The Black Earth

 

Ashik Veysel, the last of the Turkish minstrels died in 1973. He was blind for most of his life. His songs whose lyrics and melody he composed in the Anatolian tradition,  covered many themes. He sang his songs while playing on the baglama. This is my translation of his song “Kara Toprak”, The Black Earth. My words in English in no way matches the beauty of the Turkish language. His thoughts are worth sharing though.    

 

MY FAITHFUL FRIEND, THE BLACK EARTH

 

Many have I called as a friend and embraced them.

 

It is however, the black earth that is my true friend.

 

I have wandered in vain, became tired for no reason.

 

The black earth remains my true friend.

 

I connected with many a beautiful damsel.

 

From them I gained no loyalty nor benefit.

 

Every desire I had, I received from the earth.

 

It continues to be my faithful friend, this black earth.

It gave me sheep, gave me lamb, gave me milk.

It gave me food, gave me bread and gave me meat.

If I did not dig, it gave me no yield. 

The black earth continues to be my true friend.

From Adam to this generation, this earth continues to yield.

All varieties of fruit it gave to me.

Its surface supported me each day. 

A devoted friend, to me, is this black earth.

Its belly I split with the pick axe and spade.

Its face I tore with the nails on my fingers.

Yet it greeted me with a rose.  

 This devoted friend of mine, the black earth.

While I tortured it, it smiled.

There is no untruth in all that I have seen.

When I gave it one seed, it gave me 4 vegetable gardens.

 

The black earth continues to be my true friend.

 

When I looked up to feel the wind, I felt the air.

 

When I looked down to the earth, I received blessings.

 

Where will I be if I abandon this earth?

 

This black earth, my true friend !

If truth is searched, only then a point is revealed

 

That Allah is close to man, the servant, as man is to Allah.

 

Divine truth is hidden like a treasure in the earth.

 

A true friend to me is this black earth.

 

The earth conceals all my faults.

 

All wounds of mine are healed by its salve.

 

It waits for me with open arms.

 

This true friend of mine, the black earth.

 

Whoever attains the truth of this mystical manifestation.

 

He will leave for the rest of the world an undying sign.

 

A day will arrive when this earth will weigh down on Veysel's bosom. 

 

This black earth is indeed, a true friend of mine.

Read at the Rivertown Poetry Evening, Aqus café, Petaluma.

 

Gifted this at an Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa to Dr. Vandana Shiva, famous environmental activist from India.

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Vasanti Jayaswal

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