Feb 032013

You know, there’s nothing particularly striking about this poem among the great host of Hebrew love poems. They don’t get much more conventional. But my weaknesses are well-known; if a poem invokes the Song of Songs at length, I’m on board. Besides, nobody else is translating Moshe ben Yoav.

Moshe ben Yoav (after 1506 – after 1569)
The Day That I See

The day that I see your form’s splendor, gazelle —
  For o’er all graceful girls you’ve ascendancy —
My heart would then find within you calm repose,
  And a dressing you’d set for my injury.
Your cheeks are sheer brilliance, and how they make bright
  The faces of lovers, all dwellers of vanity.
Your lips are like oil, and dripping with myrrh;
  Your beauty’s charm hunts me with enmity.
Your face is pale white, and wholly sublime,
  Your brow is pure light, an ingot of ivory.
Your breasts are two fawns, the twins of a doe,
  And as fair as the lilies of the valley.

משה בן־יואב
ביום אראה

בְּיוֹם אֶרְאֶה הֲדַר מַרְאֵךְ צְבִיָּה
 אֲשֶׁר לָךְ עַל בְּנוֹת הַחֵן עֲלִיָּה
אֲזַי יִמְצָא לְבָבִי בָךְ מְנוּחָה
 וְהוּשָֹמָה לְמַכָּתִי רְטִיָּה
לְחָיַיִךְ מְאוֹרוֹת הֵן יְאִירוּן
 פְּנֵי דּוֹדִים וְכָל דָּרֵי נְשִׁיָּה
שְֹפָתַיִךְ כְּשֶׁמֶן נוֹטְפוֹת מוֹר
 וְצָד בִּי מַחֲמַד יָפְיֵךְ צְדִיָּה
וּפָנַיִךְ לְבָנִים הֵן וְיָפוֹת
 וּמִצְחֵךְ אוֹר כְּעֶשֶׁת שֵׁן נְקִיָּה
וְשָׁדַיִךְ כְּשׁוֹשַׁנֵּי עֲמָקִים
 עֳפָרִים הֵם תְּאֹמֵי הַצְּבִיָּה.


Be-yóm ‘er’éh hadár mar’éikh tzeviyáh
‘Ashér lakh ʕal benót ha-ḥéin ʕaliyáh
‘Azái yimtzá levaví vakh menuḥáh
Ve-husamáh le-makatí retiyáh
Leḥayáyikh me’orót hein ye’irún
Penéi dodím ve-khól daréi neshiyáh
Sefatáyikh ke-shémen notfót mor
Ve-tzád bi maḥamád yofyéikh tzediyáh
U-fanáyikh levaním hein ve-yafót
U-mitzḥéikh ‘or ke-ʕéshet shein nekiyáh
Ve-shadáyikh ke-shoshanéi ʕamakím
ʕofarím heim te’oméi ha-tzeviyáh.

  4 Responses to “Moshe ben Yoav, “Be-Yom Er’eh””

  1. Lovely! Although methinks in the original source ‘eshet shen is referring to a very different body part, *wink wink*…

  2. Hey, according to Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, “`eshet shen” refers to Leviticus.

    Me`av `eshet shen:
    This is the law of the priests. What is this belly? The heart is here, the legs are here, and it lies within. So it is with the law of the priests; there are two books here, and two books here, and it lies in the middle.”

    I’m inclined to go with the rabbis on this one. I see no other possible readings. Ahem.

  3. i will just say that you nailed the rhythm on this one. not that i can compare it to the Hebrew–even with the transliteration i’m worried that someone nearby will think i’m choking when i read it to myself out loud.

  4. The meter is actually quantitative in Hebrew: short-long-long-long short-long-long-long short-long-long every line. You’ve got the classics background, so I guess you know from quantitative meters. Doesn’t work in English really, but then again, it’s kind of artificial in Hebrew poetry too.

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