19 Temmuz 2007 Perşembe

Ottoman Arts - Divan Literature

When the New Literature (Edebiyat-ı Cedide) arrived in the midigth century it became known as the Old Literature (Edebiyat-ı Kadime). Then such terms as Palace Literature, "Enderun" Literature, Medrese Literature, and "Ommet" Literature were tried, and finally Ottoman Literature, Classical Literature, and Classical Turkish Literature. The term we use taday, Divan Literature, was cained at the beginning af the 20th century by diner Seyfettin and Ali Canip.

Divan literature is one facet of the story of Turkish, which has been widely used as a literary language since the 11th century. Theoretically and aesthetically divan literature draws on the Islamic world view, and was shaped under the influence af Persian literature, emerging in the late 13th century and surviving until the second half of the 19th century. In essence and linguistic structure it is Turkish, but makes extensive use of Arabic and Persian words, which like Latin and Greek in Europe were the languages of theology and scholarship respectively.

Throughout the Ottoman period diverse types of literature existed side by side, such as folk literature, which made the most skilful use of Turkish and in its purest farm, tekke literature of the mystic orders, and the literatures of the minority communities in languages including Arabic, Armenian, Syriac and Aramaic. Divan literature was the most "Ottoman" of these, and foremost among the cultural elements which typified the Ottoman identity.

Divan literature is the literary equivalent of architecture in the Ottoman world of forms of its domes, arches and colonnades and of the music, miniatures, calligraphy, and decorative arts produced and appreciated in these buildings.

In a sense divan literature is the written key to the world of Ottoman forms.

Necati,picture of album
Necati, Picture of album

"Divan" by Necati, Suleymaniye Library Collection

Example of script-text picture
"Divan" by Ahmet Pacha, Suleymaniye Library Collection

Example of script-text picture
"Divan" by Fuzuli, Suleymaniye Library Collection


In the eastern countries emotions and thoughts are expressed most often in poetry. joy, love, grief, melancholy, and all kinds of experiences of life are poured into lines and couplets. It is as if poetry is the most natural form of speech in these lands, where everyone has something of the poet in them.

The divan poet was someone raised in Ottoman traditions, literate, and acquainted with the art of poetry. They could be any government official, craftsman, cleric, judge, clerk, soldier, slave or sultan (most of the Ottoman sultans were accomplished poets). They were heirs to a poetry tradition going back centuries, and continued to use its forms, to think according to its rules, and for a lifetime to seek the miracle and alchemy of the word within its framework.

Theft poems were first read at gatherings called divan, attended by eminent people, sometimes including the sultan. Subsequently poems by one poet would be compiled into anthologies known as divan after these gatherings. For their subject matter the poems drew on the extensive eastern and Islamic mythology, on religious or secular stories, and on legends. Their narrative was based on a very diverse series of conventional metaphors and puns.

Poets never wrote under theft real names, but always used pennames (mahlas), and this anonymity extended to their anthologies, too, which were generally entitled after the poet’s penname, for example the Bakt Divani or the Muhibbi Divani. Nor did the poems themselves have names.

Despite the strict traditional conventions of divan poetry, Ottoman poets often managed to take this form to outstanding heights of literary excellence. In one of his poems, the great sixteenth century poet Raki boasted, In this epoch my words were possessed of sovereignty / The ’kaside’ lode] was presented to me, and the ’gazel’ [lyric poem].

According to an Ottoman Turkish saying, ’The poet is one fourth prophet.

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