Introducing Mirze Alekber Sabir to Britain

Mirze Alekber Sabir

(Shamakhi 30.05.1862 – Shamakhi 15.07.1911)

During his life, Mirze Alekber Sabir made and sold soap to earn a living. However, he was the founder of humourous poetry and revolutionary satire in Azerbaijan, as well as in Near Eastern Literature. His radically democratic poetry, with its social realism, nationalistic character, and modernist outlook, played a big part in the progress of Azeri culture and political thought. Indeed, Alekber Tahirzade from the region of Shirvan came to hold positions of honour after his death. Sabir was his nickname meaning “patience” or “patiently”. This is telling, when we remember that his father was a devote muslim, who had a little grocer shop in Shamakhi city, and wanted his son to be a confessor. That’s why, he sent the young Sabir to an ecclesiastical Moslem school, when he was eight. Now, the first duty of pupils at this school was to learn reading the Koran. Yet, he hadn’t finished reading the Koran, before he learned writing. Due to this, he was badly beaten by his mullah.

Despite, unbearable school laws, uninteresting lessons, and his family forcing him to perform ritual prayer, and fasting, he went on to become an insightful poet. However, looking back, the eight-year-old Sabir expressed his terrible situation in this poem:

Tutdum orucu irəmazanda,

Qaldı iki gözüm qazanda,

Mollam da döyür yazı yazanda

I keep the fast in Ramadan,

Stay my eyes on the Cauldron,

Even mollah beats me during writing.

When he was twelve, he changed his school to the newly established school run by the poet Sayyid Azim Shirvani. This school was much more suitable, especially helping him to improve his general knowledge and poetic skills. After couple of years, his father took him out from the school and brought to his shop in order to help him. But Sabir’s true nature never rested, and he continued reading books and writing poems while working in the shop. One day, his father even tore pages out of his poetry notebook, making Sabir say that he would leave if his father offended him again. He eventually did this under the pretext of going on pilgrimage in 1885. Actually, he went to Middle Asia, and then to Iran. He travelled to lots of Asian cities, met with many prominent writers, only returning after two years. Following, his father’s death, he obviously needed to look after the family. Yet, this hard lifestyle never stopped him writing poems. At this time, all of his poems were about happiness, and the hope of enlightening his people.

He published some poems in famous newspapers, including the satirical issues based magazine “Molla Nasreddin”, although he never published a full collection of his work during his lifetime. In many ways, he tried to wake up the “sleeping” Muslim nation surrounding him. But his sharp satiric poems provoked a reaction in the Shamakhi people against him. Therefore, he changed his penname “Hop-hop” (hoopoe) to “pillar of religion”, “Fazl”, “Ebu Nasr Sheybani”. Shamefully, even this disguise couldn’t help him as a poet. This is because he had a well known style; from the very first sentence of each poem it was clearly him.

People; declared him “kafir”, or “heretic”, even though the poet simply admired human knowledge. One consequence of this was his open tuition of his eldest daughter and wife, causing outrage. Certainly, his intentions were honourable and all he wanted was to see the development of his people. This situation made him write;

Əcnəbilər göydə balonlarla gəzir,

Biz hələ matasklet minməyirik.

Foreigners walking in the sky, with the balloons,

But we haven’t got a motorcycle yet.

As things progressed, even butchers stopped selling him basics, like sheep tail’s butter. Hence, he couldn’t made soap, and further difficult times started in his life. Sickness added to his misfortunes. He contracted liver disease. Sadly, in 1911 he died, and his grave is in Shamakhi city, in the “Seven Cupola” graveyard.

Nevertheless, Sabir had become prominent thanks to his literary nicknames. His poems spoke against religious ignorance, oppression, class difference, and illiteracy. He was the unknown advocate of his people; he simply wanted them to understand their rights and to champion them. He was only trying to wake them from their ignorant dreams.

To conclude, the satirical works of Sabir embrace a vast array of themes, ranging from the defeat of the Tsarist armies by Japan, to detailed scenes of social and domestic life. Also, political satire was an important part of his corpus; the butt of his comedy ranging from Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia to Mohammad-Ali Shah of Persia, and from the Ottoman Sultan to the corruption of petty officials and intolerant mullahs. Interestingly, most of his poems have a Socratic method, questioning the representatives of the classes. A feature of these works enables the culprit of social crimes acknowledging his errors, and disgracing himself in front of Sabir’s readers. He made his readers laugh with him and this is what gruntles me.

ƏZRAİLİN İSTEHFASI

Əzrail ərz edərək söylədi: “Ey rəbbi-ənam…

Bir təbib, iştə, bu il qullarını qırdı təmam.

Mən edincə hələ bir ölməli bimarı həlak,

O alır ölməməli min nəfərin canını pak.

Verdiyin canları min-min ki, bu zalım alacaq,

De görüm, qul deyə, yahu, sənə bəs kim qalacaq?

Qoy alım canını bari, qoparım məhşərini,

Yoxsa billah, qıracaq qullarının əksərini.

Bu təmənnamı qəbul eyləməz olsan hala,

Kərəm et, ta əməlimdən verəyim istefa.

Başqa bir xidmətə nəsbən məni qıl minnətdar,

Əzrail olmağı ver iş bu təbibə zinhar”.

AZRAEL’S RESIGNATION

Azrael made a statement, saying: “Oh, Great Lord!

A scientist killed, this year, your slaves, completely!

If I am killing only mortal ills,

He kills thousands, who needn’t die.

His cruelty will take the souls you gave them,

Tell me, my God, who will then stay as a slave for you?

At least, let me kill him, give him a Judgement day

Otherwise, he will kill the majority of the slaves.

If you do not accept this, my request,

Give grace then; I have to give my resignation

Make me grateful in another service,

“Becoming Azrael”, allow to this scientist”.

FƏHLƏ, SƏNDƏ ÖZÜNÜ BİR İNSANMI SANIRSAN?!

Fəhlə, özünü səndə bir insanmı sanırsan?!

Pulsuz kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

İnsan olanın cahü-cəlalı gərək olsun,

İnsan olanın dövləti-malı gərək olsun,

Hümmət demirəm, evləri ali gərək olsun;

Alçaq, ufacıq daxmanı samanmı sanırsan?!

Axmaq kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

Hər məclisi-alidə soxulma tez arayə,

Sən dur ayaq üstə, demə bir söz ümərayə,

Caiz deyil insanca danışmaq füqərayə,

Dövlətlilərə kəndini yeksanmı sanırsan?!

Axmaq kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

Fəqr ilə ğina əhlinə kim verdi müsavat?

Mənadə də, surətdə də var bunda münafat,

Öz fəzlini pulsuz edəməz kimsənə isbat,

Bu mümətənəi-qabili imkanmı sanırsan?!

Axmaq kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

Get vur çəkicin, işlə işin, çıxma zeyindən,

Məqsud müsavat isə ayrılma ceyindən,

Var nisbətin ərbabi-ğinayə nə şeyindən?

Bir abbasi gün muzdunu milyanmı sanırsan?!

Axmaq kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

Dövlətliyik, əlbəttə, şərafət də bizimdir,

Əmlak bizimdirsə, əyalət də bizimdir,

Divan bizim, ərbabi-hökumət də bizimdir,

Ölkə dərəbəylik deyə, xan-xanmı sanırsan?!

Axmaq kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

Asudə dolanmaqda ikən dövlətimizdən,

Azğınlıq edirsiz də hələ nemətimizdən,

Böylə çıxacaqsınızmı bizim minnətimizdən?!

Ehsanımızın şükrünü küfranmı sanırsan?!

Axmaq kişi, insanlığı asanmı sanırsan?!

Heç bir utanırsan?!

Ya bir usanırsan?!

Əlminnətü-lillah,

Odlara yanırsan!

WORKER, DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A HUMAN?!

Worker, yourself do you a human consider?!

Moneyless man; humanity, do you so easy consider?!

Human being; supreme positions has to have,

Human being; wealth and power has to have,

I don’t say palaces, high buildings has to have;

Your little, small cabin do you a palace consider?!

Stupid man, humanity, do you so easy consider?!

Don’t intrude to the middle at every meeting,

Stay on your feet; don’t say anything to aristocrats,

It’s not allowed to speak as a human, for the poor,

With the rich, yourself, do you equal consider?!

Stupid man, humanity, do you so easy consider?!

To the poor and the rich, who gave the equality?

In their meanings, in their faces, there is lots of variety,

Your intelligence, you can’t prove, without money,

This inaccessibility, do you a possibility consider?!

Stupid man; humanity, do you so easy consider?!

Strike the hammer, do your business, don’t change the cloth,

If you wish to be equal, don’t cross the line,

What relation do you have to wealthy masters?

One penny for your daily hire, do you million consider?!

Stupid man; humanity, do you so easy consider?!

We are the rich; of course, honour is ours, as well,

Property is ours, the provinces ours, as well,

Law ours, of course, the king of law is ours, as well,

If arbitrariness reigns, yourself, do you a king consider?!

Stupid man; humanity, do you so easy consider?!

While living free, in our State,

Trying to rebel against our gift,

In this way, you repay our benevolence?!

Gratitude for funerial repasts, do you sulphur consider?!

Stupid man; humanity, do you so easy consider?!

Ashamed of yourself?!

Or getting bored?!

Thank God,

You burn with fire!

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2 Comments

  1. […] Introducing Mirze Alekber Sabir to Britain « Ta Meta Share and […]

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