Feb 142013
 

I don’t know if it’s comforting or disturbing to learn that the “Orthodox” (forgive the slight anachronism) community, which despite my kefirah in at least several of the `ikarim is the only community in whose synagogues I don’t feel confused and adrift, has been mercilessly rejecting its more spirited and/or artistically-inclined members for generations. It’s definitely gotten worse, though. Where is the Yaakov Frances of today, the poet laureate of Lakewood who would call the rabbonim flies and skinks for rejecting everything beautiful in the world that wasn’t a challah cover or a kiddush cup? Run out of town on a rail?

Yaakov Frances (1615 – 1667)
How Could a Bramble

How could a bramble o’er cedars prevail?
How could the blind be to colors attuned?
How could a snail rise up to the moon?
How could a ship without sailors yet sail?

How could the skink after fleet lions tail?
Horned rams by lizards are gored, rammed and hewn,
Terror of flies sets the eagles aswoon,
Fish in the rivers now beat down the whale!

The empty and brazen men that I now see
Decry my poems’ blessings; their anger replete
With wormwood, they sing songs of injury!1

Venom has written this boorish elite
‘Gainst my own poetry, flowing with honey,
Lest palates be pleasured and mouths be made sweet!

יעקב פראנשיס
איך נעצוץ ירום

 
אֵיךְ נַעֲצוּץ יָרוּם עֲלֵי תִדְהָר,
אֵיךְ בֵּין צְבָעִים יִבְחֲנוּ סוּמְאִים,
אֵיךְ צִי בְלֹא חוֹבֵל בְּלֵב יַמִּים,
יָשׁוּט, וְיַעַל שַׁבְּלוּל סַהַר?
 
אֵיךְ הַלְּטָאָה כַּכְּפִיר תִּדְהָר?
חֹמֶט יְנַגֵּחַ בְּנֵי רֵימִים,
יַפִּיל עֲלֵי נֶשֶׁר זְבוּב אֵימֵים,
תִּבְעַט בְּלִוְיָתָן דְּגַת נָהָר.
 
כִּי אֶחֱזֶה כָּל רֵיק וְכָל חָצוּף
בִּרְכַּת מְלִיצָתִי בְּאַף יִזְעַם
עִם שִׁיר פְּגָעִים לַעֲנָה רָצוּף.
 
כָּתְבוּ מְרוֹרוֹת בּוֹעֲרִים בָּעָם
נֶגֶד זְמִירָתִי מְלֵאָה צוּף,
כִּי אָז לְפֶה תִמְתַּק, לְחֵךְ תִּנְעַם!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Eikh naʕtzútz yarúm ʕaléi tidhár,
‘Eikh bein tzevaʕím yivḥanú sum’ím,
‘Eikh tzi ve-ló ḥovéil be-léiv yamím
Yashút, ve-yáʕal shablúl sáhar?

‘Eikh ha-leta’áh kakfír tidhár?
Ḥómet yenagéiaḥ benéi reimím,
Yapíl ʕaléi nésher zevúv ‘eimím,
Tivʕát be-livyatán degát nahár.

Ki ‘eḥezéh kol reikh ve-khól ḥatzúf
Birkát melitzatí be-‘áf yizʕám
ʕim shir pegaʕím laʕanáh ratzúf.

Katvú merorót boʕarím ba-ʕám
Néged zemiratí melei’áh tzuf,
Ki ‘az le-féih timták, le-ḥeikh tinʕám!

  1. An allusion to Psalm 91, also called “the song of injuries,” and read as an invocation against demons and evil spirits.

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