Oct 152012

Is this Soul and Gone’s first wine poem? I do believe it is. But it certainly won’t be the last. The Hebrew poets of al-Andalus seemed to have had a taste for the stuff, and since God never shared with the Jews his evident post-Mahometan change of heart concerning liquor, who was going to tell them no? Certainly not their Muslim contemporaries, who seem to have been just as deep in their cups.

It also won’t be the last wine poem that mixes up drinking with intimations of sex, particularly sex between male lovers. The Hebrew poets of al-Andalus seemed to have a taste for that stuff too. And why not? As they say, anything goes in Córdoba.

The sentiment of the closing couplet, in which the poet requests his friend honor his memory by pouring wine over his grave, displays a certain continuity with our own generation’s finest poets. To quote the noted Hebrew poet Nas:

True in the game, as long as blood is blue in my veins
I pour my Heineken brew to my deceased crew on memory lane

Ibn Gabirol could ask for nothing more.

Nas - Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)

Shlomo ibn Gabirol (1021? – 1058?)
My Friend, Lead Me

My friend, lead me unto the vines,
Let me drink, I’ll discover delights,
Goblets of your love would cleave unto me,
Then maybe my sorrows might flee.
If you’d drink of my love eight times over,
Of your love I would drink ten times more,
And my friend, should I die before you,
Among the vines you should carve out my tomb.
Let my body bathe in the grape’s juices,
Embalm me with grapeskins and seeds,
And when I die, my friend, neither weep nor lament –
Strike up the lute and the pipe and the lyre.
Never sprinkle my tombstone with ash
But rather with wine, old and new.

שלמה אבן גבירול / سليمان ابن جبيرول
ידידי נהלני

יְדִידִי, נַהֲלֵנִי עַל גְּפָנִים
וְהַשְׁקֵנִי וְאֶמְצָא שְׂשׂונִים
וְכוֹסוֹת אַהֲבָתְךָ יִדְבְּקוּן בִּי
וְאוּלַי אָז יְנוּסוּן הַיְגוֹנִים.
וְאִם תִּשְׁתֶּה בְּאַהֲבָתִי שְׁמוֹנֶה
אֲנִי אֶשְׁתֶּה בְּאַהְבָתְךָ שְׁמוֹנִים.
וְאִם אָמוּת לְפָנֶיךָ יְדִידִי,
חֲצֹב קִבְרִי בְּשָׁרְשֵׁי הַגְּפָנִים
וְשִׂים רַחְצִי בְּמֵימֵי הָעֲנָבִים
וְחָנְטֵנִי בְּחַרְצַנִּים וְזַנִּים
וְאַל תִּבְכֶּה וְאַל תָּנוּד לְמוֹתִי
עֲשֵׂה כִנּוֹר וְעוּגָבִים וּמִנִּים
וְאַל תָּשִׂים עֲלֵי קִבְרִי עֲפָרִים
אֲבָל כַּדִּים חֲדָשִׁים עִם יְשָׁנִים.


Yedidí, nahaléini ʕal gefaním
Ve-hashkéini ve-’emtzá sesoním
Ve-khosót ‘ahavatkhá yidbekún bi
Ve-‘ulái ‘az yenusún ha-yegoním.
Ve-‘ím tishtéh be-‘ahavatí shmóneh
‘Aní ‘eshtéh be-‘ahavatkhá shemoním.
Ve-‘ím ‘amút lefanékha yedidí,
Ḥatzóv kivrí be-shorshéi ha-gefaním
Ve-sím raḥtzí be-meiméi ha-ʕanavím
Ve-ḥantéini be-ḥartzaním ve-zaním
Ve-‘ál tivkéh ve-‘ál tanúd le-motí
ʕaséh khinór ve-ʕugavím u-miním
Ve-‘ál tasím ʕaléi kivrí ʕafarím
‘Avál kadím ḥadashím ʕim yeshaním.

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