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The Turkey Song

The Turkey Song (Tuhnn-i Turkei) was first published in the collected poetry of Yaqub Al-Iblan, a Smyrnan poet of multifaceted talent who wrote for the court of Emperor John III. The song's nationalism is startling, not merely because it was published for a Byzantine audience, but also that the song's sentiments foreshadow the themes of the French Revolution and Napoleon's Wars of Liberation. Though similar themes run through much of ancient literature (see Horace's "Philippic Against Rome," which purports to be a speech by a Gaulic-Briton general), one is constantly struck by the modernity of the "Tuhnn."

This work of vocal art was probably written in 1136, a time of great racial tension in the Levant. The Crusades were in full swing, yet Al-Iblan seemingly faced no ill will. Some of his work (including "The Second Song of Paradise" and "Reflections on the City of Pillars") were even read by entourages of Richard I (Coeur de Leon). It has been suggested (notably by Chaim Rigardia, in "Iacub Ablanius: Roman Poet and Mercenary") that Yaqub was not Muslim at all, and that his Turkish (actually Arabic) name was in fact a vehicle of self-promotion. Whatever Iblan's origins, his acceptance is certainly remarkable.

Scholars have long debated the origin of many of his historical poems. "The Dancers of the River of Fire" is the primary evidence for a Turkoman or Central Asian origin, and some of Iblan's letters (notably his correspondences to the Royal Secretary of the Caliph and Jean Beaumont, Second Earl of Wetherfacs) do testify for an origin "in an ancient motherland, now long lost." But "The Picadillos of the Doge" (a short play by Iblan) is wholly contemporary, and this and other works by him display a truly elementary knowledge of foreign places ("The Women of the Khan" is not much better). Definitely, the weight that early commentators (Levenworth, Der Machter, etc.) gave to Alhazred's influence on Iblan are woefully exagerated, as were unfounded claims (Rigardia) that he had lived for a time in Al-Andalus.

But all of this transgresses the important facts. The Turkey Song is a masterpiece of Euro-Asiatic Middle Ages literature, without equal in its time and place.

(from "Yaqub Al-Iblan: A Life of Words" by Millard Wharton, University of Chicago Press, 1953)

Turkey, turkey,
You are so fine!
Turkey, turkey,
homeland of mine!

Oppressor of the Kurds,
Armenians and Greeks,
All of those non-Turks
are loser geeks!

Turkey, turkey,
You are a dream
Turkey, turkey,
More than you seem

The greatest nation
the world has known
Your farm fields are fertile,
Your homes made of stone!

Turkey, turkey
You are the best
Turkey, turkey
Put other nations to rest

Shunned by the EU
now out for revenge
Burn down Athens
Sack Chateau Laurens

Turkey, turkey
Your hordes are supreme!
Turkey, turkey
The world knows what I mean!

Say to the world,
So loud it can hear:
"Turkey is the nation
that you will fear!"

Turkey, turkey
At Europe's gate
Turkey, turkey
Now trained to hate

The Christian kingdoms,
republics and states,
All will encounter
horrible fates!

Turkey, turkey
Their hopes we will foil
Turkey, turkey
Then salt their soil!

A century of bitterness
now starts to swell
Send all the rayah
straight down to Hell!

Turkey, turkey, Unstoppable force!
Turkey, turkey,
Destroyer of Norse

All other peoples,
go to demise,
For spreading vicious
Anti-Ataturk lies!

Turkey, turkey,
The plan is complete
Turkey, turkey
This is so neat!

Wait until Brussels
Turns a blind eye
Then all our enemies
Will surely fry!

Turkey, turkey,
That is not all
Turkey, turkey
Our expansion won't stall!

Conquering Tunis,
Bolivia and Seoul
All will play backgammon
No one will bowl!

Turkey, turkey
That is our plan!
Turkey, turkey,
Now the battlements man!

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