Dec 082012

It’s been awhile since we’ve checked in with ibn Gabirol. For this translation, a couple of shoutouts are in order. First, a shoutout to my dear friend Harry, father to my two most adorably-cheeked and beloved nieces, who made me aware of an album druggy Israeli post-punk Berry Sakharof cut a few years ago (with a Ministry of Education grant) featuring lyrics by none other than the mighty poet ibn Gabirol himself. And second, a shoutout to my Hebrew professor, who gave me today two ’70s-vintage volumes of ibn Gabirol’s and Yehuda ha-Levi’s poetry with commentary by Jefim Schirmann. Fate coalesced upon the crippled person of ibn Gabirol today.

And indeed, said ibn Gabirol was not a happy man. If his poetry is to be believed, ibn Gabirol was moody, short, sickly and ugly, badly deformed by a skin disease. He died young, but he also began writing young — as this poem of complaint, which refers directly to his age (sixteen) demonstrates. I’ve appended Berry Sakharof’s version of this poem, which should give you an idea of how easily Andalusian Hebrew poetry can be set to music (and also an idea of the incredible continuity of the Hebrew language). Berry even pronounces his ayins. How awesome is Berry?

Berry Sakharof and Rea Mokhiach - Melitzati be-Da'gati Hadufah

Shlomo ibn Gabirol (1021? – 1058?)
My Poetry’s Shoved Aside by My Worry

My poetry’s shoved aside by my worry
My joy’s pushed aside by my sighing,
And if I saw laughter — my heart would then weep
For my life, plucked away thus from me.
“My friend, could one aged only six and ten years
Mourn and weep o’er the day of death’s gath’ring —
Who still had his years of youth to live out
With his cheek as sun-kissed as the lily?”
My heart’s judged me since youth
And so my soul’s been bowed o’er,
And wisdom and morals have made their decree —
And my soul, in their judgment, is wroth.
“And what gain’s there in wrath?
Be silent and hope! Every wound has its cure!
What use is weeping o’er the sorrow you face?
What use is dripping these tears?”
What use is waiting, how long could I hope —
When the day still has yet to live out its term?
Ere Gilead’s balm comes, every pained man
Whose soul is afflicted shall die.

שלמה אבן גבירול / سليمان ابن جبيرول
מליצתי בדאגתי הדופה

מְלִיצָתִי בְּדַאְגָתִי הֲדוּפָה
וְשִׂמְחָתִי בְּאַנְחָתִי דְחוּפָה,
וְאִם אֶרְאֶה שְׂחוֹק – יִבְכֶּה לְבָבִי
לְחַיָּתִי שְׁהִיא מִנִּי קְטוּפָה.
“יְדִידִי, הַלְּבֶן עֶשֶׂר וְשִׁשָּׁה
סְפֹד וּבְכוֹת עֲלֵי יוֹם הָאֲסִיפָה –
אֲשֶׁר הָיָה לְהִמָּשֵׁךְ בְּיַלְדוּת
בְּלֶחִי כַּחֲבַצֶּלֶת שְׁזוּפָה?”
שְׁפָטַנִי לְבָבִי מִנְּעוּרַי
וְעַל כֵּן הָיְתָה נַפְשִׁי כְפוּפָה,
וְשָׂם הַבִּין וְהַמּוּסָר מְנָתוֹ
וְנַפְשִׁי הַחֲרוּצָה שָׂם קְצוּפָה.
“וּמַה בֶּצַע בְּהִתְקַצֵּף? אֲבָל דֹּם
וְקַוֵּה, כִּי לְכָל מַכָּה תְּרוּפָה!
וּמַה יּוֹעִיל בְּכוֹת עַל הַמְּצוֹקִים
וּמָה יּוֹעִיל לְדִמְעָה הָעֲרוּפָה?”
וּמָה אוֹחִיל וְעַד כַּמָּה אֲיַחֵל –
וְהַיּוֹם עוֹד וְלֹא מָלְאָה תְקוּפָה?
וְטֶרֶם בּוֹא צְרִי גִלְעָד – וְיָמוּת
אֱנוֹשׁ נִכְאָב אֲשֶׁר נַפְשׁוֹ נְגוּפָה.


Melitzatí be’da’agatí hadufáh
Ve-simḥatí be-‘anḥatí deḥufáh,
Ve-‘im ‘er’éh seḥók — yivkéh levaví
Le-ḥayatí she-hí miní ketufáh.
“Yedidí, ha-le-vén ʕéser ve-shisháh
Sefód u-vekhót ʕaléi yom ha-‘asifáh —
‘Ashér hayáh lehimashéikh be-yaldút
Be-léḥi ka-ḥavatzélet shezufáh?”
Shefatáni levaví mi-neʕurái
Ve-ʕál kein haitáh nafshí khefufáh,
Ve-sám ha-bín ve-ha-musár menató
Ve-nafshí ha-ḥarutzáh sam kefutzáh.
“U-máh bétzaʕ be-hitkatzéif? ‘Avál dom
Ve-kavéh, ki le-khól makáh terufáh!
U-máh yoʕíl bekhót ʕal ha-metzokím
U-máh yoʕíl le-dimʕáh ha-ʕarufáh?”
U-máh ‘oḥíl ve-ʕád kámah ‘ayaḥéil —
Ve-ha-yóm ʕod ve-lo mal’áh tekufáh?
Ve-térem bo tzerí gilʕád — ve-yamút
‘Enósh nikh’áv ‘ashér nafshó negufáh.

  4 Responses to “Shlomo ibn Gabirol, “Melitzati be-Da’gati Hadufah””

  1. Beautiful – both the poem (although depressing) and Sakharof’s version! That’s from Adumei haSefattot, eh?

    I love this contemporary setting of ibn Gabirol’s Shaʕar Petaḥ Dodi, with some nice ʕayins in it too:

    I assume you know of Meitarei David, the Diwan Project, and other such groups… If not, I would be honoured to introduce you.

  2. Thanks for the chizuk! It is indeed from Adumei ha-Sefatot. And thanks for the sharing! (Nice ayins indeed!)

    This is actually the first I’m hearing of either Meitarei David or the Diwan Project. I confess that I am mostly ignorant of Hebrew music (which is I guess a little strange for someone who likes Hebrew poetry). I should probably check that out, huh?

  3. Oh, then definitely check them out! There is in Israel today more and more interest in classical Hebrew poetry and piyyutim, and there are a number of groups who specialize in singing them, on a spectrum of traditional to contemporary. It depends on your taste for oud vs. grunge guitar, I suppose.

    For some examples, check out:, or, or, or, or… I’ll stop there.

  4. Thanks for sharing these! I especially dig the classical Arab orchestra + Yehuda ha-Levi. I will have to do some more serious digging around the Piyut site. And please don’t hesitate to share any more musical connections/recommendations in the future.

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