Dec 032012
 

I’ve decided to alienate both of my readers: from now on, even when it’s about modern poetry, Soul and Gone will be about medieval poetry.1

This poem might make more sense to the uninitiated if I had bothered to translate any of Yehuda ha-Levi’s poems describing his sea voyage towards the Land of Israel. I never could do things in a rational order. In any case, given Yehuda Amichai’s biography, I think he might identify somewhat with his medieval namesake.

Yehuda Amiḥai (1924 – 2000)
Yehuda ha-Levi

The soft hairs of his nape
are the roots of his eyes.

His curled beard —
an extension of his dreams.

His brow is a sail, his two arms are oars
to sail his soul in his body towards Jerusalem.

But in the fist of his white mind
he clutches black seeds of his gleeful youth.

When he comes to the land, beloved and barren —
he’ll sow.

יהודה עמיחי
יהודה הלוי


שַׂעֲרוֹתָיו הָרַכּוֹת בָּעֹרֶף
הֵן שָׁרְשֵׁי עֵינָיו.

זְקָנוֹ הַמְסֻלְסָל —
הֶמְשֵׁךְ לַחֲלוֹמוֹתָיו.

מִצְחוֹ מִפְרָשׂ, זְרוֹעוֹתָיו מְשׁוֹטִים
לְהָשִׁיט נַפְשׁוֹ בְּתוֹךְ גּוּפוֹ יְרוּשָׁלַיְמָה.

אֲבָל בְּאֶגְרוֹף מוֹחוֹ הַלָּבָן
הוּא מַחֲזִיק גַּרְעִינִים שְׁחוֹרִים שֶׁל נְעוּרָיו הָעַלִּיזִים.

כְּשֶׁיַגִּיעַ לָאָרֶץ הָאֲהוּבָה וְהַצְּחִיחָה —
יִזְרָע.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Saʕarotáv ha-rakót ba-ʕóref
Hein shorshéi ʕeináv.

Zekanó ha-mesulsál —
Hemshéikh la-ḥalomotáv.

Mitzḥó mifrás, zeroʕotáv meshotím
Lehashít nafshó be-tókh gufó yerushaláimah.

‘Aval be-‘egróf moḥó ha-laván
Hu maḥazík garʕiním sheḥorím shel neʕuráv ha-ʕalizím.

Ke-she-yagíaʕ la-‘áretz ha-‘ahuváh ve-ha-tzeḥiḥáh —
Yizráʕ.

  1. Except when it’s not.

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