The Past is a Wound

Seyyan Hanım
Lesson 4 | -dir Is

When the past is experienced as present, it is often described in psychoanalytic terms as a traumatic memory. During the interwar period, psychologists increasingly located this trauma in the human brain. In this song composed during that period, we have a perfect example of past as present through a trauma located not in the brain but in the heart.

"Mazi Kalbimde Bir Yaradır" or "The Past is a Wound in My Heart" is a song written by Necdet Rüştü Efe Tara in 1928. The melody, which is often cited as the first adaption of tango to Turkish music, was composed by Necip Celal Andel. "Mazi" was first recorded in 1932, sung by Seyyan Hanım, a young Istanbul Conservatory graduate. This lesson centers around that recording and the theme of past as present.

Since it was written during the 1920s, some of the vocabulary in this song will appear antiquated or literary. Indeed, the word "mazi" used to refer to the past has been for the most part replaced by the Turkish "geçmiş" (mazi comes from Arabic). Nonetheless, it will be useful for the purpose of becoming acquainted with Turkish sentences, as it utilizes the -dir ending to signify a third person present-tense verb to be.

The line we must focus on is the titular one: "Mazi kalbimde bir yaradır" or "the past is a wound in my heart." The "-dir" on the end of the word for "yara (wound)" signifies the meaning "is." When using the third person, such an ending is optional (see Lesson 2), however, the -dir ending conveys a certain definiteness and formality (except when it does not, sorry!). Recognize it when you see it, because it will come up often, it will sometimes carry a different meaning.

This song also gives us the opportunity to showcase the past tense -di ending in more depth, as we have examples of both affirmative and negative forms of the simple past. Here are a few conjugation tables for some of the verbs in the song:

anlamak - to understand

gelmek - to come

vermek - to give

I've underlined all the past tense verbs below. As you can see, the sentence order in the song is disrupted for poetic effect. For this reason I have put each sentence inside brackets [like this] so you can see what lines belong to which sentence and where they start and begin. I will use this method in the future to highlight difficult sentences.

Finally, we have in this song several instances of the verb "olmak (to be)" in the past tense. Note how when used with the simple past suffix -di "olmak (as in oldu or oldum)" carries the meaning "to become." We will work more on the verb "olmak" in later lessons.


Practice this vocabulary list on Quizlet

gönül - heart
gönül çekmek - to fall in love
can - soul
vermek - give
yanmak - to burn, to hurt
anlamak - to understand
olmak - to be, to become

-den - ending meaning "from"
eskiden - before, in the past, in the old days
-e bedel - in exchange for, substitute
zaman zaman - sometimes

mazi - the past (literary)
gençlik - youth
diz - knee
el/eller - the other, someone else
nihayet - the end
yeşil - green
deniz - sea
bel - waist
emel - desire, hope
macera - adventure, story
baht - fortune
saç - hair
hatıra - memory
uzun - long

Seyyan Hanım - Mazi

Ben de gönül çektim eskiden
I too fell for someone long ago
Yandı hayatım bu sevgiden
My life was burned by this love
[Anladım ki bir aşka bedel
I understood that in exchange for passion/love
Gençliğimmiş elimden giden]
It was my youth that I lost
Önünde ben geldim de dize
I was brought to my knees before her
Yâr olmadı bu kimse bize
This person did not become my (literally, our) lover
Don't be confused by the gender here. It is true that Turkish pronouns have no gender, but later in the song the author reveals that the object of his desire was a woman. The fact that the song is performed by a woman adds some slight confusion, but this is not at all uncommon.
En nihayet düşüp can verdim / Gözündeki yeşil denize
Finally, I fell and gave my soul / To the green sea in her eye
"Can vermek" also carries the meaning "to die."
Sarmadımsa da belden, geçmedim bu emelden
Even though I never held (her) by the waist, I have not abandoned this desire
This line made me pause for a second, but remember, the song is meant to be performed as a tango, so we might infer that he is referring to dancing.
Bir hazin maceradır, onu aldılar elden
It is a sad adventure, they took her from me (literally from my hand)
Başkasına yâr oldu, eller bahtiyâr oldu
She became the lover of another, the others were fortunate
Here "eller" refers to "others" or "someone else" as in the word "başka." This is used frequently in older songs or folk music, but not so much in daily speech today. The word has an interesting history, but for now, let's just make sure that it doesn't get confused for the word for "hand (el)".
Gönlüm hep baştan başa viran bir diyâr oldu
My heart has become a ruined land from end to end
Mazi kalbimde bir yaradır
The past is a wound in my heart
Bahtım saçlarımdan karadır
My forture is darker than my hair
See how the -dir ending attaches to "yara" and "kara" in these two lines.
Beni zaman zaman ağlatan / İşte bu hazin hatıradır
What makes me cry from time to time / is this sad memory
Ne göğsünde uyuttu beni / Ne bûseyle avuttu beni
She neither let me sleep on her bosom / Nor comforted me with a kiss
Geçti ardından uzun yıllar
Long years passed after her
O kadın da unuttu beni
And that woman has forgotten me
Sarmadımsa da belden, geçmedim bu emelden
Bir hazin maceradır onu aldılar elden
Başkasına yâr oldu, eller bahtiyâr oldu
Gönlüm hep baştan başa viran bir diyâr oldu
We're almost ready to leave the past behind, but first we have to learn more about how to refer to it in Lesson 5: All These Years. Quiz yourself on this lesson's words before moving on.

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