Love Is An Eternal Sun Yunus Emre

SPEAKING TO US DOWN THE CENTURIES WITH HIS WORDS FROM THE HEART, YUNUS EMRE BELONGS NOT JUST TO ANATOLIA BUT TO THE WORLD.

If a world poetry exhibition were to open one day, and every country from Somalia to Canada, Egypt to Ukraine and England to Peru were to submit two of the greatest poems in its language, poems that encapsulate its past and present… if every country were to choose the two poets that best express its own people, which two poets’ poems would Turkey send to that exhibition? To my mind there is only one poet to represent Turkish civilization and the Turkish people for all time: Yunus Emre. And the second would be Fuzuli.

THE BABY TEETH OF THE TURKISH LANGUAGE
Yunus Emre is a hero. He is the yeast that fermented Anatolia. The baby teeth of the Turkish language. Whatever city you go to in Turkey, you will find a slew of people named Yunus. So do people only give this name to their children? Not at all! As you stroll through any street in Anatolia, you may read this name on signs for anything and everything. Why do they love him so much? Why do they regard him as their own child, or the good kid on the block, and call him ‘Bizim Yunus’ (Our Yunus) Becasue Yunus Emre voice is like a rippling brook. To listening ears he says, “I came not for conflict / My work is love.” “Despite so much material wealth / Shallowness of heart does not go away,” he whispers. “Once you’ve broken a heart / Your prayers mean nothing,” he chides. Or, “Learning is knowing things / Knowledge is knowing oneself.” He goes even further: “Land owner, property owner / And what about the original owner?”

FOR SEVEN CENTURIES
There is no doubt that Yunus Emre is the most powerful poet in the Turkish language. His voice has never stopped resounding for seven centuries. But is he merely a poet? Of course not. He is a great humanist, an outstanding thinker, a profound mentor and, of course, a simple man of Anatolia. Perhaps for that reason everyone finds a bit of himself in Yunus, as if Yunus were a blood relative.

FLAG CARRIER OF THE TURKISH LANGUAGE
We loved Yunus because he was the flag carrier of our language, the voice of pure Turkish. In that time, when Arabic was the learned language of the Anatolian Seljuks and Persian their literary tongue, he was the sage who represented in literature the pure Turkish which was the mirror of the civilization the Oghuz tribes were carrying their genes when they arrived in Anatolia. It was he who made the words spoken by Mevlânâ Jalaleddin Rumi and  his classical culture of the Iranian periphery the property of the common people. He who brought that profound thought home to the masses of people, he who dissolved the sugar in the water, so to speak, and brought music and harmony to the language! The secret underlying his poems, which are readily comprehensible even today, lies concealed in his clear, pure language. For the most beautiful sounds in the Turkish lands poured into the popular language from his lines, collecting first in a spring, then bursting forth in a river and finally flowing to the sea.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE: YUNUS

OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIS LIFE IS SKETCHY. BUT ONE THING WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN IS THAT HE WAS BORN IN 1320 OR 1321, THE YEAR DANTE DIED.

It is nothing short of astonishing to see that the two literary giants of the age fulfilled the same mission. A devout Christian, Dante expressed the most complex ideas in his poetry in his own unique style. And Yunus Emre, a great mystic, filled his poems with some of the most potent and convoluted mystical images with extraordinary clarity and simplicity. But most importantly of all, Dante has the distinction of having forged modern Italian by writing in the Florentine dialect, an evolved form of Latin, while Yunus Emre undertook a similar task by transforming Turkish into a literary and cultural language. Yunus Emre lived of course in the tortuous and turbulent period when the Seljuks were in decline and the Ottoman Principalities were springing up. His role as a creator/founder was therefore only recognized much later in the national literature movement that arose at the start of the twentieth century. But the power and stark simplicity of his language are far more radical and seminal than any mere attempt at innovation. What is manifested in his poetry is the expressive power of the Turkish language in all its naked splendor. If the character of a people and a nation can be distilled in the power of speech to express emotion, in other words, in language, then the linguistic richness of Turkish can be said to have found its first authoritative voice in the genius of Yunus Emre.

HE ENRAPTURES THE READER
Yunus’s way of speaking is plain and simple, his simplicity virtually inimitable. What we mean here by simplicity is not simpleness of thought but clarity of expression. Yunus treated the most abstruse images of mystical thought in his poems, and explaining or interpreting them is far from easy. But these images are so clear, so simply expressed, that they immediately captivate the reader with their lithe fluency. What’s more, this mode of expression speaks to both the most naive and the most sophisticated reader in one and the same breath. How familiar to us is that phenomenon they used to call ‘air’ or tone. It prompts us to say ‘Yes! That’s it!’, but in a universal dimension that does not descend into parochial generalities: “Yes! That is how the Turkish people confront death, yes, that is how they are melancholy in love, how they sigh, how they seize the day. “ And that is an extraordinary accomplishment. A miracle that let us know ourselves, that enabled us to understand and express the world in language, binding us to it with all its might, a miracle that transformed a speechless people into a nation with a tongue. That is why his tombs are all over the place, that is why we speak of him not as of some superior creative being above the ordinary dead but rather of a friend and confidant who made us who we are. To us he is not Yunus Emre, but simply Yunus.
 
THE GREAT MYSTIC
What distinguishes him from other folk poets is that he was a great mystic. While he expressed life and death, being and nothingness, in terms, of course, of ‘absolute existence’, he also gives the reader a chance to experience them without referring to those philosophical categories. And that, above all, is a sign of his great universality of spirit. At the same time I believe it is also a sign of the flexibility of mysticism that it is compatible with universal values. Mysticism - the doctrine of the Unity of Being in particular - was the principal dynamic of the cultural climate of 13th century Anatolia. It was a century of geniuses characterized by supreme tolerance, from Mevlânâ Jalaladdin Rumi to Ibn Arabî. And Yunus is the culmination of that tradition, the quintessential product of that cultural climate. But he also has a surprising side that manifests itself in the unexpected. When he says, “There is another me in me, deep inside myself,” or “The person in love goes to rack and ruin, the lover knows not religion and piety,” he is the perfect Sufi. But then he turns around and says, “I climbed the plum tree and ate grapes there,” which is pure irrationality. We can’t call him a Surrealist, but perhaps we might read him again from a surrealist point of view and embrace him as a precursor of new styles of writing.

Spot:
While he expressed life and death, being and nothingness, in terms, of course, of ‘absolute existence’, he also gives the reader a chance to experience them without referring to those philosophical categories.

WAKING UP WITHOUT THE SUN (DETAIL)
SUN DREAMS (DETAIL)
BEHIND THE SUN (DETAIL)
SUN DREAMS (DETAIL)
LOVE IS AN ETERNAL SUN (DETAIL)
BEHIND THE SUN (DETAIL)
SUN DREAMS (DETAIL)
WAKING UP WITHOUT THE SUN (DETAIL)
LOVE IS AN ETERNAL SUN (DETAIL)