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The following poem by the Crimean Tatar scholar and poet Bekir Sitki Çobanzade (1893-1937) was composed on 1 June 1918 in Budapest, Hungary, where was working on his doctoral degree. He praises his mother tongue, telling the reader how the Tatar language has been a source of inspiration as well as solace during the times of sorrow. On the occasion of the International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2013, we are pleased to publish the English translation of "Tuvgan Til" by Mubeyyin Batu Altan. — Ed.

Native Tongue (Tuvgan Til)

By Bekir Sitki Çobanzade

I discovered you in Crimea, in Kazan,
Found you when my heart was ebullient, overflowing.

Walking sadly and hurt in far away lands,
Walking with diminished hopes and dreams,
Telling you my sorrow, I embraced you,
Then your dazzling word rejuvenated me.

Without your songs, and your poems,
If the word "motherland" did not fill a heart,
How can I wander around in far away lands,
In far away streets, not knowing anything, not knowing anyone.

Whatever you call yourself, a Turk or a Tatar,
You are sweet as your taste is from God.
Turk or Tatar, they are your words,
They are like a pair of gleaming eyes.

At the gates of Vienna, in Kazakh land,
We sang together in India and in China..
Once the enemy understands you, he'll fall in love,
A single melancholic word of yours will melt his heart.

I want to hear you everywhere,
Everywhere I want to knit epics from your pearls,
If I teach you to birds and to wolves,
You will be the darling of the orphans.

If you penetrate into mosques, mihrabs and palaces,
Once you reach the oceans and the edges of deserts,
With you I will write decrees to the enemy,
With your flashy words I will excavate his soul.

When the angels interrogate me in my grave,
When the angel of death slices my tongue a thousand times,
"Speak to me in my native tongue!" I'll say,
Singing in my native tongue I'll pass away.

While anxieties nibble my soul away,
And the endless stars strike my people,
Oh, native tongue, no one else comes to my mind,
Not even the enemy knows, you are the grand secret of mine.

Translated from Crimean Tatar into English by Mubeyyin Batu Altan, New York, 9 February 2013

See also: Çobanzade: "A Crimean Tatar Poet and Turkic Scholar," a book review by Inci Bowman.

Posted: 20 February 2013

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