Apr 152013

The Italian Hebrew poets were especially known for their linguistic dexterity, often inserting puns (or creating entire poems) based on similar-sounding words in Hebrew and Italian/Portuguese. This is a small taste of that cleverness. According to the poem’s superscription, a young Frances wrote the poem for a friend in love with a girl named Surlina. Her name is worked into the last line of the poem – suri li na means “please turn towards me!” (in the feminine imperative). Cute.

Yaakov Frances (1615 – 1667)
For a Girl Named Surlina

If your voice is so sweet,
If your form is so fine —
Can your heart be so cruel?
May it be like their kind!
For how long can I pine?
Oh, please cleave unto me,
My spirit, draw near me,
My desire, turn towards me!

יעקב פראנשיס
לנערה בשם סורלינה

אִם קוֹלֵךְ עָרֵב,
אִם מַרְאֵך נָוֶה —
אֵיךְ לִבֵּךְ אַכְזָר?
לָהֶם נָא יִשְׁוֶה!
עַד מָה לָךְ אֶדְוֶה?
עִמִּי תִדְבָּקִי,
גּשִׁי לִי, נַפְשִׁי,
סוּרי לִי נָא, חֶשְׁקִי!


‘Im koléikh ʕaréiv.
‘Im mar’ikh navéh —
Eikh libéikh ‘akhzár?
Lahém na yishvéh!
ʕad mah lakh ‘edvéh?
ʕimí tidbakí,
Goshí li, nafshí,
Súri li na, ḥeshkí!

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