June 3, 2013

On Turkey


“To Chop Down the Plane Tree”

by Nazim Hikmet

To chop down the plane tree,

their axe strikes at the root,

to set fire to the house

they stuff oily rags at its base.

The eagle no longer flies

if its wing is broken,

are we able to think

if we’re hit on the head?


These are the roots of the country;

The sap rising to the branches

is hidden in the roots,

The founders of hope,

the wings of freedom,

the wisdom of the people.


So often, in so many places, the root was axed,

the sap failed to rise,

the branches withered,

the wing was broken,

wisdom was killed

the people driven to the slaughterhouse.


is one of the truths of our time


Translated by Ruth Christie. Written in 1956 while Hikmet lived in exile in the Soviet Union after being jailed for a dozen years in Turkey as a dissident.



Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.