Jan 202013

This here is basically your boy’s theme song lately. My own frequent dialogues with my soul, the impossible bitch, tend to be along these lines. I guess my shtick was already old a millennium ago.

The concluding thirteen lines of this poem are in Arabic. I’m not 100% confident on the transliteration. If you want to fix it, I would be pleased. Go ahead, make my terrible day.

And yes, once again, I’ve attached Berry Sakharof’s version for your listening pleasure. This one’s pretty killer. Of course, the poem is very long and partly in Arabic, so Berry only does the first section (until “‘al titʕarvi” – “don’t get yourself involved”). Honestly, I’m with Berry on this one – maybe it’s not as much as of a tour de force, but it’s a perfectly effective poem if you end it right there. If you like it, once again, buy it.

Berry Sakharof and Rea Mokhiach - Mah Lakh Yeḥidah

Shlomo ibn Gabirol (1021? – 1058?)
Wherefore, My Soul

Wherefore, my soul, do you now sit
As silent as a captive king,
Why fold your wings of joy,1
Why drag this wing of woes?
How long shall your heart mourn,
How long shall you draw tears?
You cling to grief as if
To hew a grave within.
Hush, my soul, by God, be still —
Be still, restrain your tears,
But stand and wait, look out ’til He
Who sits above looks down and sees!
Just close your door behind your back,
And hide until the anger’s passed.
‘Twould be so easy in your eyes;
If you should thirst or hunger,
Your reward will multiply,
And in the end you’ll prosper.
So shut yourself off from this world —
Don’t get yourself involved.

Wherefore, O traitorous Earth,
Do you strut about so wanton?
My soul’s revolted by your charms —
In vain you try to court me,
Don’t offer gifts, for by the morrow
You’ll take back all you’ve given!
Run back, my soul, to God,
Run back, and make your poor heart glad,
Before him plead your sorry case,
In his sight draw out a tear,
And perhaps he’ll cast you from this pit
In which you now reside,
Amongst these boorish fools
Whom you hate and so despise.
If you write — they cannot tell
If you’re writing or erasing;
If you speak — they cannot tell
If you’re right or if you’re lying!
The day you part from them
Give thanks and make an offering,
The day you witness worthy men,
Then count yourself among them.

Rise up, you poor and stormy thing,
Rise up and stand up firm,
Rise up, be wary how you’re seen,
And make yourself a name.
Forsake your father and your mother,
And love your Rock alone,
Rise up and in his footsteps run,
As fleet as hinds or hawks.
If you should find distress or strife —
Fear not, don’t storm against them,
If peaks or valleys you should stride,
Or ride the great waves of the sea.
Put Spain behind your back,
Set out and don’t delay,
‘Til you walk the earth of Babylon,
And Egypt and the Blessed Land —
There stride with all your strength,
There rise, be made sublime!

Why, you poor and stormy thing,
Do you fade away lamenting?
Because you left your people, or
Are you pining for your homeland?
Put these two things behind your eyes —
Then no longer will you ache:
For God’s own shadow covers you
Should you leave or should you settle,
For I’ll be thought a stranger
‘Til I’m rotting in my grave.
Remember, three were made to live
As strangers, think on them:
The Steadfast2 and the Honest3 and the Envoy;4
All had to flee the hands of foes,
And shelter in their flight they found
In God, the Rider on the Clouds! 5
Behind me, may my rivals’ land
Be named to fit King David’s curse.6
May sulfur, salt and also flame
Consume the bounty of its earth.
May you not last, O land of foes,
A day past when I leave you!
I have no stake within your midst,
Should you narrow or be widened.
My heart’s desire to wander forth —
Oh, when shall it draw near?
For I’ve been bound between these bulls,
Woe to me for what befalls me!
Woe to all these happy men
Who fail to understand my thoughts!
Woe to me, who dwells amidst,
Who’s tied so tightly to them!
Woe to stubborn Time as well —
How it’s caused me wonder!
Woe to this abode of mine
In which are choked my dreams!
In which I’ve stayed, a man apart,
‘Til I must weigh migration!
My stubborn ways give my words voice —
But Allah knows my faith!

שלמה אבן גבירול / سليمان ابن جبيرول
מה לך יחידה

מַה לָּךְ יְחִידָה, תֵּשְׁבִי
דוּמָם כְּמֶלֶךְ בַּשְּׁבִי,
כַּנְפֵי רְנָנִים תֶּאְסְפִי
וּכְנַף יְגוֹנִים תִּסְחֲבִי?
כַּמָּה לְבָבֵךְ יֶאֱבַל,
כַּמָּה דְמָעוֹת תִּשְׁאֲבִי?
דָּבַקְתְּ בִּיגוֹן עַד אֲשֶׁר
קֶבֶר בְּתוֹכוֹ תַחְצְבִי.
דֹמִּי, יְחִידָתִי, לְאֵל,
דֹמִּי וְאַל תֵּעָצְבִי,
עִמְדִי וְצַפִּי עַד אֲשֶׁר
יַשְׁקִיף וְיֵרֶא יוֹשְׁבִי!
סִגְרִי דְלָתֵךְ בַּעֲדֵךְ,
עַד יַעֲבָר-זַעַם חֲבִי.
יֵקַל בְּעֵינַיִךְ מְאֹד,
אִם תִּצְמְאִי אוֹ תִרְעֲבִי,
יִרֶב שְׂכָרֵךְ עַד מְאֹד
וּבְאַחֲרִיתֵךְ תֵּיטְבִי.
הִנָּזְרִי מֵאַחֲרֵי
תֵבֵל וְאַל תִּתְעָרְבִי!
מַה לָּךְ אֲדָמָה בוֹגְדָה
תִּתְהַלְּכִי וּתְסוֹבֲבִי?
נַפְשִׁי בְּיָפְיֵךְ מָאֲסָה –
לַשָּׁוְא עָלַי תַּעְגְבִי,
אַל תִּתְּנִי, כִּי מָחֳרָת
תִּקְחִי אֶת אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנַדְּבִי!
שׁוּבִי יְחִידָתִי, לְאֵל,
שׁוּבִי וְלִבֵּךְ שׁוֹבֲבִי,
הִתְחַנֲנִי אֵלָיו, וְגַם
דִּמְעָה לְפָנָיו שַׁאֲבִי,
אוּלַי יְצַו וִישַׁלְּחֵךְ
מִבּוֹר, אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ תִשְׁכְּבִי,
מִבֵּין אֲנָשִׁים בּוֹעֲרִים
שֶׁתִּשְׂנְאִי וּתְתַעֲבִי.
אִם תִּכְתְּבִי – לֹא יֵדְעוּ
אִם תִּמְחֲקִי אוֹ תִכְתְּבִי,
אִם תּאֹמְרִי – לֹא יֵדְעוּ
אִם תִּצְדְּקִי אוֹ תִכְזְבִי!
יוֹם תֵּצְאִי מֵהֶם – תְּנִי
תוֹדָה וְזֶבַח קָרְבִי,
יוֹם תֵּצְאִי לִרְאוֹת אֱנוֹשׁ,
אָז כֶּאֱנוֹשׁ תִּתְחַשְׁבִי.
קוּמִי, עֲנִיָּה סֹעֲרָה,
קוּמִי וְגַם הִתְיַצְּבִי,
קוּמִי וְגוּרִי בַּאֲשֶׁר
תִּוָּדְעִי, תִּנָּקְבִי.
קוּמִי וְשִׁכְחִי אָב וְאֵם,
צוּרֵךְ לְבַדּוֹ אֶהֱבִי,
קוּמִי וְרוּצִי אַחֲרָיו,
קַלָּה כְנֶשֶׁר אוֹ צְבִי.
אִם תִּמְצְאִי מָצוֹק וְצַּר –
אַל תִּפְחֲדִי, אַל תִּרְהֲבִי,
אִם תִּדְרְכִי עֵמֶק וְהַר,
אִם בָּמֳתֵי יָם תִּרְכְּבִי.
שִׂימִי סְפָרַד אַחֲרֵי
גֵוֵךְ וְאַל תִּתְעַכְּבִי,
עַד תִּדְרְכִי צֹעַן וְגַם
בָּבֶל וְאֶרֶץ הַצְּבִי –
שָׁם תִּדְרְכִי כָל עֹז, וְשָׁם
תִּנָּשְׂאִי, תִּשָׂגְבִי!
לָמָּה, עֲנִיָּה סֹעֲרָה,
תִּכְלִי וְלָמָּה תִדְאֲבִי?
הַעַל נְטֹשׁ עַמֵּךְ, וְאִם
עַל בֵּית מְגוּרֵךְ תִּדְאֲבִי?
שִׂימִי שְׁתֵּי אֵלֶּה לְמוּל
עֵינֵךְ – וְאָז לֹא תִכְאֲבִי:
כִּי צֵל אֱלוֹהַּ בַּעֲדֵךְ –
אִם תֵּלְכִי אוֹ תֵשְׁבִי,
כִּי גֵר אֲנִי נֶחְשָׁב, עֲדֵי
עַצְמִי בְקֶבֶר תִּרְקְבִי.
זִכְרִי שְׁלֹשָׁה נִתְּנוּ
לָגוּר, וּבָהֶם חַשְּׁבִי:
אֵיתָן וְאִישׁ תָּמִים וְצִיר
נָס מִפְּנֵי יַד אוֹיְבִי,
חָסוּ בְגָלוּתָם בְּשֵׁם
צוּר בָּעֲרָבוֹת רוֹכְבִי!
אֶרֶץ יְרִיבַי, אַחֲרַי
תּוּאַר בְּקִלְלַת בֶּן-לְבִי.
גָּפְרִית וְגַם מֶלַח וְאֵשׁ
תֹּאכַל יְבוּלָהּ בַּעֲבִי.
אִי-לָךְ אֶרֶץ שׁוֹרֲרַי,
יוֹם אַחֲרֵי תֵעָזְבִי!
אֵין לִי בְּקִרְבֵּךְ נַחֲלָה
אִם תֵּצְרִי אוֹ תִרְחֲבִי.
תַּאְוַת לְבָבִי לַנְּדוֹד –
עַד אָן וּמָתַי תִּקְרְבִי
הֵן בֵּין שְׁוָרִים נֶאֱסַר
לַהְפַה’ עַלַי מַא חַלַּבִי!
לַהְפַה’ עַלַי קַוְםִ גַ’דֻּו
לַם יַשְעַרֻו מַאְרַבִי,
לַהְפַה’ עַלַי מֻכְתִ’י בִהִם
וַעַלַי עַטִ’ים תַנַשֻּבִי,
לַהְפַה’ עַלַי זַמַאן אַבַי
קַד טַאלַ פִיהִ תַעַגֻּ’בִי,
לַהְפַה’ עַלַי סַקְעִ אלַּדִ’י
קַד צַ’אקַ פִיהִ מֻטְלִבִי,
בַקַיְתֻ פִיהִ מֻפְרִדַא
חַתַּי אסְתַבַדַּ תַגַרֻּבִי,
חַלַּ אלְגַ’פַא מַקַאלַתִי
אַללַּהֻ יַעְלַםֻ מַדְ’הַבִי!


Mah lakh yeḥidáh, teishví
Dumám ke-mélekh ba-sheví,
Kanféi renaním te’esfí
Ukhnáf yegoním tisḥaví?
Kámah levavéikh ye’evál,
Kámah demaʕót tish’aví?
Davákt bigón ʕad ‘ashér
Kéver be-tokhó taḥtzeví.
Dómi, yeḥidatí, le-‘éil,
Dómi, ve-‘al teiʕatzví,
ʕimdí ve-tzapí ʕad ‘ashér
Yashkíf ve-yeiré yoshví!
Sigrí delatéikh baʕadéikh,
ʕad yaʕavór záʕam, ḥaví.
Yeikál be-ʕeináyikh me’ód,
‘Im titzme’í ‘o tirʕaví,
Yirév sekharéikh ʕad me’ód
U-ve-‘aḥaritéikh teitví.
Hinazrí mei-‘aḥaréi
Teivéil ve-‘al titʕarví!

Mah lakh ‘adamáh vogdáh
Tithalkhí u-tesovaví?
Nafshí be-yofyéikh ma’asáh —
La-sháv ʕalái taʕgeví,
‘Al titní, ki maḥarát
Tikḥí ‘et ‘ashér titnadví!
Shúvi, yeḥidatí, le-‘éil,
Shúvi ve-libéikh shovaví,
Hitḥananí ‘eláv, ve-gám
Dimʕáh lefanáv sha’aví,
‘Ulái yetzáv vishalḥéikh
Mi-bór, ‘ashér bo tishkeví,
Mi-béin ‘anashím boʕarím
She-tisne’í u-tetaʕaví.
‘Im tikhteví — lo yedʕú
‘Im timḥekí ‘o tikhteví,
‘Im tomrí — lo yedʕú
‘Im titzdekí ‘o tikhzeví!
Yom teitz’í mei-hém — tení
Todáh ve-zévaḥ korví,
Yom teitz’í lir’ót ‘enósh,
‘Az ke-‘enósh titḥashví.

Kúmi, ʕaniyá soʕaráh,
Kúmi ve-gám hityatzví,
Kúmi ve-gúri ba’ashér
Tivadʕí, tinakví.
Kúmi ve-shikheḥí ‘av ve-‘éim
Tzuréikh levadó ‘eheví,
Kúmi ve-rútzi ‘aḥaráv,
Kaláh khe-nésher ‘o tzeví.
‘Im timtze’í matzók ve-tzár —
‘Al tifḥedí, ‘al tirhaví,
Im tidrekhí ʕéimek ve-hár,
‘Im bamotéi yam tirkeví.
Sími sefarád ‘aḥaréi
Geivéikh ve-‘al titʕakví,
ʕad tidrekhí tzoʕán ve-gám
Bavél ve-‘éretz ha-tzeví —
Sham tidrekhí khol ʕoz, ve-shám
Tinas’í, tisagví!

Lámah, ʕaniyáh soʕaráh,
Tikhlí ve-lámah tid’aví?
Ha-ʕal netósh ʕaméikh, ve-‘ím
ʕal beit meguréikh tid’aví?
Sími shtei éileh le-múl
ʕeinéikh — ve-‘áz lo tikh’aví:
Ki tzeil ‘elóah baʕadéikh —
‘Im telkhí ‘o teishví,
Ki geir ‘aní neḥsháv, ʕadéi
ʕatzmí ve-kéver tirkeví.
Zikhrí shelosháh nitnú
Lagúr, u-vahém ḥashví:
‘Eitán ve-‘ísh tamím ve-tzír
Nas mipnéi yad oyeví,
Ḥasú ve-galutám be-shéim
Tzur ba-ʕaravót rokhví!
‘Éretz yerivái, aḥarái
Tu’ár be-kilelát ben leví.
Gofrít ve-gám mélaḥ ve-‘éish
Tokhál yevuláh ba-ʕaví.
‘I lakh ‘eretz shorarái,
Yom ‘aḥaréi teiʕazví!
‘Ein li be-kirbéikh naḥaláh
‘Im teitzrí ‘o tirḥaví.
Ta’vát levaví la-nedód —
ʕad ‘an u-matái tikreví?
Hein bein shevarím ne’esár
Láhfa ʕálai maa ḥalábi!
Láhfa ʕálai qawmi jáddu
Lam yasʕáru ma’rábi,
Láhfa ʕálai múkhthi bíhim
Wa-ʕálai ʕáṭṭim tanasúbi,
Láhfa ʕálai zamáan ‘ábai
Qad ṭaala fíihi taʕjjúbi,
Láhfa ʕálai saqʕí ‘alládhi
Qad ṣaq fíihi múṭlibi,
Baqáytu fíihi mufridáa
Ḥáttai ‘astabáda tagharrúbi,
Ḥálla ‘al-jafáa maqáalati
‘Alláhu yáʕlamu madhhábi!

  1. Job 39:13. Renením means both “joys” and a kind of bird, as in Job.
  2. Abraham.
  3. Jacob.
  4. Moses.
  5. Psalm 68:4.
  6. Schirmann thinks בן-לבי, which is unclear, should be emended to בן-לביא, the “son of the lion,” and be read as a reference to David, King of Judah (whose symbol was, of course, the lion). The “curse of David,” he supposes, is to be found in 1 Samuel 1:21. It seems reasonable enough to me.

  One Response to “Shlomo ibn Gabirol, “Mah Lakh Yeḥidah””

  1. Re: the Arabic ending

    It’s in a not-quite-classical Arabic. Or rather, the kind of literary Arabic that might be involved in extemporaneous declamation by an educated person. It does not adhere to the rules of correct poetical composition in the Arabo-Islamic tradition. Desinence inflections only appear sporadically. This allows, it seems to me, the Arabic to more or less continue the same meter as the Hebrew. It also gives it a distinctly “living” flavor. Makes it feel spontaneous. To get the rhythm of it, it is important to remember that Arabic as pronounced by Andalusis — uniquely in the medieval Arabophone world — lacked contrastive vowel length (with the result that word-stress acquired a heavy functional load.)

    You’ve got the transcription mostly right. But there are some errors.

    Below is a transcription of the Arabic portion into Arabic characters. It seems to me that להפה could be rendered either لهفة or لهفا. Both would make good grammatical sense.

    لهفا على ما حلَّ بي

    لهفا على قومِ جدو
    لم يشعروا مأربي
    لهفا على مكثي بهم
    وعلى عظيم تنسّبي
    لهفا على زمان ابي
    قد طال فيه تعجّبي
    لهفا على سقعِ اللذي
    قد ضاق فيه مطلبي
    بقيتُ فيه مفردا
    حتى استبدّ تغرّبي
    حلَّ الجفا مقالتي
    الله يعلمُ مذهبي

    Here’s a Roman transcription using orientalist conventions:

    Lahfā ˁalā mā ḥalla bī

    Lahfā ˁalā qawmi jaddū
    Lam yašˁarū ma’rabī
    Lahfā ˁalā mukthī bihim
    wa-ˁalā ˁaẓīm tanassubī
    Lahfā ˁalā zamān abī
    Qad ṭāla fīhi taˁajjubī
    lahfā ˁalā saqˁi l-laðī
    qad ḍāqa fīhi muṭlibī
    baqaytu fīhi mufridā
    ḥattā stabadda taɣarrubī
    ḥalla l-jafā maqālatī
    Allāhu yaˁlamu maðhabī

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