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    x0x TARANCI : NARCISSUS ALIVE By Prof. Talat S.Halman Love and death were at the core of the narcissus that symbolizes the poetic art of Cahit Sitki Taranci.
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2001

      By Prof. Talat S.Halman

      Love and death were at the core of the narcissus that symbolizes the
      poetic art of Cahit Sitki Taranci. Few poets in Turkey or elsewhere had as
      their hallmark such interfusions of the joys and agonies of living. Fear
      of any yearning for death. Love apotheosized. Simple sentiments distilled
      into exquisite, yet sometimes excruciating lines. For Taranci, love always
      affirms - and death, no matter how passionately it might be longed for,
      ineluctably negates all hope. One of his most powerful poems, "After
      Death", is a chilling lyric of shattered faith in life and its aftermath.

      With many hopes about death we perished,
      But the charm was broken in a vacuum.
      Our song of love we cannot help exhume,
      A view of the sky, tuft of twigs, bird's plume;
      Living was a habit we had cherished.
      No news comes from the world now or ever;
      No one misses us, no soul cares to know,
      The darkness of our night is endless, so
      We might just as well do without a window;
      Our image has faded from the river.

      A sensitive, modest and withdrawn person, Taranci led an uneventful life.
      Born in 1910 in the eastern city of Diyarbakir, he had his middle school
      education at the St. Joseph and Galatasaray Lycees in Istanbul. Both
      lycees, where the principal language of instruction was French, gave young
      Cahit Sitki an encompassing knowledge of French literature. Before
      graduation from Galatasaray, he had started publishing poems in leading
      literary journals. After four years at the School of Political Science, he
      quit, and later went to Paris in 1939 for further graduate studies. World
      War II forced him to return to Turkey in 1940. He made his living as a
      translator at several official agencies. In 1946, his long poem entitled
      "Age Thirty-five" won First Prize in the prestigious Poetry Contest
      organized by CHP, Turkey's ruling party. In 1956 he died in Vienna where
      he was under treatment for cancer.

      Many of Taranci's early poems employed a colloquial style in expressing
      undramatic daily experiences:


      Our embrace linked us so
      We got so ecstatic that we forgot
      To put out the lamp
      Or to draw the curtains.
      Suddenly the day is ripe
      And the sun peeps through the window.
      Goodbye, dearest night,
      We must follow the day now.
      Forgive us lamp
      We dragged you all the way here,
      Forgive us our drunkenness;
      You go on home while there's still time,
      As for us we'll go our daily way.
      Farewell lamp,
      We entrust our nights to you.

      He shaped his utopian vision with easy lyric formulations:


      I want a country
      Where the sky will be blue, branches green,
      cornfields yellow
      A land of birds and flowers.

      I want a country
      Where there'll be no headache nor heartache
      Where brothers will no longer fight.

      I want a country
      Where there'll be no rich or poor, no you or me
      Where everyone will find hearth and home.

      I want a country
      Where living will be like loving from the heart
      Where if there is a complaint it will be about death.

      Taranci often evoked the soul's transmogrified panoramas, as in "Terror":

      Gently daylight recoiled from the windowpane
      Baring all the mirrors desolate and stark;
      Now in the gardens the voices of silence reign
      And the dome of the sky is a blotch of dark

      From fountains and springs water has ceased to pour
      So our empty glasses may be filled no more;
      Where narcissus had bloomed now a minotaur
      Forbids passage to the birds that flee in vain.

      Scylla is precious and so is Charybdis,
      I fear the night and its dark-ridden abyss;
      My trusted hills may suddenly go amiss
      And beyond them dawn may never break again.

      In a public opinion survey conducted by the influential literary journal
      Varlik in 1957, Cahit Sitki Taranci was ranked no. 1 among Turkish poets.

      In later decades his stature and popularity remained high. His best-known
      and best-loved poem is probably "Age Thirty-five".

      Age thirty-five: that means half the course,
      Like Dante, we stand midway in life;
      All our youthful vigor and resource
      -Wanton is our plea, in vain our strife-
      Drift away blind to tears of remorseĀ…

      Look at my temples, are they snow-clad?
      O my God, is this wrinkled face me?
      These eyes rimmed with rings purple and sad?
      Why are you now my arch enemy,
      Mirrors, the best friends I ever had.

      All this change is more than I can bear;
      None of my pictures here could be mine.
      Where did all those days of joy go, where?
      Can't be me this man smiling, benign.
      It's a lie that I am free of care.

      Our first love looks hazy, far away
      A memory driven from our heart.
      Friends who set out with us on life's way
      Took separate paths and strayed apart.
      Now our loneliness grows day by day.

      Odd, I now find that the sky can turn
      Into other hues, that stone is hard,
      That the waters drown and the flames burn,
      And each new day brings a painful load --
      All these at thirty-five I could learn.

      Autumn, quince yellow, pomegranate red;
      Each year I feel it's closer to me.
      Why do these birds circle overhead?
      And these ravaged gardens that I see?
      What funeral is this? Who is dead?

      Immutably death is all men's fare.
      "Slept, never woke," will be the story,
      And who knows where or why or how late?
      You shall have but one prayer's glory
      On your stone-bier throne lying in state.

      * Prof. Talat S.Halman
      Department of Turkish Literature
      Bilkent University

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