The First Ottoman Poets — Ahmed. Niyází. Suleymán Chelebi

So far not one of the poets whose acquaintance we have made has been an Ottoman Turk. Several have been of Persian extraction, while all those of Turkish race have been born outside the limits of the Osmanic State. It would seem that until the days of Baáyezíd the Thunderbolt, who reigned from 792 (1390 1 to 805 (1403), there were practically no poets within the Ottoman borders. Άlí finds a reason for this in the fact that almost all the subjects of the earliest Sultans were either rude Turkish or Tartar warriors or else the children of recent converts from Christianity, none of whom possessed so much as the taste for poetry, far less the culture needful to produce it.

Before turning our attention to the two poets who are mentioned as having lived under Báyezíd, we must glance for a moment at a dim form that looms scarce discernible through the thick mists of antiquity and oblivion.

Utterly ignoring all the writers mentioned in the preceding chapters (possibly because they were not Ottoman subjects) Ἅshiq Chelebi, in the Introduction to his Tezkire, declares that there was no Turkish poetry in Rúm during the reigns of cOsmán and Orkhan.1 But, he says, there arose in the time of the third sultan, Mur1d I, who reigned from 761 (1359) to 792 (1390), a certain Ahmed who wrote in the metre of the Sháh-Náme2 a romantic mesneví which he called Suheyl u Nev-Bahár or ‘Canopus and Vere.’ This book, to which or to the author of which I have seen no other reference, was, Ἅshiq tells us, even in his time extremely rare. He had, however, seen a copy in his youth, and is thus able to inform his readers that although the author translated from the Persian, he is not without some original ideas of his own, and that his phraseology is, according to the wont of his time, painfully ‘Turkish.’ So fascinated was Ἅshiq by the Persian culture of his own day that this quality of being Turkish is in his eyes a grievous blemish, a species of barbarism, stich as our eighteenth century writers, moved by a similar spirit, would have called Gothicism; and, indeed, it is to the presence of this that he attributes the neglect into which the old poem had fallen. ‘Belike,’ he says, ‘for that it had no face to show itself to the folk, its station is behind the curtain; for it is not that its face is veiled by reason of beauty and comeliness.’

Ἅshiq quotes one couplet, descriptive of night, from this earliest of West-Turkish metrical romances.1


The true sense of the first line of this couplet is not determinable owing to the absence of the context: the following rendering is merely conjectural: —;

His (her, its, their) enemy (harm) must exist (arrive); watch that moment,—;

On the emerald sea this golden ship.

The second line seems to refer to the crescent moon in the evening sky. This quotation shows that, as we should have expected, the Turkish prosodial system prevailed in this poem.

Of the two poets, Niyází and Suleymán, who flourished under Sultan Báyezíd, the first is a scarcely more substantial figure than the shadowy singer of ‘Canopus and Vere.’

Latífí, the earliest of our authorities, makes this old poet a native of Brusa; in this he is followed by Ἅlí and Riyází, the former of whom, however, mentions a report that Niyází was by origin a Qaraman Turk, while Hasan Chelebi declares him to have come from Seres in Rumelia. This question of his birthplace is the only point in Niyází's biography touched on by the chroniclers, and here, as we see, they are sufficiently at variance. For the rest, they confine themselves to saying that the poet left a complete Díwán of Turkish and Persian qasídas and ghazels which he dedicated to Báyezíd the Thunderbolt, in whose praise most of his verses were written.

Niyází was the earliest Ottoman lyric writer, the fore-runner, as Ἅlí says, of ‘the ancient poets’ Ahmedí and Sheykhí; and although his works have long since disappeared, it would seem that he was not without influence on the development of Turkish poetry. Thus Latífí tells us, and his statement is endorsed by Hasan and Ἅlí, that most of the qasídas of Ahmed Pasha, the first great Ottoman lyric poet and the inaugurator of the Second Period, are nazíras or ‘parallels’ to poems of Niyází's. Latífí particularises four of the Pasha’s best-known qasídas which he says were thus suggested by poems of this early precursor;1 and he further declares that the most famous of all Ahmed’s works, namely the qasída descriptive of the Palace of Sultan Mehemmed the Conqueror, was modelled verse for verse upon a highly elaborated poem of Niyázís that had the same rhyme and metre.


The fawn-heaven beheld at dawn thy lion-banner, And at daybreak was it tail-fouled by its liver’s blood. which he says was modelled on this couplet from Niyází’s poem: —;


The fawn-heaven is safe from the leopard-sphere

Since it hath made the shadow of thy lion-banner its refuge.

Niyází would thus seem to be, as Latífí maintains he is, the introducer of the Persian artistic lyric into Rúm. No doubt Cadi Burhán-ud-Dín was at least as early in the field; but his work is different in intention, he did not seek to substitute in poetry Persian for Turkish canons of art; whereas it would appear that Niyází did, and for this reason the literary poets of Turkey are justified in regarding him as their true precursor.

Niyází’s Díwán, if it was ever popular, seems to have soon fallen from general favour. Latífí, who wrote barely a century and a half after the poet’s time, says that his book was even then very rare, and his work in consequence forgotten among the people. Hasan Chelebi, writing forty years later, has the same story; he says that ‘with the passing of the seasons and the ages the words of the poet have been forgotten and lost to mind, so that he might be described with the description: He is not a thing that is mentioned.’1 Ἅlí’s assertion that the Díwán was lost in the confusion caused by Timur’s invasion is less probable than the statement of the earlier authorities that it disappeared through neglect. If Ἅlí’s story were true, Ahmed Pasha could not have made use of the Díwán, seeing that his poems were not written till half a century after the cataclysm at Angora.

Latífí quotes two couplets from an Arabic-Persian mulemma῾ qasída of Niyází’s in praise of Sultan Báyezíd, the Turkish distich quoted in the note on page 229, and this other couplet, also in Turkish: —;

From out thy tresses’ night, O love, the sun may rise on me,2

If true indeed the ancient saying ‘night is pregnant’3 be.4

The couplet just translated is quoted also by Hasan, Ἅlí and Belígh, the last two of whom have this verse in addition

What warders were her eyebrows for the garden of her grace 5

For they’ve taken two marauders, yet they fondly these embrace!6


In these few stray lines we see all of Niyází’s work that has come down to us.1


‘Báyezíd Ildirim the King of the Age.’

The probability is that Riyází has confounded the earlier Niyází with a poet named Ilyás of Gallipoli who also used the makhlas of Niyází, and who, as Ἅlá, who had seen his Díwán, points out in his notices of the poets of Báyezíd II’s time, wrote verses in praise of Sultan Báyezíd the son of Mehemmed (i.e. Báyezíd II).

Belígh, who wrote more than a century later than Riyází, professes to give some particulars concerning Niyází’s life; but as he gives no authority for his statements, they can hardly be taken seriously.

Very different is the fate that has attended the labours of Suleymán Chelebi,1 the other of the two poets who lived under Báyezíd.

This writer, who is called Suleymán-i Burseví, that is, Suleymán the Brusan or native of Brusa, is the earliest strictly Ottoman poet whose work is in our hands. Of his life we have few details; the facts that he was a disciple of the famous teacher Emír Sultán;2 that he served as Imám or Precentor of the Divan to Báyezíd the Thunderbolt, and that he became, after the death of that monarch, Imám of the great mosque which the latter had built in Brusa, represent the sum of our knowledge concerning his career.3 The date of his death is unrecorded; but it must have been later than 805 (1403), the year of that of Báyezíd whom we are told he survived.

Suleyman’s poem is what is called a Mevlid-i Nebí4 or Hymn on the Prophetás Nativity. The biographers relate a strange story concerning the circumstances which led to this poem’s being written. This story differs somewhat as told by Latífí and Ἅlí. According to the latter authority, whose version seems the more probable, a popular preacher1 was one day discoursing in Brusa on the text of the Koran which runs, ‘We make no difference between any of His apostles.’ This he interpreted to mean that all the Prophets were equal in degree; ‘Wherefore,’ he added, –I esteem not Muhammed to be more excellent than Jesus —; on the twain be peace!’ In the excitement produced by this speech —; for Muhammed is of course held by orthodox Muslims to be the greatest of the Prophets —; Suleymán extemporised this verse: —;

Jesus died not, but ascended to the sky,3

For that he was of yon Prophet’s4 company.5

This couplet so pleased the people that they entreated the poet to undertake a formal panegyric in honour of their great Teacher. Suleymán was prevailed upon, and his famous Birthsong (as we may conveniently render the term Mevlid) is the result.

As told by Latífí, the tale has a more legendary ring. This biographer, who evidently doubted the veracity of his own story —; as he deems prudent to wind up with the saving-clause of the Eastern raconteur, ‘on the teller be the charge!’ —; relates that when the preacher had announced his somewhat liberal exposition of the text already quoted, an Arab who happened to be present challenged his interpretation, telling him he knew nothing of the science of exegesis, else he would have known that the verse on which he was so ignorantly commenting signifies merely that in the office of apostleship there are no degrees, since were its application wider, there would be no meaning in that other Koranic verse which says, ‘These apostles have We preferred one of them above another.’1 But the people of Brusa, continues Latífí, sided with their preacher, and heeded not the Arab, who went off to the Arab lands, Egypt and Syria, whence he returned armed with a fetwa or canonical decision granted by the Arab ῾ulemá requiring that the offending preacher should either recant or be put to death. But still the Brusans heeded neither him nor his fetwa. Six times did the Arab go between his own country and Brusa bringing with him on each occasion a fresh fetwa to the same effect, but all to no purpose. The seventh fetwa contained a threat that if its requirements were not carried out, the Ottoman dominions would be laid waste (presumably by the Memlúk Sultan of Egypt and Syria). Still the Turks were not to be cowed; so the Arab watched his opportunity, and one day ‘he fell upon the preacher before the mosque and slaughtered him as a butcher doth a sheep.’ It was while these events were in progress, adds Latífí, that Suleymán composed his Birthsong.

This tale of the Arab, which, by the way, does not seem to have very much to do with Suleymán and his Mevlid, is in all probability apocryphal; yet we can perceive from it the reputation for fanaticism which the Arabs had among the Turks, a reputation for which we shall ere long see a but too true warrant.

The poem which thus came into existence has at all times enjoyed an extraordinary popularity. Many subsequent writers have composed more or less similar hymns on the same subject, but not one of these has ever succeeded in even temporarily ousting this oldest of all from the public favour; and while it still lives on, recited annually in thousands of assemblies over the length and breadth of Turkey, its rivals have one and all passed out of sight and are now practically forgotten. The continued popularity of Suleymán’s Birthsong is no doubt attributable in part at least to the fact that it is the first of its class and thus had a start of all the others whereby it was enabled to win its way into the hearts of the people and become indissolubly associated with many hallowed memories before any competitor appeared upon the scene. Its subject too was well calculated to win the public sympathy; for this was not, as with Veled and Ἅshiq, a transcendental philosophy appealing only to the elect; it was the popular religion, and that in its most popular form. For it is not merely the birth of Muhammed that the poem celebrates, nor even that event treated as a natural occurrence; the Mevlid is really a versified account of the various legends that had grown up round the simple story of the Prophet’s life; and thus it spoke directly to that feeling which induces early communities to dwell most lovingly on the supernatural element in the lives of their divinities and saints.

Suleymán’s poem1 is written in mesneví verse in the same metre as Veled’s Rebáb-Náme and Ἅshiq’s Gharíb-Náme. The style is very simple, without art of any kind. All the same the work has, in great measure on account of this, a picturesque directness; while there is an artless charm in the naive and childlike fashion in which the poet presents his marvels that is absent from the more laboured and pretentious productions of later years. The language, which is very similar to that of the Gharíb-Náme, we may take to be pure Ottoman Turkish, the dialect of Brusa the cOsmánli capital. The book would thus be the oldest specimen of Ottoman Turkish extant and, could we have an early copy, would be of very great philological interest. It is noteworthy as exemplifying the gradual change that was coming over the technique of poetry, that while they still occur from time to time, there are far fewer instances of scansion according to the Turkish system in the Mevlid than in any of the earlier West-Turkish mesnevís: the preponderance of quantitative over syllabic lines is at least as great here as in the lyrics of Burhán-ud-Dín.

Suleymán begins in orthodox fashion with a canto (here called Fasl) to the praise of God, then after a brief prayer to pious readers to repeat the Fátiha1 on his behalf, he tells how the Light or Essence of Muhammed was the first thing which God created,2 and how this Light shone upon the brow of Adam and all the subsequent prophets till Muhammed himself, in whose person having found its true home, it will never more appear on earth. This prologue finished, the poet begins the story of the Apostle’s nativity, detailing the signs and wonders that heralded the advent of the last of the Prophets, and the rejoicings of the angels and other citizens of Paradise. Having completed this, his proper theme, he proceeds to give a brief account of the miracles popularly attributed to Muhammed, such as the well-known legend of his splitting the moon in two halves by pointing his finger at it, the fable of his body casting no shadow because it was pure light, and that other of roses growing up wherever his perspiration fell. This is followed by a somewhat more detailed description of the Mi῾ráj or Ascension of the Prophet, a subject which, like the Nativity itself, was destined to become the theme of many a subsequent writer. This again is succeeded by the story of Muhammed’s last illness and death as presented in the legends; after which the poem winds up with a prayer for forgiveness wherein the writer mentions his own name.

It has been for centuries the custom in Turkey to chant portions of Suleymán’s Birthsong at the services both public and private which are held on the twelfth of the First Rebí῾1 of each year to commemorate the nativity of the Prophet. On that day the Sultan and all his court in gala uniform attend one of the Imperial Mosques at which the state celebration of the festival takes place.2 There are similar services in other mosques for the benefit of the humbler classes of society. It is reckoned a meritorious act for the well-to-do to give what is called a Mevlúd Jem῾íyeti or ‘Birthsong Meeting’ in their private houses, to which their friends are invited. These meetings are generally held in the afternoon or the evening; and as it is impossible to have them all on the same day, they are held through several weeks following the Prophet’s birthday. When a certain verse has been reached in the recitation of the poem a number of servants hand round among the guests sherbet and sweetmeats, the latter contained in small packets shaped something like a sugar-loaf and known as sheker-kuláhi or ‘sugar-caps.’1 The chanters, who are called Mevlid-kh᾽án or, in more everyday language, Mevludji, are selected on account of their sweetness of voice; and so affecting is the manner in which they recite the old verses that their audience is often moved to tears.

The custom of chanting this poem at those services and meetings is very old; the time of its introduction is not mentioned, but it was in full force when Ἅshiq Chelebi wrote his Tezkire, and doubtless had been so for long before

As has been hinted, this custom has in all probability had much to do with the extraordinary and continued popularity of Suleymán’s Hymn. To this popularity the pages of all the Ottoman biographers and critics bear ample evidence. Latífí says that he has looked over nearly a hundred Mevlids 2 but that not one among them has ever attained the reputation and celebrity of Suleymán’s, the only one which might perhaps be worthy to be reckoned as a ‘parallel’ to it being that by the poet Hamdí.3 Ἅshiq too declares that although these many eloquent poets have written Mevlids, not one of them has surpassed this blessed poem or spoiled the market in its bazaar; while every year it is chanted in many and many thousands of assemblies throughout the realms of Islam. cAli seems deeply impressed by the abiding success of the Hymn: ‘so he (Suleymán Chelebi) made that beloved book whereof the coming from the tongue of the pen to the written page was in a fortunate hour, indeed befell at a time free from the traces of maleficence when the most part of the stars were together in the signs of their exaltation,1 for that year by year it is read in many thousands of noble assemblies. And indeed he hath versified it in touching notes, for while there are many other hymns on the Nativity, not one of them is taken in hand or brought under the eye; ’tis as though he had written it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.’2 Kátib Chelebi has the same story; speaking of Suleymán’s Hymn he says, ‘and it is this which is recited at the assemblies and gatherings in the Turkish lands: others among the poets have versified the subject, but none is regarded beside it, neither is any other renowned.’ In the same strain Belígh declares that as the book has been sealed by the approval of the King of the Prophets, never till the end of time shall the incense of prayer for the blessed soul of the poet cease to rise from the censers of the people’s lips when at the annual assemblies of the Faithful is read the verse: —;

Show to Suleymán the hapless of Thy grace, —

Make the Faith his fere and Heaven his dwelling-place!3

And, adds the historian, though there are some twenty Mevlids in verse and prose, none is so pathetic and affecting as this, nor has any won the same favour and renown.

Coming down to recent times, we find Ziyá Pasha in the critical introduction which he has prefixed to his great an thology, the Kharábát or ‘Tavern,’ corroborating to the full the judgment of his predecessors. Be speaks of Suleymán as the imám or precentor of the poets of Rúm and the guide of the makers of verse, and says that his sacred poem is warrant enough of his genius. The Pasha confesses his inability to understand what such poetry may be which renders distraught all them that hear it. Although seemingly so artless, love and eloquence meet together in it; from beginning to end it is ‘unapproachable simplicity.’2 During these four hundred years, continues the critic, none of the learned hath said aught to equal it; and although many have striven to ‘parallel’ it, it still remains ‘virgin like the Koran.’3

It is easy to understand the enthusiasm of the Turks for this ancient poem which is to them all that our Christmas hymns and carols are to us; but to the foreign student of their literature its chief interest must lie in the fact that it is the earliest extant monument of indubitably Ottoman work.

I have chosen for translation those parts of the Hymn which are usually chanted at the Mevlid Meetings. The first of these, the opening canto of the poem, is an invocation of God whose name it praises. This is followed by a brief supplication to the pious readers and hearers to remember the author in their prayers. Omitting the next canto, which discourses on the ‘Light of Muhammed,’ we go on to that which describes the birth of the Prophet and the portents that accompanied it; much of this section —; which is the kernel of the whole book —; is put into the mouth of Άmine, Muhammed’s mother. This is followed by a triumphant chorus of greeting to the new-born Prophet, after which there is an omission of many cantos, those describing the miracles and death of Muhammed, till we reach the verses in which the poet bids farewell to the Prophet now gone to his rest. With this, the true end of the poem, the recitations usually close, the epilogue which follows and winds up the book being as a rule omitted.

From the Mevlid-i Nebí or Hymn on the Prophet's Nativity. [36]

   First, the name of God the Lord let us declare;

This behoveth every servant every where.

Whosoe’er doth first the name of God recite,

God will make for him his every business light.

Let the name of God begin each business then,

That the end thereof be sorry not and vain.1

Let the name of God with every breath be said,

In the name of God be each work finishéd.

If the tongue but once with love God’s name do say,

All its sins will fall like autumn leaves away.2

Pure becometh he who sayeth His pure name,

Whoso saith God’s name attains his every aim.

Let us from our hearts on yon Provider call,

Yon Creator who from naught hath made us all.

Come ye and on God now let us loveful cry,

Fearful let us weep and let us sadly sigh,

That yon King His mercy fair to us accord,

Yonder Gracious, yonder Ruthful, yonder Lord.

He Omniscient, He the Pardoner of ill,

He the Builder, Placable, Forgiving still,

He the Holy One who all in safety keeps,

He the Lord Eternal who nor dies nor sleeps,

He the King whose reign shall never pass away,

He the Mateless, He the Matchless, Peerless aye.

While as yet the world was not He made it be,1

Yet of aught created ne’er a need had He.

He is One, and of His Oneness doubt is non

Thuugh that many err whene’er they speak thereon.

Living He when was nor man nor angel fair,

Heaven nor earth, nor sun nor moon, nor ninefold sphere 2

By His power creative all of these He made,

Yea, in these His might and glory He displayed.

Let us ever at His court our needs make known;

He is One, and other god than He is none.

Though such words be said till the Last Day do fall,

Fall might many a Last Day, yet unsaid were all.3

   So thou seekest from the fire to win thee free,

   Say with love and fear: Be blessings unto thee!4

   Saintly ones,5 we here begin another speech;

Unto you a testament we leave, to each

Whosoe’er observes the testament I say,

Musk-like in his heart its scent will bide for aye.

May the Lord God give to him His ruth to share, —

Yea, to him who breatheth for my soul a prayer.

He who in this blessing lot and part would have,

Let him say the Fatiha for me his slave.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Lady Άmine, Muhammed’s mother she,

(From this Shell it was yon Pearl did come to be.)

When Muhammed’s time to corne was near at hand,

Ere he came were many signs seen through the land.

Now by Ἁbd-ulláh his sire had she conceived,

And the passing weeks and days the term achieved.

In the night whereon was born that Best of Men1

Many a marvel passed before his mother’s ken.

On the twelfth ’twas of the First Rebí῾ it fell,

On a Monday night it tided, wot ye well!

Quoth the mother of that God-belovéd one,2

‘I beheld a Light whose moth was e’en the sun.

‘Sudden from my dwelling flashed the lightning forth

‘Mounted to the skies and lumined all the earth.

‘Rank on rank the angels winged from Heaven their way,

‘Round my house, as ’twere the Kacba, circled they.3

‘Quoth they, “Now that Prophet of most high degree

‘“Cometh, Master of the Holy House is he!”

‘Straightway in the sky was spread a couch full fair,

‘Sendal was its name, ’twas angels spread it there.

‘Oped the heavens, and the mirk was done away;

‘Forth came angels three with flags in bright array;

‘One thereof they planted o’er the East to stream,

‘One thereof they planted o’er the West to gleam,

‘O’er the Kacba planted they the third with awe.

‘Passing great the reverence and humblesse I saw.

‘When these mighty portents round about me shone,

‘Dazed and wildered I abode there all alone.

‘Clave the wall, and issuing forth on sudden wise

‘Houris three stood visible before my eyes.

‘Then from these I knew that Prince of all mankind

‘Soon should come his place upon the earth to find.

‘Graciously those beauties moon-browed near me drew,

‘Straightway greeting me on courteous wise and true;

‘With all reverence and grace they greeted me,

‘And they spake some words right sweet and courteously.

‘And they came and sate them round about me then,

‘Wishing one the other joy of him full fain.

‘“Never any son like to thy son,” said they,

‘“Unto earth hath come since the Creation-day;

‘“Never any son in glory like to thine

‘“Was to mother granted by the Lord Divine.

‘“Born of thee this night shall be that Mustafà;1

‘“Unto all a boon shall be that Mustafà.

‘“O thou dear one, thou hast won to mighty bliss;

‘“Born of thee shall be the Flower of all that is.

‘“All the Saints would yield their lives to meet this night,

‘“All the Saints would fain be slaves to greet this night.

‘“He who cometh is the King of Heavenly Lore,

‘“He who cometh is of Wisdom High the Store.

‘“For the love of him who cometh turns the sky;2

‘“Yearning for his face do men and angels sigh.

‘“He who cometh is that King, the Prophets’ Seal,3

‘“He, that ‘Mercy’ to the Worlds,’1 Creation’s Weal.

‘“God the Living, Lord of Glore, hath made decree

‘“That this night creation all perfection see;

‘“Houris, Bowers, Gardens, yea, all Paradise,

‘“All the Garth of Rizwján,2 shine on glorious wise.

‘“There above they celebrate this blessed night,

‘“Paradise with gems and jewels have they dight.

‘“Houris, Youths of Heaven,3 and every living thing

‘“Fain will scatter gems and jewels o’er that King.

‘“Yea, and more, hath God commanded Gabriel:

‘“—; Make thou fast, 0 Gabriel, the gates of hell! —;4

‘“For this night the Mercy of the Lord shall be,

‘“Past the Awfulness is from His majesty.

‘“Ay, this night is e’en the night when through his Light

‘“Yonder blessed one shall make earth fair and bright.

‘“This the night of yonder King, the Prophet’s Seal,

‘“Him, the ‘Mercy to the worlds,’ Creation’s Weal

‘“He this night the world as Paradise hath made;

‘“God this night to all things hath His Ruth displayed.

‘“On this night are birds and beasts and men and jinn,5

‘“Whate’er is, revealed and hid, each living thing,

‘“One and all a-dancing of their joyance fain

‘“ For that comes the Ruth of God, the Best of Men I”

‘In this fashion did they celebrate his praise,

‘And the glory of yon Blessed Light upraise.’

   Άmine saith, ‘When was fully come the tide

‘When that Best of Men should come on earth to bide,

‘Passing sore a thirst came o‘er me through the heat,

‘Then they gave to me a cup of sherbet sweet;

‘Whiter ‘twas than snow, and colder, saintly one 1

‘Sweetest sugar’s sweetness was by it outdone.

‘Straight I drank it, all my frame was whelmed in light,

‘Nor knew I myself from that effulgence bright;

‘When that gleaming Glory had enwrapped me round,

‘Heart and soul of me a wondrous joyance found.

‘Came a White Bird borne upon his wings straightway,

‘And with virtue stroked my back as there I lay.

‘Then was born the Sultan of the Faith that stound,

‘Earth and heaven shone in radious glory drowned.’

   So thou seekest from the fire to win thee free,

   Say with IQve and fear: Be blessings unto thee!

   Glad rejoiced creation in delight and mirth

Grief departed and new life filled all the earth.

Every atom in the world took up the tale,

Cried they all with voices high uplifted: Hail!

Hail to thee! O Sun of fulgent splendour! Hail!

Hail to thee! O Soul of Souls most tender! Hail!

Hail to thee! O Sun of all the Lover-crew!

Hail to thee! O Moon of all the leal and true!

Hail to thee! O Bulbul3 of E-lestu’s mead!4

All the world is drunken for thy love indeed!

Hail to thee! O Soul that is for ever! Hail!

Hail to thee! Cupbearer of the Lover! Hail!

Hail to thee! O Nightingale of Beauty’s bower!

Hail to thee! O Loved One of the Lord of Power!

Hail to thee! O Mercy to the Worlds —; to all!

Hail to thee! O Pleader for the folk who fall!

Hail to thee! O Refuge of the rebel race!

Hail to thee! O Helper of the portionless!

Hail to thee! O King of Glore! All hail to thee!

Hail to thee! O Mine of Lore! All hail to thee!

Hail to thee! Epiphany of God most Grand!

Hail to thee! O Leader of the Prophet-band!

Hail to thee! Unsetting Sun! All hail to thee!

Hail to thee! Unwaning Moon! All hail to thee!

Hail to thee! O Parrot of the world’s herbere!

Wildered for thy love doth every soul appear!

Hail to thee! O Secret of the Scripture! Hail

Hail to thee! O Balm for every dolour! Hail!

Hail to thee! O Coolth o’ th’ eyne!1 O Intimate!2

Hail to thee! O Most Beloved of God the Great!

Hail to thee! O Moon! O Sun of God, most fair!

Hail to thee! who from the Lord art parted ne’er!

Hail to thee! of all the fond Desire art thou!

Hail to thee! to God most near and dear art thou!

Hail to thee! O thou of Either World the King

Yea, for thee this universe to life did spring!

Thou art of Apostleship’s high Throne the Seal!

Thou art of the Prophetship’s bright Sun the Seal!

Thou whose day-like visage is the plenilune!

Thou who reachest hand to all the fallen down!

Even as thy Light hath all the world illumed,

Through thy rose-face hath the world a garden bloomed

Lo, thou art the Sovran of the Prophet-host!

Light of eye to all the saints and all the just!

’Neath thy word is all the World of Spirit laid!

In thy field the man of Love hath staked his head!4

   So thou seekest from the fire to win thee free,

   Say with love and fear: Be blessings unto thee!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


   Fare thee well! O Soul most tender! Fare thee well!

Fare thee well! O Moon of splendour! Fare thee well!

Fare thee well! O Sovran of the Lover-band

Fare thee well! O Lord! O King of every land!

Fare thee well! O Nightingale of Beauty’s bower!

Fare thee well! O Loved One of the Lord of Power!

Fare thee well! O Union Pearl of lustre bright!

Fare thee well! O Motive of the Glorious Light!

Fare thee well! O Sovereign! O Monarch mine!

Fare thee well! O Balm for every pain and pine!

   By you all from Mustafa be warning ta’en!

Ne’er an one of us, by God, shall here remain.

Howsoever long may any’s life aby,

At the end this surely is his work —; to die

Come then, and for death prepare, be ready dight,

That your faces in the Presence there be white.

From thy hand, O Death, alack! ah, woe is me!

Neither king nor beggar e’er may win him free.

Woe is me, from yonder Prophet parted far!

Woe is me, for yonder Leader yearning sore!

Unto all of them who happy be and wise

Death for preacher and for counsel doth suffice.

   So thou seekest from the fire to win thee free,

   Say with love and fear: Be blessings unto thee!

1 Many authorities place the accession of Báyezíd I in 791 (1389); but the late Ghálib Edhem Bey, the learned and accomplished author of the Taqwím-i Meskúkat-i cOsmáníya (Essai de Numismatique Ottomane) and other valuable works, who went carefully into the question, came to the conclusion that the true date is 792 (1390).

1 We have seen that Ἅshiq enters Yúnus Imre in his proper place in his Tezkire, but without mentioning any date. Probably, like Ἅlí later on, he was content to let matters rest as they had been left by Tash-köpri-záde, who, as we know, placed Yúnus among the men of Sultan Báyezíd’s time.

2 The most popular of the Mutaqárib forms: image

1 It is this: —;

1 Those having for redíf the words, La῾l or ‘Ruby,’ Άftáb or ‘Sun,’ Shikár or ‘Chase,’ and Άb or ‘Water;’ this statement of Latífí’s is reproduced by Hasan and Ἅlí.

1 As an example Latífí quotes the following verse from Ahmed Pasha’s Palace Qasída: —;

1 A quotation from the Koran, lxxvi, I. ‘Cometh there not on man a moment in time when he is not a thing that is mentioned?’

2 i.e. thy sun-bright face may shine on me from out thy night-black hair, i.e. thou mayest some day vouchsafe to me thy favours.

3 image, ‘night is pregnant,’ i.e. we know not what the morrow may bring forth, is a famous Arabic proverb often quoted by the poets. It sometimes appears in the Turkish form image. In Turkish idiom ‘the sun shall rise’ is ‘the sun shall be born;’ hence the congruity of the quoted proverb.

4 image

5 There is an untranslatable amphibology in this line, the word hájib meaning both ‘warder’ and ‘eyebrow.’

6 The ‘garden of her grace’ is her fair face; the ‘marauders’ are her eyes which the image instead of casting into prison, have taken to their embrace. The Turkish is: —;

1 Ἅshiq omits Niyází altogether. Riyází, who wrote as late as the beginning of the seventeenth century, would have us believe that Niyází flourished, not under Báyezíd I, but under Báyezíd II who reigned from 886 (1481) to 918 (1512). He says that he has seen Niyází’s Díwán, and that most of the qasídas are parallels to poems of Ahmed Pasha —; thus reversing the statement of the earlier writers. In a marginal note to my MS. of Riyází’s Tezkire it is said that Niyází declares in one of his qasídas that he is writing it as a parallel to one of Ahmed’s, that in some of his poems he mentions the Sultan as Báyezíd the son of Mehemmed (which would of course indicate Báyezíd II), and that he died in 900 (1494–5). It is further said that Hasan Chelebi fell into error through copying Latífí. The origin of the error is pronounced to be the fact that the Sultan is called Yildirim Báyezíd (i.e. Báyezíd the Thunderbolt) in some of the qasídas; but ‘Yildirim’ the writer declares was the original style of Báyezíd II (as well as the surname of Báyezíd I), in proof of which very dubious assertion he cites this line which he says comes from the Silsilet-uz-Zeheb of the Persian poet Jámí: —;

1 Often called Suleymán Dede.

2 Mehemmed Shems-ud-Dín, surnamed Emír Sultán, an illustrious sheykh of the Khalvetí dervish-order, was a native of Bokhárá whence he migrated to Brusa, where he settled and taught. He was greatly esteemed by Báyezíd the Thunderbolt who gave him his daughter in marriage. His death took place in 833 (1429–30); and his tomb, which is in Brusa, is still a favourite place of pilgrimage.

3 Latífí makes Suleymán the elder brother of the poet ῾Atá᾽í; but this, as Ἅlf points out, is probably erroneous, as ῾Atá᾽í is spoken of as being a lad in the time of Murád II.

4 The word Mevlid is often written and pronounced Mevhýd.

1 Ἅlí and Belígh mention a report that the person in question was a Persian merchant, not a preacher, as Latífí says.

2 Koran, ii, 285

3 According to the common Muhammedan belief, Jesus was not really crucified, someone else (opinions differ as to whom) being miraculously substituted for him at the critical moment, while he himself was carried up to Heaven.

4 Jesus, as well as the other pre-Muhammedan prophets —; Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and the rest of them, —; is of course looked upon as Muslim; just as until the advent of Jesus, Judaism represented the True Faith, after which Christianity took its place until Muhammed came. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are thus but stages in the development of one religion.

5 image This couplet occurs in Suleymán’s poem, near the beginning.

1 Koran, ii, 254

1 Suleymán’s Mevlid-i Nebí does not appear to have been printed, but a few extracts from it are published in the third volume of Ziyá Pasha’s Kharabat. An abridged version is contained in the British Museum MS. (Sloane, 3033); and there are in my collection two copies, one apparently complete, the other considerably curtailed.

1 It was a common practice of authors and scribes in old times to pray the reader to repeat the Fátiha or opening chapter of the Koran on their behalf. The Fátiha, which is very short, consisting of only seven verses, occupies in Islam more or less the position that the Lord’s Prayer does in Christendom.

2 See p. 34.

1 The First Rebí῾ is the third month of the Muslim lunar year. The date generally given for the birth of Muhammed is the 20th. April, 571.

2 In former times this ceremony used to be held in the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed. A full account of the ceremonial as it was performed in the eighteenth century will be found in D’Ohsson’s admirable ‘Tableau Général de l’Empire Othoman.’

1 These ‘sugar-caps’ are very like the pointed packets in which small quantities of sugar or tea are sold in this country.

2 This number must be a gross exaggeration.

3 Hamdí is a distinguished poet of the fifteenth century whom we shall meet in due course.

1 This imagery is of course taken from astrology.

2 In Islam the ‘Holy Spirit’ is a title of the Archangel Gabriel, the medium of Divine revelation, according to the theologians.

3 image

1 The Kharábát or ‘Tavern,’ an anthology of Turkish, Persian and Arabic poetry, compiled by Ziyá. Pasha, was published in three volumes, in Constantinople, 1291–2 (1874–5).

2 Sehl-i Mumteni῾, which I have rendered as ‘unapproachable simplicity,’ is a common term with Eastern critics to describe an expression which, though apparently simple, is hard to parallel.

3 It is an axiom that no one ever has produced or ever shall produce a work equal in eloquence to the Koran, —; the uncreated Word of God.

1 These opening lines paraphrase the Hadfs image ‘Every work of import that is begun not in the name of God is abortive.’

2 The simile in this line was perhaps suggested by the story which tells how when once the Prophet was walking with some of his Companions in the autumn he plucked a spray of half-withered leaves which kept falling off as the party proceeded on the road, whereupon Muhammed said, ‘The sins of him who repenteth unto God fall from him even as the leaves fall from this spray.’

1 Alluding to the Hadís image ‘God was and there was naught beside Him,’ which the orthodox quote against those philosophers who maintain the eternity of matter.

2 i.e. the Nine Spheres of the Ptolemaic system. See pp. 43–4.

3 The idea is that the praises of God could not be wholly expressed even in many times the life-time of the world.

4 At the Mevlud Meetings whenever the chanter recites this couplet, which recurs from time to time, he pauses, when all the assembly say by way of response: Es-salátu we-s-selám ῾aleyke, yá Resúl-ulláh! es-salátu we-s-selám ῾aleyke yá Habíb-ulláh! ‘Blessing and greeting upon thee, O Apostle of God! Blessing and greeting upon thee, O Beloved of God!’ The giving of this response is called salawát getirmek.

5 Here the readers or hearers are addressed.

1 Khayrcul-Besher or Khayr-ul-Enám, i. e. ‘Best of Mankind,’ is a frequent title of Muhammed.

2 Habíb-ulláh, i. e. ‘Beloved of God,’ is the special title of Muhammed.

3 The circumambulation of the Kacba forms an important rite in the Hajj or Mekka-pilgrimage.

1 Mustafà i.e. ‘Elect,’ the second name of the Prophet.

2 An allusion to the phrase mentioned on page 34: ‘But for thee, verily I had not created the heavens!’

3 ‘Seal of the Prophets’ is another of Muhammed’s special titles, he coming last in the series of the Prophets and confirming his predecessors even as the seal comes at the end of the letter or document and ratifies what goes before.

1 A quotation from Koran, xxi, 107, where God addressing Muhammed, says, ‘We have sent thee only as a mercy to the worlds.’

2 Rizwán, i.e. Goodwill, is the name of the angel-warden or treasurer of Paradise, see p. 37.

3 The ghilmán or youths of Paradise, see p. 37.

4 That none on this blessed night may enter the abode of woe.

5 The jinn are the ‘genii,’ the spirits or demons of earth and air, to whom, as well as to mankind, Muhammed’s mission was addressed.

1 This ‘saintly one’ is an address to the reader, awkwardly enough introduced here.

2 It is when this couplet has been reached at the Mevlid Meetings that the sherbet and sweets are brought in and handed round; these are presented first to the chanter, then to the assembled guests.

3 The Bulbul is the Nightingale.

4 For the meaning of E-lestu see pp. 22–3.

1 Qurret-ul-῾Ayn, ‘Coolth o’ th’ eyne,’ is a favourite term of endearment.

2 i.e. Intimate of God.

3 Another allusion to God’s address to the Light of Muhammed.

4 i.e. the Man of Love, the ‘Lover,’ is ready to die (or thee.

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