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Hurrem Sultan and Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent

Dressed in her splendid caftan and bejeweled turban,
Hurrem sultan lies sexily on her divan.
Turkish delight and tunes so right,
you name it and you are the fan.
Opulence, magnificence and a majestic ambiance
That is the plan.
A fabulous charmer with exquisiteness to fall under.
Her Magnificent Sultan is to surrender
To her all his power and world to alter
His life, savoring her gorgeousness and growing fonder.
Naked on their nuptial bed down she lies,
His whole might and life to her he ties,
Sweetness and vividness he desires and tries.
The entire world against him, he defies,
any objections to that holy union dies,
a whole life of love, devotion and pain ahead lies.







Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful …
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf …
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this room …
My Istanbul, my Karaman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of sadness …
I’ll sing your praises always
I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy.




The Divan of the Lover

All the universe, one mighty sign, is shown;
God hath myriads of creative acts unknown:
None hath seen them, of the races jinn and men,
None hath news brought from that realm far off from ken.
Never shall thy mind or reason reach that strand,
Nor can tongue the King’s name utter of that land.
Since ’tis his each nothingness with life to vest,
Trouble is there ne’er at all to his behest.
Eighteen thousand worlds, from end to end,
Do not with him one atom’s worth transcend.

—The Oldest Turkish Poem





From Istanbul’s throne a mighty host to Iran guided I;
Sunken deep in blood of shame I made the Golden Heads to lie.
My resolution, lord of Egypt’s realm became:
Thus I raised my royal banner e’en as the Nine Heavens high.
From the kingdom fair of Iraq to Hijaz these tidings sped,
When I played the harp of Heavenly Aid at feast of victory.
Through my saber Transoxania drowned was in a sea of blood;
Emptied I of kohl of Isfahan the adversary’s eye.
Flowed adown a River Amu from each foeman’s every hair—
Rolled the sweat of terror’s fever—if I happed him to espy.
Bishop-mated was the King of India by my Queenly troops,
When I played the Chess of empire on the Board of sov’reignty.
O Selimi, in thy name was struck the coinage of the world,
When in crucible of Love Divine, like gold, that melted I.

—Sultan Selim I (r. 1512-1520)



The Ottoman Sultans, the great patrons of arts and sciences, nurtured a particular affinity for poetry. Thanks to their education and superb knowledge of Oriental-Islamic literary tradition, they not only dictated the poetic taste and criteria, but also applied their own skills to writing poetry, often with great success.

Translation may be regarded as cultural pollination and without translation cultural crossings of national borders are impossible. So, translation forms an essential part of our relationship.

Translating the Ottoman Sultan Poets has been a challenging venture. Their offspring can hardly comprehend the language and implications that existed less than a century ago. Therefore the translator has to build a bridge between past and present, and in doing so he has to bear in mind that successful translation can be achieved by “creative transposition”.

There is no perfect translation and translators are the forgotten saints of the cultural wilderness.

Every society is indebted to translators who overtly or covertly have influenced the development of cultural and technical achievements. Though this may be true, the authenticity of translating has always been open to question. Is it possible to transmute even the minute details of one language to another? The response to this weighty question has been neither “Yes” nor “No”. How can it be formulated even within one language? A written text, regardless of its form, simply cannot be viewed as a wholly self-explanatory act; perception of a text requires the aid of other elements, such as visual equipment and body language.

I hope that readers will find these poems as interesting as the lives of the Sultans.







GHAZI OSMAN BEY  (1258-1326)

Founder of the Ottoman Empire. He spent his life building the Ottoman State. Scholars regularly attended his court. Before he captured the Christian lords, he captured their hearts. He is also known as Fakhruddin.  



O cupbearer drinking friend of last night

Let me live life to the full

O cupbearer bring me my harp and Rebek

Talk to me, talk to my heart

And the day will come; I’ll take my place in the burial ground

And no friend will visit my unmarked grave.

*   *   *   *   *


Son of Chelebi Sultan Mehmed and grandson of Bayazıd the Thunderbolt. At the age of eighteen he ascended the throne. He was the sixth Sultan. He spent his reign warring with Crusaders and rebels. When he restored peace in the land, he gave up his throne to his son Prince Mehmed the Second . He retired to Manisa, but his retirement was short lived because of the Crusaders’ attacks and he was called back to the throne by the viziers.

After the war he wanted to return to Manisa but he was asked to stay on. He died a couple of months later. He wrote fine poems, it has been said that even when he talked his words rhymed.  
Saqi, bring me the wine left over from yesterday.

Come, let my lyre speak.

I need this joy and happiness while I am alive

A day will come when no one shall see my dust.


Firstly, it’s the tradition of lovers to sacrifice themselves.

This is the right thing to do.

But he who doesn’t give his life at the beloved’s threshold

Cannot be a lover.

Beware of him

Who has not fallen in love.

He’s worse than four-legged animals.

He who is in love gives his life willingly.

This act has no significance for him.

Listen well to Murad’s words,

His words are a very important and valuable book.

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *


He was the seventh Ottoman Sultan, son of Sultan Murad the Second. He conquered Istanbul. He was not only a man of war but also a man of knowledge. He founded many universities and mosques. He was a patron of art, music, and letters. As a poet he influenced the poets who came after him.


Oh beauty, you’re my Shah.

All I want is to be your slave.

I’d sooner be your slave

Than become Padishah of the World.

You’re penniless, you’re a pauper.

Give me one good reason

Why Avni should  love you?

My beloved tied me with her locks of hair

O dear God, have mercy on your abject slave.

Pity, O heart, you did not listen and loved such beauty!

O heart, you’ve become a laughing-stock.

O heart, she enjoys  tormenting  you!

What can I say, you cannot endure pain, O heart!

My dear heart, O heart, O heart!

 *   *   *   *   *


Eldest son of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. When he was governor in Amasya, the Janisarries asked him to be Sultan. But his brother Jem Sultan opposed his appointment. He built many universities mosques, and public kitchens. He was a patron of art. He was also a master calligrapher. In his poems he used the pen name Adli.


Since this fortune fell upon us

Why aren’t you content with your destiny: what’s wrong?

You claim to be a pilgrim of two sanctuaries.

If that’s so, why worldly greed and desires?

*   *   *   *   *

PRINCE JEM    (1454-1495)

Younger son of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. He was well educated. He revolted against his brother Bayazid the Second. He received the help of pashas and the people of some cities. Bayazid’s army defeated Jem. He took refuge with the Egyptian Mamluks, even the Knights of St. John at Rhodes, when he went to Rhodes he was received with full honours by the Grand Master and his Knights. Later they sent him off to France. He was poisoned by order of the Pope Alexander VI. He was a distinguished poet; he wrote poems in Persian and Turkish.


The fire of love inflames the heart,

The eyes shed tears,

My tears wash the land of the heart.

A building cannot stand against floods.

My stupid antagonist donkey may wear silk dresses

But that won’t change her nature.

My eyes don’t cry when they see you

Because the sun  dries the place she looks at.

*   *   *   *   *


Son of Sultan Bayazıd the Second, he was a warrior Sultan and a poet of distinction. He wrote poems in Turkish and Persian. He was a patron of the arts, he protected scholars, and judges as well as poets.


The moon is beautiful I said to myself

And I salute such beauty

Suddenly I wanted to look at her

The sun rose and shone upon my thoughts


Everyone knows that you’re the master at hunting hearts

Ey! Don’t let your cruelty spread all over the world.

Why you behave like a stranger I don’t know.

What is this? A new affectation, torment, or flirting ?


*   *   *   *   *

HARIMI     PRINCE KORKUT  (1470-1513)

Son of Sultan Bayazıd  the Second, he was Sultan for only seventeen days. He fought against his father for a long time. He was strangled. He was a scholar and a patron of art. He was also a calligrapher. He did research in Arabic and wrote books in Arabic and Turkish.

Fresh wounds on my breast…

As if I’m ruined, crows have landed on me.

While you’re a youthful beauty

Have mercy on one who gave his heart to you!

Otherwise my tears murmur like water.

Whenever I remember your black hair and fall into despair

O my beauty, clouds weep for me.

When the bird of  the heart wishes to fly  from your rose garden

The sweet smell of your hair ties its claw.

O Harimi! they plot to kill me,

So be it! All these fresh wounds are my longing for the beloved.

*   *   *   *   *


Reigned 1520-1566. He was known as the Magnificent and also the Lawgiver. He was a patron of the arts, beside being an established poet. He was the tenth Ottoman Sultan. During his reign the Empire reached its zenith. He was a goldsmith, and wrote poems under the pseudonym Muhibbi.


Muhibbi, do not say ‘No’

even if you were tortured and killed by the beloved.

Is it fair if a destitute starts conversing with the Sultan?

Though sugar is known as sweet in the World

But O my darling, your lips are sweeter.


Ill-heart, since it’s gone mad with your love,

Met with a thousand disputes.

Today I, the Majnun

Wherever I look Leila is there.

If I die in the way of love,

Nymphs shall rub their eyes. with my dust.

My lungs’ blood will flow non-stop

Since the beloved with arched-eyebrows

Hit me with her arrow eyelashes.

I drank the wine of love at the day of predestination

That’s why Muhibbi became a laughing-stock


O Suleiman; here’s your crown:

To be generous and kind hearted

Is the pageantry of the throne


If you want to see your subjects happy

Do not be arrogant, think that they may be

better than yourself.

We are all brothers; we must love each other

O Suleiman a true Moslem regards this solemn behest.


Act wisely, but do not remain unknown,

Shelter the good, and be severe to wrongdoers.


To be a tyrant like a Tartar Khan

Doesn’t befit a Sultan.


Staying silent against aggression

Is as good as taking part.


Do not hibernate; be awake on your throne

Our strong hands hold the fate of the World.


We have to fight to earn

The regard and affection of men.

*   *   *   *   *

SHAHİ        PRINCE BAYAZID  (1527-1562)

Second son of Süleyman the Magnificent. He rebelled against his father to become Sultan. He was exiled to Iran, but Tahmaseb the Iranian Shah murdered his men and handed over Prince Bayazid to Selim’s men. He was killed with his four sons and buried in Sivas. He was a scholar and a good poet.

I’m before your High Presence,

Forgiveness and mercy from you, repentance from me.

Dear God, I couldn’t keep my promises.

I don’t have the strength to make myself straight.

At the hand of my worldly desires

I found no rest in that house of grief

My Queen sends her greetings to her follower.

Dear Majesty, give long life.

Her prayer and salaams were the good news

I gave my life for.

A remedy has reached  my sick soul.

Because of  parting I’m burned down like a candle.

Burning all the time is the lover’s job.

I cry like a nightingale at nights

O my rose, in your beauty’s garden.

It’s you, O my darling who keep my heart at ease.

A happy life is prohibited for Shahi in this world.

O beloved, with your partings of yearning

I sigh, I sigh, I sigh without you.

With your hair to see the daylight

I’m hesitant, I’m hesitant, I’m hesitant

To kiss your lips

I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting.

Longing for you for years,

I shed tears, I shed tears, I shed tears.

Because of the sun from your face

I’m bright, I’m bright, I’m bright.

With the last glass

I’m drunk, I’m drunk, I’m drunk.

Ey Shahi if I die from love of the beloved

I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy.

Beloved, to the lover who loves you from his heart

Be loyal to him, be loyal, be loyal.

Do not torment, be kind, my darling.

Do not hurt too much, not too much, but a little.

Be kind, O Beloved.

Be aware, be aware, be aware.

Let me see you too fall in love as Shahi did,

You fell in love, you fell in love, you fell in love!



*   *   *   *   *


Son of Sultan Ahmed the first. He was aged fourteen when he was crowned. He was busy fighting wars and trying to reform the armed forces in particular the Janissaries. However, the Janissaries rebelled and strangled him in the infamous Yedikule Prison.



My intention was to serve my people and my state.

My foes cannot bear me, they try to disgrace and dethrone me.


If you become the Shah

Do you think you’re not close to the earth?

If you’re a rich Bey,

It’s nice to have a good time in this world’s house.

Farisi, are you not to be judged

for your deeds on the Day.

*   *   *   *   *

VEFAİ          MEHMED  THE FOURTH   (1642-1693)

Son of Sultan Ibrahim. When his father was removed from the throne, he was crowned as Sultan at a young age. An inexperienced sultan, he failed to introduce any remedy for corruption which was a social menace. He loved hunting.


Your rose-like face, tulip-like cheeks- what a beauty!

When your lovers are on the dusty road where you passed

You pretend not to see us and humiliate us,- what a beauty!

You cheat your lovers who are at your door saying their prayers-

What a beauty!

And you promise for tomorrow- What a beauty!

Ey Vefai, when you see your beloved happy

Your sighs are so beautiful!

 *   *   *   *   *



*   *   *   *   *

NEJIB      AHMED THE THIRD   (1673-1736)

Son of Sultan Mehmed the fourth, he became Sultan after his brother Sultan Mustafa the Second.

He wanted to introduce western style reforms into the country. During his reign many rebellions took place against the Palace authority. He was removed from the throne by the Patrona Khalil rebellion.

He indulged in entertainment, and nightlife. On the one hand he was attempting to restore law and order in the country, on the other, he was a regular face in “low life” circles. Died at the age of 63.


O Messenger of God, your cheeks reflect His Light.

O messenger of God, your face gives pleasure.

Your birth is His bounty to us

That erased the darkness of ignorance.

O Messenger of God, all believers know this.

In the rosary of prophethood, you’re a rose bush.

O my most honoured Padishah.

Your abundant morale is the panacea for Nejip’s illness,

O Messenger of God.

*   *   *   *   *


Eldest son of Sultan Ahmed the Third. He was crowned in 1757. He was a man of good intentions but failed to stop decline. Due to his failure he fell ill and died in 1774. He knew Turkish literature well. In his poems he used Jehangir as his pen-name.


This world is in ruins, don’t think it can be put right.

Wretched fortune gave the state to good-for-nothing people.

Now the civil servants are all corrupt and villains

Our only hope remains in God’s compassion and mercy

*   *   *   *   *


Son of Mustafa the Third. He was keen to westernise the Empire. He attempted to abolish the Janissary system. He set up a new army; soon the Janissaries dethroned Selim III, and Mustafa the Fourth was crowned as Sultan. He did not last either. Mahmud II was restored to the throne. Selim III tried to end corruption and punished the civil servants who were oppressing the people. He was a musician as well as a poet.  


Write İlhami, write down the sufferings of the heart,

Don’t hold your tongue.

It’s an art to be a friend to love and poetry.

O merciful Master

You’re the Sultan.

O generous One; we ask you for help

You’re the healer.


You’ve created all the worlds.

The sky has no pillars

And you make the birds fly.

You’re the Protector of the world.


 *   *   *   *   *


The Thirtieth Ottoman Sultan. Son of Sultan Abdulhamid the First, he reigned for 31 years. The most important reform he introduced was to abolish the Janisaary system. He was a calligrapher of distinction, and a musician.



O my beloved, my heart desires

To go to Chamlica tomorrow.

Don’t refuse me, dear one,

Tomorrow we go to Chamlica.


Where all the friends assemble

there’s no rest

My heart wants to be alone with you.

One day we should go to Fenerbahche but

Tomorrow, my darling, let’s go to Chamlica.




TRUE love has vanished from every heart;
What has befallen all lovers fair?
When did the bonds of friendship part?—
What has befallen the friends that were?
Ah, why are the feet of Khizr lingering?—
The waters of life are no longer clear,
The purple rose has turned pale with fear,
And what has befallen the wind of Spring?

None now sayeth: “A love was mine,
Loyal and wise, to dispel my care.”
None remembers love’s right divine;
What has befallen all lovers fair?
In the midst of the field, to the players’ feet,
The ball of God’s favour and mercy came,
But none has leapt forth to renew the game—
What has befallen the horsemen fleet?

Roses have bloomed, yet no bird rejoiced,
No vibrating throat has rung with the tale;
What can have silenced the hundred-voiced?
What has befallen the nightingale?
Heaven’s music is hushed, and the planets roll
In silence; has Zohra broken her lute?
There is none to press out the vine’s ripe fruit,
And what has befallen the foaming bowl?

A city where kings are but lovers crowned,
A land from the dust of which friendship springs—
Who has laid waste that enchanted ground?
What has befallen the city of kings?
Years have passed since a ruby was won
From the mine of manhood; they labour in vain,
The fleet-footed wind and the quickening rain,
And what has befallen the light of the sun?

Hafiz, the secret of God’s dread task
No man knoweth, in youth or prime
Or in wisest age; of whom would’st thou ask:
What has befallen the wheels of Time?








When it comes to warding off the mystic malevolent forces of the world, there is perhaps no charm more recognised or renowned than the ‘evil eye’.

People who are envious or simply believe that a person does not deserve the good fortune bestowed on them give the evil eye subconsciously. Therefore, these “talismans” are designed to ward off such bad looks.

Almost every Turkish person I know has one to carry around with them or display in their home. It does not matter whether it works, they just need it there, and much like a child clings to a comfort blanket, the (evil eye) Nazar Boncuğu provides peace of mind.  It is said that when an evil eye cracks, it has done its job of protecting you and must be replaced.

Plutarch’s explanation: the human eye had the power of releasing invisible rays of energy.

With such an ardent and widespread belief that a stare held the power to inflict catastrophic misfortune, it’s no surprise that the people of these ancient civilizations sought out a means to repel it, which led to the earliest iterations of the nazar amulet that we know today. Just how far back do these go? “The earliest version of eye amulets goes back to 3,300 BC,” Dr Nese Yildiran, an art history professor at Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University, tells BBC Culture. “The amulets had been excavated in Tell Brak, one of the oldest cities of Mesopotamia – modern day Syria. They were in the form of some abstract alabaster idols made with incised eyes.”

While the alabaster idols of Tell Brak seem to be one of the oldest eye amulets discovered, they are a far cry from the typical blue glass we know today, the earliest iterations of which didn’t begin appearing in the Mediterranean until around 1500 BCE. How were these early prototypes of Tell Brak distilled into the more modern versions?

“The glass beads of the Aegean islands and Asia Minor were directly dependent upon improvements in glass production,” Yildiran explains. “As for the colour blue, it definitely first comes from Egyptian glazed mud, which contains a high percentage of oxides; the copper and cobalt give the blue colour when baked.”

Yildiran makes reference to several blue Eye of Horus pendants excavated in Egypt, asserting that these could in a way be seen as the most influential predecessor to the modern nazar. According to Yildiran, early Turkic tribes held a strong fascination with this shade of blue because of its connections with their sky deity, Tengri, and likely co-opted the use of cobalt and copper as a result.

About 3,000 years ago, Sumerians wrote on a cuneiform tablet that there are water cures against the Evil Eye. The ancient text reads:” The eye ad-gir, the eye a man has…. The eye afflicting man with evil, the ad-gir. Unto heaven is approached and the storms sent to rain.”  The next part of the text involves a Sumerian cure. “Seven vases of meal-water behind grinding stones. With oil mix. Upon (his) face apply.”




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