islam, considered kopuz sacred. Dede Korkut emerges with his kopuz in each tale, and plays it while naming, praying (applauding). The hero of the Oguz beats after being strengthened by the sound of kopuz.”

There exist many evidences demonstrating that the instrument played by our ozans were used in those rituals. We see some examples of sacred behaviors related to kopuz in Dede Korkut stories. The tale named as “Uçun Koca Oğlu Segrek Boyu”, reads as “He said –You, the unbeliever! I did not play it since I respected the kopuz of Dedem Korkut. If you did not have kopuz in your hands, I would break you into two pieces, I swear. He took the kopuz away from his hands.”

Like in all primitive communities, these personalities known with names such as ozan or kam or baksı, undertook various duties besides their skills such as giving advices, casting spells,  curing people, etc. In this respect, they are very effective on the community.

After the division of labor became more common, the personal characteristics of these respected members who used to run many affairs simultaneously, changed as well, and thus professions such as religious men to deal with religious rituals, doctors to deal with the wellbeing of the people, etc. developed.       

Prof. Dr. Umay Günay saying “In our opinion, it is not possible for the Ozan-Baksı tradition which is considered to be quitted to emerge all of a sudden five centuries later in an Islamic from.” explains the situation as follows: “Unfortunately, the examples of the transition period of this literature could not be detected until recently. It is quite logical that Turks having spent great efforts and struggled a lot to a acquire a new motherland after the advent of Islam worked so heartedly to adopt and expand this new religion in this period, created art works in a style which is now known as the Tekke Literature (religious literature) and respected this style more when compared with other styles. However, one should keep in mind that the first art works on this subject were created not through the verse styles and elements adapted from the Arabian-Persion literature in later years, but rather within the framework of national verse styles and elements. Meanwhile, the Ozan-Baksı tradition was effective in the tekke style at a certain level, it also struggled not to disappear and fit its rules and models to new conditions by using the flexibility that always existed in its structure. The ozans and poetry performance tradition that exist in the stories of Dede Korkut which are accepted to have emerged in Xıth – XIIth centuries when they were cited, and also the tradition that the main characters of the tales recited folk poems with their lutes, namely their saz, to express their ideas and feelings on the events they come across from time to time, are not peculiarities that differ from the Minstrel (Âşık) Literature we have followed from the XVIth century. The personalities such as the magicians, curers, religious men, etc. were abandoned after Islam. Minstrels undertook the duty to train people and perform art.

The artist described as Âşık, the minstrel, is defined as the creator of a tale which is a mixture of poetry, prose and verse. Boratav says “...Âşık is an artist who on one hand, continues the ancient myth (épopé) tradition, and enstrusted with reciting ‘love poems’ (lyric poems) on the other, as is cited in his name. His creativity lies in extemporization: he does not write down the poem, but he rather performs it. In him, the poem is accompanied by music; that is, it is not only recited, but also performed and sung. Âşık distinguished between narrating and reciting by expressions as saying by words and saying by strings. In this manner, they highlight the fact that the music instrument, namely saz is the unique element integrated  with his poem.” and adds “that is to say, the poems of minstrels originated and developed in the oral tradition. These poems can not be considered apart from music, they involve a “mixed” art of narrating encompassing “spectacular - dramatic” elements.

As far as Âşık Veysel is concerned within this tradition, we see that the concept of wine drinking is not preferred by Âşık Veysel, and that the relationship between the master and the apprentice appeared to be a way of leading by Âşık Veysel as explained in detail in the life story section. We see that the picture is not embedded in the tradition. The traditional master-apprentice relationship manifests itself in both learning the tradition and how to play the saz from the master, and wandering around together for some period. This is not exactly the case with Âşık Veysel. For instance, Âşık Veysel does not drink wine. He is a minstrel without wine. He did not experience the privilege to drink a glass of wine offered by a master that is told by some contemporary minstrels. Also, Âşık Veysel does not narrate tales which is  considered as the essential characteristics of the minstrel literature. He also is not very much interested in the concepts of the tradition such as repatees, riddles or solving riddles. He sometimes uses repartees but these are not the typical examples of the tradition.

Although Âşık Veysel refers to the names of some poets (ozans) who have an important place in our folk poetry (In my race of Karacaoğlan, Dertli, Yunus / In my habit of Mansur), this is not a common way of referral as in the traditional folk poetry. In one of his poems, he says:

“I drank a glass of drink in your hand
I fell into many troubles”

Although these lines are associated with the tradition of wine drinking, they do not have such function in real terms. Adnan Binyazar goes a little bit further, and says “Veysel also drank a glass of drink” and thus should be regarded as the generation of God Lover poets. However, this view should be deemed as extremely exaggerated.

Kurt Reinhard in his study titled “The Melody Types Used By The Âşık of Sivas” refers to the Âşık melodies of the Middle Anatolian region considered as the examples of the Âşık Veysel school other than the folk songs and melodies as: “Âşık melodies are related with the number of the lines in a lyric. The repeated words are expressed clearly. Certain motifs are frequently repeated in the melodies, and a certain section of the saz is used in the folk songs. The folk songs reach an end suddenly or rather softly depending mainly on the desire of the performer of the instrument. Although the sol sound is the main tone, there prevail some examples in which la and mi sounds are used as the main sound tones.

Âşık melodies are divided into two groups as the ones with a strong influence of the speech style and the ones with a strong influence of the melody. In examples which mainly adopt the speech style, the melody slows down and keeps pace with the rhythm of the speech. The melody is almost always overshadowed by the lyrics. Since the essentially important point in this style is to make the words clear, the melody is sometimes sacrificed. In other types where the melodies overshadow the words, one syllable is sung with more than one note. In such types where the melodies are enriched, the lyrics are relatively incomprehensible.

In this case, we reach two conclusions: First, Âşık Veysel is not an âşık in the sense we generally understand in classical terms; secondly the tradition was broken by Âşık Veysel.

Ahmet Kutsi Tecer makes an interesting comparison and evaluation on this point. “While Veysel Şatıroğlu reanimates in Âşık Veysel, Âşık Veysel disappears in Veysel Şatıroğlu. The difference in between the representatives of Tanzimat (Reform) and him lies in a sound difference due to the fact that he originated from the tradition. His strings are fixed according to us. But the strings of Tanzimat are rather imitatively fixed, like we call the former “tuning” and the latter “harmony”. Veysel, in one sense, recited his contemporaries. For instance, Şatıroğlu recited Ceyhun as much as Ceyhun Kansu  did Veysel. There are some points that attract Veysel and his contemporaries. Like Ceyhun Kansu being different from Faruk Nafız Çamlıbel, Şatıroğlu can be distinguished from his contemporaries in this manner. The way that distinguishes him with the others is that he originated from the folk poetry tradition, not from the Tanzimat tradition. Veysel Şatıroğlu experienced the folk poetry tradition in Âşık Veysel, and has reached “today” from that point.

In my opinion, the most significant characteristic feature of Âşık Veysel appears before us at this point: He broke up the tradition. The fragility and the dominant didactic manner is purified in this way.

However one can not say that he can be isolated from the tradition completely. As Enver Gökçe says “Instrument-song accompaniment, tendency to idealism that has an important place in the aesthetics of the classical eastern literature and solitude that penetrates deep in this tendency are not only the common features of the works of our public poets, but also are dominant factors in the art of Âşık Veysel. In short, Âşık Veysel is a minstrel of saz with his compassion and sensitivity towards nature, his mystic sides that exist in him although he does not have a dominant character of a religious class and his understanding of existence and of universe.

Âşık Veysel is both tradition and renovation. We will see evidences on that when we get into more detail later. He does not do this himself automatically, but rather  a conscious urges him to this point. For instance, although he was grown up in the Alaouite culture and his father was a fundamental member of tekke, the dervish lodge, he does not utter the name duvaz imam like all other Alaouite poets, he does not mention the name of shah or twelve imams even in one poem. However, this is the culture Âşık Veysel originates from, the villages he toured most of the time are mainly Alaouite villages. But on the contrary, this is not the case with Ali İzzet Okan who is another contemporary of Veysel. He has so much determination that he changed the line of Pir Sultan “Let’s go to Shah” as “Let’s go to the beloved one”. This shows either that the ones around Âşık Veysel conditioned him from the very beginning on this matter as well or that he himself chose such principle as his philosophy of life. No matter how, it is evident that Veysel is a strict person in this sense. Another point is that he evaded himself from being a pastoral poet. Although he used natural motifs and symbols very commonly, he goes beyond the village. As Erdoğan Alkan says, there exists another social environment that leads his life, his destiny: Şarkışla, the town.

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Aşık Veysel

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Dadaloğlu

There is no certain information on the birth and death dates of Dadaloğlu but it is determined as 1785-1868 from the existing information.

Namely it is known that Dadaloğlu was born in the last quarter of 18th century and died in the mid 19th century. He is from the Avşar tribe of Türkmen society wandering in Southern provinces.

We do not have enough information about Dadaloğlu’s life, his poems have remained to day by the oral tradition, not by written sources. 

The Avşar provinces immigrated
The ones going slowly are ours
The Arab horses make the far near
The roads through the august mountain are ours
Our sword is Kirmani on our waist
The head of my spear pierces the stone
There is imperial command about us
The command is emperor’s, mountains are ours
Dadaloğlu makes fight tomorrow
Rifles ring, paddleboxes are played
Such braves fall down
Some die, the survivors are ours
I saw a beautiful in Avşar
She migrates through her silk
She’s tinged her foot and head with henna
She has tresses her hyacinth auburn hair
She praises herself every morning
Her golden hair reaches to her foot
Only her eyebrows and eyes are worth
Crown of the throne of Acem
Dadaloğlu, her red cheek and rose
Her hair smells fragrant
Thin waist coquettish lover
I shall wait for a few years for you

Dertli

He was born in Şahneler village of Çağa (Reşadiye) district near Gerede. His real name is İbrahim and his pseudonym is Lütfi. He has earned his life by playing saz and telling poems in minstrel coffeehouses. It is said that Dertli has joined the Halveti sect first and then tended to Bektashism. Dertli died in 1846 in Ankara.

Don’t fly my demoiselle crane
Don’t fly away through the wind
Your side lock hair have separated in fibers
Don’t go throwing away through the air
Hit the stick on the paddlebox
We hunted this place yesterday
Boy, bring the gray dun
I shall ride to my lover
I have falcons, I have hawks
I have ducks, I have gooses
I have secrets to my lover
I cannot tell anyone
Dertli says that the world is transitory
What shall the one loving you do with goods?
Kill me if it doesn’t fit
Wear green against red

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Ercihli Emrah

It is deemed that Ercişli Emrah lived in the first half of the 12th century and was born in Ergans, which is a Karakoyunlu village of Erciş castle. He is the son of Minstrel Ahmet who is the saz player of Miroğlu, the head of Erciş castle.

He fell in love with Miroğlu’s daughter Selvihan and traveled the western parts of Iran and Azerbaijan with his lover and has told the events he have seen with a clear Turkish.

Today I saw a beauty
She looked through her heaven palace
My eyes dazzled
From her beauty
She swaggered and entered the garden
The flowers saluted
The purple violet bent
The rose blushed because of her shame
I opened the door of the garden
I felt I was in heaven
I spoke with my lover secretly
Took a rose from her cheek
The door of the garden is rose
The nightingale sings beside it
Mean Emrah is a bad man
Forgive his sins

Erzurumlu Emrah (19th-20th cent.)

It is said that he was born in the Tanbura village that is between Erzurum and Pavi. The information about his life depends on the rumors and poems of the folk. There is no certain date of his death. Fuad Köprülü accepts it as 1854.  

I met to a young girl this morning
I said are you sleepy, she said no no
Her white hands knotty ornamented with henna
I said are you sleepy, she said no no
I asked what is pearl, she said it is my teeth
I asked what is pencil, she said it is my eyebrow
I asked what is fifteen, she said it is my age
I said is there more, she said no no
I said there is death, she said I will die
I said there is cruelty, she said it is on my neck
I said white breasts, she said they are in my bosom
I said give them to my mouth, she said no no
I asked what is Erzurum, she said it is my province
I asked do you go, she said it is my way
I asked what is Emrah, she said he is my man
I asked would you betray, she said no no
Let me hold your hand
Let me go to the mountains
I will be an injured nightingale
Go down to orchards
One of you know, one of you don’t
This world remains to nobody
I can’t tell the name of my lover
It would be subject to gossip
Emrah makes this day
My vapor goes to the throne of God
This is the day to go to my lover
Let me set off

Karacaoğlan

Turkish folk poet. He has been a leading folk poet in Turkish folk poetry with his universe established with effective language and emotions .

It is considered that he was born in 1606, died in 1679 or 1689. There exists no certain knowledge about his life. According to the studies and researches made so far he lived in 17th century. Various suggestions have been made on the city where he was from. Some claim that he was born in Varsak (Farsak) village of Bahçe, a District near Kozan mountain. While Barak Turkmens of Gaziantep claim that he lived with their clan, the Çavuşlu Turkmens living in Kilis, Musabeyli town, claim that he lived with their clan. Karakeçili clan living in Western Anatolia assumes that the poet was from their clan. According to another rumour, he was from Gökçe village of Feke District. In villages of Silifke, Mut,Gülnar people claim that he was from their villages. According to another rumour he was from Belgrade. What is elicited from those rumours and claims is that he was born in Çukurova and lived with the Turkmen clans in the same region.

In some resources his name is pronounced as Simayil while in some of his poems it appears as Halil and Hasan. According to memories of Hoca Hamdi Efendi from Aşepir, Karacaoğlan was orphan. As a result of fear being forced to marry an ugly girl, being recruited to military and problems with Kazanoğulları, the feudal chieftain of the region, he left his home town at the very early age. Some of his poems indicate that he took his two sisters with himself and went to Bursa and even Istanbul. According to those poems, he married in Bursa and lost his son and therefore experienced the pain of losing son. It is also believed that he visited several provinces in Anatolia and also Rumeli(Trachea), and went to Egypt and Tripoli. He spent most of his life in Çukurova, Maraş, Antep region.

Similarly to his birth place, his death place is not known either. From his poems it is understood that he lived a long life. According to memories of Hoca Hamdi Efendi, he died in Cezel Plateau in Maraş at the age of ninety-six. According to the latest findings, his tomb is thought to be in Karacaoğlan hill in Çukur village of Mut District in İçel.

Karacaoğlan lived in an era of economical crises and civil conflicts of Ottoman State. The source of his poems is the customs of the nomad society he was born to and lived in and the nature where he lived and assumed as his homeland. The way of life, perception and thinking way of Turkmen clans living in South-east Anatolia, Çukurova, Toros and Gavurdağı regions were combined with his personality and thus brought a completely new way to poetry literature. His poems do not contain the pains, poverty, problems, desperation of nomad life, experienced by Anatolian people during 17th century.

The theme, which is clear in the core of his poems about the man, is nature and love. The other themes seen in the integrity of his poems are leave, living away from homeland, missing the homeland and death. He reflects his emotions in a realistic way. He reveals his thoughts in a clear, understandable style. This feature is also seen in his poems focusing on suffering, separation and death themes He relies on reality rather than imaginary world. The revealing point is the experience. According to him, man should gain whatever he can from the life as long as he lives and have fun in life as he wishes. The source of pleasure of life is his love and passion towards beauty, lover and nature. He boasts the beauties, the heroes and addresses to the mountains that he assumes as friend sharing his pains and problems. The essences of his lyrics contains the perception and thinking way of the people.

Being inevitable part of nomadic way of life, Nature, is one of the main themes of his poems. He describes the fascinating nature of the places he lived in and visited, in his poems. Seeing it as friend, brother, lover and sharing everything with it, he thinks that the nature is something more than just a setting. Another theme emphasised in his poem, love is granted more beauty with the simile of the nature. The joy of love and the suffering caused thereby is shared with the nature. The lover is integral part of nature in his poems.

In some of his poems, feelings of missing the homeland and death themes are also sometimes seen. He tells the feeling of missing his lover, homeland and people. Death is the theme that he takes the same as leaving and poverty.

In addition to the theme of nature, love/lover concepts being the main focus point of his poems are dealt with in a style different from poetic tradition forms. To him, the lover is not a thing imagined, and created with thousands of imagination and to whom turku(songs) are composed with the feeling of desperation to reach, but is the thing lying within nature and human relations. He expresses her without isolating her from life and those relations.

It is the first time that we see the names of lovers are pronounced: Elif, Anşa, Zeynep, Hürü, Döndü, Döne, Esma, Emine, Hatice… Karacaoğlan fell in love with them while some of them were filling their buckets, while some were carrying something on their shoulders, while khe others were on their way to the fountain, and while some were making ayran or weaving carpet. He is the type that his heart cannot be satisfied with only one beautiful lover, he falls in love with another when he sees. Debauchery is the clearest feature of his emotional world that is reflected in his poems. Erotism is reflected as concepts of loving and making love. Real lover portrait becomes clearer with sexual motives, and is contained impressively in his poems. His point of view for love and woman brings novelty to poet tradition and gains an impressive feature within this tradition. Although God and religious concepts are not heavily dealt in his poems, he also brought a different approach to his poetic traditions in this field as well and thus has influenced and oriented the next generations.

Contrary to saz poets lived during his times, Karacaoğlan was away from the influence of Divan literature in terms of language and measure. He used daily language of Southeastern Anatolian people then in his poems In his poems he rarely used Arabic and Persian words.. However, he intensively used regional local words. He established a universe unique to himself by use of phrases and similes, which contributes a different colour to his poetry. He used most of those words in the living form of them in people's daily language through deforming their pronunciation or changing their meaning.

Karacaoğlan used traditional half rhyme and sometimes repeated words tradition of the folk poetry. His poems are in 11 (6+5) and 8(4+4) syllabic metre. In some of his poems it is seen that he applied to syllable reductions in order to ensure syllabic metre. Some of the other factors that make his literature impressive are his frequently applying to metaphors and implications.

Another important feature of his poems is that they are similar to mani, which is a type of folk poetry. Koşma, semai, varsağı and turku have considerable importance in his poems. He established unity in a clear, understandable form.

He was influenced by Pir Sultan Abdal, Âşık Garip, Köroğlu, Öksüz Dede, Kul Mehmet etkilenmiş, and influenced his contemprary poets such as Âşık Ömer, Âşık Hasan, Âşık İsmail, Katibî, Kuloğlu, Gevheri as well as Dadaloğlu, Gündeşlioğlu, Beyoğlu, Deliboran, the poets of 18th century, and Bayburtlu Zihni, Dertli, Seyranî, Zileli Talibî, Ruhsatî, Şem'î ve Yeşilabdal of 19th century poets. He also influenced the poets of constitutional period, Republic Period, benefiting from folk poetry, such as R.T. Bölükbaşı, F.N. Çamlıbel, K.B. Çağlar, A.K. Tecer and C. Külebi.

His poems have been researched and compiled since 1920 and over five hundred poems of him have been recorded to written resources

Upon long lasting journey, arrived to that black rock
You made me miss my people, brothers
The reasons for blood tear in the eye
One's separation, one's poverty, one's death

Caused several sultans lose their thrones
Changed healthy face of many into pale
Make them start no return journeys
One's separation, one's poverty one's death

Karacaoğlan says once settled no way to leave
Death is better, can't be drunk
Have three problems all the same
One's separation, one's poverty one's death.

(Karacaoğlan)

I was born nude and will die nude
Do I have no ferman not to die

Azreal has come and demand my soul
Do I have power to give my soul
They come upon resuscitation
gather for the last Judgement
creates fear that Brigand comes
Do I have caravans carrying silk cargo
If you're man prove it before heroes
Almighty may help me repair my deficit
They want me to carry cargo of sorrows
Do I have power to carry cargo.
Karac'oğlan says they boast my name
All sweets we eat change into poison
They say that I love Beautiful girls
Do I have lovers other than God

Köroğlu

The first information about Köroğlu depends on the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi. According to the book of travel, there is one Köroğlu, a poet who became famous by playing çöğür (a popular instrument played with a plectrum) and by singing in the Corps of Janisseries, and one Köroğlu who waylaid in the mountains. 

It is deemed that Köroğlu lived in the 16th century and he is accepted as an epic hero famous for his equality, justice and personality supporting the poor people.

Regards from me to the master of Bolu
We should climb the mountains
From neighing of the horses, the sound of the pike
We should give sound and call out to the mountains
The enemy came, formed themselves into lines
My black destiny is written in my forehead
The rifle is invented, bravery died
The curved sword should rust in its sheath
Does Köroğlu lose his glory?
He separates most from bravery
The white horse foam, the enemy from its blood
Shalwar should become wet
Some at the fountain
Some at the start
Wearing red in the 15
Especially blue
Some wander at the mountains
Some counts her pearls
The one wearing red breaks my heart
Especially blue
Some gather woods
Some make coffee
The one wearing red takes my mind
Especially blue
Köroğlu tells what shall happen
The will of God shall realize
The one in blue shall be mine
Especially blue

Mahsuni Şerif

He was born in the early 1940s. He has been continuing the tradition of folk poetry. He is one of the folk poets of our time, who is asking the reasons and results of the public problems and who handles nearly every social subject in his poems in an informing manner.

Asking and Asking

Made my mind go foolish
By hitting it on the stones
I looked for my dear fellow
By asking and asking to all
Some light out, some go out
Some get up, some get down
The palaces turn into ruins
Enduring to all
Enter Mahsuni into the friend’s affection
Snow fell on the mountain of friends
My youth in my life’s period
Is wounded all

The Order of this Earth

The order of this earth is not smooth
I shall not spend it with false words
I may not execute myself
Because of my conscience
The tears drop into myself
How hard is the parch stone
I may not see the bird in the Erciyes Mountain
Because it’s blind-eyed
I have no strength besides
I planted crops but could not harvest them
The rulers decided on the order when I’m faultless
I cannot leave the friend, Mahsuni

Pir Sultan Abdal

There is no certain information about his life. He was born in the village of Banaz of Sivas. His real name is Haydar. He created his original language benefiting from the oral literature, without being affected by the Classical School of Poetry.

What that murderous cruel have done
Makes me wretched like the invisible nightingale
Stones fell on me like rain
A flip of a friend tear me into pieces
I learnt who are the friends and enemies on my black day
I had ten troubles now I have fifty
I am put on the death order
Let them hang or shoot me
I am Pir Sultan Abdal, whose soul can’t rise into the air
Only if god commands, the rain shall start
The stones of the strangers never fell on me
But the rose of a friend hurts me
The soldiers lying at the bottom or at the top
Come and take me from the hands of trouble
Where can I go alone?
The trouble had always found me where I went
He worshipped with me
He lied and deceitfully smiled at me
He became the naked sword and appeared in the front
He made me torn into pieces
The whirlwind above us, is like the winter
Like the bird in the baby-falcon’s handle
Like a dream, vision in the early morning
Making me cry, the trouble has taken me
I am Pir Sultan Abdal, my soul is ill
I cannot tell the one that my soul is mourning
I don’t know if it’s a mad or an expert
Made me fall into this love
I will be the traveler and travel around this world
The sun came down but still I cannot find a friend
I read and write in own anxieties
The sun came down but still I cannot find a friend
I can’t even move my hands from my knees
I don’t know if it’s the effect or it’s myself
I poured my bloody tears from my eyes
The sun came down but still I cannot find a friend
The ring of this world is wrong
I pity for my life that has passed
I’m worn out and can’t live in conformity
The sun came down, but still I cannot find a friend
I, Pir Sultan, shall better dive into the ocean
The ones that went never returned back
I became an abdal and wore hair clothes sometimes
The sun came down but still I cannot find a friend

Seyrani

He was the son of the imam of district Develi (previously Everek) of Kayseri.

He wrote his poems with prosody and consistent language following the old school of poetry. He succeeded especially in the poems of the minstrel tradition. He wrote good examples of praising and satiric poems.

My soul can give up you but not the lover
I’m declaring that myself is strong
Everyone listening to me may not understand myself
My words are smooth as the Sırat bridge
My words are not false, they are strong
False words melt like butter
Caravans may pass on them like the mountains
Do not think me as steep, I’m smooth
A traveler may not travel by fires
The hair clothes that the dervishes touch never burn
The sin burns in hell but not the men
I am the sin kohl eyed
I looked for Seyrani everywhere
I fell into this trouble with the real love
I made a curtain for my face with my sins
I am the black-faced in the court of my god
The one who found the steamer
The wind hoisting her sails, never knows his value
He is Süleyman who speak the unknown language
How may every Süleyman know the value of his language
There are different orders of every animal
Some surpass and some go at a jugtrot
The stinking crows who went into the dung-hole
The rose in the private garden, never knows the value
The great Seyrani’s troubles bent double
His tongue is helpless in his mouth
The prophet Davud is carefully examined
The string that cannot play the saz, never knows its value

Summani

He was born in the village of Semikale of Narman in 1861. He saw the daughter of the ruler of Bedeşhan city, Gülperi, in his dream and began to travel to find her when he’s young.

The beauties, took each other’s by the hand, coming
Don’t you give me a greeting of god?
Did my god create you as ornaments?
Won’t you come when we want you to come
Your eyebrows are black like bows
Today is the world tomorrow is the other world
Pleasing on heart is a hundred pilgrimages
Don’t you know how to please a heart?
I am Sümmani, my tongue is helpless
I may travel country to country myself
Tomorrow is the judgement day, I may complain
Won’t you come to the place of the judgement day?

Yunus Emre (1238-1320)

One of the greatest and the deepest poets of the Turkish folk literature. Yunus Emre is a great poet who managed to turn the Anatolian dialect into a language of literature and who succeeded in reciting poetry and chanting hymns in pure Turkish. He has written about issues which looked extremely complex.

Written in a pure and easily understood Turkish, some of his poems, which seem to be over simple at first glance, carry a deep meaning and have a certain quality which grips the reader and excites him, weaving a special magic. Yunus in most of his poems declares his great love for the God. He has felt the elusive excitements of the love of God and also made others to feel it.

Your love made me insane
Only you is who I need
I cry for yesterday
Only you is who I need
I am neither happy for your existence
Nor I am sorry for your nonexistence
I console myself with your love
Only you is who I need
Your love kills the lovers
Love makes one dive into the sea
Fills with manifestation
Only you is who I need
I may drink the wine of love
I may go up to the mountains like Majnun
If only you is my anxiety
Only you is who I need
The simples need to be talked
Memories need to be in the other world
Majnuns need Laila
Only you is who I need
If they kill me
They may throw my ashes into the air
And my soil calls them immediately
Only you is who I need
Yunus is my name
I increase day by day
I am wished in two of the worlds
Only you is who I need
Dive and see what in my soul is
There are roses for us within this public
Let them laugh and god be ours
How the unawares may know there are lovers of god
This road is steep and far
No passages but deep waters
The brave ones shall appear in this place
And no skills shall be kept inside
Do not appear, Yunus, in this place
There are braves in this place

Mevlüt Şafak (İhsani)

He was born in the village of Çarmık, Bardız of Erzurum in 1928. He lost his ability to see in his childhood during a game. He’s married and has seven children. Şafak who earns his living by continuing the minstrel tradition, writes and tells his poems. His poems are published in different magazines and newspapers. He has a book named “Plashing Streams”.

I wrote a letter to the wind with my tears
I don’t know what it said to the winds, to you
I remember you hundred times a day
I don’t know what the strangers said to you
Did the color of the tulips become quince
Did the rose wind the embalming sting
Did the nightingale whisper to the violet
I don’t know what the roses said to you
There are stones on the bridge of life
There are tears in your soul
The hair began to fall down
I don’t know what the years said to you
Every being has an aim in his life
What he did made the people deal
Neither the people made palaces nor the birds, nests
I don’t know what the branches said to you
The kindness of a Mevlut is burnt many times
He is bored and disgusted with his soul
He traveled within the soul ground
I don’t know what the deserts said to you

Murat Çobanoğlu

He was born in Kars in 1940. The minstrel who is a primary school graduate is married and has four children. He earns his living by continuing the minstrel tradition. He began to play saz and tell poems after drinking the wine ‘bade’ in his dream. His master is his father Gülistan Çobanoğlu. He has nearly twenty records and cassettes delivered in 1968-87.

The man is like the wall
See him when his secrets are revealed
Don’t be deceived by all the beauties you see
See her when her hair is gray and she’s bent
The black soil kneads men
Calls any of the death appointed
He shouts out loud since he’s supported
See him when his friends draw back
So there is a remedy for you in the world
When you wake up one day, your time has passed
Some say that they are lion
See what happens when Azrael begins to follow you
If you pay attention to the words of Çobanoğlu
You will see the things written will be true
And your wife will also not look at you
See, when you fall

Şerafettin Taşlıova

He was born in the village of Pekşeren (Gülyüzü), Çıldır of Kars in 1938. He’s a primary school graduate and he’s married and has seven children. Şeref Taşlıova who knows minstrel tones and relations tell his poems as well as the masters’ poems. He has a book named “The Heart Garden” and he has many records and cassettes.

Wish is the string and love is the embroidery
Appears more beautiful when it is knitted more
Looking with the eyes of soul
Appears more beautiful when it is seen more
Time is the breeze
Life is the tree; the days are the branches
Happiness is a long road
Appears more beautiful when it is reached
The pleasing words be in the mouth
The stings be on the rose
The memories be in the year
Appears more beautiful
The air making men live
The pleasing words is the remedy
Any person having a dream of a home
Appears more beautiful
On the other hand, Şeref says
My caravan left the inn
Any lover embracing his dear
Appear more beautiful when it is sincerely

Source: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism

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