Ihsan Raif, our first female poet who wrote poems with Syllable, wrote lyrical poems as well as poems containing patriotism and religious feelings. After the Balkan defeat, she was among the women who read the poetry with Fatma Aliye and Halide Edip on the stage, in the grand meeting organized by countrywide resistance organization after the Balkan war defeat. İhsan Raif did not only write poems but also she composed them. There are nineteen compositions with the lyrics and music belonging to her.
For the first time, I had heard it from a stone plaque; I could not precisely choose the words, because the words were kneaded between music. The mode, which I learned later that was Nihavent, had drawn me into indescribable sadness. I also heard the same song from the other masters who sang it. I listened from Zeki Müren, Müzeyyen Senar, Melihat Gülses, and Bülent Ersoy respectively. Each seemed to tell a different story on the same words. I can say that Müzeyyen Senar’s render has shaken me, the feeling like I lived the story which the details I will learn later, has burned my heart. Later I listened from her a couple of times. Years later, when I searched for the story of these words, and the owner of the song, Ihsan Raif Hanım, I realized that these strings were not about a sad expression of love, but about deep despair. The words were the voices of an unpreventable destiny, perhaps the real screams that were written. Maybe it was as much of a story of today’s woman as you cannot imagine. The story of the disappearance of a woman who desperately struggles to survive… Forty-nine years of being stuck in the corner, unable to make a voice, forced to submission and compel… Here, a life getting out of a hand…
Ihsan Raif Hanım is a courageous woman who tried to add everything into the trap she is in, in her short life, she tried in fact she struggled… When saying innocence, pressure, being non-resistance to the authority, self-confidence, courage, four marriages, children, and rush of the independence war, women’s rights, then poem and prose have entered into her whole life. She was born in Beirut as the daughter of Vizier Kose Mehmet Pasha. She traveled to many places because of her father’s duty. She had lectures about Music, literature, and French. Following her interest in literature from an early age, she wrote poems with the syllabic meter in the style of folk poetry with the impact of Rıza Tevfik, one of the poets of her time. She is known in the literary world as “One of our first female poets using the syllabic meter” Her poems are full of love and emotion because she writes of herself, her feelings and her dreams.
Even she is not a woman written about too much, she had a colorful life. In fact, she has a difficult lifeline lived, turning her into so feminine, so full of emotion and so rich psychology. Maybe her incomplete karma has followed her for her whole life; she lived the repeats in every turn.
She had an intense life to be subject to movies but also a simple life as well. In the Stone Mansion she lived in, going till the forced marriage stage in an age considered as a child (13) without even finding an opportunity to tell the insight of the unfortunate and unreal event and she could not get out of the tragic loop she has fallen in… In spite of growing in a literate family, a decision like the execution was applied with the insisting of communal pressure and her father Kose Mehmed Pasha. The result of an unrealistic guess is that a girl was given absolute judgment despite being innocent and cannot be proved. These suppliances of his daughter do not affect Raif Pasha at all. The feeling of being trapped makes her write these strings:
“I don’t complain to anyone, cry to my own situation
I shake like a culprit when I look at my future.
The curtain of darkness has been drawn to my prosperity, I fear
I shake like a culprit when I look at my future”
The event which resulted in a marriage that she did not want at a young age leads to big changes and suffering in Ihsan Raif’s life. After fourteen years, 27 years old and a mother of three, she divorces her husband as a young woman and prepares herself for a new life. She makes her second and third marriages in a short time. She has become one of the most famous women poets of the period. The sudden death of her third husband, the poet Sahabettin Suleyman, causes her to recede. After a while, she decided to make her fourth marriage with the Strasbourg poet Bell who was with her on her most sad days. This last marriage period, will not be remembered with the contributions to her literature life but with the never-ending gossips. She lived in Switzerland with her last husband until the end of her life. She died in Paris in 1926 with the purpose of going for appendicitis surgery, at the age of forty-nine. Her grave is in Rumelihisari, Istanbul.
Why the rosy faces should not smile;
Why those beautiful eyes should cry,
Why are the words unlikable to love,
I am surprised and I cry as they are told.
This colorful flower we see,
Nightingale in love, bee, butterfly,
Will leave each other and go;
I look at the faithlessness and I cry.
You say my hyacinth; my rose shall not wither;
Death will take your lover from you;
Even my reputation persecutes the whole world.
I emotionalize from desperation and I cry.
The joy is hidden and tedium descends;
Everybody, everything is convicted pure water;
The struggle does not end until the last breath,
I count my unfinishing misery and I cry.
It’s beyond my oh, what is this situation?
Misery, worry, anxiety for the living;
Thousands of bitter emotion worth one pleasure;
Cold-hearted destiny I ask and I cry.
The tyrants should be punished of course.
Why the oppressed ones should suffer trouble?
There is an outrage upon justice?
I suffer from injustice and I cry.
The Stone Mansion in which the events related to the poem “I don’t complain to anyone, cry to my own situation” took place, is now used as Sisli District Governorship Building. When Mehmet Raif Pasha became vizier, it was built with on the land registered on him with the order of Sultan Abdulhamit the II on the date of 1889. While many mansions were built with woods in Istanbul at that time, the name of the mansion was called a stone mansion due to the use of stone in the construction of this mansion. It was used as the residence of Kose Mehmed Raif Pasha Minister of Public Works and Agriculture.
By: Dilek Alp
*This article was published in the January– February issue of Marmara Life.