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The Bhagavad Gita


The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

A history of Ottoman poetry

by Elias John Wilkinson Gibb


The poetry of the Second Period is therefore entirely medieval, neither more so nor less than that of the age preceding or that of the age following. Consequently the parallelism that has hitherto prevailed between Eastern and Western poetry now comes to an end; for the first few years, before the genius of the Renaissance has entirely superseded the medieval spirit in the West, the resemblance indeed continues, but it quickly fades, and before the end of the fifteenth century disappears altogether.

But while the spirit that inspires Ottoman poetry remains unchanged and the ideals of the poets continue essentially the same, the new age is marked by many modifications. Thus the provincialism of the former time has passed away. The Second Period finds the several members of the Turkish family in Western Asia once more united under a single flag. Constantinople has been won, a worthy metropolis for the reborn nation; and the West-Turkish race is ready to set forth on its career of conquest. And it is to the Ottoman that the Turks owe this; it is the Ottoman who has gathered together the shattered fragments of the Seljuq's empire, and welded them into a nation which shall ride in triumph from Hungary to Arabia and from Persia to Morocco. And by virtue of the great deeds he has done, the Ottoman is paramount in the West-Turkish world; not indeed in the narrow exclusive sense of reserving for himself the high offices of the state — for these, except the highest, are open to all — but in the better sense of extending his name, with all the prestige surrounding it and all the privilege it confers, to every individual in the nation he has created. And so the Turk of Kutahiya or of Qonya no longer calls himself a Germiyanli or a Qaramanli, but is fain to style himself an Ottoman. Similarly, when he writes a poem or a book, he no longer makes use of the dialect of Germiyan or Qaraman, but writes as far as he may in that of the cOsmanli, which is now the language of the court and capital of the great nation to which he is privileged to belong. Thus it comes about that the works of the Second and following Periods are, with but few exceptions, all written in one dialect, that of the cOsmanli. And this is the reason why we have said that the beginning of the Second Period is the true starting-point of Ottoman poetry properly so-called. 1

But it is not only in matters political and dialectic that there has been a change; a seeming transformation has occurred in the realms of poetry. When we reach the Second Period we enter into an ideal world. The voices of theologian and schoolman are silent, and in their stead we hear the lover's sigh and the nightingale's lament. The poets seem to move in an enchanted land full of blooming roses and singing birds and beauties fair beyond all telling. And we too, when we enter this fairyland, seem to pass beneath the influence of some magic spell. We wander on as in a dream, knowing not whether the lovely forms that arise on every hand are realities or shadows. A radiant iridescent haze envelops all things, rendering them vague and uncertain, while it transfigures them. For we are in the realm between heaven and earth, where the Mystic Love has met the Human and joined hands, and the two have become one. And so it were vain to ask whether what we see is the sweet face of some mortal fair one or a flash from the Eternal Beauty, a glimpse of God's own Self.

Things are so because the work of this Period is the Ottoman counterpart of that produced at the culmination of the so-called classic age of Persia. After having leavened every branch of Persian literature, the purely mystical school, that of such writers as cAttar, Jelal-ud-Din, and Sultan Veled, had passed away and been succeeded by another, where the mystic and the material, the supersensuous and the sensuous, were inextricably interwoven, and where almost every sentence was susceptible of a double interpretation — a literal and an allegoric. This school, which cultivated chiefly

1 Voi. 1, pp. 125 et seqq.

lyric and and romantic poetry, and which was distinguished by its love of artifice, reached its meridian in the latter half of the fifteenth century at the brilliant court of the scholarly and accomplished Sultan Huseyn Bayqara of Herat. Here its spirit and substance were gathered up and summarised in their manifold works by the two greatest men of letters of the day, the poet Jami and the statesman Mir cAH Shfr-i Newa'i. As these two illustrious writers were the guiding stars of the Ottoman poets during the whole of the Second Period, it will be well to look for a moment at their work.

Jami, who was born in 817 (1414—5) and died in 898 (1492—3), may be said to represent in himself this last of the classic schools of Persian literature. Without perhaps adding much that is original, he presents in masterly fashion, in a long series of works, both in prose and poetry, all the erudition and culture of his age. Thus in his Baharistan or 'Spring-land' we have a graceful and charming example of ■the didactic literature initiated by Sacdi in the Gulistan or 'Rose-land' on which this later work is avowedly modelled. Then his three Dfwans of lyric verses bear witness to the' supremacy of the ghazel, a supremacy first advanced by Khusraw of Dehli and soon afterwards assured by the genius of Hafiz. But the work to which Jami most owes his fame, through the virtue of which pre-eminently he won his commanding influence over Ottoman literature, is the magnificent series of seven mesnevis — romantic, mystic, didactic — collectively called the Heft Awrang or 'Seven Thrones', the Persian name of the constellation known among us by the more homely designation of the Plough.

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