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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Turkish Mystical Poetry

The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society by Walter G. Andrews, Mehmet Kalpakli (Duke University Press) (Hardcover)

"The Age of Beloveds is a treasure and a masterpiece. With breathtakingly extensive original research, it is beautifully written, in a style both inviting and impressive. It is the fruit of a lifetime's project to add Ottoman literature to the canons of world literature." -Victoria Holbrook, author of The Unreadable Shores of Love: Turkish Modernity and Mystic Romance

The Age of Beloveds offers a rich introduction to early-modern Ottoman culture through a study of its beautiful lyric love poetry. At the same time, it suggests provocative cross-cultural parallels in the sociology and spirituality of love in Europe—from Istanbul to London—during the long sixteenth century. Walter G. Andrews and Mehmet Kalpakli provide a generous sampling of translations of Ottoman poems, many of which have never appeared in English, along with informative and inspired close readings. The authors explain that the flourishing of Ottoman power and culture during the "Turkish Renaissance" manifested itself, to some degree, as an "age of beloveds," in which young men became the focal points for the desire and attention of powerful officeholders and artists as well as the inspiration for a rich literature of love.

The authors show that the "age of beloveds" was not just an Ottoman, eastern European, or Islamic phenomenon. It extended into western Europe as well, pervading the cultures of Venice, Florence, Rome, and London during the same period. Andrews and Kalpakli contend that in an age dominated by absolute rulers and troubled by war, cultural change, and religious upheaval, the attachments of dependent courtiers and the longings of anxious commoners aroused an intense interest in love and the beloved. The Age of Beloveds reveals new commonalities in the cultural-history of two worlds long seen as radically different.


Excerpt: A portion of that age of Europe and the West that we sometimes call the early-modern period or the late Renaissance was also an age of beloveds, an age of love and sexual activity (given that love and sex do not always overlap) to an extent that is astonishing even to us today in what is often thought of as a lax, liberal, or even libertine era. Beloveds of every sort abounded. Love was everywhere, from attachments to beloveds of the most noble and romantic sort, to the momentary quenching of desire in the arms of cheap prostitutes and the furtive groping and rubbing of young men, to the coquetries of cultured courtesans and beautiful boys who entertained the great and powerful and modeled desire for the greatest artists of the age.

Although we use the term the Age of Beloveds with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek and provisional air, our deeper purpose is quite serious. The terms that scholars use to generalize, describe, and segment the chronology of history, culture, and the world constitute an important heuristic shorthand that en­ables us to talk economically about stretches of time in relation to characteris­tics that seem to dominate them in certain places among certain people. Such terms are most useful when we generally agree about them, but usually even our disagreements are instructive. From the perspective of an Ottomanist writing in English, however, the problem with this shorthand is that its terms begin to take on a life and reality of their own. It becomes very difficult to talk outside the boundaries that they set and the expectations that they presume. This is because, to some degree, our terms are useful only insofar as we for­get how conditional they are. We are induced to think that there really are such entities as the Renaissance, the early-modern period, the Age of Discovery, the medieval period, the modern period, the West, the East, Christendom, Islamic culture, the Islamic world, and so on. We forget or agree to ignore how much these terms have been shaped by the topography of our scholarly universe, how much their value for us derives from narrowing our focus and excluding things that seem to lead us too far from our expertise and interests. For ex­ample, how often do we scholars (Ottomanists included) think of Europe or the West as partially and integrally Muslim and Arabic speaking (as it was in its own west—Muslim Spain—until early-modern times), or as Muslim and Turkish speaking (as it has been in its own east from the fourteenth century), or as partially Muslim and Arabic and Turkish and Persian and Kurdish and Urdu speaking (as it is in most of Europe today)?

In this book, we want to talk about certain cultural and social phenomena as they were made manifest in the urban centers of the Ottoman Empire dur­ing a period from the late fifteenth century through the early seventeenth. But we also want to talk about those phenomena in a more general context, as if they were a part of that European period and constellation of phenomena that we call the late Renaissance. Our geographic scope will extend from the Ottoman Empire to Europe, focusing on Italy as representative of a broader, Mediterranean culture, and on England, as representative of cultural devel­opments beyond the Mediterranean. As we will try to show, many of the same things were happening; similarities abounded that transcended cultural and religious differences, often making them seem no more significant than the cultural and religious differences between Protestants and Catholics in tradi­tionally European communities. Yet the fact is that, in trying to show this, all our conventions of naming work against us. We cannot presume to start talk­ing about the Ottomans as though they were just another European power or about Ottoman culture as though it were just another aspect of European cul­ture. It would jar any scholar (ourselves included) to talk about Renaissance Istanbul. We are sure that Renaissance specialists would not particularly wel­come an idea of the Renaissance that implies that they ought to know more than a little about Ottoman culture and be as familiar with Ottoman Turk­ish as many Ottomanists are with French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and English. We are sure that they would welcome far more informa­tion than scholars of Ottoman culture have given them up to now but that they would also argue— quite rightly—that one cannot do everything. None­theless, the nature of our scholarly discourse (the discourse of Middle East specialists as much as that of Europeanists), the very terms that we use and the segmentations that we make, often seem to tell us to shut up and go away, to leave European terminologies alone and to stick with Islamic this and Near or Middle Eastern that.

So what can Ottomanists do in our position? Obviously there are a num­ber of possible answers to this question. In our case, we have chosen to get around the terminology problem by inventing our own period, the Age of Be­loveds (approximately the middle of the fifteenth century through the first two decades or so of the seventeenth), thereby capturing certain social, cultural, political, and economic phenomena that occurred during that time in a geographic area that covers a greater Europe including England on one end and the Ottoman Empire on the other. Its content overlaps in many respects with what we expect when we say Renaissance or early modern and even With our understanding of general features of very local periodization terms such as Tudor or Elizabethan. The Age of Beloveds is a conceptual tool, a framework in which we hope to talk about some important things from a rather uncon­ventional perspective.

Being unconventional, this book will also be somewhat of a mongrel. Its scholarly genetics will be hazy, and both Europeanists and Ottomanists/ Islamists will often find their subjects explained in simpler language and more naive detail than they are accustomed to seeing. Moreover, to borrow a concept and language from Derrida, we will constantly be reminding our readers in a variety of ways that we will be using some very basic terms sous rature, or, as Gayatri Spivak translates it, "under erasure."" What this means is that we will cross out or erase words such as Renaissance or sexuality by pointing out that they are inaccurate, misleading, anachronistic, and then continue to use them in their crossed-out form because we need them in order to communicate economically. So, if, for example, we were to mention “homoerotic sexuality in late Renaissance Europe," we would intend that it be read "homoerotic sexuality in late Renaissance Europe" to indicate that homo­erotic (or homo- anything) and sexuality are words belonging to discourses that did not exist in the period under examination, that the words Renaissance and Europe pertain to the history of certain activities of certain people in certain places at a certain time and exclude the activities of other people in other places at other times even when they seem to be doing and thinking the same things. The invention of the Age of Beloveds is itself one way of putting other periodization labels under erasure.

From a slightly different perspective, we wish to move away from what the historian Rifa'at Ali Abou-El-Haj calls particularism and defines in a passage that could, we believe, easily be modified and made to apply to the study of Ottoman literature and culture:

A general look at the present state of historiography concerning the Otto­man Empire soon makes it apparent that the scholarly cost of particularism has been high, because the emphasis on the incomparability and incom­mensurability of Ottoman history with other histories has narrowed our perspective and has given rise to many distortions. Ottoman historians are often inclined to treat phenomena that occur throughout the world in vastly different states and cultures, such as, for instance, tax farming, as if they were the outcome of purely conjunctural factors affecting the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman Empire alone. Ottoman specialists have emphasized the "differentness" of their chosen subject to such an extent that a dialog with neighboring historical disciplines has become difficult if not impos­sible. We have made our field into such an esoteric one that most of the time other researchers cannot fathom what we are trying to do."

What is true of Ottoman historians has been generally (but not universally) true of Ottoman literature and culture specialists. Our field has been inwardly focused, highly specialized, esoteric, and particularist (or exceptionalist) in the extreme, except as regards attending to relations within a very particular­ist Islamic literatures field.

If Ottomanist particularism is a problem, however, it is a problem that re­flects back from the often-impenetrable surface presented to it by European particularism. In the introduction to the English edition of his seminal work,

The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Fernand Braudel expressed his discomfort at the inability of European scholarship to account meaningfully for the Ottomans and went on to say: "Today in 1972, six years after the second French edition, I think I can say that two major truths have remained unchallenged. The first is the unity and coherence of the Mediterranean region. I retain the firm conviction that the Turkish Medi­terranean lived and breathed with the same spirit as the Christian, and that the whole sea shared a common destiny, a heavy one indeed, with identi­cal problems and general trends if not identical consequences." 2G We share Braudel's conviction and intend to present evidence in favor of it. And we are certainly not alone. In the thirty years since Braudel mused on the sub­ject, and, in fact, in the little more than ten years since Abou-El-Haj's "general look," acceptance of the interrelatedness of Europeans and Ottomans in areas such as trade, economics, monetary trends, and even agriculture has become almost commonplace. Nonetheless, the assumption has remained that cul­ture is a different matter. To say that Ottoman culture "lived and breathed with the same spirit" as European culture is to tread dangerous ground and court general disbelief.

Yet, here and there, doors and windows are being thrown open—most prominently by the brilliant and innovative work of Cornell Fleischer, which will culminate in the forthcoming A Mediterranean Apocalypse. In that work, Fleischer explores the burgeoning of apocalyptic thought and political proph­ecy in the Ottoman Empire and Europe in a period (1453-1550) that overlaps almost exactly with the height of what we call the Age of Beloveds. Considering that our work was never available to Fleischer and that we were only vaguely aware of the immense scope of his work until he kindly shared with us as-yet-unpublished sections from his book near the end of our writing, it is striking that at much the same time two independently conceived studies should have identified the same general phenomenon—a zone of convergence in which Ottoman and European thoughts and behaviors were remarkably similar — occurring in the same period. This concurrence appears even more striking if one takes`into account that the two studies began from widely divergent interests and sources: the one from the literature and history of Ottoman and European eschatological, apocalyptic, and messianic thought, the other from Ottoman and European love poetry and the history of the beloved in the sexual landscape of Eurasia."

Fleischer's work suggests a number of reasons why such a convergence of scholarly conclusions is all but inevitable." The years immediately preceding the turn of the sixteenth century saw the onset of great cultural, political, and social upheavals, from the simultaneous expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Columbus's momentous sailing at one end of the Mediterranean (1492), to the fall of Eastern Christendom's capital, Constantinople/Istanbul, and the burgeoning of Ottoman power at the other. In Western Europe, the appear­ance of a vastly powerful Islamic empire with an ambitious westward-looking gaze aroused feverish apocalyptic and messianic speculation on the part of frightened Christians, hopeful Sephardic cabalists, and Arabic-speaking An­dalusian exiles. Lucette Valensi suggests that the biblical story of Daniel's prophetic interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream is the subtext of a Vene­tian suspicion that the seemingly invincible Ottoman sultan may be the final ruler of a unified world." This period, which experienced the growth of an effervescent art and entertainment culture featuring lavish amusements and sexual liberty, was also punctuated by the appearance of radical religious re­formers — emblematized by Girolamo Savonarola's puritanical tyrannizing of Florencewho combined a compelling vision of the imminent end of days with a concern for a preparatory purifying of the present (including, we might add, an imposition of strict controls on`sexual behavior). In the early years of the sixteenth century, the reforming impulse would culminate in Martin Luther's cultural revolution, and three young men with ambitions to univer­sal rule would almost simultaneously ascend thrones from which they would long dominate the age: Francis I (r. 1515-47, France), Charles V (r. 1516/19­56, Spain/Holy Roman Empire), and Suleyman I (Suleyman the Magnificent; r. 1520- 66, Ottoman Empire). The political rivalry of the now-unrivaled Otto­man and Holy Roman Empires inflamed by Suleyman's seemingly inexo­rable advance on Christendom in general and its center in Rome in particular served only to heighten eschatological speculation and speed the develop­ment of messianic discourses surrounding the main protagonists. Fleischer argues convincingly that these discourses evolved in an atmosphere of in­tense mutual attention, in which each side struggled to understand the other, in which even peasant revolutionaries in Germany were aware enough of con­ditions in the Ottoman Empire to suggest that a true Christian life might be most freely lived among the Ottomans and to find credible rumors that disgruntled Bavarian farmers were flocking to swell the Ottoman armies."

We, in turn, argue that, in this atmosphere, plowed and harrowed by cul­tural change, religious revolution, and political turmoil, so fecund with a variety of dreams, ranging from the birth of a robust and creative humanism, to the establishment of God's kingdom on earth in the New Jerusalem, to the advent of the Messiah/Mandi and the Universal Monarch (sahib-kiran), who would establish the unified dominion of the one true religion, there emerged an intense interest in love and the beloved. It does not seem surprising to us that love, and especially the idea of an overwhelming, self-sacrificing love, should rise to special prominence in the context of absolute monarchs who wielded tremendous worldly power and were associated in the minds of many with eschatological and even incarnationist notions. Radiating out from the needs and attachments of dependent courtiers and back from the hopes and dreams of anxious commoners, desire for the attention and benevolences of the absolute ruler and an absolute God formed a turbulent confluence that generated an aura of meaning bound to the peculiar beloved of this age, not only to the ruler as beloved, but to beloveds of every sort.

It is the aim of our project to explore a resolutely nonparticularist view of this beloved. We intend to show that, in Europe and to the east, across the wine-dark sea, in the urban centers of the Ottoman Empire and especially in Istanbul, a period, especially from the late fifteenth century through the first half of the sixteenth, was an age of love and beloveds. We hope to show that this culture of love was, not only aesthetic and artistic, but also political, dynamic, and historical, that love and sexuality and poetry did not exist in a sphere divorced from the other concerns of life and livelihood. We will see that, among the Ottomans, famous beloveds were cataloged in verse, city by city. They were the centerpieces of brilliant entertainments, the stuff of gos­sip and tale, the companions of powerful, wealthy, and learned men. In their image, the traditional high-culture love song, the gazel, was rescued from a sterile Persianizing classicism and given new life in Ottoman Turkish. Poetry, poets, and parties flourished in a prosperous elite society.

The public face of this beloved was often that of a beautiful young man. This book attempts, among other things, to introduce this beloved—and his female counterpart—to our readers and to introduce him, not as a stranger representing the deviant lusts of some past or distant Oriental "others," but as a beloved of his age as familiar in his androgynous charm to the palazzi of Venice and Florence or the great houses of England as he was to the gardens and kösks (kiosks) of Istanbul.

Taking a slightly different perspective, we argue also that, during this period, power relations of all kinds, from the most personal (adult-child, husband-wife, lover-beloved) to the most public (courtier-monarch, patron-client, even empire-empire), were eroticized on a consistent pattern. That is, they were imagined in the forms, the language, and the metaphors of love. This is as true for Europeans as it is for Ottomans. From our perspective, it is in part the residue of this internal, discursive linking of love and power, love and dominance, that grounds the Orientalist eroticization of relations be­tween the West and the Middle East that Irvin Schick so perceptively reveals in The Erotic Margin. From our point of view, it was easy for the West to eroticize its relations with the Ottoman East because that East had already eroticized its own social and political relations, in some degree through the agency of literary scripting. The erotic was everywhere available for Western scholar­ship and the Western imagination to discover in the East. But it seems equally true that the European West was drawn to imagining its relations with the Ottoman East in terms of an erotic discourse because the internal discourses of power in the West were similarly and as powerfully eroticized. Conceptual­izing relations of dominance and submission in erotic images cut both ways. Western Orientalism had its counterpart in Ottoman Occidentalism. There is plenty of evidence, for example, that the sixteenth-century Ottomans saw their relations with Europe most obviously symbolized by sexual dominance over a "frankish boy" from the European neighborhoods in the Istanbul sub­urb of Galata. When critical Europeans called Venice the Turk's courtesan, they were imagining political relations in equally erotic terms.

We should add that our forays into Europe are not intended to enlighten Europeanist scholars of the late Renaissance on matters about which they have far more extensive knowledge than we can claim. Our goal is to suggest a framework (or a number of possible frameworks) in which early-modern Ottoman and European literatures and their social contexts can be thought about and talked about together. We hope that we will, thereby, encourage people with an interest in Europe to take the Ottomans into account, to ignore the particularisms and exclusivities projected by Middle East specialists, to use translations as a window into Ottoman culture, and to contemplate com­parative and cooperative studies.

In taking a comparative European perspective, we also recognize that we are deviating sharply from the usual practice of Middle Eastern literary and cultural history, which tends to look eastward from Istanbul and to view Otto­man society and culture in the context of Persia and the Arabic-speaking world to the south, with the unspoken assumption that all this has very little to do with Europe and the West. We must say that, on the surface, the rea­sons for taking the eastward-looking perspective are compelling. It is true, for example, that early-modern Ottoman elites saw their primary cultural influ­ences as coming directly from Persia and the historical culture of the Arabs and that many of them complained bitterly about the favored treatment that any literarily inclined visitor or refugee from Persia received from Ottoman patrons of culture. We have only to cite the well-known couplet from the poet Le`ali to exemplify the general attitude:

Acemun her biri ki Ruma gelur Ya vezaret ya sancak umagelur

Each and every Persian who comes to Ottoman domains expects a provincial lordship or viziership for his pains

Early-modern Ottomans would have rejected as absurd the contention that they behaved as much like Europeans as they did like Persians. And, as we have already pointed out, it would be equally as difficult for us to assert that Europeans or Ottomans were consciously imitating one another. Nonethe­less, we are suggesting that there are informative and interesting common­alities to social and intellectual life in the Mediterranean world that extend far into Europe and the Middle East and transcend perceived cultural and reli­gious boundaries. Such commonalities do not represent "essences" —univer­sal things that are the biological property of all human beings. Likewise, they do not necessarily depend on obvious borrowings, exchanges, hegemonies, or imperialisms, although such certainly occurred." War and trade, religious conflicts, poems and stories, all are among the ways in which groups are in­duced to think about each other, to grow like each other, to capture and capti­vate each other in both concrete and metaphoric ways. However, conditions that apply globally—for example, economic and demographic conditions, weather, disease, the availability of natural resources, modes of production, general models of rule— appear to have the effect of predisposing societies to similar patterns of relationship and behavioral modes in the sociocultural sphere. So, in the end, Ottomanists and Middle East specialists will likely be as uncomfortable with some aspects of this study as Europeanists will be with others. We hope that the discomfort will be spread about evenly. If both groups are uncomfortable but find something of value in their reading, we will be satisfied.

As a final note, it is also our very tentative suggestion that the androgynous or multiply gendered beloved of early-modern times becomes a vehicle for expressing the desire of men (and women) for a new congruence between sexual desire and intellectual and spiritual companionship as well as a rep­resentation of the aspirations of women to full participation in the life of their societies. Out of the turmoil of the late Renaissance, out of the vio­lence, the sexual oppressions, the male-centered, "phallocentric" cultures, and the eroticization of power, stumbles the prototype of a very modern be­loved and the first inklings of modern thinking about relations between men and women as well as between men and men, women and women. Strange as it may seem, this is something that can, perhaps, be seen with greater clarity in the view from Istanbul, where modern (and European) assumptions about the West are constantly challenged and our vision is neither clouded by over familiarity nor obstructed by imaginary boundaries. 

Beauty And Love by Seyh Galip and Victoria Rowe Holbrook (MLA Texts and Translations: Modern Language Association)
Companion volume in Turkish: Husn u Ask by Seyh Galip and Victoria Rowe Holbrook (MLA Texts and Translations: Modern Language Association)

Holbrook's brilliant translation of the greatest Turkish romance brings Galip's dramatic imagery alive while making ingenious use of Ottoman mete for the first time in English. Her introduction is the finest brief treatment of Islamic mysticism in existence. Her profound knowledge of Sufism clarifies the philosophical vocabulary of the tale, and her modernized spelling of the text breaks with transliteration tradition to to make her work accessible to all readers of Turkish—Orhan Pamuk

Likewise her translation may well aid in the revival of appreciation of Ottoman poetics and the mysticism of love. The girl Beauty and the boy Love are betrothed to each other as children. But Beauty violates the custom of the tribe by falling in love with him, and Love must undergo the trials of a journey to the Land of the Heart to prove himself worthy—a journey to realization of both his and Beauty's true nature.

The Turkish verse romance Beauty and Love, written in 1783 by Seyh Galip, head of an Istanbul center of Rumi's order of the Whirling Der­vishes, is an innovative interpretation of the Islamic love tale as a story of the action of God's qualities in the world. With its stunning imagery, fast-moving plot, and nonchalant, erudite humor, it is widely known as the greatest work of Ottoman literature.

In her introduction Victoria Rowe Holbrook discusses the heritage of Ibn Arabi and Rumi in Ottoman thought, the traditions of verse romance and allegory, Indian style imagery, and Galip's political loyalties.

Excerpt: Seyh Galip's Ottoman Turkish romance Beauty and Love seems a familiar tale.1 The story of a hero who matures through tri­als to win his beloved is universal. That the hero is named Love and the heroine Beauty seems a recognizable allegory. But that is only partly true.

The writing of Turkish romances in rhyming couplets had become rare in Galip's time. Beauty and Love, finished in 1783, is short for the genre. The classics often ran to five or six thousand verses. Galip, characteristically boastful, made it clear that he considered his contemporaries mediocre and his work to be in the line of the greatest romances of his predecessors, whom he named. In retrospect his contemporaries have been judged undistinguished, and Beauty and Love is widely considered the greatest work of Ottoman literature. In fact Galip handled his tradition in such a way that his work is both an innovation and a summary of it. Integrated into the work are many of the tradition's major themes and debates and their historical development. In this way Beauty and Love can be the best in­troduction to Islamic literature there is. The work is short, because it is highly condensed—he referred to stories, themes, and arguments his readers knew and didn't need recounted, only indicated. That this is done with a sense of humor, often wild humor, and virtuoso fun is another pleasure. The work is an extraordinary mixture of wide-eyed fairy tale and formi­dable erudition.

Galip was born into an Istanbul family that for generations had been closely tied to the Mevlevi dervish order, named after Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi, the famous mystic poet, presently the best-selling poet in the United States. To call Rumi a mystic does not evoke the breadth of work typical of the Muslim sages known for writing many volumes in verse of ethical teachings based on a distinctive ontology expounded in tales. That ontology was not named; rather it was generally assumed, so much so that it could almost be called the medieval Muslim worldview, but not quite. It still remains a way of seeing things, and it was never so unquestioned that it could be said to characterize the age or the religion. It was elaborated early in Muslim history and was always disputed, even as it became more widely accepted as time went on, especially in the Ottoman Empire. In Ottoman times the ontology was associated with Ibn Arabi and his Turkish school and sometimes referred to by the term vandet-i vucut ("the unity of being"). It is the ontology of the unity of being that accounts for much of what would not, to a reader untutored in the tradition, be familiar about Beauty and Love.

Galip wrote in the Turkish tradition combining the teachings of Rumi and Ibn Arabi, or perhaps more accurately in many cases, interpreting Rumi through Ibn Arabi. Rumi was born in Balkh, settled in Anatolia with his family as a youth, wrote in Persian, and died in 1272. Ibn Arabi was born in Murcia, traveled widely throughout much of his life, wrote in Arabic, and died in Damascus in 1240. Together they were the most powerful influences on Ottoman religion and literature; Ottoman thought became organized in ways Ibn Arabi initiated, much as Christian thought remained for centuries organized in ways Saint Thomas Aquinas articulated. Galip was born in Istanbul in 1758, appointed Seyh of the Galata Mevlevi House in Istanbul in 1790, and died in 1799. To say Beauty and Love was written in that tradition means specific things for interpretation of the work, and Galip made these criteria explicit by way of his allusions.

Love and Beauty are allegorical figures, but not just allegories of qualities; they represent God's qualities. They are not exactly allegories of God's qualities because everything in the world is made of God's qualities and represents them in something like an allegorical manner. As the Koran tells us, everything in the world is a sign of God. So an allegory of God's qualities can in a sense be a description of reality. Love's journey is that of all humanity through stages of being, each stage having its proper realm. Love meets a demon who wants to eat him, a witch who wants to marry him, and an illusory Chinese princess who traps him in her Fortress of Forms. There is an allegory of the composite soul as understood by medievals here: the vegetal soul, whose functions are assimilation and growth; the animal soul, characterized by lust and anger; and the rational soul, whose weakness is that it can be duped by logic. The Chinese princess looks exactly like Beauty, and therefore it is rational for Love to believe she is Beauty, but according to the tradition, truth, ultimate reality, is beyond intellect in the realm of spirit, with which the subtler levels of the soul, itself the result of a mixture of spirit and body, overlap. This sort of allegory—a journey through the microcosm—was quite popular from the twelfth century on, but not as part of a romance. Some of these allegories included a full journey through the body, soul, and spirit, while Galip, in characteristically shorthand manner, focused on the journey through the soul. Its extension, a journey through the macrocosm, was also not part of romance tradition and is found in Beauty and Love.

This is partly what I mean when I say Galip integrated the historical development of his tradition into Beauty and Love. By situating these elements within his work, Galip picked up a trend in romance tradition where it had been left in the sixteenth century by Fuzuli, whom he considered the last great romance writer in Turkish. That trend was the allegorization of the old love tales. But in eighteenth-century Istanbul, allegorization had long since come to be understood in light of the unity-of-being ontology. In Fuzuli's Leyla and Majnun love between a man and a woman is a likeness of real love, that is, between humankind and God; Fuzuli's lovers are never united because the real ending of the story is not their union. Galip's lovers are united in the end because we are always already in the real—a novel conclusion for the romance genre. Through references and allusions Galip calls up the older love tales and the reader's expectations of them, all the while superimposing an interpretation in harmony with later Ottoman philosophical development that prepared the way for a new conclusion.

The macrocosmic counterpart to the composite soul is the composite universe, with its sensory realm in layers of earth, water, fire, air, the heavenly spheres, and variously named realms beyond. The demon lives deep in the earth at the bottom of a pit; the witch, between an icy winterscape and a sea of fire; the Fortress of Forms is described in ethereal terms. Love does not follow the path of a journey through the seven heavens, a component common to many works, most famously Attar's Conference of the Birds. Galip did insert a lighthearted treatment of this much-worked theme in a prefatory chapter on the Miraj, the Prophet's spiritual journey; but Love moves directly on to the beyond, as had become customary in later allegories of the dervish path. It is just beyond the seven heavens that the realm of imagination is usually considered to be located. The Fortress of Forms is that place. After that, Love moves on to a realm of abstraction, the spiritual realm where things subsist without form.

Most broadly characterized, the macrocosm has sensory, imaginal, and spiritual realms of many levels, corresponding to the body, soul, and spirit of the human microcosm. All things originate in God, and while they "descend" to embodied existence in the sensory realm, they continue to subsist in the divine realm`in a spiritual state. Imagination is a faculty of the soul, its contents, and also the intermediate macrocosmic level that is the domain of the soul, where things subsist as forms without matter, similar to images, in the imaginal state. In this understanding, the contents of the mind are not manufactured by the mind; rather, they are the soul's apperception of forms in the imaginal state, and that apperception depends on the condition of one's soul. The faculties of the soul are located in the heart, which is often likened to a mirror. Worship of God "polishes" that mirror. Thus the images in our minds differ in part according to the clarity of our hearts.

The life of all things begins in the spiritual, acquires form, and proceeds to material existence. That part of the journey is called the arc of descent or outward track. All things return to God, voluntarily or involuntarily. On the journey back, called the arc of ascent or inward track, one returns through the intermediary realm of imagination, where this time one loses material form. In bodily death it is in this imaginal state that one waits in the grave for the resurrection. But it is possible, as the prophet Muhammad said, to "die before you die," called a voluntary death. Allegories of the dervish path describe the inner journey of voluntary death, undertaken in order to realize the true nature of existence while one still has the chance to prepare for bodily death. In Galip's tale, voluntary death is the "alchemy" Love must find in order to be worthy of Beauty's hand. When he burns down the Fortress of Forms and emerges into a realm characterized by the Sacred Spirit, he has completed his journey through the levels of the soul to the point where it connects with spirit. He proceeds on to the Land of the Heart, which he has never really left; the difference is that the faculties of his soul are purified so that his heart can see clearly, and he sees that it is Beauty who is there, that the heart is her domain. He realizes that he has never been separate from her, that he experienced the things he did because his perception was awry. In reality Love is Beauty, as Beauty is Love.

This conclusion accords with the paradigm of love as taught by the early dervish writer Ahmad Ghazzali (died 1226; not to be confused with his more famous brother, Abu Hamid), which Galip received through the Turkish tradition and superimposed on the romance genre, reversing the usual romance roles of male and female thereby. Beauty, the girl, is the first to fall in love with the boy. In Ghazzali's teaching, all relationships are determined by God's absolute love, objectified in the roles of lover and beloved, and beauty is the sum of perfections love possesses. God creates out of love, and so it is of course God who first takes the role of lover, while his beloved creature, turned away from God on the arc of descent, is yet unaware. At a certain point in life, human beings grow in awareness of beauty to the extent that they turn toward God, taking the role of lover on the arc of ascent. The logic of the paradigm, when applied to the romance genre, requires that the role of lover be first played by the female, something which Ibn Arabi is famous for having noticed. The two children in Galip's tale are born into a world in which all relationships are determined by love. Every member of their tribe is passionately in love and interprets everything and everyone as motivated by love. The boy Love is at first unaware of Beauty, and the dawn of his awareness brings about "The Reversal of Events," a chapter that divides the work in two and marks the beginning of his journey, his arc of ascent. At first he is tremendously full of himself and his role as a heroic lover. He becomes progressively humbler as he matures through his experiences, until he realizes that his selfhood has consisted of role-playing. His companion Rivalry is no longer needed. In reality he and his beloved are one and the same, made, as all creatures are, of God's love: unity of being.

The character Poetry is both the go-between of romance and the guide of dervish allegory, while also carrying associations common to the logos. But he is something else, special to Galip, which is briefly indicated in Galip's prefatory chapter in praise of God and becomes clear in the Digression on the nature of poetry just after Poetry makes his first appearance in the tale. For Galip, poetry was a path to God, because it is the best form of speech (and since God creates with speech, speech can be followed back to him); because it is imaginative—properly, imaginal, when it is the true poetry he believed in; and because, as he explains in the Digression, it is the form of speech in which poets realize the incomparability of the Koran. The two children find Poetry in the Pleasure Place of Meaning, a garden where their love becomes mutual under his influence, but as Galip characterizes him, he is everywhere. It was customary in allegories of the dervish path for the journey to begin with a meeting with a guide figure in a place outside the city The imagery Galip uses to describe the garden suggests a level overlapping with the spiritual realm. Everything is in a state of infinite expansiveness, eternally, but does have form. It is watered by a Pool of Grace, "a sea of qualities"—referring to God's qualities, of which the world partakes—on which images constantly appear, like "the talent of a pure poet." In Turkish (as in Arabic and Persian), "meaning" is often synonymous with "spiritual" and is coupled with "form," in that all created beings have both inner meaning and outward form, a principle quite a few of Galip's images throughout the work depend on. The children have been schoolmates, learning from Professor Madness that things are not what they seem (thus the one who sees things as they really are appears mad), but it is in the Pleasure Place of Meaning that they begin to communicate. Poetry is the proper go-between for them not only because he is speech, communication, but because he works in form, in imagination, the link to the real. Then, just as the children are beginning to get along, they are separated by Lord Dazzle, the same character who unites them in the end. They must be dazzled if they are to be separated and Love to pursue Beauty (who must appear to withdraw with Modesty's intervention in order to allow for Love's development), and again dazzled if they are to be united, since the real is beyond the intellect, which is also to say beyond words. Poetry is left behind along with all the others Beauty and Love have known.


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