Poems and Letters

Translated by: Roberta Michallef

Ziya Gökalp

Diyarbakir, Turkey
1876-1924

POEMS (1918)

 

Language

For us Turkish is a beautiful tongue,

Another tongue, is like night to us.

Istanbul speech is

The purest, most refined for us.

 

In language the word everyone knows

Is considered genuine

The word whose meaning can be understood

Without a glance at the dictionary.

 

We don’t invent artificial words

We don’t veer to the false road

What is Turkified is Turkish

We don’t worship old roots

 

We must stick to plain words

Words must shed light on ideas;

From among synonyms

One must choose the Turkish words

 

If new words are required

Abide by everyone else in this too

Adopt the ways of the people

in creating words

 

Create words based on living Turkish

Without offending Turkish,

Let Istanbul Turkish

Guide your pleasure

 

Don’t be inclined toward Arabic

Never go to Iran either;

Learn the art of speaking from the people

Don’t listen to eloquent speech.

 

We don’t suckle from words with “gayn,” [1]

We are not children, we are the breast!

Turan does not have several languages

We are a crowd with a single language

 

Turan has only one land

And only one language

The one who says “There are other languages…”

Has another aim.

 

The conscience of the Turks is one,

Their religion is one, their homeland is one;

But they will all disperse,

If their language is not one.

 

 

Religion

My religion is neither hope, nor fear;

I worship my God because of my love!

Taking neither a whiff of heaven nor of hell

I do my duty.

 

Preacher!.Don’t say the fire of hell

Comes from I don’t know how many thousands of

tons[2] of wood

Say that there is a sun of beauty

It is born of the fire of our love

 

Say that there is a tree called “Tuba”[3]

Its root is in the sky, in the hearts, its branches…

Of its fruits my soul ate, it is not hungry;

Its honey is all love and compassion.

 

Preacher! Explain love to me,

I don’t look for what is the devil, what is an angel?…

Tell me the secrets of those who have reached the divine truth:

Who is the one who loves? The one who is loved? What is it to love?

 

Don’t comfort me with promises of Heaven,

Because that is my heart, the land of love

Don’t frighten me with the torment of hell

My heart is insane, it knows no fear…

 

 

Homeland

Such a country where the call to prayer is read in Turkish in the Mosque,

The peasant understands the meaning of the prayer during worship…

Such a country where the Kuran is read in Turkish in its schools,

Young, old, everyone knows the commands of God…

Oh son of the Turk, there, that is your homeland!

 

Such a country that another state does not make claims on its lands

Every individual shares an ideal, language, tradition, and religion…

Its members of the assembly are honorable, where Boşo’s[4] don’t have any say

At its borders its children gladly give their lives

Oh son of the Turk, there, that is your homeland!

 

Such a country where all the capital circulating in its bazaars,

The guide of its creativity, science and knowledge is the Turk.

Its citizens always protect one another

The dockyards, factories, boats, trains belong to the Turk;

Oh son of the Turk, there, that is your homeland!

 

LETTERS TO HIS WIFE (1919)

 

Moudros –22.VII.1919

MY DEAR VECİHE,

Apparently you are going to send me Türkan’s picture.  I was happy about that; but I’ll be even happier if it is with her siblings. After I left it appears that you started taking better care of Türkan. I am thankful for that but if I get news that you are taking good care of yourself I will be even more grateful.  Yes, Türkan is still little and needs a lot of care; but who will care for her if her mother falls ill? And only for her? Who will watch over the entire family? That means that our family’s well-being depends on your good health.  Therefore you must pay the utmost attention to what you eat and to your treatment.  This is my biggest request from you.  After you have fulfilled this important duty, you must pay attention to the children’s health, education and morals.  Istanbul is a morally corrupt environment.  In such a place children cannot be left to their own devices.  The one you must think of the least is me; because I am comfortable here. My health is good. I know how not to make myself grieve and to keep my spirits constantly joyous and cheerful.  As long as one keeps one’s own spirit joyful one won’t get sick.  The spirit being cheerful is dependent on the person.  If you too, like me, were in control of your spirit you would get well quickly.  In sum don’t worry about me at all. Look after yourself and your children well.  For me, just don’t forget to write a letter every week.  For now good bye, my dear Vecihe!

Tuesday, 22  July 1335

Your spouse,

Ziya Gökalp

I send kisses to Seniha, Hürriyet,  Türkan and Fatma  whom I long to see.

 

 

Old Verdala 29 December 1919

My dear wife,

This week I did not receive a letter from any of you. Our friends also like me remained without letters.  Rather than the letters coming more regularly the mail delivery is becoming more deficient. Most likely you too are not receiving the letters that I am writing in a steady manner. I know how tiresome you will find the weeks that you do not receive a letter.  Even though I am a strong man  even I suffer when I don’t receive a letter.  What can we do, we must put up with this also! Every disaster ends in happiness. God willing in face of these bitter days we will also see some sweet ones. My health is very good. My days flow like water. I keep busy with lessons and conferences. I have no free time to be bored. When I don’t get any news about your condition, I become concerned. Every week you put a few letters in the mail and you give a few letters to the embassy but the postmen don’t deliver them, the censors don’t examine them quickly.  Don’t these men know what family letters mean? What is the point of making people with hearts so sad? I had written that a container of cheese also arrived last week. From now on put the letters in the mail on different days. The letters given to the mail service arrive quicker.  And I am sending you post cards in addition to letters. And I will send you as many letters as possible.  If one is delayed maybe the other will come first. And let your letter be a little detailed. Write about your health. You must have your teeth done. It is not right to delay this.  If you don’t take good care of your health I will no longer value my life. Until now I have been very careful with my health. But you are not taking my advice about health and hygiene. You should try and maintain good health before it goes bad.  You are neglecting your uterine disease. You are neglecting your teeth. This is not right. Due to these reasons I am upset with you. You must definitely listen to my wishes in these areas. I want you to pay attention to your health and our children’s health. Apparently a photographer will come on Tuesday.  That means that it should be possible to have a picture taken. When the picture is taken I’ll send it. I was weighed again this week. I came to 87 kilos. That means that here in a month I gained two more kilos. Our food is good. The air here is also good. The season is like Fall. My sibling will also depart one of these days. Greetings to Ihsan, Nedim, Hasim, Halim, Ragib and Zeki bey, to Hoca and Feyziye hanim. Kisses to Seniha, Hurriyet, Turkan, Fatma, Seref and Beyhan. Greetings also to Ikbal.  May God protect you, my dear wife!

Monday, 29 December, 1335

Your spouse,

Ziya Gokalp

Sources

The poems are translated from Ziya Gökalp’s Yeni Hayat [New Life, 1918], pp. 9, 11. 17-18.  The letters are translated from Ziya Gökalp Külliyatı II, Limni ve Malta Mektupları. Hazırlayan Fevziye Abdullah Tansel (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi,  1989).

[1]Arabic consonant and one of the wide-spread Arabic end rhymes.

[2]The word Gökalp uses is çeki: 250 kg.

[3]The name of a tree in paradise, a branch of which will enter the mansion of each inhabitant, with flowers and ripe fruit of every imaginable kind.

[4]A Greek member of the Meşrutiyet (Constitutional) parliament who was famous for his hostility toward Turks and pro-Greek stance.