26 April 2013

On Vacation: A Mistra song from Evliya

 Gentile Bellini, Turkish Woman, ca. 1480.

A song collected by Evliya Çelebi in the late summer of 1668, included in the Mistra section of the Seyatahatname.   Evliya wrote a transliteration of the Greek in Arabic script.  The transliteration into the Latin and Greek alphabets, and the translation are by Pierre MacKay.

Evliya's transcription is remarkable, in part, because Arabic script does not permit the consonant clusters so common in Greek.

Kla pste ma tia mou, kla pse te, na ka me te mia vri si,
na rthi sto dil be ra ki mou, na tou ge mi si pi kri
ti e his mav ri ko ra ka, kin ta fte ra sou mav ra,
ki ne tav ga sou me la na, kin ta pou lia sou mav ra?
an e his po no stin kar dia, e la na klem' an ta ma.  

Weep my eyes, oh weep, and make a fountain
that may flow to my lover and fill him with sorrow.
What ails you, black crow, that your feathers are so black?
that your eggs too are black and your chicks black?
If you have trouble in your heart, come let us weep together .

κλάψτε ματιά μου, κλάψετε, νὰ κάμετε μιὰ βρύση.
ν’ἄρθη στὸ ντιλμπεράκι μου, νά του γεμίση πίκρα,
τί ἔχεις μαύpη κόρακα, κ’εἶν’ τὰ φτερά σου μαῦρα,
κ’εἶναι τ’αὐγά σου μελανά, κ’εἶν’ τὰ πουλιά σου μαῦρα;
ἂν ἔχεις πόνο στὴν καρδιὰ, ἔλα νὰ κλαίμ' αντάμα.


  1. Very nice, welldone and thank you!

    Some minor corrections in the Greek text:
    - βρήση should be βρύση
    - διλμβεράκι, according to Evliya's ear, would rather be ντιλμπεράκι (dilber, "beauty, beloved" in Persian [and Ottoman])
    - πίκρι' could be πίκρα, "sorrow" without spoiling the rythm.
    - μέλανα should be μελανά
    - κλεμμ' αντάνα should rather be κλαίμ' αντάμα

    Marinos S.

  2. Thank you very much for the notes, all of which I have adopted, although κλαίμ' is perhaps a bit too correct. I have seen forms like the one I used in transcriptions from the time of “I Babylonia.” I thought I had corrected “dilber,” and “melana” was just careless. I think I let the explicit vowelling influence me too much with pikri, but I haven't got the facsimile here to check it. A nice point, although too technical for a vacation blog, is that one of the occurrences of “μιά” is done with what must have been intended as a Persian “gaf,” reading something like “mga,” ("y" is certainly a legitimate rendering of “gaf” in some contexts, especially when the author is Evliya).

  3. Well, this is very interesting. I wonder --could the "gaf" be "sağır kef/nun" (i.e., -ng- as -n- in the Turkish word "sonra"), implying a similar reading of "μιά"?

    1. Evliya draws in the variants of kaf very rarely if at all. The three-dot gnaf would often appear if he did since it is historically a sound that runs all through Turkish (the genitive suffix, for instance). But my guess is that Evliya is thinking of two-bar gaf here. The gaf palatalizes to "y" in the same environments as gamma in Greek. The present instance is a little odder, but this is Evliya we are dealing with

    2. Thank you -so apparently he had heard something like "μγιά". If my notes are correct, the Kahraman-Dağlı-Dankoff edition has transcribed "kamete me ke vrisi"... I suppose you saw the same manuscript (TSK Bagdat 308).

      Well done, again!

    3. I have a rather special interest in that MS




    4. Oh. Yes, of course. I had forgot that splendid post, nice to read it again.

  4. μάτια νὰ ᾽ρθει νὰ τοῦ γεμίση μαύρη κλαίμ᾽ ἀντάμα

  5. The erudicity of the visitors to this hospitable place is evident. Any remarks or comments are pleonastic. A humble reader as myself wants merely to express how he senses the tumbling heart of the one who first whispered these Greek δεκαπεντασύλλαβους and thinks how precious is sometimes … a little wine for remembrance
    Takis Katsafados

  6. Thank you, Takis. I have been very fortunate in my visitors, and you must be aware you are one of the erudite.

  7. Thanks for bringing this little gem to our attention. It deserves much wider publicity and I wander whether it’s been ever collected in any anthology of Greek folk poetry (demotika).

    Would you please allow a few improvements in the spelling? JB (above) has suggested some, but they are not obvious as they are written in a string. I agree with many of his suggestions, but have a couple more to add that may result in better interpretation (some of them are obligatory simply because the poem is transcribed in the polytonic spelling).

    line 1: 1: μάτια (eyes), not ματιά (gaze, glance); JB is right. Perhaps a full κλάψετε in the beginning might restore the meter, but then it should have to go κλάψετε μάτια μ’, κλάψετε.

    line 2: νὰ ’ρθει (JB), correct.
    νὰ τοῦ γεμίση (JB); I disagree; it is: νὰ τὸ γεμίσῃ.

    line 3: μαύρη (JB); I disagree; it is μαῦρε (vocative).

    line 5: κλαίμ’ ἀντάμα (JB), the iota needs a circumflex: νὰ κλαῖμ’ ἀντάμα.

    A lover’s complain. A very touching moment in the encounters of the seeker Evliya. He is shown again to have been a discerning man.

    Thank you again.

    Mimis Amimitos (mimisamimitos@gmx.com)

  8. Than you for your comments, Mimis, but as a person who has a side-line in crow studies, I would not use a male vocative for a crow with eggs.

    I am personally unhappy with "correcting" Evliya. I think all modern Turkish transcriptions have to retain the syllabification [originally Arabic] required by Ottoman script -- which ruins the meter. I think the Greek needs to retain the flavor of what Evliya recorded. A second "correct" Greece version could be added if required for delicate nervous systems. But since I know neither Arabic nor Turkish, I have no responsibility here beyond the desire to share apparently unknown material.

  9. There's no doubt you are an expert on crows, Diana, and I enjoyed the poetic references to crows you have posted here. All I can say, as far as Modern Greek is concerned, is that I am pretty sure there's no separate word for the female crow.

    As to my suggestions, certainly they were not meant to "correct" Evliya's text. This should be presented as it is, in its carefully transcribed form from Arabic to Latin. I was talking of the Greek version, which is a restoration, an interpretation.

    Anyway, my remarks can not impair in the least the beauty of the piece, and I thank you again for your sharing it with us.

    Mimis Amimitos

  10. thanks for share.


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