Jan 072013
 

I told you there were a lot of Luzzatti. Shmuel was a particularly notable one. This poem, a sonnet with an additional opening statement in verse, dates from the year of his death, which happens to be the same year a certain eminent emancipator died. Speaking of emancipation: can you imagine a rosh yeshiva today not only reading Dante, ḥas ve-shalom, but admitting he had read Dante, and then actually composing a poem in his honor? It is completely beyond the fucking pale. Ha-tzevi, Yisra’el, `al bamoteikha ḥalal…

Shmuel David Luzzatto (1800 – 1865)
A Tongue That Hates All Falsehood

A tongue that hates all falsehood and iniquity
And lips whose voice is mercy, truth and holiness —
As every tongue bowed down before mere vanity,
With grace and pleasure, majesty and wealthiness,
You kept faith in the Lord and in his every righteous way:
So crown the righteous man and sing out the name Dante!

A flow’ring city was brought down by brothers’ strife
Into the depths of every evil rift —
To far-flung exile you were cast for life,
But your pure soul a single hand did lift.

Your mouth you opened with a dream of Hell
You called to spirits from within the grave
Against the wrong, with thun’dring voice you yelled
And thanked kind God, as righteous men behave.

Like ancient prophets, you were cloaked in zeal
The rod of justice you passed o’er the proud
Though poor, you rose up to the highest station

For this, to you the wisest poets kneel
And every nation sings your praise aloud,
And you’re a sign to every generation.

שמואל דוד לוצאטו
לשון שונא כזב

 
לָשׁוֹן שׂוֹנֵא כָזָב גָּאוֹן וָעָוֶל
שָׂפָה קוֹלָהּ קָדוֹשׁ חֶסֶד וָיֹשֶׁר
בִּכְרֹעַ כָּל־לָשׁוֹן לִפְנֵי הֶהָבֶל,
חֶמְדָּה עֶדְנָה כָּבוֹד שִׁלְטוֹן וָעֹשֶׁר
אַתְּ לֵאלֹהיִם וּלְמֵישָׁרִים נֶאֱמַנְתְּ:
הַכְתִּירִי נָא צַדִּיק זַמֵּרִי דַנְטֵי.
 
מִדְיָנִים בֵּין־אַחִים קִרְיָה פוֹרָחַת
הִפִּילוּ בִמְצוּלַת כָּל־רַע כָּל־שֶׁבֶר,
אָז גֹרַשְׁתָּ וָאָז, גּוֹלָה נִדָּחַת,
הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַזַּכָּה הֵרִימָה אֵבֶר.
 
פִּיךָ פָתַחְתָּ בֶּחָזוֹן מִשָּׁחַת
קָרָאתָ לִרְפָאִים מֵחַדְרֵי־קֶבֶר
הִרְעַמְתָּ עַל־עַוְלָה רַעַם תּוֹכָחַת
הוֹדַעְתָּ אֵל גּוֹמֵל כִּפְעֻלּוֹת גֶּבֶר.
 
כִּנְבִיאֵי־קֶדֶם עֹז קִנְאָה עָטִיתָ
הֵנַפְתָּ עַל־גֵּאִים שֵׁבֶט הַקֹּשֶׁט
דַּלֹתָ אַךְ עַל־כָּל־רָם הִתְרוֹמָמְתָּ.
 
עַל־כָּל־חַכְמֵי זִמְרָה עַל־כֵּן עָלִיתָ
עַל־כֵּן כָּל־גּוֹי שֵׁם וּתְהִלָּה לָךְ יוֹשֶׁט
וּלְנֵס וּלְמוֹפֵת לַדּוֹרוֹת הוּשָׂמְתָּ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Lashón sonéi khazáv ga’ón va-ʕável
Safáh koláh kadósh ḥésed va-yósher
Bikróaʕ kol lashón lifnéi ha-hável,
Ḥemdáh ʕednah kavód shiltón va-ʕósher
‘At leilohím u-le-meisharím ne’emánte:
Hakhtíri na tzadík zaméiri dántei.

Midyaním bein ‘aḥím kiryáh poráḥat
Hipílu vimtzulát kol raʕ kol shéver,
‘Az goráshta va-áz, goláh nidáḥat,
Ha-néfesh ha-zakáh heirímah ‘éiver.

Pikhá patáḥta be-ḥazón mi-sháḥat
Karáta lirfa’ím mei-ḥadréi kéver
Hirʕámta ʕal ʕavláh ráʕam tokháḥat
Hodáʕta ‘eil goméil kifʕulót géver.

Kinvi’éi kédem ʕoz kin’áh ʕatíta
Heináfta ʕal gei’ím shéivet ha-kóshet
Dalóta ‘akh ʕal kol ram hitromámta.

ʕal kol ḥakhméi zimráh ʕal kein ʕalíta
ʕal kein kol goi sheim u-tehiláh lakh yóshet
U-le-néis u-la-moféit la-dorót husámta.

Jan 072013
 

If I had an ounce of seikhel (or credentials), I’d have someone pay me to compile a history of the Hebrew sonnet, from Immanuel of Rome unto the present day. Being sadly bereft of said quality, however, I will instead continue translating into the void, free of charge, for the dubious benefit of my mother, my Hebrew professor, a Canadian or two, and Mayer-who-cannot-make-kibbeh. And the occasional person on a university network trying to get out of having to, like, use a dictionary or whatever for their stupid Hebrew homework (God). Maybe one day, if I daven and lay tefillin every day, I can become, like this dude, the Internet’s number one destination for clueless goyim who want to know how to say “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son” in the “original Hebrew” for their tattoos? Ah, then I would be fulfilled.

So anyway. This is the second Tchernichovsky poem I’ve posted here, and also the second Tchernichovsky poem about Astarte. He was crazy about her, the little pagan. Here he imagines himself a woman in ancient Canaan before an idol of said goddess. Oh, how my heart bleeds to see the yidelekh turn into oyvdei elilim.

Shaul Tchernichovsky (1875 – 1943)
My Astarte

My Astarte, won’t you tell me, please, was it not through the vale
You came to us? Was it through waves of agate and chalcedony,
In a son of Canaan’s hands, from Sidon, stronghold on the sea?
Did Dan’s chieftains lie in wait for him at night along the trail?

Was it in linen bundles on the camels of Dedan,
The she-camels swaying back and forth and raising golden sand,
Carried by, with swords and spears equipped, a Sheban caravan,
Led forth by tinkling bells and singing moons1 across the land?

To see that emeralds are your eyes, how I have been delighted,
You’re wholly made of ivory, limbs perfectly united.
But the secret no man will reveal — who brought you here to me?

A little basket of dried figs, my finest flour too,
A pour of oil from my olives — so I’ve prayed unto you:
“Please find for me a shining boy and bring him speedily!”

שאול טשרניחובסקי
עשתורתי לי

 
עַשְׁתָּרְתִּי לִי, הֲלֹא תָּסִיחִי לִי: מֵאָן
הַגַּיְא אֵלֵינוּ בָאת? הַאִם בְּיַד כְּנַעֲנִי צִידוֹן
מֵעִיר לְמָעֹז יָם, בֵּין גַלֵּי שְׁבוֹ וְכַלְצִידוֹן?
הֶאָרְבוּ לוֹ בָּהָר וְעִם־לֵיל אַלּוּפֵי דָן?
 
הַאִם בִּצְרוֹרוֹת בַּד עַל דַּבְּשׁוֹת גְּמַלֵּי דְדָן
וּנְאָקוֹת מַעֲלוֹת חוֹל הַפָּז בְּנִיעָן וְנִידָן
נִשֵׂאת עִם אֹרְחַת שְׁבָא, נוֹשֶׁקֶת רוֹמָה כִּידוֹן,
וְלִפְנֵיהֶם מְטַרְטֵר קוֹל רִמּוֹנִים וְסַהֲרוֹן רָן?
 
נִפְלָאוֹת לִי, מַה־נִפְלָאוֹת עֵינַיִךְ אִסְמָרַגְדִּים,
אַף כֻּלָך עָשׂוּךְ שֵׁן, יְצוּרַיִךְ כֹּה מִתְלַכְּדִים.
וְאֵין אִישׁ מְגַלֶּה סוֹד, מִי נְתָנֵךְ לִי — אֵין אִישׁ!
 
סַלְסִלַּת תְּאֵנִים לָךְ — חָפַנְתִּי קֶמַח סָלְתִּי,
מִשֶּׁמֶן זֵיתִי לֹג — אֵלַיִךְ הִתְפַּלָּלְתִּי:
״נַהֲגִיהוּ, נַעַר צַח, אֵלַי תְּבִיאִיהוּ חִישׁ!״
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Ashtórti li, ha-lóy tasíkhi li: me’ón
Ha-gái eléinu vot? Ha-ím be-yád kná’ani tzídon
me-ír le-mó’oz yom, bein gálei shvo ve-khaltzídon?
He-‘órvu lo bo-hór ve-ím leil alúfei don?

Ha-‘ím bitzróroy bad al dábshos gemálei dedón
unókos má’alos khol ha-póz be-ní’on ve-nídon
Níseis im orkhás shvo, noshékes romóh kídon,
Ve-lifnéihem metárteir kol rimónim ve-sáharon rón?

Nifló’os li, mah nifló’os eináyikh ismarágdim,
af kúlokh ósukh shein, yetzuráyikh ko mislákdim.
Ve-éin ish megáleh sod, mi nesáneikh li — ein ish!

Salsílas te’éinim lokh — khafánti kémakh sólti,
mi-shémen zéisi log — eiláyikh hispalólti:
“Nahagíhu, ná’ar tzakh, eilái tevi’íhu khish!”

  1. Saharon, a moon-shaped ornament.
Jan 072013
 

Look, it’s a delicate allegory of the profound love between God and the people of Israel. It even quotes the Song of Songs, see?

Todros Abulafia (1247 – after 1300)
How Bitter and Harsh

How bitter and harsh was the day that you left, graceful fawn;
Its memory leaves not one spot on my flesh unmaligned.
And yet how exceedingly beautiful were your two feet
When they rose up and tight ’round my neck intertwined.

טודרוס אבולעפיה / طدروس أبو العافية
מה מר ונורא

 
מַה מָּר וְנוֹרָא יוֹם נְדוּדֵךְ יַעֲלַת
הַחֵן, לְזִכְרוֹ אֵין מְתֹם בִּבְשָׂרִי.
אַךְ מַה מְּאֹד יָפוּ פְעָמַיִךְ בְּעֵת
הִשְׂתָּרְגוּ עָלוּ עֲלֵי צַוָּארִי.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Mah mar ve-norá yom nedudéikh yaʕalát
ha-ḥein, le-zikhró ‘ein metóm bi-vesarí.
‘Akh mah me’ód yafú feʕamáyikh be-ʕéit
histargú ʕalú ʕaléi tzavarí.

Jan 072013
 

You know your boy Michael. Always a sucker for a good love poem.

T. Carmi (1925 – 1994)
Awakening

Come and pass your hand across my mouth.
I’m not used to being in this light.

Bat-like is our love, roundabout, of darkness,
and it won’t miss. Your face explains to me
my hands. What could I understand by light?
Get up and pass your hand above me.

My slumber (what’s the time?) embraced your childhood.
Ten between the sea and night, midnight between me
and you, seven ‘tween the clefts of dawn.
Oh no, I’m not used to being in this light

that comes to open up my eyes like chilly
little holes. In the gun sight’s scales I’ll weigh
my blindness and your own dust’s fear.
Get and up and pass your hand within me.

Face to face, will I still have one?
I might shut up, or I might speak.
Come and pass your hand across my mouth.
I’m not used to being in this light.

ט. כרמי
יקיצה

 
בּוֹאִי, הַעֲבִירִי אֶת יָדֵךְ עַל פִּי.
אֲנִי אֵינִי רָגִיל בָּאוֹר הַזֶּה.
 
עֲטַלֵּפִית אַהֲבָתֵנוּ, סְחוֹר וַאֲפֵלוֹת,
וְלֹא תַחֲטִיא. פָּנַיִךְ מַסְבִּירוֹת לִי
אֶת יָדַי. מָה אָבִין בָּאוֹר?
קוּמִי, הַעֲבִירִי אֶת יָדֵךְ עָלַי.
 
שְׁנָתִי (מָה הַשָּׁעָה?) חָבְקָה אֶת יַלְדוּתֵךְ.
עֶשֶֹר בֵּין יָם לְלַיְלָה, חֲצוֹת בֵּינִי
לְבֵינֵךְ, שֶׁבַע בֵּין חֲרַכֵּי־הַשַּׁחַר.
הוֹ לֹא, אֵינִי רָגִיל בָּאוֹר הַזֶּה
 
הַבָּא לִפְקֹחַ אֶת עֵינַי כַּחֲרִירִים
קָרִים. בְּמֹאזְנֵי־הַכַּוֶּנֶת אֶשְׁקֹל
אֶת עִוְרוֹנִי וּפַחַד־עֲפָרֵךְ.
קוּמִי, הַעֲבִירִי בִּי יָדֵךְ.
 
פָּנִים־אֶל־פָּנִים, הַאִם עוֹד יִהְיוּ לִי?
אֲנִי עָלוּל לִשְׁתֹּק, אוֹ לְדַבֵּר.
בּוֹאִי, הַעֲבִירִי אֶת יָדֵךְ עַל פִּי.
אֲנִי אֵינִי רָגִיל בָּאוֹר הַזֶּה.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Bó’i, haʕavíri ‘et yadéikh ʕal pi.
‘Aní ‘einí ragíl ba-‘ór ha-zéh.

ʕataleifít ‘ahavatéinu, seḥór va-‘afeilót,
ve-ló taḥatí. Panáyikh masbirót li
‘et yadái. Mah ‘avín ba-‘ór?
Kúmi, haʕavíri ‘et yadéikh ʕalái.

Shnatí (mah ha-shaʕáh?) ḥavkáh ‘et yaldutékh.
ʕéser bein yam le-láilah, ḥatzót beiní
le-veinéikh, shévaʕ bein ḥarakéi ha-sháḥar.
Ho lo, ‘einí ragíl ba-‘ór ha-zéh

ha-bá lifkóaḥ ‘et ʕeinái ka-ḥarirím
karím. Be-moznéi ha-kavénet ‘eshkól
‘et ʕivroní u-fáḥad ʕafaréikh.
Kúmi, haʕavíri bi yadéikh.

Paním ‘el paním, ha-‘ím ʕod yiheyú li?
‘Aní ʕalúl lishtók, ‘o ledabéir.
Bó’i, haʕavíri ‘et yadéikh ʕal pi.
‘Aní ‘einí ragíl ba-‘ór ha-zéh.