On seeing yesterday's tull poem, Amit Chakrabarti chimed in with a guest theme - rock lyrics:
(Poem #742) I Come and Stand at Every Door
I come and stand at every door But no one hears my silent tread I knock and yet remain unseen For I am dead, for I am dead. I'm only seven although I died In Hiroshima long ago I'm seven now as I was then When children die they do not grow. My hair was scorched by swirling flame My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind Death came and turned my bones to dust And that was scattered by the wind. I need no fruit, I need no rice I need no sweet, nor even bread I ask for nothing for myself For I am dead, for I am dead. All that I ask is that for peace You fight today, you fight today So that the children of this world May live and grow and laugh and play.
[Comments] I first learned of this poem listening casually to the album "Fifth Dimension" by the Byrds. Somewhere in the middle of the poem the lyrics grabbed my attention and jerked me alert from my state of casual listening. I remember rewinding and re-listening to the song another couple of times till I'd got all the lyrics and was seriously impressed. As it turns out, these words were penned by Nazim Hikmet, one of the foremost modern Turkish poets. Several artists have turned this poem to song (the other notable being Pete Seeger), and as far as I could find out all of them use the same words. It is not clear to me whose English translation the above is. I would love to know. Turning to the poem itself: it's the stark imagery in the third stanza that I find the most moving. The only fellow Byrds enthusiast I know finds the quote "When children die they do not grow" memorable. I think the conceit of a little ghost from an alien land wandering around with his desperate plea is beautiful; contrast this with other conceits seen in antiwar poems. I'm somewhat puzzled by the choice of the word "fight" in the child's plea in the final stanza; "work" sounds more right to me. Could any Turkish reader familiar with the original please comment upon this? [The Byrds and this song] It is unfortunate that all but a few ardent classic rock fans know the Byrds only as "those pleasant 1960's popsters who gave us those feel good tunes like 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' and did several Bob Dylan covers". Certainly, their first couple of albums didn't stray too far from this image. The third album "Fifth Dimension" which was by turns psychedelic, dark, jazzy and sombre must, therefore, have come as something of a shock in 1966. The Nazim Hikmet poem is given a slow, dirge-like reading and set to a simple minor key melody clearly designed to not interfere with the words. Unfortunately though they were maturing musically by leaps and bounds, the bandmembers of the Byrds soon broke apart. As a result the Byrds got to produce only two more albums (after "Fifth Dimension") of superb material before sinking into relative mediocrity. Amit. [Nazim Hikmet] b. 1902, Salonika, Ottoman Empire [now Thessaloníki, Greece] d. June 2, 1963, Moscow ...one of the most important and influential figures in 20th-century Turkish literature. ...Nazim Hikmet grew up in Anatolia; after briefly attending the Turkish naval academy, he studied economics and political science at the University of Moscow. Returning home as a Marxist in 1924 after the advent of the new Turkish Republic, he began to work for a number of journals and started Communist propaganda activities. In 1951 he left Turkey forever after serving a lengthy jail sentence for his radical and subversive activities. From then on he lived in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, where he continued to work for the ideals of world Communism. His mastery of language and introduction of free verse and a wide range of poetic themes strongly influenced Turkish literature in the late 1930s. After early recognition with his patriotic poems in syllabic metre, in Moscow he came under the influence of the Russian Futurists, and by abandoning traditional poetic forms, indulging in exaggerated imagery, and using unexpected associations, he attempted to "depoetize" poetry. Later his style became quieter... ...Although previously censored, after his death in 1963 all his works were published and widely read, and he became a poet of the people and a revolutionary hero of the Turkish left. Many of his works have been translated into English, including Selected Poems (1967), The Moscow Symphony (1970), The Day Before Tomorrow (1972), and Things I Didn't Know I Loved (1975). ...the figure of Nazim Hikmet (died 1963) looms large in Turkish poetry. Expressing his progressive social attitude in truly poetical form, he used free rhythmical patterns quite brilliantly to enrapture his readers; his style, as well as his powerful, unforgettable images, has deeply influenced not only Turkish but also progressive Urdu and Persian poetry from the 1930s onward. -- EB [Minstrels Links] (Anti-)War poems: Poem #132, "Dulce Et Decorum Est", Wilfred Owen Poem #232, "Insensibility", Wilfred Owen Poem #288, "Futility", Wilfred Owen Poem #321, "Strange Meeting", Wilfred Owen Poem #385, "Base Details", Siegfried Sassoon Poem #535, "The Working Party", Siegfried Sassoon Poem #395, "Naming of Parts", Henry Reed