Jan 182013

Bialik describes here – in part – from whence he derived his poetic gift. This poem’s far superior companion piece, “Zohar,” fills out the other part of the equation. But one step at a time. It’s amphibrachic tetrameter, y’all, just like the original. Oh snap.

Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik (1873 – 1934)
My Song

Do you know the way I fell heir to my music? —
There dwelt in my father’s house one lonely poet,
So humble, and hidden, concealed ‘mongst the dishes,
Lamenting in crannies, at home in dark fissures.
This poet knew only one regular chorus,
A single song, constant, a familiar version.
Whenever my heart was struck dumb, and my tongue too
In clouded affliction would cleave to my palate,
And held back choked off in my throat was the sobbing —
He’d come with his song over my empty spirit.

This poet of poverty was called the cricket.

As father prepared as a pauper his Shabbos;
The table lacked challah and wine for the kiddush;
The lamps had been pawned, in their places were smoking
A few skinny candles mashed down into mortar
That set the walls dancing; and then seven children
Each one of them hungry and some of them sleeping,
Encircled the table; our mother, dejected
To hear them sing peace to the ministr’ing angels;
Ashamed of his sin, it seemed, poor and despondent,
Our father takes up the decrepit knife, slicing
A chunk of black bread and a tail of herring —
While we were yet chewing, and ere the brief taste of
That slice dipped in salt from our poor mouths was wiped out —
That slice, black and sour, so bland, almost spoiled —
We broke out in tears as if robbed, wholly wretched,
And sang out zemiros along with our father
With rumbling bellies, with hearts wholly hollow —
And then too the cricket would join in the chorus,
And chirp out zemiros from his dusky cranny.

‘Twas during the rains, in the evening’s twilight,
My father’s house ruled by the still of great sadness,
His body seemed crushed by a reverie, silent,
A dream in lone corners of abomination.
This pressure of need and the still of sheer want,
When seven young souls raise their eyes up in question —
Such desolate corners, a tear stopped from falling;
On top of the oven the tomcat is yowling,
No bread in the basket, the starter — still proofing,
For heat there’s no charcoal or kasha for cooking —
And then from a crack in the wall peeked the cricket
And droned out his melody, dry and so empty,
Which nibbles my heart like a moth; my soul’s hollow.
His song neither raged nor consoled, but lamented,
It knew not of curses — it was desolation;
As desolate as death and as wasted life’s vapor,
And mourning, so endlessly, ceaselessly mourning.

And where from all this came my sigh, do you know?
My mother was widowed; her children were orphaned.
As she rose from mourning the worries received her:
All sources of income were blocked off and sealed.
She looked all around; her whole world had been emptied,
And widow- and orphanhood were all she witnessed.
The tick of the clock even seemed to grow weaker,
The walls of the house seemed to be mutely crying,
With wrath and with mercy each corner fell silent.
“Oh, Lord of the Universe!” sighed out the woman —
“I’m falling – support me! I’m naught but a widow!
Provide for the chicks in my nest – I’ve no strength left!”
Her flesh and her blood then she’d haul to the market.
At night she’d return, if her soul was yet breathing,
Each penny she brought home was gathered with curses,
And soaked in her heart’s blood and dipped in gall, bitter,
And when she came back, a dog worn and beaten —
‘Til midnight her lamp she would never extinguish,
Her deft hands through socks always pulling the needle,
And silent she’d sigh from her pains’ combination.
Each nod of her head and her hands’ every movement
Would cause the lamp’s flame to jump, flick’ring and trembling,
As if to her nodding, “I’m sorry, poor woman!”
A pity, a mother’s heart rotting in anger,
The warmth of her breath carried off upon curses.
And when she laid down, then beneath her weak body
At great length her broken-down bed would groan, creaking
As if from the weight of distress it might buckle —
The whispered Shema, though devoured by sighing,
Crossed over at length to the place I was sleeping.
I heard every break, every joint of her body,
It was to my heart as the sting of scorpion.

At dawn with the crow of the cock she arises,
And takes up the housework as always in silence.
From my darkened room, from my place in the cradle,
Her enfeebled body I saw through the doorway,
By paltry light over a lump of dough leaning,
With poor slender hands she’d be kneading and kneading.
The bench shakes and totters from under the basin —
A whisper in silence, a sigh borne of ruin
Slips out with each dip of the hand in the dough bowl,
Uprooted and carried to me from the kitchen:
“Oh Lord of the Universe, brace me, support me!
I’ve no strength! I’ve no life! I’m only a woman!”
And to me my heart now says “Here I am,” knowing
That into the dough her own eyes’ tears were dripping.
In each morning’s loaves she baked hot for her children,
From each piece of dough, from the bread of her weeping —
Her deep sigh rose through all the bones of my body.

חיים נחמן ביאליק

הֲתֵדַע מֵאַיִן נָחַלְתִּי אֶת-שִׁירִי? –
בְּבֵית אָבִי הִשְׁתַּקַּע מְשׁוֹרֵר עֲרִירִי,
צָנוּעַ, מִסְתַּתֵּר, הַנֶּחְבָּא אֶל-כֵּלִים,
מִתְלוֹנֵן בִּנְקִיקִים, שְׁכַן סְדָקִים אֲפֵלִים.
וַיֵּדַע הַמְשׁוֹרֵר רַק פִּזְמוֹן קָבוּעַ,
שִׁיר תָּמִיד יְחִידִי וּבְנֻסָּח יָדוּעַ.
וּמִדֵּי נֶאֱלַם לְבָבִי, וּלְשׁוֹנִי
מִמַּכְאוֹב נֶעְכָּר אֶל-חִכִּי דָבֵקָה,
וּבְכִי עָצוּר מָעוּךְ הִתְאַפֵּק בִּגְרוֹנִי –
וּבָא הוּא בְשִׁירוֹ עַל-נַפְשִׁי הָרֵיקָה.

זֶה הָיָה הַצְּרָצַר מְשׁוֹרֵר הַדַּלּוּת.

בַּעֲשׂוֹת אָבִי חֹל אֶת-שַׁבַּתּוֹ מֵעֹנִי;
מְחֻסָּר הַשֻּׁלְחָן יֵין קִדּוּשׁ גַּם-חַלּוֹת;
הַמְּנוֹרוֹת חֲבוּלוֹת, בִּמְקוֹמָן עֲשֵׁנִים
מְעוּכִים בַּטִּיט נֵרוֹת רָזִים אֲחָדִים
מַרְקִידֵי הַכְּתָלִים; וְשִׁבְעָה יְלָדִים,
כֻּלָּמוֹ רְעֵבִים וּקְצָתָם יְשֵׁנִים,
יָסֹבּוּ הַשֻּׁלְחָן; אִמֵּנוּ עֲגוּמָה
לְקוֹל תִּתָּם שָׁלוֹם לְמַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת;
וּכְאָשֵׁם עַל-חֶטְאוֹ עָנִי וּנְכֵה-רוּחַ
בּוֹצֵעַ אַבִינוּ בְּשַׂכִּין פְּגוּמָה
עַל-פַּת לֶחֶם שָׁחֹר וּזְנַב דָּג מָלוּחַ –
עוֹדֶנּוּ לוֹעֲסִים וּבְטֶרֶם תִּכָּרֵת
הַפְּרוּסָה הַטְּבוּלָה בְּמֶלַח מִפִּינוּ,
הַפְּרוּסָה הַחֲמוּצָה, הַפְּגוּמָה, הַתְּפֵלָה,
נְעַלְּעֶנָּה בִדְמָעוֹת כַּעֲלוּבִים וּגְזוּלִים,
וּזְמִירוֹת נַעֲנֶה בְקוֹל אַחֲרֵי אָבִינוּ
מִבֶּטֶן הוֹמִיָּה, מִלְּבָבוֹת חֲלוּלִים –
אָז נִטְפַּל הַצְּרָצַר גַּם-הוּא לַמַּקְהֵלָה,
וַיְצַרְצַר בִּזְמִירוֹת מִסְּדַק הָאֲפֵלָה.

בִּהְיוֹת יְמֵי סַגְרִיר וּבְנֶשֶׁף הַלָּיְלָה,
בִּשְׁלֹט בְּבֵית אָבִי דְּמִי קַדְרוּת גְּדוֹלָה,
וַחֲלָלוֹ הַמְדֻכָּא כְּמוֹ הֹזֶה וְדוֹמֵם
וְחוֹלֵם חֲלוֹם עָגוּם בִּכְנַף שִׁקּוּץ שׁוֹמֵם.
זֹה עָקַת הַדַּחֲקוּת, דְּמִי דַלּוּת מְנֻוֶּלֶת,
בִּנְשֹׂא שֶׁבַע נְפָשׁוֹת עַיִן שׁוֹאֶלֶת –
זָוִיּוֹת שׁוֹמֵמוֹת, דִּמְעָה נֶעֱצָרֶת;
עַל-גַּבֵּי הַכִּירָה הֶחָתוּל מְיַלֶּלֶת,
בַּסַּל אֵין פַּת-לֶחֶם, שְׂאוֹר – בַּמִּשְׁאָרֶת,
לַחֲמָם אֵין גַּחֶלֶת, וּגְרִיסִין בַּסִּיר –
אָז הֵצִיץ הַצְּרָצַר מִנִּקְרַת הַקִּיר
וַיְנַסֵּר שִׁירָתוֹ הַיְבֵשָׁה, הָרֵיקָה,
כָּעָשׁ קוֹסְסָה לִבִּי, נִשְׁמָתִּי בּוֹקֵקָה.
לֹא-זָעֲפָה שִׁירָתוֹ, לֹא-נִחֲמָה, בָּכָתָה,
גַּם-קֹב לֹא יָדָעָה – שׁוֹמֵמָה הָיָתָה;
שׁוֹמֵמָה כַמָּוֶת, כַּהֲבֵל חַיֵּי תְפֵלָה,
וַאֲבֵלָה, בְּלִי אַחֲרִית וְתִכְלָה אֲבֵלָה.

וְאֵי מִזֶּה תָבֹא אַנְחָתִי יָדָעְתָּ?
אִמִּי נִתְאַלְמְנָה, בָּנֶיהָ נִתְיַתְּמוּ;
עַד-קָמָה מֵאֶבְלָהּ הַדְּאָגָה קִדְּמַתָּה:
נִסְתַּתְּמוּ כָּל-מְקוֹרֵי פַרְנָסָה, נִסְתַּתְּמוּ.
הִבִּיטָה מִסְּבִיבָהּ: נִתְרוֹקֵן עוֹלָמָהּ,
וְאַלְמֹן וִיתֹם בַּאֲשֶׁר עֵינָהּ נִבָּטָה.
גַּם-קוֹל הָאֻרְלֹגִין כְּמוֹ הֻמַּךְ מֵעָתָּה,
גַּם-כָּתְלֵי הַבַּיִת כְּמוֹ בוֹכִים בִּדְמָמָה,
וּבְזַעַף וּבְחֶמְלָה כָּל-זָוִית הֶחֱרִישָׁה.
“רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל-עוֹלָם! – נֶאֱנְחָה הָאִשָּׁה –
סָמְכֵנִי בַּל-אֶפֹּל, אַלְמָנָה אָנֹכִי;
פַּרְנֶס-נָא אֶפְרֹחַי כְּתוֹלָעִים – מַה-כֹּחִי?”
אָז תּוֹצִיא הַשּׁוּקָה אֶת-חֶלְבָּהּ וְדָמָהּ.
בָּעֶרֶב הִיא שָׁבָה כָּל-עוֹד בָּהּ נְשָׁמָה,
כָּל-פְּרוּטָה הֵבִיאָה נֵאָרָה בַמְּאֵרָה,
רְקוּקָה בְדַם-לִבָּהּ וּטְבוּלָה בִמְרֵרָה,
וּבְשׁוּבָהּ רְצוּצָה כְּכַלְבָּה מֻדָּחָהּ –
עֲדֵי חֲצוֹת הַלַּיְלָה לֹא כִבְּתָה אֶת-נֵרָהּ
וְיָדֶיהָ בַפֻּזְמָק בַּמַּחַט שָׁלָחָה,
וְדוּמָם מִתַּמְצִית מַכְאוֹבָהּ נֶאֱנָחָה.
וּלְכָל-מְנוֹד רֹאשָׁהּ וּלְכָל-תְּנוּעַת יָדָהּ
שַׁלְהֶבֶת הַנֵּר הִזְדַּעֲזָעָה, חָרָדָה,
כְּמוֹ נָדָה לָהּ: צַר-לִי עָלַיִךְ, אֻמְלָלָה!
חֲבָל עַל לֵב אֵם אֲשֶׁר-יִמַּק בִּקְצָפָה,
עַל-חֹם הֶבֶל פִּיךְ שֶׁיִּנָּדֵף בִּקְלָלָה.
וּבְשָׁכְבָהּ – זְמַן רַב תַּחַת גּוּפָהּ הָרָפֶה
נֶאֶנְחָה, נֶאֶנְקָה מִטָּתָהּ הַפְּרוּקָה,
כְּמוֹ חִשְּׁבָה הִתְמוֹטֵט מִנֵּטֶל הַמְּצוּקָה –
וּלְחִישָׁה שֶׁל קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע בַּאֲנָחוֹת טְרוּפָה
זְמַן רַב עוֹד הִגִּיעָה אֵלַי עַל-מִשְׁכָּבִי.
שָׁמַעְתִּי כָל-שֵׁבֶר כָּל-פֶּרֶק מִגּוּפָהּ,
וַיְהִי כַּעֲקִיצַת עַקְרַבִּים לִלְבָבִי.

בַּשַּׁחַר עִם-קְרִיאַת הַגֶּבֶר הִיא קָמָה,
בִּמְלֶאכֶת הַבַּיִת עוֹסֶקֶת בִּדְמָמָה.
מֵחֶדְרִי הָאָפֵל, מִתּוֹךְ הָעֲרִיסָה,
בְּעַד הַפֶּתַח רָאִיתִי אֶת-גּוּפָהּ הַקָּלוּשׁ,
לְאוֹר נֵר דַּל תִּכַּף עַל-גַּבֵּי הָעִסָּה
וְיָדָהּ הַדַּקָּה שָׁם תָּלוּשׁ וְתָלוּשׁ.
יִתְנוֹדֵד הַסַּפְסָל תַּחַת הָעֲרֵבָה –
וּלְחִישָׁה חֲרִישִׁית וַאֲנָחָה חֲרֵבָה
עַל כָּל-טְבִיעַת יָד, עַל כָּל-לִישָׁה וְלִישָׁה,
נֶעֱקֶרֶת וּבָאָה מִן-הַחֶדֶר הַשֵּׁנִי:
“רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל-עוֹלָם, חַזְּקֵנִי וְסָמְכֵנִי!
מַה-כֹּחִי, מָה חַיָּי? וַאֲנִי בִלְתִּי אִם-אִשָּׁה.”
וּלְבָבִי לִי אוֹמֵר וְיוֹדֵעַ הִנֵּנִי,
כִּי-נָטְפָה לַבָּצֵק גַּם דִּמְעַת עֵינֶיהָ.
וּבְחַלְּקָהּ פַּת שַׁחֲרִית חַמָּה לִילָדֶיהָ
מִמַּאֲפֵה בְצֵקָהּ, מִלֶּחֶם דִּמְעָתָהּ –
וָאֲעַלַּע, וַתָּבֹא בַעֲצָמַי אַנְחָתָהּ.


Ha-séida mei-áyin nokhálti es shíri?
Bveis óvi hishtáka meshóyrer aríri,
Tzonúa, mistáteir, ha-nékhbo el kéilim,
Mislóynein binkíkim, shkhan sdákim aféilim.
Va-yéida hamshóyrer rak pízmoyn kovúa,
Shir tómid yekhídi uvnúsakh yodúa.
U-mi-déi nélam levóvi, ulshóyni
Mi-mákhoyv nékar el khíki dovéikoh,
Uvkhí ótzur mó’úkh hisápeik bigróyni —
U-vó hu ve-shíroy al náfshi ho-réikoh.

Zeh hóyoh hatzrótzar meshóyrer ha-dálus.

Ba’asóys óvi khoyl es shabáso mei-óni;
Mekhúsar ha-shúlkhon yein kídush gam kháloys;
Hamnóyroys khavúloys, bimkóymon ashéinim
Me’úkhim ba-tít néyroys rózim akhádim
Markídei haksóylim; ve-shívoh yelódim,
Kulómoy re’éivim uktzósom yeshéinim,
Yosóybu ha-shúlkhon; iméinu agúmoh,
Le-kóyl títam shóloym le-málakhey ha-shóreys;
Ukhósheim al khétoy óni unkhéi rúakh
Boytzéia avínu be-sákin pegumóh
Al pas lékhem shákhor uznáv dog molúakh —
Oydénu loyásim uvtérem tikáreis
Ha-prúsoh hatvúloh be-mélakh mi-pínu,
Ha-prúsoh hakhmútzoh, hapgúmoh, hatféiloh,
Ne’alénoh vidmó’oys kalúvim ugzúlim,
Uzmíroys náneh be-kóyl ákhrei ovínu
Mi-béten homíyoh, milvóvoys khalúlim —
Oz nítpal hatzrótzar gam hu la-makhéiloh,
Vaitzártzar bizmíroys misdák ho-aféiloh.

Bihyóys yeméi ságrir uvnéshef ha-láiloh,
Bishlóyt be-véis óvi demí kádrus gedóyloh,
Vakhlóloy hamdúko kmóy hóyzeh ve-dóymeim
Ve-khóyleim khlóym ógum bikhnáf shíkutz shóymeim.
Zoy ókas ha-dákhkut, demí dálus menuvéles,
Binsóy shéva nefóshoys áyin shoyéles —
Zovíyoys shoyméimoys, dímoh ne’etzóres;
Al gábei ha-kíroh he-khótul meyaléles,
Ba-sál ein pas lékhem, se’óyr — ba-mishóres,
Lákhmom ein gakhéles, ugrísin ba-sír —
Oz héitzitz hatzrótzar mi-níkras ha-kír
Vaináseir shirósoy haivéishoh, ho-réikoh,
Ko-ósh kóysesoh líbi, nishmósi boykéikoh.
Loy zófoh shirósoy, loy níkhmoh, bokhósoh,
Gam koyv loy yodó’oh — shoyméimoh hoyósoh;
Shoyméimoh kha-móves, ka-havéil kháyei tféiloh,
Vavéiloh, bli ákhris ve-síkhloh avéiloh.

Ve-éi mi-zéh sóvoy ankhósi yodóto?
Ími nisálmnoh, boného nisyátmu;
Ad kómoh mei-évloh hadógoh kidmátoh:
Nistátmu kol mkóyrei farnósoh, nistátmu.
Hibítoh misvívoh: nisróykein oylómoh,
Ve-álmoyn visóym ba’ashér éinoh nibótoh.
Gam koyl ha-urlóygin kmóy húmakh mei-ótoh,
Gam kóyslei ha-báyis kmóy vóykhim bidmómoh,
Uvzá’af uvkhémloh kol zóvis hekhríshoh.
“Ribóynoy shel óylom!” ne’énkhoh ho-íshoh —
“Somkhéini bal époyl, almónoh onóykhi;
Párnes-no efráykhai ke-toló’im — mah kóykhi?”
Oz tóytzi ha-shúkoh es khélboh ve-dómoh.
Bo-érev hi shóvoh kol oyd boh neshómoh,
Kol prútoh heivíoh neióroh vaméiroh,
Rekúkoh ve-dám líboh utvúloh vimréiroh,
Uvshúvoh retzútzoh ke-khálboh mudókhoh —
Adéi khtzóys ha-láiloh loy khíbtoh es néiroh
Ve-yadého va-púzmok ba-mákhat sholókhoh,
Ve-dúmom mi-támtzis makhóyvoh nenókhoh.
Ulkhól menóyd róyshoh ulkhól tnúas yódoh
Shalhéves ha-néir hizdazó’oh, khoródoh,
Kmóy nódoh loh, “Tzar li oláyikh, umlóloh!”
Khvál al leiv eim ashér yímak biktzófoh,
Al khoym hével pikh she-yinódeif biklóloh.
Uvshókhvoh — zman rav tákhas gúfoh ho-rófeh
Ne’énkhoh, ne’énkoh mitótoh haprúkoh,
Kmóy khíshvoh hismóyteit mi-néitel hamtzúkoh —
Ulkhíshoh shel krías shma banókhoys terúfoh
Zman rav oyd higíoh eilái al mishkóvi.
Shomáti khol shéiver kol pérek mi-gúfoh,
Vayhí ka-akítzas akrábim lilvóvi.

Ba-shákhat im krías ha-géver hi kómoh,
Bimlékhes ha-báyis oysékes bidmómoh.
Mei-khédri ho-ófeil, mi-tóykh ho-‘arísoh,
Bad ha-pésakh ro’ísi es gúfoh ha-kólush,
Le-óyr neir dal tíkaf al gábei ho-ísoh
Ve-yódoh ha-dákoh shom tólush ve-tólush.
Yisnóydeid ha-sáfsol tákhas ho-aréivoh —
Ulkhíshoh kharíshis vanókhoh kharéivoh
Al kol tvías yod, al kol líshoh ve-líshoh,
Nekéres u-vó’oh min ha-khéder ha-shéini:
“Ribóynoy shel óylom! Khazkéini ve-somkhéini!
Mah kóykhi, moh kháyai? Vaní vílti im íshoh.”
Ulvóvi li óymeir ve-yoydéia hinéini,
Ki nótfoh la-bótzeik gam dímas einéiho.
Uvkhálkoh pas shákhris khámoh lilodého
Mi-máfei vetzéikoh, mi-lékhem dimósoh —
Va-ála, va-távoy vatzómai ankhósoh.