Feb 162013

Technically, the addressee here is God, but at a certain point with the mystic poets, it gets really hard to tell. That’s probably why they engendered (no pun intended) such controversy (Najara was a disciple of the Arizal, who firmly supported him against his many critics). This is a wonderful poem in Hebrew, in my favorite meter. I’ve written personal poems in this exact meter before I even knew there was historical precedent for it, which is, if you can imagine, a strange thing to discover. (Seriously, there’s even one in a notebook somewhere where every other line starts with “lu ‘ehyeh.)

Yisrael Najara (1555? – 1625?)
Sleep Strays from My Eyes

Sleep strays from my eyes, storm-tossed like a ship
On seas of your love, these things I recall:
If I were a babe, and you were my nurse,
I’d nurse your fair breasts, and break my parched thirst.
If I were a stream, and you and I sat
In my garden’s shade, I’d guard your sweet fruits.
If I were a spear, and by you was thrust
In your rivals’ hearts, I’d drink of their blood.
If I were a tent, and you dwelt within,
We’d couple with love, and be clad in joy.
If I were a tongue, and you my reply,
The flame of my lust I’d quiet with song.
If I were a slave, and you were my lord,
I’d long but to serve, I’d shun liberty.

ישראל נג’ארה
תדד שנת עיני

תִּדַּד שְׁנַת עֵינִי וְאֶסְעַר כָּאֳנִי
תּוֹךְ יָם תְּשׁוּקָתָךְ, וְאֵלֶּה אֶזְכְּרָה:
לוּ אֶהְיֶה יוֹנֵק וְאַתָּה אוֹמְנִי,
אִינַק שְׁדֵי יָפְיָךְ, צְמָאִי אֶשְׁבְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה שֶׁלַח, וְאַתָּה וַאֲנִי
נֵשֵׁב בְּצֵל גַּנִּי, לְפִרְיָךְ אֶשְׁמְרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה רֹמַח וְאַתָּה נוֹתְנִי
תּוֹךְ לֵב מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, בְּדָמָם אֶשְׁכְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה אֹהֶל וְאַתָּה שׁוֹכְנִי,
נִתְעַלְּסָה אַהַב, בְּגִיל נִתְאַזְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה לָשׁוֹן וְאַתָּה מַעֲנִי,
אַשְׁקִיט יְקוֹד חִשְׁקִי בְּשִׁיר וַאְזַמְּרָה.
לוּ אֶהְיֶה עֶבֶד וְאַתָּה רוֹזְנִי,
אֶשְׁאַף עֲבוֹדָתָךְ, דְּרוֹר לֹא אֶבְחֲרָה.


Tidád shenát ʕeiní ve-‘esʕár ka-‘oní
Tokh yam teshukatákh, ve-‘éleh ‘ezkeráh:
Lu ‘ehyéh yonéikh ve-‘atáh ‘omní,
‘Inák shedéi yofyákh, tzema’í ‘eshberáh.
Lu ‘ehyéh shélaḥ, ve-‘atáh va-‘aní
Neishéiv be-tzéil ganí, le-firyákh ‘eshmeráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh rómaḥ ve-‘atáh notní
Tokh leiv mesanékha, be-damám ‘eshkeráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh óhel, ve-‘atáh shokhní,
Nitʕalsáh ‘áhav, be-gíl nit’azráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh lashón ve-‘atáh maʕaní,
‘Ashkít yekód ḥishkí be-shír va’zamráh.
Lu ‘ehyéh ʕéved ve-‘atáh rozní,
‘Esh’áf ʕavodatákh, derór lo ‘evḥaráh.

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