I have always wanted to translate this poem called Uchrashqanda by Abdurehim Otkur. Abdurehim Heyt made it into a song and there is also a Turkish version which seems popular – enough for there to be translations of it online like here and here. The latter also has an English translation. Mine turned out differently. Although I had also translated “didi” as “she said” previously (for correct tense), I kept thinking it might sound better and convey the meaning better if I said “she says”, which although usually is present tense, can also make it sound like it has happened in the past (colloquially speaking). In any case, first, the original:
8 March 1948, Ürümçi
Seher körgen chighi, közüm sultanini
Didim sultanmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Közleri yalqunluq, qolları xınılıq
Didim cholpanmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Didim isming nime? Didi Ayxandur
Didim yurtung qayer? Didi Turpandur
Didim bashingdiki? Didi hijrandur
Didim heyranmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Didim aygha oxshar! Didi yüzümmu?
Didim yultuz kebi! Didi közümmu?
Didim yalqun sachar! Didi sözümmu?
Didim volqanmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Didim qiyaq nedur? Didi qashimdur
Didim qunduz nedur? Didi sachimdur
Didim onbesh nedur? Didi yashimdur
Didim jananmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Didim dengiz nedur? Didi qelbimdur
Didim rena nedur? Didi livimdur
Didim shiker nedur? Didi tilimdur
Didim bir aghzime! U didi yaq yaq
Didim zenjir turar? Didi boynumda
Didim ölüm bardur? Didi yolumda
Didim bilerzikchu? Didi qolumda
Didim qorqarmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Didim nichün qorqmassen? Didi tengrim bar
Didim yene chu? Didi xelqim bar
Didim yene yoqmu? Didi rohim bar
Didim shükranmusen? U didi yaq yaq
Didim istek nedur? Didi gülümdur
Didim chilishmaqqa? Didi yolumdur
Didim Ötkür nime? Didi qulumdur
Didim satarmusen? U didi yaq yaq
8 March 1948, Ürümçi
Dawn breaks as I catch sight of my Sultan
I ask, are you a Sultan? She says, I am not
Her eyes blaze with fire, her hands red with henna
I ask, are you Venus? She says, I am not
I ask, what is your name? She says, it is Ayhan
I ask, where is your home? She says, it is Turpan
I ask, that on your head? She says it is a farewell
I ask, are you a lover? She says, I am not
I say, it looks like the moon. She says, you mean my face?
I say, they are stars. She says, you mean my eyes?
I say, it blazes bright. She says, you mean my words?
I ask, perhaps a volcano? She says, I am not
I ask, where are the grass slopes? She says, they are my brows
I ask, where are the beavers? She says, they are my hair
I ask, where are the fifteen*? She says, that is my age
I ask, are you beloved? She says, I am not
I ask, where is the sea? She says, it is my heart
I ask, where is beauty? She says, they are my lips
I ask, where is sweetness? She says, it is my tongue
I ask, may I taste? She says, you may not
I say, there is a chain. She says, it is on my neck
I say, there is death. She says, it is on my path
I ask, and the shackles? She says, it is on my wrist
I ask, are you afraid? She says, I am not
I ask, why are you not afraid? She says, I have my God
I ask, what else? She says, I have my people
I ask, what more? She says, I have my soul
I ask, are you content? She says, I am not
I ask, where are wishes? She says, they are my rose
I ask, and to war? She says, it is on my path
I ask, what is Ötkür? She says, he is my hand
I ask, will you sell him? She says, I will not
*The only other reference to 15 I know of is the moon cycle but I am not sure if that is what he is referencing
I still struggle with the first two lines.
I’m confused about the translation for “heyran”. Here, I’ve translated it as “lover”, which is how it is translated in Turkish, and seems to go in context of “Venus”, “volacano” and “beloved”. However, “heyran” in its current use in Uyghur means “surprised” or shocked, bewildered, amazed. But why would she be amazed? He just asked her name. And yet none of my Uyghur dictionaries have “lover” as a definition for “heyran”. It’s a Turkish word. Maybe it’s an archaic Uyghur word?
Those last two lines really stuck out because I originally thought “otkur” referred to sharpness and “qol” referred to a hand – so I thought she was saying her hand was sharp (some sort of physical strength). But I realised from the translations today that it was not “qol” but “qul” which sounds very similar but means “servant” (so it’s pretty cool that “hand” can mean both a hand and a servant in English) and “Otkur” referred to the original author’s name (Abdurehim Otkur) – so he asks her (in third person) who he is to her, and she says he is her slave, but she will not sell him out. This also brings it back to the beginning when he sees her and immediately asks if she is a Sultan, a king. Double entendres are fun.
Interestingly though, the Turkish translations say “what is…” instead of “where is…” and I think both make sense but I had always heard it as “where is…” and all the Uyghur text versions say نەدۇر not نىمە or نېمە or “نېدۇر” (which could be “what” in some dialect).
The most noticeable difference is that I translate “yaq-yaq” as “I am not” rather than “no-no”. It works really well in Uyghurche but in English it has sort of comedic connotations (at least for me), for example, a direct translation would have been:
I said, why aren’t you afraid? She said, I have God
I said, what else? She said, I have my people
I said, what more? She said, I have my soul
I said, are you content? She said, no-no
It sounds funny? I doubt Otkur was going for funny. Witty, yes, funny, no. Maybe “no I’m not” would have been more accurate (as there are still two no’s), but I did not want to have to choose between “I’m” and “I am”.
Anyway, I will probably work on it more later. Especially those first two lines. I just can’t get them right. I appreciate any suggestions.
3/11/17 Edit: This site translates the title to “The Encounter” which I think is actually a lot better than “When We Meet” which is what I had previously.
29/12/17 Edit: I found this photo of an original version of the poem –
It’s pretty interesting because there are a few changes. The first line, which I was having so much trouble with, is “ettigen kormushdm ‘kozum sultanini'” — he puts ‘my eye’s Sultan’ in quotation marks, which makes it easier to translate to something like – “I saw her at dawn, the Sultan of my eyes”. Another big change is that Heyit uses “didi” for every line throughout, whereas Otkur uses “sozlidi” for whenever Ayhan says “yaq-yaq”. This doesn’t change the meaning much (sozlidi means “she spoke” and didi means “she said”) so… the meaning is the same, but I guess it gives a change to the otherwise monotonous “didi”. It’s also cool because the spelling and letters from that time is not the modern Uyghur that we use now, and is more Arabic/Chaghatay – for example, some words still lack vowels, ي is still being used interchangeably as ي or ې, and Sultan is spelled with a ط which is no longer in the Uyghur alphabet. Even the title – ا و instead of ئۇ. And I’m pretty sure we no longer use ع for Abdurehim. Cool stuff.