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The Ottoman Literature. In all literary matters the Ottoman Turks have shown themselves a singularly uninventive people: the two great schools, the old and the new, into which we may divide their literature, being closely modelled, the one upon the classics of Persia, the other on those of Modern Europe, and more especially of France. The old or Persian school flourished from the foundation of the Empire down to about 1830, and still continues to drag on a feeble existence, though it is now out of fashion and cultivated by none of the leading men of letters. These belong to the new or European school, which sprang up some fifty or sixty years ago, and which, in spite of the bitter opposition of the partisans of the old Oriental system, has succeeded, partly through its own inherent superiority and partly through the talents and courage of its supporters, in expelling its rival from the position of undisputed authority which it had occupied for upwards of five hundred years.
For the present purpose it will be convenient to divide the old school into three periods, which may be termed respectively the pre-classical, the classical, and the post-classical. Of these the first extends from the early days of the empire to the accession of Suleyman I., 1301–1520 (A. H.700—926); the second from that event to the accession of Mahmoud I., 1520-1730 (926--1143); and the third from that date to the accession of Abd-ul-Aziz, 1730—1861 (1143—1277).
The works of the old school in all its periods are entirely Persian in tone, sentiment, and form. We find in them the same beauties and the same defects that we observe in the productions of the Iranian authors. The formal elegance and conventional grace, alike of thought and of expression, so characteristic of Persian classical literature, pervade the works of the best Ottoman
writers, and they are likewise imbued, though in a less degree, with that spirit of mysticism which runs through so much of the poetry of Iran. But the Ottomans did not stop here. In their romantic poems they chose as subjects the favorite themes of their Persian masters, such as Léyla and Méjnoun, Férhad and Shirin, Youssouf ånd Zûléykha, and so on. They constantly alluded to Persian hieroes whose stories occur in the Shah-Namé and other storehouses of Iranian legendary lore; and they wrote their poems in Persian metres and in Persian forms. The mésnévi, the qasidé, and the ghazél, all of them, so far at least as the Ottomans are concerned, Persian, were the favorite verse-forms of the old poets. A mésnévi is a poem written in rhyming couplets, and is usually narrative in subject. The qasidé and the ghazél are both monorhythmic; the first as a rule celebrates the praises of some great man, while the second discourses of the joys and woes of love. Why Persian rather than Arabian or any other literature became the model of Ottoman writers, is explained by the early history of the race. Some two centuries before the arrival of the Turks in Asia Minor, the Seljouks, then a mere horde of savages, had overrun Persia, where they settled and adopted the civilization of the people they had subdued. Thus Persian became the language of their court and Government, and when by and by they pushed their conquests into Asia Minor, and founded there the Seljouk empire of Roum, they carried with them their Persian culture, and diffused it among the peoples newly brought under their sway. It was the descendants of those Persianized Seljouks whom the early Ottomans found ruling in Asia Minor on their arrival there. What had happened to the Seljouks two centuries before, happened to the Ottomans then: the less civilized race adopted the culture of the more civilized. As the Seljouk empire fell to pieces and the Ottoman came gradually to occupy its place, the sons of men who had called themselves Seljouks began thenceforth to look upon themselves as Ottomans. Hence the vast majority of the people whom we are accustomed to think of as Ottomans are so only by adoption, being really the descendants of Seljouks or Seljoukian subjects, who had derived from Persia whatever they possessed of civilization or of literary taste. An extraordinary love of precedent, the result apparently of conscious want of original power, was sufficient to keep their writers loyal to their early guide for centuries, till at length the allegiance, though not the fashion of it, has been changed in our own days, and Paris has replaced Shiraz as the shrine towards which the Ottoman scholar turns. While conspicuously lacking in creative genius, the Ottomans have always shown themselves possessed of receptive and assimilative powers to a remarkable degree, the result being that the number of their writers both in prose and verse is enormous. It ought to be premised that the poetry of the old school is greatly superior to the prose.
1 See the Reading Exercises in pages 259, 306—307.
When we reach the reign of Mahmoud II.; the great transition period of Ottoman history, during which the civilization of the West began to struggle in earnest with that of the East, we find the change which was coming over all things Turkish affecting literature along with the rest, and preparing the way for the appearance of the new school. The chief poets of the transition are Fazîl Béy, Vasîf, notable for his not altogether unhappy attempt to write verses in the spoken language of the capital, Izzét Molla, Pértév Pasha, Akif Pasha, and the poetesses Fitnét and Leyla. In the works of all of these, although we occasionally discern a hint of the new style, the old Persian manner is still supreme.
More intimate relations with Western Europe and a pretty general study of the French language and literature, together with the steady progress of the reforming tendency fairly started under Mahmoud II.. have resulted in the birth of the New or Modern school, whose objects are truth and simplicity. In the political writings of Réshid and Akif Pasha's we have the first clear note of change; but the man to whom more than to any other the new departure owes its success is Shinasi Effendi, who employed it for poetry as well as
The European style, on its introduction,
encountered the most violent opposition, but now it alone is used by living authors of repute. If any of these does write a pamphlet in the old manner, it is merely as a tour de force, or to prove to some faithful but clamorous partisan of the Persian style that it is not, as he supposes, lack of ability which causes the modern author to adopt the sinipler and more natural fashion of the West. The whole tone, sentiment and form of Ottoman literature have been revolutionized by the new school: varieties of poetry hitherto unknown have been adopted from Europe; an altogether new branch of literature, the drama, has arisen; while the sciences are now treated and seriously studied after the system of the West.
Among writers of this school who have won distinction are Ziya Pasha, Jevdet Pasha: the statesmen and historians. Ahmed Midhat Effendi, Sami Béy: the lexicographer and encyclopedist, Ebûz-Ziya Tévfiq Béy, Mouallim Naji Effendi, Hamid Béy: who holds the first place among Ottoman dramatists, Mihran Effendi: the grammarian, and Kemal Béy: the leader of the modern school and one of the most illustrious men of letters whom his country has produced. He has written with conspicuous success in almost every branch of literature, history, romance, ethics, poetry, and the drama.
Sultans of the House of Osman. The dates are those of the Sultan's accession, according to the Moslem and Christian eras.
A. H. A. D. 1. Osman 1.
Son of Er-Toghroul 700 1301 2. Orkhan
» Osman I.
726 1326 3. Mourad I.
761 1359 4. Bayazid (Bajazet) I. » Mourad I.
804 1402 5. Méhémméd I.
» Bayazid I.
816 1413 6. Mourad II.
» Méhémméd I. 824 1421 7. Mébémmed II.
» Mourad II. 855 1451 8. Bayazid II.
» Méhémméd II. 886 1481 9. Sélim I.
>> Bayazid II. 918 1512
982 » Mourad III. 1003 » Méhémméd III. 1012
1026 » Ahmed I.
1031 » Ahmed I.
1115 » Moustafa II. 1143
1168 » Ahmed III. 1171
1187 » Moustafa III. 1203 » Abd-ûl-Hamid I. 1222
1223 » Mahmoud 11. 1255
10. Souléyman I.
A. D. 1520 1566 1574 1595 1603 1617 1618 1622 1623 1640 1648 1687 1691 1695 1703 1730 1754 1757 1773 1789 1807 1808 1839 1861
* jo e zb Arabic Calendar (pp. 96-98).
The Arabic, i.e. Lunar, Year being 10 days, 21 hours and 144/5 seconds shorter than the Christian i.e. solar year, does not correspond exactly with it. Its reckoning begins from the Hijrét or departure of Muhammed from Mecca to reside in Medina, A. D. 622 July 15/19 (Mouharrem 1).
In order approximately to convert a year of our Era into one of the Moslem Era: subtract 622, divide the remainder by 33 and add the quotient to the divident.
Conversely, a year of the Moslem Era is converted into one of the Christian Era by dividing it by 33, subtracting the quotient from it, and adding 622 to the remainder; as: