Friday, August 11, 2006

Calls to Prayer, Transliteral

What follows is an excavation from Notebook 15 from 1983. That's the year that Nancy (my wife) and I fell apart and came back together in Turkey. In my travels back to her I wrote a number of essays, named "Ottoman Beachcombings." I wrote a few poems during those travels, many of which have never before seen the light of day (if this be day and this be light). I was particularly fascinated with the series entitled "The Calls tu Prayer, Transliteral." I composed them while listening, over and over, to the call to prayer all thru Turkey and elsewhere. There are actually 5 calls to prayer, depending on time of day, but the melodies are similar (but if memory serves me, not identical). It is a most gorgeous and seductive melody. These poems try to capture something of that music.

BTW, if you want to know more about the Muslim call to prayer, see after the poem.

The Calls tu Prayer, Transliteral
[read slowly, with protracted vowels]

Yu ar... Yu ar...
The Master.
Yu ar... Yu ar...
The Master.
Baal, the golden Baal
Yu throw down.

How, oh how iz the lite
Come down, far down tu our harts?
Yea, how, oh how do we lie, do we lie in Lite
Far down, down, oh down in this earthly ground.

Come rize in our harts,
A sun tu our eyes
In this earth, so far, so far...
From Yu...

Yu ar... Yu will be
Our dying laber.
Long we call,
We bow
With our heads tu the ground.
We fall
As dust on the ground.

Clear iz the sky
Glinting like diamond.
Clearer Your brite dezire.
But gloom iz hanging
In this ruined morning
Wen Yu have not come
Far down, far down
Tu our utter pallor.

This ball, this clay ball,
Clay ball, baked clay,
Yu have cast
Cast down, thrown!
And we ar broken.

We look so high.
He set us so low.
Again I call, I call.
All my hart I call.
Again, and again, and all my hart asks how.
In my house and in the hills
So high so high
My hart it flies.
In my home, in my hope, in my hart
It flies, it comes.
He takes us so high.
And then it iz gone.
It iz gone.
He set us so low.

Please gather now,
The breeze wanders out of the hills.
It gathers where fathers
And daughters wonder how...
The trees are filled with swirling lite,
Pearls and sparks, unfurling shoots
And spires of desire.
Come gather!

Come gather now
And rather than hours that pass
So drab,
And the harsh bowers
That grab your hair.
Come under the wondrous
Spell of our Song.
Come intu the wondrous shadows.

The following information about the call to prayer was passed on to me by a good friend. It comes from the Encyclopedia of the Orient.
Thanks Alastor, and love to you all.

The adhan (Arabic term for the call to prayer) consists of seven standard elements:
1 "God is most great" (x4)
2 "I testify that there is no god except God" (x3)
3 "I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God" (x3)
4 "Come to prayer" (x2)
5 "Come to salvation" (x2)
("Prayer is better than sleep" (x2)-- only with the morning prayer)
("Come to the best of work" (x1)-- added by shia's)
6 "God is most great" (x2)
7 "There is no god except God" (x1)
Muslims hearing the adhan, must repeat it with a low voice, but in the place of the 4th and the 5th element, they say "There is no strength nor power but in God". The added sentence of the morning prayer (as seen above) is not repeated either, but replaced with: "You have said what is true".
While the performance of adhan is melodious, there are no fixed melodies. The muezzin is free to modulate the sentences to what he feels is best.

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