Love Poems of an Ottoman Woman: Mihrî Hatun

Episode 357

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What did it mean to be a woman in the intellectual world of early modern Islamic empires? In this episode, our guest Didem Havlioğlu offers one answer to this question through the life and works of Mihrî Hatun, an Ottoman woman from 15th-century Amasya whose poetry survives to this day. Mihrî was unique within the male-dominated sphere of early modern love poetry, and as we discuss in this podcast, her position as a woman was integral to her poetry and its meaning. These poems and the relationships of this exceptional writer are the subject of Havlioğlu's new book entitled Mihrî Hatun: Performance, Gender-Bending, and Subversion in Ottoman Intellectual History (Syracuse University Press).

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Contributor Bios

Didem Havlioğlu is a Lecturing Fellow in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University. She is an Ottomanist working on women and gender in Ottoman intellectual history. She is interested in the making of intellectual culture and discursive construction of gender through time and space, in particular the history of women’s writing. Havlioglu holds a doctoral degree from the University of Washington.
Chris Gratien is Assistant Professor of History at University of Virginia, where he teaches classes on global environmental history and the Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region of the former Ottoman Empire from the 1850s until the 1950s.


Episode No. 357
Release Date: 12 April 2018
Recording Location: University of Virginia
Special thanks to the University of Virginia Corcoran Department of History for supporting the production of this episode
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla
Special thanks to Muhtelif for "Samsa"; Sato Moughalian for "Kamancha"; and Kara Günes for "Istanbul"
Bibliography and lyrics courtesy of Didem Havlioğlu

Poetry of Mihrî

The following selections of Mihrî's poetry are discussed in the episode:

Poem #9 in Mihrî Hatun: Performance, Gender-Bending, and Subversion in Ottoman Intellectual History
translated by Didem Havlioğlu

As brilliant lyrics reached us from that beloved
Jesus-like, a breath of life reached my dead body

Your sweet lip’s Ferhad became crazy at heart for it
He would give up life and this world but never give it up

Parted from you, I bent my body like a signet
I was hit on the head by a stone of reproach made of coral

When the morning breeze comes to the rose-bed of your cheek, beloved,
The whole world smells sweetly of hyacinth and sweet herbs

My dear, since I saw you, o lord of beauties, in your street
I have had no desire for Paradise and have given up beautiful boys

He is ignorant, vastly clownish and ignorant
Who does not consider you superior to Selman-ı Saveci

Oh Hatemi, you lied Mihri when you played the lover
By God, she loves you better than any boy

Ottoman transcription from Ottoman Text Archive Project

Geldi çün ġarrā ġazeller bize ol cānāndan
ʿĪsāveş irdi nefes ben mürde cisme cāndan

Oldı şīrīn laʿlinüñ Ferhāḍı dil āşuftesi
Geçiser cān ü cihāndan geçmeyiser andan

Firḳatüñden ḳāmetüm ḥalḳa etmişem ẖātem gibi
Başuma seng·i melāmet almışam mercāndan

Ruẖlaruñ gül-zārına erdükçe cānā bād·ı ṣubḥ
ʿĀlemi ẖoş bū ṭutar ol sünbül ü reyḥāndan

Göreli kūyuñda cānum sen güzeller şāhını
Ḳalmadı Rıḍvāna meylüm geçmişem ġilmāndan

Şüphesüz nā-dān ü ebter cilf ü bī-idrākdür
Ehl·i şiʿr içre seni yeg görmeyen Selmāndan

Sen yalandan Ḫātemī ʿāşıḳ geçersin Mihrīye
Sümme vallāhi seni Mihrī yeg sever oġlandan

Poem #34 in Mihrî Hatun: Performance, Gender-Bending, and Subversion in Ottoman Intellectual History
translated by Didem Havlioğlu

At every moment, good health is fitting for you, the blessed one
At every instant, comfort is fitting for that pure body of yours

In a sublime dwelling, night and day, with joy and pleasure
Converse with a lovely woman in the health-fitting courtyard

May pain be distant from that delicate body of yours,
For your enemy, torment in the house of grief is fitting

Why does a fever grip you, let it grip your infidel rival
For you, good health, for your enemy, pain and degradation are fitting

In order to cut off the head of your enemy with the sword of wrath
For your person, boldness, and for your arm, strength are fitting

May the one who envies you ever wail like the reed-flute
For you, merrymaking with harp and dulcimer is fitting

May God spare your life for your mother
Whose one and only you are, for you, eminence is fitting

Praise God, Mihri, your well-wisher could visit you
Those who see you say,”To you [such] pillars of prosperity are fitting”

Ottoman transcription from Ottoman Text Archive Project

Ol mübārek ẕātuña her demde ṣıḥḥat yaraşur
Ol muṭahhar cismüñe her anda rāḥat yaraşur

Dār·ı rifʿatde ṣafā vü zevḳ(i)le leyl ü nehār
Ṣaḥn·ı şıḥḥatde güzel ẖānumla ṣoḥbet yaraşur

Ol vücūd·ı nāzenīnüñden ırāġ olsun elem
Düşmenüñe ẖāne·i ġam içre miḥnet yaraşur

Teb niçün ṭutar seni ṭutsın rakīb·i kāfiri
Saña ṣıḥḥatler ʿadūña renc ü ẕillet yaraşur

Tīġ·i ḳahr ile ʿadūñuñ başını ḳaṭʿ etmege
Ẕātuñā cürˀet vü hem bāzūña ḳuvvet yaraşur

Ney gibi iñleyen her dem ḥasūd olsun müdām
Çeng ü ḳānūn ile her dem saña ʿişret yaraşur

Ḥaḳ baġışlasun ilāhī seni ol vālīdeñe
Kim anuñ bir dānesisin saña rif'at yaraşur

Ḥamdülillāh kim mülāḳāt oldı Mihrī-dāʿīye
Dir görenler ẕātuña erkān·ı devlet yaraşur

Select Bibliography

Havlioğlu, Didem Z., and Mihri Hatun. Mihrî Hatun Performance, Gender-Bending, and Subversion in Ottoman Intellectual History. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2017.

Andrews, Walter G., and Mehmet Kalpakli. The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society. Durham ; london: Duke University Press, 2005.

Behar, Cem. Aşk olmayınca meşk olmaz: geleneksel Osmanlı/Türk müziğinde öğretim ve intikal. İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 1998.

Kızıltan, Mübeccel, “Divan Edebiyatı Özelliklerine Uyarak Șiir Yazan Kadın Şairler” (1994).

Kuru, Selim S. 2007. "Sex in the Text: Deli Birader's Dâfi‘ü 'l-Gumûm Ve Râfi‘ü 'l-Humûm and the Ottoman Literary Canon". Middle Eastern Literatures. 10, no. 2: 157-174.

_____ (2006) “Naming the Beloved in Ottoman Turkish Gazel: The Case of İshak Çelebi (d. 1537/8),” in Ghazal as World Literature II. From a Literary Genre to a Great Tradition. The Ottoman Gazel in Context. ed. by in Angelika Neuwirth, Beiruter Texte und Studien 84. Beirut/Würzburg. 163-173

Leoni, Francesca, and Mika Natif. Eros and Sexuality in Islamic Art. 2013.

Peirce, Leslie Penn. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignitiy in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Schick, Irvin C. 2010. “The Harem as Gendered Space and Spatial Reproduction of Gender.” in From Harem Histories. Ed. by Marilyn Booth. Durham: Duke University Press.

Tys-Şenocak, L. Ottoman Women Builders: The Architectural Patronage of Hadice Turhan Sultan (Burlington: Ashgate, 2006).

Zilfi, Madeline C. Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era. Leiden: Brill, 1997.


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