Oct 23 2017

Yunus Emre – A single word can brighten the face

Published by at 9:09 am under Poetry

A single word can brighten the face
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan


/ Image by Graham Keen /

Here we are with a rare Monday poem email…

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.

This is one of my favorite poems by Yunus Emre, but I have never really written up a good commentary to accompany it. Perhaps it is because it is a poem about words, the singular power of words, or the power of a singular word — and I don’t want my meditative ramblings to take away from the poem itself. It says it all so beautifully.

Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

I love that line. I have been busy with my day job of late, and I haven’t been resting in deep meditation as much as I would like. The outer world has required a lot of energy from me lately. Yet I have still managed to catch moments of silence gently flowing beneath the activity. That’s where the ripening happens.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

I think this verse is the heart of the poem for me. I read it over and over again.

I think will say no more today, and let Yunus have the final word–

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.


Recommended Books: Yunus Emre

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre Quarreling with God: Mystic Rebel Poems of the Dervishes of Turkey
More Books >>


Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Yunus Emre is considered by many to be one of the most important Turkish poets. Little can be said for certain of his life other than that he was a Sufi dervish of Anatolia. The love people have for his liberating poetry is reflected in the fact that many villages claim to be his birthplace, and many others claim to hold his tomb. He probably lived in the Karaman area.

His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism and humanism and love for God.

He was a contemporary of Rumi, who settled in the same region after having moved from what is today Afghanistan. Rumi composed his collection of stories and songs for a well-educated urban circle of Sufis, writing primarily in the literary language of Persian. Yunus Emre, on the other hand, traveled and taught among the rural poor, singing his songs in the Turkish language of the common people.

A story is told of a meeting between the two great souls: Rumi asked Yunus Emre what he thought of his great work the Mathnawi. Yunus Emre said, “Excellent, excellent! But I would have done it differently.” Surprised, Rumi asked how. Yunus replied, “I would have written, ‘I came from the eternal, clothed myself in flesh, and took the name Yunus.'” That story perfectly illustrates Yunus Emre’s simple, direct approach that has made him so beloved.

More poetry by Yunus Emre

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Yunus Emre – A single word can brighten the face”

  1. Annaon 25 Oct 2017 at 7:46 am

    In the Quantum Silence
    words dissolve,
    even the sense of ‘I’…

    How can silence be explained in words?

    MATSUO BASHŌ’S FAMOUS haiku
    is a profound meditation on
    the power of poetry to express
    the inexpressible and convey
    the unspoken eloquence of all that is.

    deep silence
    the shrill of cicadas
    seeps into rocks

    —Matsuo Bashō
    (1644–94)

    Let a silent smile brighten
    your face in the stillness
    of the autumn…:)

  2. Olga T.on 26 Oct 2017 at 1:21 pm

    The Poet says the Word is important
    The Musician, the Note
    The Teacher, the Lesson
    The Mother, the Child.

    Maybe all of the above
    Or maybe none.

    Who can say
    Except for the Poet.

    Who knows
    Except for the One.

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