Jan 032013

See, it wasn’t all bawdiness, wine and the wittiest of sinat ḥinam. He had a sweet side too. As a paean to a passing girl, I like to think of it as a medieval Italian Hebrew “Girl from Ipanema,” only somewhat more vivid.

Immanuel of Rome (1261 – 1328)
If That Doe of a Girl

If that doe of a girl had proudly walked by
So that even God’s sons could witness her light
Towards her glory God’s stars would smolder in spite
She’d drag with a hook all the hosts on high

If she’d walked on her path hunched over and squat
The dwellers of dust would make haste to draw near
Their corpses would live and the dead would show cheer
‘Til ‘twixt the dead they would divide a new lot.1

And so with great wisdom this beauty decides
To walk the same path that she walks, to abide
For she’s always stood firm in reason’s domain

Not due to some flaw, some lack of virtue inside
For she is all beauty, yet chooses to stride
Upon the heights of grace; and so, she will reign.

עמנואל הרומי
לו קוממיות הלכה היעלה

לוּ קוֹמְמִיּוּת הָלְכָה הַיַּעֲלָה
עַד־כִּי מְאוֹרֶיהָ בְּנֵי־אֵל יֶחֱזוּ
לִקְרַאת כְּבוֹדָהּ כּוֹכְבֵי־אֵל רָגְזוּ
תִּמְשֹׁךְ בְּחַכָּה כָּל־גְּדוּדֵי מַעֲלָה.
אוֹ אִם שְׁחוֹחַ הָלְכָה עַל־מַעֲלָ־
תָהּ שֹׁכְנֵי־עָפָר לְמֻלָהּ נֶחְפְּזוּ
יִחְיוּ נְבֵלָתָם וּמֵתִים עָלְזוּ
עַד־בֵּין עֲצוּמִים יַחְלְקוּ עוֹד נַחֲלָה.
עַל־כֵּן יְפֵיפִיָה בְּחָכְמָה בָחֲרָה
לֵכֶת עֲלֵי־דֶרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר הִיא הוֹלְכָה
כִּי הִיא בְּפֶלֶךְ הַתְּבוּנָה תּוֹמְכָה
לֹא מִפְּנֵי מוּם בָּהּ וּמַעְלָה חָסְרָה
כִּי הִיא כְּלִילַת הַיֹּפִי אַף־דוֹרְכָה
עַל־בָּמֳתֵי הַחֵן וְעַל־כֵּן מוֹלְכָה.


Lu komemiyút halkháh ha-yaʕaláh
ʕad ki me’oréha benéi ‘eil yeḥezú
Likrát kevodáh kokhevéi ‘eil ragzú
Timshókh be-ḥakáh kol gedudéi maʕaláh.

‘O ‘im sheḥóaḥ halkháh ʕal maʕalá-
tah shokhnéi ʕafár le-muláh neḥpezú
Yiḥyú neveilatám u-meitím ʕalzú
ʕad bein ʕatzumím yaḥlekú ʕod naḥaláh.

ʕal kein yefeifiyáh be-ḥokhmáh vaḥaráh
Léikhet ʕaléi dérekh ‘ashér hi holkháh
Ki hi be-félekh ha-tevunáh tomkháh

Lo mi-penéi mum bah u-maʕláh ḥasráh
Ki hi kelilát ha-yófi ‘af dorkháh
ʕal bamotéi ha-ḥéin ve-ʕal-kéin molkháh.

  1. I’m not totally sure about this line. I think Immanuel may be playing with Isaiah 53:12 and the potential double meaning of the word ʕatzumim. Usually, as in Isaiah, it means “mighty” or “strong,” (“he will divide the spoils with the strong”). But it can also could potentially mean “those with closed eyes,” as in “the dead.” I think the idea here is that since the girl in question is so beautiful that she can wake the dead, the revived will have a new inheritance (or portion, or lot – naḥalah) divided amongst them – that is, a new “lease on life” (or lot in life). I could be wrong.

  2 Responses to “Immanuel of Rome, “Lu Komemiyut Halkhah ha-Ya`alah””

  1. So sweet! I love the first stanza.

    I wonder if in that last line of the second stanza he is saying that her beauty is so powerful that it will revive the dead to such an extant that they will be once again like ‘atzumim, as in mighty people, with a nahala in life distributed to them. But even in this reading he’s still playing with the double meaning, that is, those who were once ‘atzumim as in dead are now ‘atzumim as in mighty, thanks to her power. I don’t know if that even makes any sense, or is substantially different from your reading, which is, in any case, quite good.

  2. I also considered that it might be saying that, since there are suddenly all these revived dead people walking about, living people would have to redivide inheritances to include them. That would be make it a “bad thing” (and sort of funny) that she’s reviving the dead, which keeps with the theme that she’s walking in the, uh, “Goldilocks Zone” of appropriate humility. Immanuel can be tough to sort out at times.

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