I will here include only poems about modern Turkey, not those from or about ancient Greece, unless about the ruins of ancient Greek sites.
Longfellow identifies this as an “Ottoman” poem, presumably meaning that it was written in Ottoman Turkish, which is Turkish written in Arabic script, as it was until 1928, and James Clarence Mangan as its translator; Mangan was more likely its composer, perhaps inspired by Turkish poetry. Its opening and repeated line expresses the oneness of God – Tawhid – in opposition to the Blessed Trinity of Christianity: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.” Enjoy this collection of authentic Ottoman poetry. Kalender means carefree; khalendeer is of uncertain meaning.
Enjoy this cruise on the Bosphorus.
The Launching of the Bashtardah by Anonymous
A bastarda is a special galley used by the commander of an Ottoman fleet. A giaour is an “infidel.”
The poem begins by describing the cypress trees in the Scutari Cemetary, in the area of Istanbul now known as Üsküdar, in which the poet encounters a young Greek man, who discourses on various historical moments when Christian Europe was threatened by Muslim forces.
This poem, also by Milnes, again explores the theme of the Muslim threat to Christian Europe.
Continuing the theme of Christian-Muslim relations, Proctor looks forward to when Hagia Sophia (see also this photo gallery) might once again be a Christian church. This idea is of current import as the Turkish government turns it from a museum back into a mosque. Robert Ousterhout, a Byzantine architectural historian, explores the topic from an academic viewpoint in his article, “Museum or Mosque?” Proctor wrote many poems, not without political consequence in her own time, including several you may read in the final section of this volume.
Abydos by Lord Byron (1788–1824)
Located on the Asian side of the Hellespont at the narrowest point of the strait, where Leander lived across from Hero in Sestos, whose story you can read here by 6th century Byzantine poet, Musaeus Grammaticus. Lord Byron swam across as Leander did and wrote another poem about it, “Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos.”
Sonnet by James Montgomery (1771–1854)
This sonnet is about the seige of Venetian Famagusta by the Ottomans in August of 1571. Learn more about Famagusta in The Stones of Famagusta and look at more images of the walled city in this photo gallery.
Browning’s poem abounds in references as it contemplates famous Greek speakers while drinking Cypriot wine. Mythological references dominate, but she also mentions ancient Greek playwrights, Plato, and the goddess/idea of Ατη, as well as Church Fathers who carried forth the Greek language into the Byzantine period – Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Basil of Caesarea, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, and Synesius, a bishop in North Africa. She also refers to Saint Gregory of Nyssa’s De virginitate and Saint Simeon Stylites.
Caterina Cornaro was the last monarch of Cyprus (1454-1510). Her portrait was painted by Gentile Bellini, Titian, and Albrecht Dürer, and she is the model for Saint Catherine of Alexandria in an Adoration of the Child by Lorenzo Lotto. You can also hunt for her in a painting of a miracle by a relic of the True Cross by Gentile Bellini. And in the nineteenth century, Donizetti composed an opera about her.
The Karamanian Exile by James Clarence Mangan (1803–1849)
The poet comes from Karaman, a city in south-central Turkey (photo gallery), to fight in Erzerum, a battle between Ottomans and Persians. One might be inclined to dismiss an Irishman writing about a land he only knew through its texts (see above), but at least one Turkish reader of his poetry feels such affinity with it to claim, with seeming sincerity, that Mangan was a Turk in a past life.
Bayram is the Turkish word for holiday. Izmir is traditionally associated with Homer, as is a River Meles, at the source of which is the cave in which he composed his epics. You may read Benjamin’s own note on this poem (the note for page 89).
What does Izmir look like today? Enjoy this video on Turkish street food in Izmir.
The Mount Ida in Turkey (there is another in Greece) is called, in Turkish, Kazdağı. Enjoy this view from the summit.
In Turkish, Mount Latmos is known as Beşparmak Dağı, meaning five fingers. The archaeological site there of Herakleia preserves many remains, including a sanctuary to Endymion. It overlooks the picturesque Lake Bafa.
Known in Turkish as Bozdağ, gray mountain, known now for climbing.
This poem tells a story, told times before, of a kidnapped Christian knight ransomed by a Muslim woman who then becomes his bride. A paynim is a pagan, defined by this context as a Muslim. Bannat is a region that straddles Serbia, Romania, and Hungary, and the occasion for the knight’s capture was the Battle of Belgrade of 1456. In the 15th century, the island of Rhodes, where the poem concludes, was still in Crusader hands.