Poems by Turkey’s Yahya Kemal

Evening Music
translated by Sidney Wade and Yurdanur Salman


In the antique gardens of Kandilli,
As the evening settles, veil over veil,
The aching pleasures of memory prevail.

No one comes or watches from balconies.
In the middle of a lonely road the breeze
Is toying with the October leaves.

The hours deeper and deeper dance,
As with tender steps, in its slow expanse,
Silence makes a sure advance.

The neck-hairs bristle, the mind’s a blur.
Darkness enters every door.
Its footsteps are now too familiar.

The world recedes, the vision dims.
As in the Thousand and One Nights, it seems
A dream begins within a dream.


Bebek Ghazal
translated by Sidney Wade and Yurdanur Salman


What consolation remains to the soul but wine,
Or three nights long-lit by a Bosphorus moon?

We never shared much in the world’s rich legacy,
Except in our reflections on the waters of Bebek Bay.

We have no merchandise or property to offer the world
Other than five or ten ghazals from an exhausted heart.

We prefer reaching towards endless silence.
Other than long suffering, what is there to Life?

We do not expect serenity on this earth,
Kemal, except in the company of the ever-stilled.



Yahya Kemal (1884-1958) was Turkey’s great early modernist poet. His career resembled that of Yeats in the English-speaking world—he was a beautiful lyric poet, a passionate nationalist, and a great statesman. He wrote often of life in the villages on the Bosphorus.

A classical ghazal is a form borrowed from the Persian tradition consisting of five or more rhyming couplets, the final one containing the name or pen-name of the poet. Bebek is a village at the edge of Istanbul on the western shore of the Bosphorus.

Read two Iranian ghazals translated by Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., here on Little Star.

Coming soon: Translations of Melih Cevdet Anday, by Sidney Wade and Efe Murad

Sidney Wade has published five collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Stroke, from Persea Books. She has served as President of AWP and Secretary/Treasurer of ALTA and has taught workshops in Poetry and Translation at the University of Florida’s MFA@FLA program since 1993.  She and her co-translator, Efe Murad, have just completed a selection of the poems of the Turkish poet Melih Cevdet Anday.

Yurdanur Salman is a translator and former lecturer on Turkish literature and translation living in Istanbul. She has translated twenty-five books, including many works of  fiction and literary criticism. As General Secretary of the Turkish PEN Association she compiled the Turkish PEN Reader, for distribution to the International PEN associations.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Comments are closed.