Nazim Hikmet
  • Nazim Hikmet
  • Below the towers, under the arcades,
  • I wander through Prague late
  • at night.
  • The sky is an alembic distilling gold in the dark —
  • an alchemist’s still over a deep-blue flame.
  • I walk down the hill toward Charles Square:
  • on the corner, next to the clinic there,
  • is Doctor Faust’s house set back in a garden.
  • I knock on the door.
  • The doctor isn’t home.
  • As we all know,
  • on a night like this
  • about two hundred years ago,
  • the Devil took him
  • through a hole in the ceiling.
  • I knock on the door.
  • In this house I, too, will hand Satan a deed —
  • I, too, signed the deed with my blood.
  • I don’t want gold from him
  • or knowledge or youth.
  • I’ve had it with exile,
  • I give up!
  • If I could have just one hour in Istanbul.
  • I knock and knock on the door.
  • But the door doesn’t open.
  • Why? ,
  • Am I asking the impossible, Mephistopheles?
  • Or isn’t my tattered soul
  • worth buying?
  • In Prague the moon is rising lemon-yellow.
  • I stand outside Doctor Faust’s house
  • at midnight, knocking on the closed door.
  • —Translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk


Nazim Hikmet (1902–1963), generally acclaimed as the greatest Turkish poet of the 20th Century, was imprisoned in 1938 on a charge of attempting to incite the Turkish navy into rebellion and spent the next 13 years in prison, from which he wrote some of his greatest poetry. A year after his release he managed to escape from Turkey in a tiny motorboat on a stormy night, was picked up by a Rumanian cargo ship, and made his way to Russia where he lived out the rest of his life in exile. However brutally he had been persecuted by the Turkish state for his Marxist views, he was and remains revered by the Turkish people for his humanity, compassion, personal heroism, and literary brilliance. Hikmet died of a heart attack in Moscow on June 3, 1963. “Faust’s House” is from
Poems of Nazim Hikmet, published by Persea Books, and is reprinted by permission.

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Comments

Twister March 5, 2012 @ 2:08 p.m.

I wrote a "Haiku."

My Master said "Seventeen syllables. It's the DISCIPLINE."

I, a poor disciple was trying for the TONE.

See? SNAFU!

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