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Bull’s Eye

12 November 2014  |  0 comment  |  Erk Acarer

Poets love trees

There’s a tree hidden in Müşküle village. This is the first and only sycamore in Turkey planted after a dead person, in his memory.

Poets love trees

Danish fairy tale master Hans Christian Andersen visited the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. While he was watching Istanbul from afar on the ship’s deck, he was surprised upon seeing the forested areas. Andersen, with his Western mind, understood the Eastern culture later, and wrote the truth in his notes. The places he saw from the deck were not forests, but cemeteries.

He shared his research with his readers…

“Istanbul,” he wrote, “the capital of the Ottomans, is very rich in trees. The city has cypresses and sycamores most of all. Because Turks plant sycamore when they have a child, and cypress when they lose a loved one.”

Cultural importance of the sycamore that was featured in the foundation story of the Ottoman Empire and haunted Osman I’s dreams is known by many people.

Sycamore symbolized permanent settlement, long life and taking roots. For this reason, Turks planted sycamore at every birth. 

Another tree considered sacred is cypress. It’s very long-lived just like sycamore. It’s one of the rare tree species that’s evergreen. For this reason, it almost tells “immortality” in the midst of death. Cypress makes a “Hu” sound as it bends in the wind.

Thus, it’s said to prostrate and utter one of the names of God.

This tree is preferred in cemeteries, as it strikes root vertically and doesn’t take too much space underground with those roots.

Unfortunately, green spaces are destroyed for profit today.


The city is famous for its trees persevering in spite of everything.

And poets love trees.

Nazım is a great poet.

When asked to describe Nazım, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda didn’t hesitate for a moment: “If poet is a mountain, we famous poets are just slopes of that mountain. But Nazım is the summit.” 

They ask him again: 

“And if you made a ten-person best poets list, would you include Nazım Hikmet?”

Then Pablo Neruda brushes them off:

“Even if I made a one-person list, I would include Nazım.” 

Nazım is a sycamore, and he always loved sycamores. 

He requested that a grave be built for him in Anatolia after his death…

A tree at its head… Not a cypress, but a sycamore! 

His request reflected the distinction of being a poet…

He was banned, his works forbidden. For this reason, his will wouldn’t be honored. His grave is in Moscow. But his admirers could risk to plant a sycamore in his memory.

Müşküle village near İznik Lake earned a reputation for its dissenting views and almost became a legend. In the 80’s, a sycamore was planted in the middle of the village in memory of Nazım. However, the government got word of this and didn’t let the tree grow. The sycamore was cut down! But undaunted, the village planted another sycamore, kept its place secret and grew it. 

There’s a hidden tree in Müşküle village. This is the first and only sycamore in Turkey planted after a dead person, in his memory.

Poets are fuelled by contrasts. 

Nazım is an immortal shadow, who managed to break taboos even after his death. 

Istanbul and Müşküle are beautiful with their trees… 

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