Tuesday Poem: A Sad State of Freedom, Nazim Hikmet

A Sad State of Freedom

You waste the attention of your eyes,
the glittering labour of your hands,
and knead the dough enough for dozens of loaves
of which you'll taste not a morsel;
you are free to slave for others--
you are free to make the rich richer.

The moment you're born
they plant around you
mills that grind lies
lies to last you a lifetime.
You keep thinking in your great freedom
a finger on your temple
free to have a free conscience.

Your head bent as if half-cut from the nape,
your arms long, hanging,
your saunter about in your great freedom:
you're free
with the freedom of being unemployed.

You love your country
as the nearest, most precious thing to you.
But one day, for example,
they may endorse it over to America,
and you, too, with your great freedom--
you have the freedom to become an air-base.

You may proclaim that one must live
not as a tool, a number or a link
but as a human being--
then at once they handcuff your wrists.
You are free to be arrested, imprisoned
and even hanged.

There's neither an iron, wooden
nor a tulle curtain
in your life;
there's no need to choose freedom:
you are free.
But this kind of freedom
is a sad affair under the stars.

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963)

Translated by Taner Baybars

For more poems by Nazim Hikmet got to http://www.poemhunter.com/nazim-hikmet/poems/

I thought that, with the elections in Egypt and the ongoing push for more democratic freedom in the Middle East, it might be good to feature work by a Middle Eastern poet for this week's Tuesday Poem.

Born in Turkey in 1902, Nazim Hikmet was politically active as a communist and spent many years in and out of prison for his beliefs, despite being a recipient of the International Peace Prize (alongside Picasso and Pablo Neruda). He is one of Turkey’s most important writers. Hikmet died in Russia in 1963 suffering a heart attack as he bent to pick up a newspaper from his doorstep. His poems have been put to music and sung by Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and The Byrds. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A2z%C4%B1m_Hikmet

For more poetry by the Tuesday Poets please visit the Tuesday Poem website at www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com


  1. I felt it really opened up with the shift at the end of the poem from a small, narrow horizon to the wider, cosmological consideration of life and our universe under the stars. Beautiful.

  2. I agree with Elizabeth, the key to the poem resides in those last lines, which lift it above the polemic.

  3. Wow -- this is so very au courant -- it sounds like my two sons ranting about the state of world affairs.

    Thanks for posting!

  4. "they plant around you
    mills that grind lies"

    I have to admit - I like the railing, interesting that it should still feel so fresh and relevant even after all this time.

  5. It's a bit sad that it feels so contemporary. Not all his poetry is polemic though, there are some wonderful lyrical poems. Makes you realise how much good poetry there is out there that we never stumble across at all.

  6. "...you are free to slave for others--
    you are free to make the rich richer."

    So very contemporary...today, so very OWS.
    What a moving poem. Thank you for sharing this.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts