The Seljuk Han of Anatolia


Faruk Nafiz Çamlibel

"Han Walls"


“Han Walls” is one of the most beloved poems of Turkish literature. It was published in 1925 in the Turkish literary magazine, Türk Yurdu.


The 104-line poem relates the voyage taken by the poet Faruk Nafiz Çamlibel in March, 1922, from Ulukişla to Kayseri. The voyage took three days and he passed through Kemerhisar, Niğde and Araplibeli via Incesu. The poet rode in a horse-drawn vehicle, as there was no railway in those days.


Faruk Nafiz Çamlibel (1898-1973) was a poet, journalist, writer, teacher and later politician. With one creative foot in the Ottoman era and the other firmly striding forth to the Republican-era, Çamlibel became noted for his innovative writing style. He started writing in the old meter of Turkish poetry known as the ‘aruz” and investigated the themes of passion, beauty and nature. During the time of the War of Independence, his style changed and he began to use more and more the folkloric meter of rhymes and equal syllables with certain stops, in particular the 7 x 7 syllabic meter (14 syllables per stanza). His subject matter also changed as a result of his life experiences and the broader scope of the era.


In 1922, Çamlibel was appointed as a teacher of literature at the Kayseri High School, which allowed him to meet a different kind of countrymen quite different that the milieu of his Istanbul bourgeois upbringing. In 1924 he was transferred to the bustling new capital of Ankara to continue his work as a teacher, and stayed there until 1932. He certainly must have followed the activities of Ataturk and took inspiration from the heady days of the beginning of the Republic. During this time, he took part in the committee founded by the Minister of Education which was charged with inspecting the situation of schools in the eastern provinces. He visited such places as Sivas, Erzincan, and Erzurum. Again, the compatriots encountered on these trips did much to influence his writing to a more nationalist and populist tone. In 1946, Çamlibel turned his sights to politics, and was elected to Parliament as a member of the Democrat Party. He was arrested after the military coup of 1960, served time in prison and was released after 16 months. He then retired from politics and devoted the rest of his life to writing. He collected many of his poems in a volume entitled “Han Walls”, which was published in 1969.


The road taken in this poem is not only an image of his pathway as a young idealist poet-teacher at the start of his career, but also the trail towards Turkish independence. This poem was written in 1923, the very same year as the birth of the Turkish Republic, and, as such, is often considered a “homeland poem”. The verses are full of symbolism of the struggle of the country to gain its independence by passing through great difficulties. The travelers were like the valiant soldiers of Ataturk, the hans the victories achieved, the writings on their walls echo the memory of fallen warriors, and the journey itself represents the struggle to win independence and forge a new nation.


Many of the cultural and human landscapes of Central Anatolia have remained the same since the time this poem was written, almost 100 years ago: the brisk March weather, the plains and passes, the love of homeland, the sorrow of isolation from family, and the long roads across unending stretches of desolate countryside.


The poem also attests to the role of hans as welcoming sentinels along the road; a comfort to the young poet at the end of a long day of travel, just as they were to the merchants who stayed in them in the 13th century when they were first built.




Faruk Nafiz ÇAMLIBEL

 To Osmanzade Hamdi Bey –


Whinnied the dark horses; cracked the leather whip in air,

The wagon paused in its tracks for a moment. 

For a long while rattled the springboard beneath me.

Caravanserais one after another passed in front my eyes…

With a heavy and homesick heart, I was on my way,

Along the Ulukişla road heading into Central Anatolia.

Like a first love, a first hurt, a first separation!

The air was warmed by the fire burning in my heart,

Yellow sky, yellow land, yellow bare trees...

Behind me, the high range of the Taurus Mountains,

Ahead, foothills faded by a long winter,

On spun the wheels, moaning with each turn….

My hands clutched the mane of the wind

Our wagon advanced along the mountain slope.

Everywhere was steep, everywhere was quiet,

Only the driver had a whistle on his lips!

The winding roads responded to his whistle

Snaking roads which appeared asleep

Raised their heads to listen to the emptiness.

The skies clouded over, the wind cooled down.

It began to drizzle.

As the last slope opened up onto flat a pasture

An endless plain dawned in front of us   

The road connected us in one long ribbon to the horizon.

This strange land steadily drew me into it.

The road, nothing but the road, ever the road…flatness with no end in sight.

Nary the vision of a village or a house anywhere to be seen,

In the end, it is nothingness the road declares to man,

Now and then passed a rider on horseback, or a couple of foot-travelers.

Rattling over broken stones on the path,

The wheels conveyed something to the route,

The long roads vibrated amidst this clatter….

I surrendered unto the noise of the wheels

and stretched out on the thin blanket of the springboard.


A sudden jolt…I woke up from a deep sleep;

The wagon was passing over the road as smooth as water.

Ahead of us like a castle loomed the town of Niğde,

Sounds of small bells on the right:

Ahead, a camel caravan plodded slowly forth,

At the edge of the city emerged a ruined han.

A dappled darkness enveloped all,

We entered the han and unfettered the horses.

Searching a salve for throbbing wounds,

Sojourners had now gathered in the han.

Wayfarers from every corner of the land had come together here in one place,

Souls filled with homesickness clustered near the campfire.

All eyes were riveted to the glow,

Chests heaved to breathe.

The kerosene lamp blackened with soot

Drew gloomy streaks across all their faces.

The marks on their cheeks and the grief in their eyes

Gradually deepened into verses...

There was a dark wall beside my bed,

Covered with all kinds of marks and writing;

Whoever slept here had left his mortal trace on the wall,

Languid lines and lewd drawings...

I retired early at the end of this sorrowful day,

And as my wakeful eyes wandered over the wall,

Suddenly a few lines in bright red burned forth

It did not seem as a stanza of four lines, but rather like four drops of blood.

As I struggled by parse these lines on the wall

I felt I had met up with an old poet friend;

“I have been gone from Kinadağ for fourteen years now

Away from my sweet home, away from my love

Never gathering a flower from the garden of my love

Banished from one corner of the earth to the next."

Underneath was a date: eight March, thirty seven...

I did not see any name in the place of a signature.

Destiny is in front of you, don’t be sad, my friend!

Finished now are borders, army service, wars;

Do not regret that your youth has slipped away.

The glory you took from the frontiers will reach your love!...

We moved on before sunrise on the following day,

A cold March morning... each breath froze in air.

The first rays of dawn enflamed the horizon.

We left behind us the houses at the edge of the city.

The sun rose and set behind the clouds;

In the distance appeared mounds as hulky as mountains …

Caravans slowly strode beside us,

Old hans seemingly built by a feudal lord passed in view.

Our journey kept moving ahead along these endless roads,

There, through the pass choked between two mountains.

There, where the frigid northwest wind scared me to death

I was filled with joy after crossing the mountain pass:

The places I left behind will meet the spring,

The land ahead of us was still covered with snow.

The mountain pass separated winter from summer,

Here, the final storm snapped off the last branch…

The carriage continued on at the same speed,

Snow began to hurl around us.

It buried all in a white darkness;

It was not snow that fell from the sky; but rather death...

Inside of me perished the longing to reach a village

The carriage driver yelled out: “Over there... Araplibeli!"

May God help those who remain on these roads

At the end of a day’s journey, we led our horses into a han.

Three or four travelers had arrived ahead of us

They sat cross-legged before the open fire,

The crackling wood enlivened all four with spirit,

One told a story of a bandit, the other the fable of a wolf…

As I began to doze off to sleep,

The black soot left petal-like images on the wall.

These lines in my heart emerged from the black soot,

“If the remembrance of my love enflames my desire;

My strength is not enough to fight it

I journey forth like a dried leaf

The wind decides my destiny."

In the morning, the sky was bright and the horizon clear,

Our carriage headed out on the road to meet a sunny day

Along these endless roads passing from one foreign land to another.

It has been but three days since I left, but it feels as long as three seasons.

After a long ride, we arrived in Incesu,

Exhausted, we fell into a sweet slumber in a han.

At sunrise I awoke from a dream of death,

I felt much sorrow when I read these lines above my bed!

“I am a stranger, people call me Kerem

They took my beloved Asli away from me and said she was forbidden to me

I am ill; they say it is tuberculosis

My name is Satilmiş, I am the son of a sheik from Maraş.”

One feels that it was his epitaph writ in those lines,

I fear you never made it home from this foreign land.

O You! Son of a sheik from Maraş, saint's vow!

Cursed was your luck that you could not cross this mountaın!

Let it be, for you are not the only one who never made it back home,

Many have perished among nameless bandits and wolves in the wilderness!...

Our carriage headed out on the road towards Mount Erciyes:

“Han Keeper”, I asked, “have you ever met the son of a sheik from Maraş?”

His startled eyes peered at me for quite a while,

He then replied:

“A while back he entered this han a healthy man and he left it dead!"

Everything changed now in front of my tear-filled eyes,

Şeyhoğlu, our sojourner far from home, never made it beyond this han...

The sad news of the fellow wayfarer from Maraş tore at my heart.

Many years have passed since that day until now

Yet still I shudder each time I pass a han along the road.

For I know the secret sorrows held within their walls

O! These ancient roads which connect villages to frontiers,

Ancient roads grieving for those who will never return home!         

O! These han walls writ with such mournful lines

O! These han walls which wring my heart!...


-translated from the Turkish by Katharine Branning


Yağız atlar kişnedi, meşin kırbaç şakladı,
Bir dakika araba yerinde durakladı.
Neden sonra sarsıldı altımda demir yaylar,
Gözlerimin önünden geçti kervansaraylar...
Gidiyordum, gurbeti gönlümle duya duya,
Ulukışla yolundan Orta Anadolu'ya.
İlk sevgiye benzeyen ilk acı, ilk ayrılık!
Yüreğimin yaktığı ateşle hava ılık,
Gök sarı, toprak sarı, çıplak ağaçlar sarı...
Arkada zincirlenen yüksek Toros Dağları,
Önde uzun bir kışın soldurduğu etekler,
Sonra dönen, dönerken inleyen tekerlekler...

Ellerim takılırken rüzgârların saçına
Asıldı arabamız bir dağın yamacına.
Her tarafta yükseklik, her tarafta ıssızlık,
Yalnız arabacının dudağında bir ıslık!
Bu ıslıkla uzayan, dönen kıvrılan yollar,
Uykuya varmış gibi görünen yılan yollar
Başını kaldırarak boşluğu dinliyordu.
Gökler bulutlanıyor, rüzgâr serinliyordu.
Serpilmeye başladı bir yağmur ince ince.
Son yokuş noktasından düzlüğe çevrilince
Nihayetsiz bir ova ağarttı benzimizi.
Yollar bir şerit gibi ufka bağladı bizi.
Gurbet beni muttasıl çekiyordu kendine.
Yol, hep yol, daima yol... Bitmiyor düzlük yine.
Ne civarda bir köy var, ne bir evin hayali,
Sonunda ademdir diyor insana yolun hali,
Arasıra geçiyor bir atlı, iki yayan.
Bozuk düzen taşların üstünde tıkırdıyan
Tekerlekler yollara bir şeyler anlatıyor,
Uzun yollar bu sesten silkinerek yatıyor...
Kendimi kaptırarak tekerleğin sesine
Uzanmış kalmışım yaylının şiltesine.

Bir sarsıntı... Uyandım uzun süren uykudan;
Geçiyordu araba yola benzer bir sudan.
Karşıda hisar gibi Niğde yükseliyordu,
Sağ taraftan çıngırak sesleri geliyordu:
Ağır ağır önümden geçti deve kervanı,
Bir kenarda göründü beldenin viran hanı.
Alaca bir karanlık sarmadayken her yeri
Atlarımız çözüldü, girdik handan içeri.
Bir deva bulmak için bağrındaki yaraya
Toplanmıştı garipler şimdi kervansaraya.
Bir noktada birleşmiş vatanın dört bucağı,
Gurbet çeken gönüller kuşatmıştı ocağı.
Bir pırıltı gördü mü gözler hemen dalıyor,
Göğüsler çekilerek nefesler daralıyor.
Şişesi is bağlamış bir lambanın ışığı
Her yüzü çiziyordu bir hüzün kırışığı.
Gitgide birer ayet gibi derinleştiler
Yüzlerdeki çizgiler, gözlerdeki cizgiler...
Yatağımın yanında esmer bir duvar vardı,
Üstünde yazılarla hatlar karışmışlardı;

Fani bir iz bırakmış burda yatmışsa kimler,
Aygın baygın maniler, açık saçık resimler...

Uykuya varmak için bu hazin günde, erken,
Kapanmayan gözlerim duvarlarda gezerken
Birdenbire kıpkızıl birkaç satırla yandı;
Bu dört mısra değil, sanki dört damla kandı.
Ben garip çizgilere uğraşırken başbaşa
Raslamıştım duvarda bir şair arkadaşa;

"On yıl var ayrıyım Kınadağı'ndan
Baba ocağından yar kucağından
Bir çiçek dermeden sevgi bağından
Huduttan hududa atılmışım ben"

Altında da bir tarih: Sekiz mart otuz yedi...
Gözüm imza yerinde başka ad görmedi.
Artık bahtın açıktır, uzun etme, arkadaş!
Ne hudut kaldı bugün, ne askerlik, ne savaş;
Araya gitti diye içlenme baharına,
Huduttan götürdüğün şan yetişir yârına!...

Ertesi gün başladı gün doğmadan yolculuk,
Soğuk bir mart sabahı... Buz tutuyor her soluk.
Ufku tutuşturmadan fecrin ilk alevleri
Arkamızda kalıyor şehrin kenar evleri.
Bulutların ardında gün yanmadan sönüyor,
Höyükler bir dağ gibi uzaktan görünüyor...
Yanımızdan geçiyor ağır ağır kervanlar,
Bir derebeyi gibi kurulmuş eski hanlar.
Biz bu sonsuz yollarda varıyoruz, gitgide,
İki dağ ortasında boğulan bir geçide.
Sıkı bir poyraz beni titretirken içimden
Geçidi atlayınca şaşırdım sevincimden:
Ardımda kalan yerler anlaşırken baharla,
Önümüzdeki arazi örtülü şimdi karla.
Bu geçit sanki yazdan kışı ayırıyordu,
Burada son fırtına son dalı kırıyordu...
Yaylımız tüketirken yolları aynı hızla,
Savrulmaya başladı karlar etrafımızda.
Karlar etrafı beyaz bir karanlığa gömdü;
Kar değil, gökyüzünden yağan beyaz ölümdü...
Gönlümde can verirken köye varmak emeli
Arabacı haykırdı "İşte Araplıbeli!"

Tanrı yardımcı olsun gayrı yolda kalana
Biz menzile vararak atları çektik hana.

Bizden evvel buraya inen üç dört arkadaş
Kurmuştular tutuşan ocağa karşı bağdaş.
Çıtırdayan çalılar dört cana can katıyor,
Kimi haydut, kimi kurt masalı anlatıyor...
Gözlerime çökerken ağır uyku sisleri,
Çiçekliyor duvarı ocağın akisleri.
Bu akisle duvarda çizgiler beliriyor,
Kalbime ateş gibi şu satırlar giriyor;

"Gönlümü çekse de yârin hayali
Aşmaya kudretim yetmez cibali
Yolcuyum bir kuru yaprak misali
Rüzgârın önüne katılmışım ben"

Sabahleyin gökyüzü parlak, ufuk açıktı,
Güneşli bir havada yaylımız yola çıktı...
Bu gurbetten gurbete giden yolun üstünde
Ben üç mevsim değişmiş görüyordum üç günde.
Uzun bir yolculuktan sonra İncesu'daydık,
Bir handa, yorgun argın, tatlı bir uykudaydık.
Gün doğarken bir ölüm rüyasıyla uyandım,
Başucumda gördüğüm şu satırlarla yandım!

"Garibim namıma Kerem diyorlar
Aslı'mı el almış haram diyorlar
Hastayım derdime verem diyorlar
Maraşlı Şeyhoğlu Satılmış'ım ben"

Bir kitabe kokusu duyuluyor yazında,
Korkarım, yaya kaldın bu gurbet çıkmazında.
Ey Maraşlı Şeyhoğlu, evliyalar adağı!
Bahtına lanet olsun aşmadınsa bu dağı!
Az değildir, varmadan senin gibi yurduna,
Post verenler yabanın hayduduna kurduna!..

Arabamız tutarken Erciyes'in yolunu:
"Hancı dedim, bildin mi Maraşlı Şeyhoğlu'nu?"
Gözleri uzun uzun burkuldu kaldı bende,
"Hana sağ indi, ölü çıktı geçende!"

Yaşaran gözlerimde her şey artık değişti,
Bizim garip Şeyhoğlu buradan geçmemişti...
Gönlümü Maraşlı'nın yaktı kara haberi.Aradan yıllar geçti işte o günden beri
Ne zaman yolda bir han rastlasam irkilirim,
Çünkü sizde gizlenen dertleri ben bilirim.
Ey köyleri hududa bağlayan yaşlı yollar,
Dönmeyen yolculara ağlayan yaslı yollar!
Ey garip çizgilerle dolu han duvarları,
Ey hanların gönlümü sızlatan duvarları!..



©2001-2023, Katharine Branning; All Rights Reserved.