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Turkish Literature

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TURKISH LITERATURE. As Islam was the gift of Arabia and Persia to the Turks, so also has their literature been powerfully in fluenced by these two countries. Nay, the sober truth is that nearly all their higher education dates from there, at least up to the period of the Crimean War, but a few generations ago. As a consequence, there is relatively little of originality in Turkish literature. However, it is customary to subdivide it into three periods: The earliest, when Turkish writers first arose in central Asia and India, and when they em ployed for the most part Persian as their medium of expression, about 900-1500 A.D.; the middle period, about 1500-1850 A.D., when Arabic was both their model and inspiration in literature, save only in poetry; and the modern period, since the middle of the 19th century, when they turned to the Western na tions, preferably the French, for instruction and guidance. It goes without saying that, in a general way, during the two older periods Turkish literature closely resembles that of the chief Oriental writers of those times, both in aims and style and in subject matter, and that being largely imitative it is to a great extent devoid of those strong traits that are found in other, in purely national, literatures. In fact, much of the best literature written by Turks during those 900 years is necessarily swallowed up by, and forming an integral part of, Persian and Arabic literature, as also it is mostly couched in those two tongues and colored by their idiosyncrasies. The last and shortest period, that of 1850 to the present day, is again too strongly tinctured with the Gallic spirit to be taken as a fair representation of the Turkish mind, although ((realism)) has been its chief motto,— the realism of Zola usually.

In point of time the earliest literary records of Turkish writing are the well-known inscrip tions in central and northeastern Asia, but these have almost solely an archaeological, and not a literary, value. Of considerable merit is a genealogical history of the Tatars by Abul Ghazee, from as early as the 12th century, not able mainly for its pristine Turkish. The author of Nameh' a lengthy poem de scriptive of. the delights of falconry, is by one of the best of the 2,200 Turkish poets (among whom there are but seven women) and rhymes ters enumerated in a history of Turkish litera ture by Baron Hammer-Purgstall. Unfortu nately the poem is anonymous. Suleiman (d. 1403), author of a famous lay celebrating the birth of the Prophet and read in mosques these last 500 years with powerful effect, first wrote in a Turkish approximating that of to-day. Shekhi (about 1440), author of the (Khar (Book of Donkeys), intro duced the Persian romantic epic with the Turks. Burhan-ed-Deen, a descendant of Genghis Khan, who lost his life in 1398, an adventurer and great warrior, left some poems in Turkish, although closely modeled after the Persian style. Amud-ed-Deen, writing under the pseu donym of Nesimi and a man strongly influenced by Sufeeism, wrote early in the 15th century. But being a freethinker and heretic, he was (in 1417) flayed alive in Aleppo. All his writings breathe, however, a joyous spirit. Ali Sheer, writing under the name of Nevayi (d. 1500), was doubtless a poet of considerable pre tensions, who in order to have the necessary leisure for writing resigned early from the lucrative office of Grand Vizier to Sultan Hus sein. His writings show much humor and power of expression. Babr, a scion of Tamer lane, and conqueror of a part of India (in 1525) was also quite a writer, but confined himself to prose. His campaigns he has him self described in rather rude but highly expres sive Turkish. Lami is probably the most pro ductive of all Osmanian poets. His fame rests chiefly on his four great epics. He died in 1531. Baki, of obscure origin, is held to be the greatest lyric genius the Turkish race has produced. But while fluent and often flamboyant, his thoughts are nearly altogether borrowed from the Persians, especially from Hafiz. Baki's output was voluminous, but much of it has not survived. A little more mental independence may be ascribed to Faili, likewise a lyrical poet, who lived and flourished during the reign of Soliman the Great and died in 1563. His fine allegoricalpoem,

shown by Mesehi (d. 1512), whose love sonnets addressed to the boy beauties of his town, both in metre and in diction, are elegant productions. Rewami (d. 1523) cultivated as his specialty dithyrambic poems celebrating the festivals, banquets and great processions of his day. Sa'ad-ed-Deen, perhaps the best-known poet of his day, died in 1599, when Arabic influences began to permeate Turkish literature. His life was a very active one, his career beginning as a great chieftain and ending as Sheikh iil Islam, in the reign of Mohammed III. His great work was named

Bibliography.— d'Istria, Doria, (La poesie des Ottomans' (2d ed., Paris 1877) ; 'La poisie des nations turques' (in Revue Britann ique 1878, No. 12) ; Gibb, E. J. W., 'History of Ottoman Poetry' (Vol. I and II, London 1900 02) ; Hammer-Purgstall, Baron J. von,