Jan 102013

A loose sonnet in Ashkenazi Hebrew, relying on slant rhymes rather than perfect rhymes. Since it adopts its main character and its plot from the Song of Songs, I love it. Like crazy. I’m so easy.

Really. The one problem with being a Hebrew poet is that the bar was set very high, very early. As Rabbi Akiva said, “the entire world itself is not as worthy as the day the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, and the Song of Songs is the holy of holies.”1 Every Hebrew poet since, in a way, has been going on after Hendrix at Monterey. Anyway. Yaakov Fichman!

Yaakov Fichman (1881 – 1958)

You are the Shulamite. A bird lost in the vineyard,
a heart that has blossomed in a land long abandoned,
on the mountains of spices, astray on your road,
you seek out your lover, afflicted.

Your brothers did shame you – is that why you’re stirred?
A few shepherds teased you, and so you’re dejected?
Unique in your innocence, as with a sword
you cleave the world’s heart. You’re beloved.

The day’s tanned your cheeks, and night has made riper
in shadows your chalice, a dizzying flower,
and poured out delight in the clefts of your garden.

How has your lover, among the rocks wandering,
not yet found your path – when the scent of your spring
is flowing like myrrh over Judah and Zion?

יעקב פיכמן

אַתְּ שׁוּלַמִּית. צִפּוֹר שְׁכוּחָה בַּכֶּרֶם.
אַתְּ לֵב פָּרַח בְּאֶרֶץ עֲזוּבָה.
וּבֵין הָרֵי־בְשָׂמִים, אוֹבֶדֶת דֶּרֶךְ,
אַתְּ לְדוֹדֵךְ שׁוֹאֶלֶת כּוֹאֲבָה.
הַעַל כִּי הִכְלִימוּךְ אַחַיִךְ אַתְּ נִסְעֶרֶת,
כִּי הָרוֹעִים סָנְטוּ בָךְ אַתְּ דָּוָה —
וְאַתְּ אַחַת בְּתֹם־חִנֵּךְ כִּבְחֶרֶב
גּוֹזֶרֶת לֵב עוֹלָם. אַתְּ אֲהוּבָה.
הַיּוֹם שָׁזַף לֶחְיֵךְ וְלֵיל בִּכֵּר
בַּצֵּל גְּבִיעֵךְ, כְּפֶרַח מְשַׁכֵּר,
בְּכָל סִתְרֵי גַנֵּךְ יָצַק חֶמְדָּה.
אֵיךְ לֹא מָצָא בַּסֶּלַע נְתִיבֵךְ
דּוֹדֵךְ עַד כֹּה — וְרֵיחַ אֲבִיבֵךְ,
כְּמוֹר עוֹבֵר כָּל אֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה!


At shulámis. Tzípoyr shkhúkhoh ba-kérem.
At leiv pórakh be-éretz azúvoh.
U-véin hórei vesómim, oyvédes dérekh,
At le-dóydeikh shoyéles koyávah.

Ha-ál ki hikhlímukh akháyikh at niséres,
Ki ha-róyim sóntu vokh at dóvoh —
Ve-át ákhas be-sóym khíneikh kivkhérev
Goyzéres leiv óylom. At ahúvoh.

Ha-yóym shózaf lékhyeikh ve-léil bíkeir
Ba-tzéil geví’eikh, ke-férakh meshákeir,
Be-khól sísrei gáneikh, yótzak khémdoh.

Eikh loy mótzo ba-séla nesíveikh
Dóydeikh ad koy — ve-réiakh avíveikh,
Ke-móyr óyveir kol éretz yehúdoh!

  1. Mishnah Yadayim, 3:5.

  2 Responses to “Yaakov Fichman, “Shulamit””

  1. Hi there,

    I’ve been going through your site reading and searching up poems to analyse and present on for my literature course. I absolutely adore this one (because yay shorter alternative to the Song of Songs!) and might present on this. Could you please let me know when this poem was first published and/or written?


  2. Glad to have helped. This one is pretty good, huh? I’m not sure when it was written, since Fichman did not reliably date his poems, but it was first published in 1944. Good luck!

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