Oct 312013
 

BREAKING: semi-living depressive romantic translates certainly dead depressive romantic; Earth continues to orbit sun at even clip.

Yosef Tzarfati (? – 1527)
Behold, My Fawn

Behold, my fawn, are you not built on the dust,
Is not the dust your journey’s end and demise?
Your glories vainly fade and end, once robust,
As through your body’s flesh will work worms and flies.
Cruel time still licks at your feet’s dust, though you’re just
A young gazelle that age shall crush down to size.
And see, your back lacks all support, see your stain,
And take no pride in your grace or form e’er again.

יוסף צרפתי
ראי עפרה

 
רְאִי עָפְרָה הֲכִי עָפָר יְסוֹדֵךְ
וְאֶל עָפָר תְּשׁוּבָתֵךְ וְסוֹפֵךְ
וְסָף הוֹדֵךְ וְתַם לָרִיק כְּבוֹדֵךְ
בְּבֹא רִמָּה וְתוֹלֵעָה בְּגוּפֵךְ
זְמָן יִלְחֹךְ עֲפַר רַגְלֵךְ בְּעוֹדֵךְ
צְבִיַּת־חֵן וְעֵת זִקְנָה יְשׁוּפֵךְ
חֲזִי חֶסְרוֹן יְסוֹד גֵּוֵךְ וְדָפְיֵךְ
וְאַל־תִּגְאִי לְטוּב מַרְאֵךְ וְיָפְיֵךְ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Re’í ʕofráh hakhí ʕafár yesodéikh
Ve-‘él ʕafár teshuvatéikh ve-soféikh
Ve-sáf hodéikh ve-tám la-ríq kevodéikh
Be-vó rimáh ve-toleiʕáh be-guféikh
Zemán yilḥókh ʕafár ragléikh be-ʕodéikh
Tzeviyát ḥein ve-ʕéit ziknáh yeshuféikh
Ḥazí ḥesrón yesód geivéikh ve-dofyéikh
Ve-‘ál tig’í le-túv mar’éikh ve-yofyéikh.

Oct 232013
 

Kind of a tear-jerker, this one. Ditzanny was called up to reserve service in the First Lebanon War when he was already well into his thirties, and was deeply traumatized by the horrors he saw inflicted on the mostly much younger men around him – something he made no secret of, titling his first collection of poetry Poetry from the Ward for the Spiritually Disabled. That collection, from which this poem is taken, was published in 1984, and contains many searing depictions of the war’s physical and psychological aftermath.

Unusually (for secular Hebrew poetry), the characters in this poem are Charedi, and the poet invests them with a tenderness, emotional richness and humanity that the average secular Israeli poet would most likely never consider, if his or her poems dealt with Charedim at all. Whether this is due to personal experience or Ditzanny’s contrarian streak, only the poet can say. And he won’t, being, y’know, recently deceased.

Unfortunately (from the translator’s perspective,) this poem contains a lot of wordplay centered around the root D-B-Q (stick, cleave, cling, glue, adhere, etc.) that doesn’t really come through, because one needs to translate it differently in English each time it appears to preserve the literal sense of the words. There’s also a pretty quality play on words with mishnato and mi-mishnato that’s untranslatable. Ahh, what’re you gonna do? Translation’s a bitch, and then you die.

Ramy Ditzanny (1950 – 2012)
An Ember Saved from Anti-Tank Fire

Plastic Surgery Ward, Rambam Hospital

A nurse passing by nastily grumbles because of a visitor — there’s no smoking allowed here!
Inside the room a bed of pure white. A charred figure crumpled of form. Asleep. A smoked roast’s aroma. A vile aroma.
Next to it stationed and swaying for hours a black hat-and-vest-and-kapoteh,
in its hand a Gemara (or it might be a siddur, or Torah).

All of a sudden a scorched lump of flesh is started awake from its sleep
opening eyes-without-lashes, two shards of shrapnel deep in the left eyebrow, eyes no more than two slits,
murky with smoke but so bright (of course from the background of that sooty black face)
and dribbling congealing its two torn lips
like vaginae slip open —
whispering murmuring loosing their grips on burnt letters: w-a-t-e-r.

His father at once, I’m right here my son, starts from his Mishnah,
takes from the cabinet, reaching his hand towards the boy, a cup that he holds to those lips,
and from forehead and chest, spilling compassion, with his handkerchief wipes off the water that’s dripped.

And then careful he pulls the cup free, in the palms of his hands tightly gripped,
turning its rim to exactly the place where clung the sweet of those lips —
and wraps his lips ’round it kissing the seal of those lips.

Silent he blesses and sips a small sip,
puts down the cup,
stealthily wiping the eyes now adrip,
and once again clings to his worship.

רמי דיצני
אוד מוצל מאש נ״ט

 
מחלקת פלסטיקה, בי״ח רמב״ם
 
אָחוֹת מִזְדַּמֶּנֶת נִרְגֶּנֶת בְּגִין מְבַקֵּר מִזְדַּמֵּן שֶׁיַּפְסִיק לְעַשֵּׁן!
בַּחֶדֶר מִטָּה צְחוֹרָה. צֶלֶם מְפֻחָם מְעוּךְ צוּרָה. יָשֵׁן. רֵיחַ צְלִי מְעֻשָּן. רֵיחַ רָע.
עַל יָדָהְ נִצֶּבֶת שָׁעוֹת מִתְנוֹעַעַת מִגְבַּעַת־קַפּוֹטָה־חֲזִיָּה שְׁחוֹרָה,
בְּיָדָהּ דַּף גְּמָרָא (אוֹ אוּלַי סִדּוּר, אוּלַי סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה).
 
פִּתְאֹם גּוּשׁ בָּשָׂר שָֹרוּף נֶחֱרָד מִשְּׁנָתוֹ
פּוֹקֵחַ אֵין־רִיסִים־עֵינַיִם, שְׁנֵי רְסִיסִים בַּגַּבָּה הַשְּׂמָאלִית. שְׁנֵי חֲרִיצִים עֵינַים,
עֲשֵׁנוֹת־עֲכוּרוֹת אַךְ כָּל כָּךְ בְּהִירוֹת (כַּמוּבָן עַל רֶקַע פָּנִים כֹּה שְׁחוֹרוֹת)
וּשְׂפָתָיו הַקְּרוּעוֹת זָבוֹת מַקְרִישׁוֹת
מִתְפַּשְּׂקוֹת כְּפֹת —
רוֹחֲשׁוֹת לוֹאֲטוֹת מְמַלְּטוֹת אוֹתִיּוֹת שְֹרוּפוֹת: מַ-יִ-ם.
 
מִיָּד אָבִיו, הִנֶּנִּי בְנִי, נֶחֱרָד מִמִּשְׁנָתוֹ,
מֵעַל הָאֲרוֹנִית לוֹקֵחַ, שׁוֹלֵחַ יָדוֹ אֶל־הַנַּעַר, כּוֹס מַדְבִּיק לַשְּׂפָתַיִם,
וּמִסַּנְטֵרוֹ וּמֵחָזֵהוּ, בְּרַחֲמִים שְׁפוּכִים, מוֹחֶה בְּמִטְפַּחְתּוֹ מוֹתַר הַמַּיִם.
 
וְהַכּוֹס אַחַר־כָּךְ בִּזְהִירוּת מְנַתְּקָהּ, מְחַבְּקָהּ בִּשְׁתֵי כַּפּוֹת יָדַיִם,
מְסוֹבֵב שְֹפָתָהּ בְּדִיּוּק מוּל מָקוֹם בּוֹ דָּבַק מֶתֶק הַשְּׂפָתַיִם —
וּמְדַבֵּק בָּה שְֹפָתָיו מְנַשֵּׁק חֲתִימַת הַשְּׂפָתַיִם.
 
בּלֹא קוֹל מְקַדֵּשׁ וְלוֹגֵם לְגִימַת מַיִם,
מַנִיחַ הַכּוֹס
בִּגְנֵבָה מוֹחֶה עֵינַיִם,
וְשָׁב דָּבֵק לִמְלֶאכֶת שָׁמַיִם.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Aḥót mizdaménet nirgénet begín mevaqéir mizdaméin she-yafsíq le-ʕashéin!
Ba-ḥéder mitáh tzeḥoráh. Tzélem mefuḥám maʕúkh tzuráh. Yashéin. Réiaḥ tzelí meʕushán. Réiaḥ raʕ.
ʕal yadáh nitzévet shaʕót mitnoʕáʕat migbáʕat-kapótah-ḥaziyáh sheḥoráh,
be-yadáh daf Gemára (‘o ‘ulái sidúr, ‘ulái séifer toráh).

Pit’óm gush basár sarúf neḥerád mishnató
poqéiaḥ ‘ein-risím-ʕeináyim, shnéi resisím ba-gabáh ha-smolít, shnéi ḥaritzím ʕeináyim,
ʕasheinót-ʕakhurót ‘akh kol kakh behirót (kamuván ʕal réqaʕ paním koh sheḥorót)
u-sefatáv ha-qeruʕót zavót maqrishót
mitpasqót ke-fót —
roḥashót lo’atót memaltót ‘otiyót serufót: má – yím.

Mi-yád ‘avív, hinéni vení, neḥerád mi-mishnató,
mei-ʕál ha-‘aronít loqéiaḥ, sholéiaḥ yadó ‘el ha-náʕar, kos madbíq la-sefatáyim,
u-mi-santeiró u-mei-ḥazéihu, be-raḥamím shefukhím, moḥéh be-mitpatḥó motár ha-máyim.

Ve-ha-kós ‘aḥár-kakh bizhirút menatqáh, meḥabqáh bishtéi kapót yadáyim,
mesovéiv sefatáh be-diyúq mul maqóm bo daváq méteq ha-sefatáyim —
U-medabéiq bah sefatáv menashéiq ḥatimát ha-sefatáyim.

Be-lo qol meqadéish ve-logéim legimát máyim,
maníaḥ ha-kós
bigneiváh moḥeh ʕeináyim,
ve-sháv davéiq limlékhet shamáyim.

Oct 172013
 

Oh. Right. Technically, this website is supposed to be a repository for the vast treasury of Hebrew poems, translated into a broadly understood world language, not the other way around.

Anyway, here we return to my beloved Italians, with the early and obscure Hillel ben Shmuel. This is actually the first blatantly satirical poem I could find in what is, unfortunately, still the most complete collection of Italian Hebrew poetry, Jefim Schirmann’s Mivḥar ha-Shirah ha-Ivrit be-Italiyah, published by Schocken in 1934 in Berlin, during the strange and brief golden age of Hebrew publishing when the runaway inflation of the reichsmark allowed for ultra-cheap printing of high-quality Hebrew manuscripts, many of which are still in circulation (the several centuries’ worth of poems in the book before this one are chiefly devotional in nature). Schirmann’s book, sadly, is full of errors and contains minimal commentary on the poets and none on the poems themselves (unlike his collections of Spanish poetry), but hey, you work with what you’ve got.

Of course, as you may notice, Hillel ben Shmuel’s heyday was right before Immanuel of Rome’s, when Hebrew satire would truly blossom (and unless I’m reading with 21st century smut goggles, this poem also contains an early hint of the bawdiness that Immanuel would make the trademark of Italian Hebrew poetry). Ben Shmuel himself, like many of the Jews of Italy, seemed to have been a well-traveled fellow, living in Barcelona, Rome, Capua and Forlì. Fittingly, this early example of Hebrew satire in Italy is directed against doctors, who would remain the target of poetic barbs for centuries.

Hillel ben Shmuel (first half of the 13th century – 1295?)
To Ev’ry Man Give Word

To ev’ry man give word to serve most faithful
       With all your wisdom — do not swear to cure him!
Request your right to leave,1 and daily wages,
       No matter if he dies or you secure him!
Eat not and do not sleep within his dwelling
       And then your very visage should restore him.
And when he’s up, then ask to be paid double;
       Rely on pledges — promises, ignore them.
So serve good lords with cures or with panaceas
       And their largesse you’ll see like spring rains pouring;
The day you rise to treat the highborn ladies
       With jewels of gold your clothes you’ll be adorning.

הלל בן שמואל
לכל אדם היה נודר לשרת


לְכָל אָדָם הֱיֵה נוֹדֵר לְשָׁרֵת
  בְּחָכְמָתְךָ וְאַל תִּדֹּר לְרַפֵּא
הֲלִיכַתְךָ שְׁאַל וּשְׂכַר עֲבוֹדָה
  וְאִם יָמוּת וְאִם רֻפֹּא יְרֻפֵּא
וְאַל תֹּאכַל וְאַל תִּשְׁכַּב בְּבֵיתוֹ
  וּמַרְאִיתְךָ יְהִי אֵלָיו לְמַרְפֵּא
וְתִשְׁאַל פִּי־שְׁנַיִם לוֹ בְּקוּמוֹ
  וְתִשָּׁעֵן בְּמַשְׁכּוֹן לֹא בְעַל־פֶּה
עֲבוֹד שָֹרִים לְמָזוֹר אוֹ לְמַרְפֵּא
  וְנִדְבָתָם כְּמוֹ מַלְקושׁ תְּצַפֶּה
וְיוֹם תִּתְעַל לְרַפֵּא הַגְּבִירוֹת
  אֲזַי תַּעְדֶּה עֲדִי זָהָב וְיָשְׁפֵה.  
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Le-khól ‘adám heyéih nodéir lesharéit
Be-ḥokhmatkhá ve-‘ál tidór lerapéi
Halikhatkhá she’ál uskhár ʕavodáh
Ve-‘ím yamút ve-‘ím rupó yerúpei
Ve-‘ál tokhál ve-‘ál tishkáv be-veitó
U-mar’itkhá yehí ‘eiláv le-marpéi
Ve-tish’ál pi-shenáyim lo be-kumó
Ve-tishaʕéin be-mashkón lo veʕál-peh
ʕavód sarím le-mazór ‘o le-marpéi
Ve-nidvatám kemó malqósh tetzapéh
Ve-yóm titʕál lerapéi ha-gevirót
‘Azái taʕdéh ʕadí zaháv ve-yashféih.

  1. This line is unclear in Hebrew. Literally, it’s “request your going.” I’m no expert in medieval Italian medicine, but from reading the rest of the poem, it seems like doctors were hired (presumably by the wealthy) as “live-in” doctors, both to ensure the doctor’s proximity to the patient and as a form of, ah, “insurance.” The poet is then saying (satirically) that doctors should insist on their right to come and go as they please, in addition to their regular wage.
Oct 162013
 

Toujours sonnets ici. Dédié à la nymphe la plus fascinante.

Arthur Rimbaud
Voyelles

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Golfes d’ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d’ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides
Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
— O l’Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!1

ארתור רמבו
תנועות


אַה שְׁחֹר, אֵי לָבָן, אִי אָדֹם, אוּ יָרֹק, אוֹ כָּחֹל: תְּנוּעוֹת,
עַל לֵידוֹתֵיהֶן הַגְּלוּמוֹת אֲסַפֵּר בְּאַחַד הַיָּמִים:
אַה, מַעֲטֶה כֹּה שָׁחֹר וְשָׂעִיר שֶׁל זְבוּבִים זוֹהֲרִים
שֶׁמְּזַמְזְמִים בְּרִחוּפָם מִסָּבִיב הַמְּרֻשָּעוֹת שֶׁבָּרֵיחוֹת,

תְּהוֹמוֹת מְלֵאוֹת צְלָלִים; אֵי, הַלֹּבֶן שֶׁל אֵדִים וְאֹהָלִים,
כִּידוֹנֵי הַקַּרְחוֹנִים הַיְּהִירִים, וְהַמְּלָכִים הַלְּבָנִים, וְסוֹכֵכִים עוֹטֵי צִנּוֹת;
אִי, כָּל הַסְּגֻלִּים, אוֹ הַדָּם הַמְּרֻקָּק, צְחוֹק שְׂפָתַיִם כֹּה יָפוֹת
בְּחָרוֹן אוֹ שִׁכְרוֹנוֹת שֶׁחַרֲטוֹת רַק מַבִּיעִים;

אוּ, הוּא הַגַּלִים, הָרְטָטִים הָאֱלֹהִיִים שֶׁל יָמֵי הַוִּירִידִיאָן,
שְׁלוֹם שְׂדוֹת הַמִרְעֶה הַזְּרוּעִים בִּבְהֵמוֹת, שְׁלוֹם קְמָטַיו שֶׁל הַלַּמְדָן
הַמֻּטְבָּעִים בִּמְצָחִים הָרְחָבִים וּמַתְּמִידִים עַל־יְדֵי הָאַלְכִימְיָה;

אוֹ, הוֹ הַנִּשְׂגָּב, הֲחֲצוֹצְרָה הַמְּלֵאַת כָּל הַקּוֹלוֹת הַמּוּזָרִים,
וְהַשְׁתִיקוֹת הַנֶּחֱצוֹת עַל־יְדֵי הָעוֹלָמוֹת וּמַלְאָכִים:
— אוֹ, הִנֵּה אוֹמֶגָה, הַקֶּרֶן שֶׁל אַרְגָּמָן בְּתוֹךְ עֵינֵיהָ!
י

  1. A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
    I’ll tell you one day of their clandestine advents:
    A, a black hairy coat, and the foulest of scents,
    A cloud of flies dazzling that ’round them yet mills.

    Shadowed depths; E, the whiteness of steam and of tents,
    Spears of proud glaciers, white kings, umbels’ chills
    I, purples, spat blood, fair lips’ laughter that spills
    Both in wrath and drunk raptures of penitence.

    U, waves, divine tremblings of viridian seas,
    Peace of beast-strewn pastures, peace of the ease
    With which alchemy imprints brows studious and wise;

    O, sublime Horn filled with the most bizarre din,
    Silences crossed by Angels and Worlds kept within,
    — O, the Omega, the violet-hued ray of Her Eyes!

Oct 152013
 

I got so many rhymes I don’t think I’m too sane / life is parallel to Hell, but I must maintain

(I like this sonnet because, hey, it turned out he wasn’t just boasting.)

William Shakespeare
Sonnet 81

Or I shall live, your epitaph to make,
Or you survive, when I in earth am rotten,
From hence your memory death cannot take,
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die.
The earth can yield me but a common grave,
When you entombèd in men’s eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse
When all the breathers of this world are dead.

You still shall live — such virtue hath my pen —
Where breath most breathes, ev’n in the mouths of men.

ויליאם שייקספיר
סונט פ”א


שֶׁמָּא אֶחִי, עַל צִיּוּנְךָ לִכְתּוֹב,
שֶׁמָּא תִּשְׂרוֹד, וְתוֹךְ עָפָר אִמַּק,
מִכָּאן זִכְרְךָ הַמָּוֶת לֹא יִגְנוֹב,
אַךְ בְּתוֹכִי כָל חֵלֶק יִשָּׁכַח.
מִכָּאן בְּנִצְחִיּוּת שִׁמְךָ יִזְכֶּה,
וּבִפְטִירָה לְכָל תֵּבֵל אָמוּת.
קָבוּר בְּעֵין אֱנוֹשׁ עוֹד תִּרָאֶה,
אֶמְצָא מִן הָעוֹלָם צִיּוּן פָּשׁוּט.
יָדִי לְךָ הוּא עֹדֶן שֶׁבַּשִּׁיר,
עֵינַיִם עוֹד לֹא נִבְרָאוֹת יִרְאוּ,
לְשׁוֹן עָתִיד עַל קִיּוּמְךָ תַּצְהִיר
כַּאֲשֶׁר נוֹשְׁמֵי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה גָּוְעוּ.

תִּחְיֶה — כִּי בְעֵטִי כָּל מִדּוֹתַי —
בִּנְשֹׁם הַנְּשִׁימָה, בְּפֶה כָּל חַי.
י

Oct 142013
 

Pablo Neruda
Niña Morena y Ágil

Niña morena y ágil, el sol que hace las frutas,
el que cuaja los trigos, el que tuerce las algas,
hizo tu cuerpo alegre, tus luminosos ojos
y tu boca que tiene la sonrisa del agua.

Un sol negro y ansioso se te arrolla en las hebras
de la negra melena, cuando estiras los brazos.
Tú juegas con el sol como con un estero
y él te deja en los ojos dos oscuros remansos.

Niña morena y ágil, nada hacia ti me acerca.
Todo de ti me aleja, como del mediodía.
Eres la delirante juventud de la abeja,
la embriaguez de la ola, la fuerza de la espiga.

Mi corazón sombrío te busca, sin embargo,
y amo tu cuerpo alegre, tu voz suelta y delgada.
Mariposa morena dulce y definitiva
como el trigal y el sol, la amapola y el agua.1

פבלו נרודה
עלמה שחרחורת וזריזה


עַלְמָה שְׁחַרְחֹרֶת וּזְרִיזָה, הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ הַיוֹצֶרֶת אֶת הַפֵּרוֹת,
הַמְּעַבָּה אֶת הַדְּגָנִים, הַמְּפַתֶּלֶת אֶת הָאַצוֹת,
יָצְרָה אֶת גּוּפֵךְ הַשָּׂמֵחַ, אֶת עֵינַיִךְ הַזּוֹהָרוֹת
וְאֶת פִּיךְ שֶׁחִיוּכוֹ שֶׁל הַמַּיִם.

שֶׁמֶשׁ שְׁחֹרָה וּלְהוּטָה נִקְלַעַת בֵּין שַׂעֲרוֹת
רַעֲמָתֵךְ הַשְּׁחֹרָה, כְּשֶׁאַתְּ מוֹתַחַת אֶת הַיָּדַיִם.
אַתְּ מְשַׂחֶקֶת עִם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ כְּפִי שֶׁמְשַׂחֲקִים עִם שֶׁפֶךְ
וְהִיא מַשְׁאִירָה בְּעֵינַיִךְ שְׁנֵי נָווֹת אֲפֵלִים.

עַלְמָה שְׁחַרְחֹרֶת וּזְרִיזָה, אֵלַי שׁוּם דָּבָר לֹא מְקַרְבֵךְ.
הַכָּל מִמֶּנִי מַרְחִיקֵךְ, כְּאִלּוּ מִן הַצָּהֳרַיִם.
אַתְּ הַנְּעוּרֵיהָ הַמְּטֹרָפִים שֶׁל הַדְּבוֹרָה,
שִׁכְרוּתוֹ שֶׁל הַגַּל, אוֹנָהּ שֶׁל הַשִּׁבֹּלֶת.

אַחֲרַיִךְ לִיבִּי הַנּוּגֶה מְחַפֵּשׂ, אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן,
וַאֲנִי אוֹהֵב אֶת גּוּפֵךְ הַשָּׂמֵחַ, אֶת קוֹלֵךְ הָרָפוּי וְרָזֶה.
פַּרְפָּרִית שְׁחַרְחֹרֶת מְתוּקָה וּשְׁלֵמָה
כְּמוֹ הַקָּמָה וְהַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, הַפֶּרֶג וְהַמַּיִם.
י

  1. Girl swarthy and lissome, the sun that creates the ripe fruits,
    that fattens the grains, that coils the seaweed,
    created your form full of joy, your luminous eyes
    and your mouth with the smile of the water.

    A sun black and eager is braided amongst the strands
    of the black of your mane, when you stretch out your arms.
    You play with the sun as if it were a stream
    and it leaves in your eyes two gloomy oases.

    Girl swarthy and lissome, nothing draws me towards you.
    Everything pulls me away, as if from the noon.
    You’re the delirious youth of the bee,
    the inebriation of the wave, the strength of the wheatstalk.

    Somber my heart searches after you, regardless,
    and I love your form full of joy, your voice slack and slender.
    Butterfly swarthy sweet and complete
    like the wheatfield and the sun, the poppy and the water.

Oct 132013
 

Ugh. I promised. I promised I was working on something very, very long. And I wasn’t lying. See. Here it is. Perhaps the poet’s masterwork, the companion piece to “Shirati,” the two poems together in which Bialik — sort of — describes whence he derived his poetic gift. It’s also very long. The longest translation on this site. Did I mention that? Very long. Two hundred-odd lines of (mostly) amphibrachic tetrameter.

I’m going to do the transliteration in stages, because honestly I’m tired of looking at Zohar at the moment, and I don’t think my transliterations are the main draw for the four people who come to this site.

Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik (1873 – 1934)
Radiance

Through childhood’s midst I was left unattended,
To spend my days breathing in secrets and silence;
Within the world’s body, I yearned for its luster,
With something – what was it? – like wine in me seething.
I’d seek hidden places. There quiet observing,
As if in the world’s very eye I was looking;
My friends would appear there, I’d gain all their mys’tries,
And in my mute heart seal the sound of their voices.

My friends were so many: each bird bustling skyward,
Each tree with its shadow, each bush in the forest,
The moon’s modest face through the windowpanes shining,
The dark of the cellar, the gate’s creaking whistle;
Each bramble behind ev’ry broken-down paling,
Each beam of gold stretching to reach my eyes, whether
From sunlight, from oil lamps, from crystal cups scattered;
The heights of the attic, the spiderwebbed corner,
The mixture of light with the darkness, in concert
Both sweet and yet daunting, down deep in the well shaft,
Along with my echo and form, the clock striking,
An ivory saw grates amidst murky rafters,
As if with its letters the Name1 they were utt’ring —
The “Kol Nidrei” pears2 and the unripened apples
That leaned with their branches from our neighbor’s garden,
A fly’s buzz, “the son of the horse of our Teacher.”3
Each one did I covet as my own companions —
And dearest of all were the sunlight’s bright zephyrs.4

In summer it was I’d encounter the zephyrs,
The gossamer cherubs blazed, children of brilliance.
While sailing through sunlight towards water and wheatfield
One day they passed over my face, gay and gleeful,
Their joy cleaved to me and my spirit grew warmer,
My eyes flowed at first as if those of a child.
And I was their friend, to their secrets they drew me —
And oh, how I loved them, and oh, how they loved me!

With sunlight in morning, still caught up in slumber —
They flew to my window and knocked to me: “Wake up!”
While still getting dressed, and not yet having shrugged off
The dreamtime of morning — they’d flit at me: “Faster!”
And ere I could find where my shoes had been flung to —
They’d charm me: “Outside now! Each hour is precious!”
And hastening still that I might then draw near them —
They’d winking call “Scatter!” — with me still behind them.
I turned pure and airy, a wing of light bore me,
Let’s fly, O you pure ones, for I am your brother!
The meadow, the meadow, we’ll sail there, we’ll caper!
We’ll gambol, we’ll roll ’round in its dewy grasses,
We’ll gleam in light scattered and string pearls together,
And roll somersaults upon soft beds of verdure…

We’d fall in the meadow, in lustrous dew rolling —
The field shining sudden with thousands of glimmers,
The grass would then glisten with lights beyond counting
And with seven eyes every thistle would shimmer.
On each thorn stood trembling a stone of pure emerald,
And sunbeams on every bramble’s point sundered
And split into finely wrought golden-hued blossoms.

Abruptly this kingdom of radiance was jolted
Like shaking out sapphires and topaz in sifters,
It blinded the eyes — it stood up and leapt off
‘Twixt plants in the meadow, the calf that was grazing;
The flock of food-diggers, that rabble of chickens
Oblivious shaking the heads of the brambles,
The meadow was glist’ning and flowing and laughing.
And I, wholly radiance, would like a bird tremble,
Like birds in a net my soul’s luster was captured,
Like strings of gold, delicate, soft and refined then
Surrounded me, purified limbs tightly binding.
And in me anew stirred a luminous childhood,
My mouth laughed unbeckoned, within — a sun singing.
From touching the sunbeams, from joy and from brilliance
I gleamed and I flowed and I blushed and I melted.

While yet drunk on radiance, my spirit enraptured
And wrapped up in glimmers — they’d say: “To the wheatfield!”
And flying so nimbly the whole flock of zephyrs
Went scamp’ring and sparkling, and spread through the wheatfield,
Atop stalks of grain growing hairy and bushy,
Now hungry for mischief, they hovered, bright blazing ———
“The glimmering sea is this, wide beyond measure,
Until noontime’s swelter we’ll bathe in it, raucous.
A flock of fleet clouds, the deep musings of heaven,
Will shadow us briefly then keep rolling onwards.”
And once they had vanished, like plumbing the fathoms,
They’d instantly surface, as past times rejoicing,
Their limbs they would shake off then, shooting off flashes,
Each one towards his fellow hot sparks eager spraying.

The field shone with glee: then in flight passed the swallows,
And hasty they blessed us: a “tweet tweet” — then vanished.
And great hosts of lacewings as weightless as feathers
On wings of light glistened and scattered and hovered,
And silent they fluttered and and flit through the wheatfield,
They whitened, they reddened, they yellowed, turned golden,
By brilliance were swallowed, revealed then returning,
As if playful hands now tossed out by the fistful
Fresh garlands of flow’rs ’round the heads of the zephyrs,
While yet in their dance, golden arrows gone wild,
At play with scintillas, propelling them, tossing
To tunes from God’s players, the blazing field’s choir —
The cricket, the grasshopper, leaping and whistling
And bursting forth chiming with rasping and hopping,
And shaking the air at once burning and silent,
And quiv’ring with feeling and trembling hiding ———

And tired of lights then — the flock ever-joyful
Shook off from the meadow, declared: to the pond now!
Too warm have we grown! — and in flight off they sailed
Now unto the pond between reed and stalk spread out.

In bright midday’s heat its deep waters stilled briefly
Beneath the sun’s radiance, in shadows of willows.
And some were as clear as a bright-polished mirror;
The heavens’ blue hammered in, clouds floating slowly
Like pearls in their purity, then simply melting.
It seemed like a world overturned: a new heaven,
The sun’s brilliance cooling, creation’s face modest
Serenity veiled it, a dream of calm endless
Within placid waters so limpid now sunken —
The whole was so clear, and so tranquil, so dreamlike! ——

Ensconced yet were others by darkness of shadows,
And green were the waters and bathed in contentment.
‘Twixt this and ‘twixt that with their shadows would darken
The banks of the pond this whole world that lay under.
Inverted and doubled, reflected beneath me
The reeds, the rocks’ bumps and the tree’s very visage,
The boat lashed around the stump of a tree hewn,
The hillock enwrapped by the tendrils of tree roots,
And two wild geese and a crane, lone and a single,
Her pure feathers cleaning like beating out laundry —
The whole was so cool, and so fresh, and so wat’ry!

And some — golden waters and brilliance, enchantment
And traces of sunlight and small pools of shimmers
Like scales of pure gold, finely-wrought chains of aurum
The shards of two twin suns, and fragments of fragments
Of crystal and clear glass, of gleaming and glowing —
The whole was so sparkling, so radiant, so light-clothed!

The pond, to the pond! — and the pond would be stirring,
The depths of the gold and the radiance aquiver.
A rabble of glimmers with glimmers entangled,
Irate from the colors and shades by the thousands.
They moved beneath pure heaven’s tapestry, teeming
And so moved its sun, which was shattered in seven,
And these seven suns moved so each faced another.
And instantly — sun upon sun — and completely
They crumbled together; the world that lay under
Was swept off and drowned in the void and the chaos,
The flood of the radiance, the wide seas of brightness.

In this sea of fire, this torrent of radiance
I also dove down to soak in the sea’s brilliance,
And cleansed sevenfold, purified I emerged then.
With springs bursting forth and a thousand strong sources
Of gladness and joy, my whole leapt for the waters,
Like bold songs of dance that go mischievous sweeping,
That spring all at once from the violins, legion —
Sunk down I would sit ‘twixt the pond’s leafy verdure,
Observing the silt of its waters, returning
To rest. Yet one more modest movement now inlays
Their surface and beats in the jewels of their chainwork,
Igniting within tongues of fire and blazes,
And tossing a whisper of embers among them,
A little bit stirring them — dwindling — and stopping.

And silent the pond fell, to its source returning,
Once more it was smooth and bright-polished and sleeping,
Again it was made up of ripples on ripples
And folded beneath it the world fallen silent
In hideaways reedy and shadowing willows.
Before me, across this pond’s new incarnation,
A fisherman, hoary, is straddling the bright depths
And from within drawing a fine net still spraying,
He shakes it — and towards my eyes, colored like rainbows,
It shakes loose the sparks, it enchants and unfurls them;
As if the old man stirred a charmed pot of radiance,
And strained a gold soup to the bowl’s shining crystal,
And spraying towards earth were more drops fiercely flaring —
And towards my eyes like a dream, light and sweet, flowing.

From the pond I saw then sudden
On the water’s tranquil surface
Rose arrayed a flawless column
Of the little zephyrs.

Pure of limb, and holy, lucid,
As if today they had been shaken
From off a holy cherub’s feathers
That above us flew.

And once more from their eyes was spark’ling
Highest radiance, godly brilliance,
And so holding hands they gathered
And in their tongues sheer gladness:

Oh, come to us, child!
Oh, come to us, beauty!
You thirsting for brilliance —
                            Until the day’s gone.

We’ll dip you in radiance,
Lower you, bring you
To treasures of light hid
                            In deepest of depths.

To towers of glass.
To castles of crystal.
To temples of diamond
                            And topazes — ruby.

From this hidden brilliance,
The seven days’ brightness,
You’ll drink from our gold cup
                            Exposing you whole.

‘Til’t comes out your nose,
And sprays from your eyes,
And works through your bones
                            And heart, like the entrance

Of ten thousand soft kisses
From ten thousand sunbeams
Far too sweet to contain
                            Too heavy to bear.

Still sinking in my soul was their pleasant chorus —
And they slipped away to the neighboring forest,
Bestowing on me a glance seeming like solace
That said: “To the morning!” and scatt’ring they vanished.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

And one day — though when I can’t seem to remember,
And still don’t know why — I beheld all their faces
And pity for me colored ev’ry one, gloomy,
And leaving — the look they gave said to me nothing.
In morning, the light shook me out of my slumber
And seared my two lips and hot pierced through my eyelids…

I looked through the window — and lo, it was blazing,
I waited, I yearned ’til ashamed — they weren’t coming.
The song of the radiance forever fell silent —
Yet deep in my heart hides its sound’s faintest echo,
And deep in my pupils I kept its light’s brightness;
And in this wide world, all my life’s dreams’ rare sweetness,
The worth of my visions — are drawn from its fountain,
And flow from its source, pure and quenching and blessèd.

חיים נחמן ביאליק
זהר


בְּעֶצֶם יַלְדוּתִי יְחִידִי הֻצַּגְתִּי,
וָאֶשְׁאַף כָּל-יָמַי סְתָרִים וּדְמָמָה;
מִגּוּפוֹ שֶׁל-עוֹלָם אֶל-אוֹרוֹ עָרַגְתִּי,
דְּבַר-מָה בַּל-יְדַעְתִּיו כַּיַּיִן בִּי הָמָה.
וָאָתוּר מַחֲבֹאִים. שָׁם דֹּם נִסְתַּכַּלְתִּי,
כְּמוֹ צֹפֶה הָיִיתִי בְּעֵינוֹ שֶׁל-עוֹלָם;
שָׁם נִגְלוּ לִי חֲבֵרַי, רָזֵיהֶם קִבַּלְתִּי
וָאֶחְתֹּם בִּלְבָבִי הָאִלֵּם אֶת-קוֹלָם.

וַחֲבֵרַי מָה-רָבּוּ: כָּל-עוֹף הַפּוֹרֵחַ,
כָּל-אִילָן עִם-צִלּוֹ, כָּל-שִׂיחַ בַּיָּעַר,
פְּנֵי סַהַר צָנוּעַ לָאֶשְׁנָב זוֹרֵחַ,
וַעֲלֶטֶת הַמַּרְתֵּף וּשְׁרִיקַת הַשָּׁעַר;
כָּל-חָרוּל מֵאַחֲרֵי כָל-גָּדֵר הַדְּחוּיָה,
כָּל-קֶרֶן פָּז מְתוּחָה אֶל-עֵינַי וּנְטוּיָה
מִשֶּׁמֶשׁ, מִנֵּר אוֹ מֵרְסִיסֵי כּוֹס גָּבִישׁ;
עֲלִיַּת הַגָּג, פִּנַּת קוּרֵי עַכָּבִישׁ,
תַּעֲרֹבֶת הָאוֹר עִם-הַחֹשֶׁךְ הַמְּתוּקָה
וַאֲיֻמָּה כְּאַחַת בְּתוֹךְ בְּאֵר עֲמֻקָּה,
בַּת-קוֹלִי וְצַלְמִי שָׁם, לְשׁוֹן הָאֻרְלֹגִין
וּמַשּׂוֹר שֵׁן חוֹרֵק בַּעֲבִי הַקּוֹרָה,
וּכְמוֹ שֵׁם מְפֹרָשׁ בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתָיו הֵם הֹגִים –
אֲגַסֵּי ״כָל נִדְרֵי״, הַתַּפּוּחִים הַקֵּהִים
הַנּוֹטִים עִם-נוֹפָם מִגַּן שְׁכֵנֵנוּ,
זְבוּב הוֹמֶה, ״בֶּן-סוּסוֹ שֶׁל-מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ״ –
כֻּלָּמוֹ חָמַדְתִּי וַיִּהְיוּ לִי רֵעִים –
וַחֲבִיבִים מִכֻּלָּם צַפְרִירֵי הָאוֹרָה.

בַּקַּיִץ הָיִיתִי יוֹדֵעַ צַפְרִירִים,
עֲדַת כְּרוּבִים קַלִּים, בְּנֵי-נֹגַהּ מַזְהִירִים.
מִשּׁוּט בְּאוֹר שֶׁמֶשׁ אֶל-מַיִם וְקָמָה
יוֹם אֶחָד עַלִּיזִים עַל פָּנַי עָבָרוּ,
וַיִּדְבַּק בִּי שְׂשׂוֹנָם וְנַפְשִׁי נֵחָמָה,
וְעֵינַי רִאשׁוֹנָה כַּיֶּלֶד נָהָרוּ.
וָאֱהִי לָמוֹ חָבֵר וּבְסוֹדָם מְשָׁכוּנִי –
וַאֲנִי מָה-אֲהַבְתִּים וּמָה-אֲהֵבוּנִי!

בַּבֹּקֶר עִם-שֶׁמֶשׁ עוֹדֶנִּי תְּפוּשׂ תְּנוּמָה –
וְחָפְזוּ לְחַלּוֹנִי וְדָפְקוּ-לִי: קוּמָה!
עוֹדֶנִּי מִתְלַבֵּשׁ וּבְטֶרֶם אֶתְנַעֵר
מֵחֶזְיוֹן הַבֹּקֶר – וְקָרְצוּ לִי: מַהֵר!
וּבְטֶרֶם מַנְעָלִי הַנִּדָּח אֶמְצָאָה –
וְשִׂקְּרוּ לִי: ״צֵאָה! יְקָרָה כָל-שָׁעָה!״
וּבְעוֹד אֲנִי נֶחְפָּז עַד-גִּשְׁתִּי אֵלֵימוֹ –
וַיִּרְמְזוּ: ״פּוּצוּ!״ – אָנֹכִי אַחֲרֵימוֹ.
קַלּוֹתִי, זַכּוֹתִי, כְּנַף אוֹר תִּשָּׂאֵנִי,
נָטוּשָׂה, הַזַּכִּים, אֲחִיכֶם הִנֵּנִי!
לַכִּכָּר, לַכִּכָּר נָשׁוּטָה, נָפֹזָּה!
נִתְעַלֵּס, נִתְפַּלֵּשׁ בִּדְשָׁאָיו הַטְּלוּלִים,
נַזְהִירָה בָרְסִיסִים וּפְנִינִים נַחֲרֹזָה,
עַל-מַצָּע יְרַקְרַק נִתְגַּלְגֵּל גִּלְגּוּלִים…

אָז נִפֹּל בַּכִּכָּר, בְּטַל-אוֹרוֹת נִתְבּוֹסֵס –
הַכָּר הִזְהִיר פִּתְאֹם בְּאַלְפֵי נְגֹהוֹת
וַיִּקְרַן הַדֶּשֶׁא בְּאוֹרִים רִבֹּאוֹת
וּבְשֶׁבַע עֵינַיִם כָּל-בַּרְקָן הִתְנוֹסֵס.
עַל-כָּל-קוֹץ וָקוֹץ תִּרְעַד אֶבֶן בָּרֶקֶת,
וְקֶרֶן אֶל-חֹד כָּל-נַעֲצוּץ תִּתְנַפֵּץ
וּלְצִיצַת פָּז דַּקָּה וּרְדוּדָה נֶחֱלֶקֶת.

וּפִתְאֹם מַמְלֶכֶת הַזֹּהַר נִנְעָרָה
כְּנוֹעַ סַפִּירִים וּשְׁמָשׁוֹת בִּכְבָרָה,
סַנְוֵרִים לָעָיִן – זֶה עָמַד וַיְקַפֵּץ
בֵּין צִמְחֵי הַכִּכָּר הָעֵגֶל הַמְלַחֵךְ;
וַעֲדַת חוֹפְרֵי אֹכֶל, קְהַל תַּרְנְגוֹלִים
מִתְעַלְּמִים וּמְזַעְזְעִים אֶת-רֹאשׁ הַנַּהֲלוֹלִים,
וַיְצַחְצַח הַכִּכָּר וַיִּנְהַר וַיְגַחֵךְ.
אָנֹכִי כְּלִיל זֹהַר כְּצִפּוֹר אֶחֱרָדָה,
וּכְצִפּוֹר בְּרֶשֶׁת אוֹר נַפְשִׁי נִלְכָּדָה,
כְּמוֹ חוּטֵי-פָז דַּקִּים עֲנֻגִּים וְרַכִּים
שׂוֹכְכוּנִי, וַיְתַפְּשׂוּ בִּיצוּרַי הַזַּכִּים.
הִתְנַעֲרָה, הִתְחַדְּשָׁה בִי יַלְדוּת מְאִירָה,
פִּי שׂוֹחֵק מֵאֵלָיו, בַּלֵּב – שֶׁמֶשׁ שִׁירָה.
מִמַּגַּע קַרְנַיִם, מִגִּיל וּמִנֹּגַהּ
אֶקְרָנָה, אֶנְהָרָה, אֵבוֹשָׁה, אֶמּוֹגָה.

עוֹדֶנִי שְׁכוּר זֹהַר, עוֹד רוּחִי נִפְעָמָה
וּרְקוּמָה בִנְגֹהוֹת – וַיֹּאמְרוּ: לַקָּמָה!
וּבְטִיסָה קַלִּילָה עֲדַת הַצַּפְרִירִים,
הִתְשׁוֹטֵט וְנַצְנֵץ, בַּקָּמָה פָשָׁטוּ,
עַל-רָאשֵׁי שִׁבֳּלֵי הַדָּגָן הַשְּׂעִירִים,

רְעֵבֵי מְשׁוּבָה, יְרַחֲפוּ, יִלְהָטוּ – – –
״זֶה יָם הַנְּגֹהוֹת רְחַב הַיָּדָיִם,
עַד-חֹם צָהֳרַיִם נִתְרַחֵץ, נִתְהוֹלֵל.
עֲדַת עָבִים קַלוֹת, הִרְהוּרֵי שָׁמָיִם,
צֵל רֶגַע תַּעֲבִיר עָלֵינוּ וּתְגוֹלֵל.״
וּפַעַם יִתְעַלְּמוּ כְּמוֹ תְהֹמוֹת צָלָלוּ,
בִּן-רֶגַע יִתְגַּלּוּ וּכְקֶדֶם יִצְהָלוּ,
נוֹעֲרִים גַּפֵּיהֶם וְיַזּוּ רְסִיסִים,
אִישׁ לִקְרַאת אָחִיהוּ מַתִּיזִים נִיצוֹצוֹת.

יַעֲלֹז הַשָּׂדֶה: בִּיעָף עוֹבְרִים סִיסִים,
וּפְזִיזִים יְבָרְכוּ: ״צְוִיץ צְוִיץ״ – וְנָגוֹזוּ.
וַהֲמוֹן זְבוּבֵי רִקְמָה קַלִּילִים כְּנוֹצוֹת
עַל-כַּנְפֵי אוֹר נוֹסְסִים, פּוֹרְחִים, מְנַפְנְפִים,
מְפַרְכְּסִים דּוּמָם בַּקָּמָה וּמְרַפְרְפִים,
יַלְבִּינוּ, יַאְדִּימוּ, יַצְהִיבוּ, יָפֹזּוּ,
נִבְלָעִים בַּנֹּגַהּ וְשָׁבִים מִתְגַּלִּים,
כְּמוֹ יָד מְשַׂחֶקֶת זֹרֶקֶת חָפְנַיִם
עַל-רָאשֵׁי צַפְרִירַי עֲתַר פְּרָחִים חַיִּים,
בְּעוֹדָם בִּמְחוֹל חִצֵּי זָהָב מִתְלַהְלְהִים,
מְשַׂחֲקִים בַּזִּקִּים, מְקַלְקְלִים, זֹרְקִים
לְקוֹל נֹגְנֵי שָׂדַי, מַקְהֲלוֹת נִיר יוֹקֵד –
הַחַרְגֹּל, הַצְּלָצַל שֶׁחוֹרְגִים וְשׁוֹרְקִים
וְיוֹצְאִים בְּצֶלְצְלִים נַסֵּר וְנַתֵּר,
וּמְזַעְזְעִים הָאַוֵּר הַלּוֹהֵט וְשׁוֹקֵט,
וּמְרַטֵּט בְּרֶגֶשׁ וּבְרֶטֶט מִסְתַּתֵּר – – –

וַעֲיֵפָה לָאוֹרִים – הָעֵדָה הַשְּׂמֵחָה
נוֹעֶרֶת הַכַּרְמֶל, מַכְרֶזֶת: לַבְּרֵכָה!
חַמֹּנוּ, נִכְמָרְנוּ! – וְשׁוֹטְטוּ עוּף
לַבְּרֵכָה הַשְּׁטוּחָה בֵּין קָנֶה וָסוּף.

בְּחֹם צָהֳרַיִם מֵימֶיהָ אַט רֹגְעִים
בְּזָהֳרֵי חַמָּה וּבְצִלְלֵי עֲרָבִים.
מִקְצָתָם בְּהִירִים כָּרְאִי מְלֻטָּשִׁים;
בָּם רְקוּעִים שְׁמֵי תְכֵלֶת, אַט צָפִים בְּנֵי-עָבִים
כְּעֶצֶם הַפְּנִינִים לָטֹהַר, וּנְמוֹגִים.
וּכְעֵין עוֹלָם הָפוּךְ: שָׁמַיִם חֲדָשִׁים,
זִיו שֶׁמֶשׁ מְצֻנָּן וּפְנֵי יְקוּם צָנוּעַ
מְעֻלָּף צְעִיף שַׁלְוָה וַחֲלוֹם שֶׁקֶט עוֹלָם
בְּתוֹךְ מֵי-הַמְּנוּחוֹת הַצְּלוּלִים שָׁקוּעַ –
וְהַכֹּל שָׁם כֹּה-בָהִיר, כֹּה-שַׁאֲנָן, כֹּה-חוֹלֵם! – – –

מִקְצָתָם עֲלֶטֶת צֶאֱלִים שׂוֹכֵכָה,
וִירֹקִים הַמַּיִם וּשְׁרוּיִם בְּנָחַת.
מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה תַּאֲפֵלְנָה בְצִלָּן
עַל-עוֹלָם הַתַּחְתּוֹן שְׁתֵּי גְדוֹתֵי הַבְּרֵכָה.
וַהֲפוּכִים וּכְפוּלִים נִשְׁקָפִים מִתַּחַת
הַסּוּף, זִיזֵי סֶלַע, וְנוֹפוֹ שֶׁל-אִילָן,
הַדּוּגִית הַקְּשׁוּרָה לְגֶזַע עֵץ חָטוּב,
הַתְּלוּלִית הַמְעֹרָה בְּגִידֵי שָׁרָשִׁים,
שְׁנֵי אַוְזֵי הַבָּר וְהַחֲסִידָה הָאַחַת,
כּוֹבֶסֶת חֲשׂוּפָה מְנַפֶּצֶת כְּבָסִים –
וְהַכֹּל שָׁם כֹּה מְצֻנָּן, כֹּה רַעֲנָן, כֹּה רָטֹב!

וּקְצָתָם – מֵי-זָהָב וָנֹגַהּ וְקֶסֶם
שַׁבְרִירֵי אוֹר שֶׁמֶשׁ וּמִשְׁטַח זַהֲרוּרִים,
קַשְׂקַשְּׂי פָּז טָהוֹר וְשַׁרְשְׁרוֹת כֶּתֶם.
מְכִתּוֹת שְׁתֵּי שְׁמָשׁוֹת, פֵּרוּרִים פֵּרוּרִים
שֶׁל-גָּבִישׁ וּזְכוּכִית, צַחְצוּחַ וָלַהַט –
וְהַכֹּל שָׁם כֹּה-נוֹצֵץ, כֹּה-יַזְהִיר, אוֹר יָעַט!

לַבְּרֵכָה, לַבְּרֵכָה! – וַתָּנָד הַבְּרֵכָה.
נִזְדַּעְזְעָה כָל-מְצוּלַת הַפָּז וְהַזֹּהַר.
וְעֵרֶב רַב נְגֹהוֹת בִּנְגֹהוֹת סִכְסֵכָה,
וַתִּרְגַּז מֵרִבֲבוֹת גָּוֶן וָצֶבַע.
וַתָּנַע מִתַּחַת יְרִיעַת שְׁמֵי-טֹהַר,
וַתָּנַע גַּם-שִׁמְשָׁהּ וְהֻכְּתָה לְשֶׁבַע,
וְשִׁבְעַת הַשְּׁמָשׁוֹת אִישׁ נֶגְדּוֹ יִנּוֹעוּ.
בִּן-רֶגַע – וְשֶׁמֶשׁ בַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ – וּפוֹר
יִתְפּוֹרְרוּ יַחַד, וְנִסְחַף וְטָבַע
יְקוּם הַתַּחְתִּיּוֹת בְּתֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ
וּבְמַבּוּל שֶׁל-זֹהַר וּבְיַמֵּי-הָאוֹר.

וּבְיָם דִּי-נוּר זֶה וּבְשִׁבֹּלֶת הַזֹּהַר
צָלַלְתִּי גַם-אָנִי וָאֶסְפֹּג יָם אוֹרִים,
וָאֵצֵא פִּי-שִׁבְעָה מְזֻקָּק וּמְטֹהָר.
וּבְפֶרֶץ מַעְיָנִים, בַּעֲזוֹז אַלְפֵי מְקוֹרִים
שֶׁל-אֹשֶׁר וָגִיל, קִרְבִּי דָץ יָם הַנֹּגַהּ,
כִּסְחוּף זִמְרַת מָחוֹל עִזּוּזָה שׁוֹבֵבָה
שֶׁתְּזַנֵּק בְּבַת-אַחַת מֵאַלְפֵי כִנּוֹרִים –
מְשֻׁקָּע בֵּין אִבֵּי הַבְּרֵכָה אֵשֵׁבָה,
מִתְבּוֹנֵן אֶל-מִשְׁקַע מֵימֶיהָ הַשָּׁבִים
לִמְנוּחָה. עוֹד נִיד קַל מְשַׁבֵּץ וְרֹגַע
אֶת-פְּנֵיהֶם וּמַרְבִּיץ בַּכַּדְכֹּד שַׁרְשׁוֹתָם,
וּמַדְלִיק בָּם לְשׁוֹנוֹת אֵשׁ קְטַנּוֹת וּלְהָבִים,
וְזוֹרֵק לְחִישַׁת גֶּחָלִים בֵּינוֹתָם,
מְזִיזָם זִיז כָּל-שֶׁהוּא – פּוֹחֵת – וּפוֹסֵק.

וַתִּשְׁקֹט הַבְּרֵכָה וַתָּשָׁב אֶל-עֵינָהּ
וּכְקֶדֶם הִיא חֲלָקָה וּלְטוּשָׁה וִישֵׁנָה,
וַעֲשׂוּיָה הִיא שֵׁנִית שְׁבִילִים שְׁבִילִים
וּתְקַפֵּל תַּחְתֶּיהָ הָעוֹלָם הַשּׁוֹתֵק
בְּסֵתֶר קְנֵי-סוּף וַעֲרָבִים מְצִלִּים.
מִמּוּלִי, מֵעֵבֶר הַבְּרֵכָה הַשֵּׁנִי,
דַּיָּג שָׂב עוֹמֵד עַל-מְצוּלַת הַנְּהָרָה
וּמֹשֶׁה מִשָּׁם רֶשֶׁת דַּקָּה רוֹסֶסֶת,
מְנַעֲרָהּ – וּבְצִבְעֵי הַקֶּשֶׁת אֶל-עֵינִי
נְעֹרֶת הָרְסִיסִים קוֹסֶמֶת, נוֹסֶסֶת;
כְּמוֹ בוֹחֵשׁ הַדַּיָּג סִיר זֹהַר בִּכְשָׁפִים,
וּמְסַנֵּן מְרַק זָהָב לִבְדֹלַח הַקְּעָרָה,
וַיִּזּוּ גַם-אַרְצָה נְטָפִים רְשָׁפִים –
וּלְעֵינַי כַּחֲלוֹם קַל וּמָתוֹק נָהָרוּ.

פִּתְאֹם אֶרְאֶה מִן-הַבְּרֵכָה
עַל-הַמַּיִם הַשַּׁאֲנַנִּים
עָלְתָה חוֹצֵץ שׁוּרָה זַכָּה
שֶׁל-צַפְרִירִים קְטַנִּים.

זַכֵּי-גַף, קְדוֹשִׁים, בְּרוּרִים,
כְּמוֹ נִנְעֲרוּ זֶה הַיּוֹם
מֵעַל כְּנַף כְּרוּב אֶחָד קָדוֹשׁ
אֲשֶׁר טָס בָּרוֹם.

וְעוֹד מִתּוֹך עֵינֵיהֶם יָצִיץ
זֹהַר עֶלְיוֹן, זִיו הַשְּׂכִינָה,
וַאֲחוּזֵי יָד נִצָּבוּ
וּבִלְשׁוֹנָם רִנָּה:

אֵלֵינוּ, הַיֶּלֶד!
אֵלֵינוּ, הַיָּפֶה!
הַצָּמֵא לַנֹּגַהּ –
          עַד-פָּנָה הַיּוֹם.

נִטְבָּלְךָ בַּזֹּהַר,
נוֹרִידְךָ נְבִיאֶךָ
אֶל-מַטְמוֹן אוֹר גָּנוּז
          בְּמַעֲמַקֵּי תְהוֹם.

שָׁם מִגְדְּלֵי זְכוּכִית.
שָׁם אַרְמְנוֹת גָּבִישׁ,
שָׁם הֵיכְלֵי הַבְּדֹלַח
          וּשְׁמָשׁוֹת – כַּדְכֹּד.

מִנֹּגַהּ הַמְשֻׁמָּר,
אוֹר שִׁבְעַת הַיָּמִים,
כּוֹס זָהָב נַשְׁקֶךָ,
          עָרוֹת עַד-יְסוֹד.

עַד-יֵצֵא מֵאַפְּךָ,
אַף-יִז מֵעֵינֶיךָ,
וּבָא בַעֲצָמֶיךָ
          וּבְלִבְּךָ, כִּמְבוֹא

רִבֹּאוֹת נְשִׁיקוֹת
שֶׁל-רִבּוֹא קַרְנַיִם,
מְתוּקוֹת מֵהָכִיל
          וּגְדוֹלוֹת מִנְּשֹׂא.

עוֹד צוֹלֵל בְּנַפְשִׁי מִזְמוֹרָם הֶעָרֵב –
וְהֵמָּה נִמְלָטִים לַיַּעַר הַקָּרוֹב,
מַאֲצִילִים מֵרָחוֹק לִי מַבַּט תַּנְחוּמִים
הָאֹמֵר: ״לַבֹּקֶר!״ וּפֹרְחִים וְאֵינֵימוֹ.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

וּבְאַחַד הַיָּמִים – לֹא-אֶזְכֹּר אֵימָתָי,
לֹא-אֵדַע מַדּוּעַ – וָאֵרֶא פָנֵימוֹ
וּמְלֵאִים הֵם רַחֲמִים עָלַי וַעֲגוּמִים,
וּבְלֶכְתָּם – מֶבָּטָם לֹא-אָמַר מְאוּמָה.
בַּבֹּקֶר הָאוֹר הֶעִירַנִי מִתְּנוּמָה
וַיְנַקֵּר אֶת-עֵינַי וַיִּצְרֹב אֶת-שְׂפָתָי…

הֵצַצְתִּי בַחַלּוֹן – וְהִנֵּה הִיא חַ מָּ ה,
צִפִּיתִי, הוֹחַלְתִּי עַד-בּוֹשׁ – אֵינָם שָׁבִים.
וְשִׁירַת הַזֹּהַר לָנֶצַח נָדַמָּה –
אַךְ-עָמֹק בַּלֵּב כָּמוּס עִמִּי הֵד קוֹלָהּ,
וּבְתוֹךְ בָּבוֹת עֵינַי שָׁמַרְתִּי זִיו אוֹרָהּ;
וּנְעִים חֲלוֹמוֹת חַיַּי בָּאָרֶץ הַגְּדוֹלָה,
וִיקַר חֶזְיוֹנוֹתַי – מֵעֵינָהּ נִשְׁאָבִים,
וּטְהוֹרִים וְרָוִים וּבְרוּכִים מִמְּקוֹרָהּ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

  1. Shem meforash, the Tetragrammaton.
  2. A nickname for the pears that ripened in Eastern Europe in late summer/early fall, when Yom Kippur falls.
  3. Bialik is probably talking about a ladybug here. The Russian term for a ladybug is, somewhat inexplicably, “божья коровка,” which means “God’s little cow” (although in Ukrainian, equally inexplicably, it’s sometimes “сонечка,” “little Sonia,” and sometimes “божа корівка,” which is the same as the Russian). The Yiddish-speaking Jews of the region seem to have adopted the general idea of the term, but perhaps uncomfortable with the thought of assigning God a cow, changed it to “Moses’ horse,” which Bialik then translates to Hebrew, probably mostly for meter’s sake, as “the son of the horse of Moses our Teacher,” which is a heavy trip to lay on a poor little ladybug.
  4. Tzafririm. “Zephyr” is the usual translation, I think mostly for phonological similarity, but the tzafrir is a distinct entity in Jewish folklore. In Jewish demonology, which historically exerted a huge influence on Jewish belief and practice, especially in the Middle Ages and on down to the Haskalah, and especially on the Ashkenazi Jews, tzafririm were fairy-like spirits associated with sunlight. Although one might think such a being would be fairly innocuous, they were viewed as at best mischievous and at worst blatantly malevolent, as the reader may notice in “Zohar” itself.
Oct 082013
 

I keep getting distracted (trust me, you would too). But is there anyone else out there translating poetry in Jamaican patois into Hebrew? Man, if there is…

Anyway, this is a later piece by Inglan’s top-raaankin’ dub poet, much more personal and introspective than the Brixton-burning anthems of his youth (“wi gonna smash dere brains in, cos they ain’t got nuffink in ’em…”). And unlike most of the poems on this waste of space of a website, this one comes with riddim! Always one of my favorite tracks.

(A note: there is no universally accepted orthography for Jamaican patois, but this is Johnson’s own particular method.)

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Hurricane Blues

Linton Kwesi Johnson
Hurricane Blues

langtime lovah
mi mine run pan yuh all di while
an mi membah how fus time
di two a wi come een — it did seem
like two shallow likkle snakin stream
mawching mapless hapless a galang
tru di ruggid landscape a di awt sang

an a soh wi did a gwaan
sohtil dat fateful day
awftah di pashan a di hurricane
furdah dan imaginaeshan ar dream
wi fine wiself lay-dung pan di same bedrack
flowin now togedah as wan stream
ridin sublime tru love lavish terrain
lush an green an brite awftah di rain
shimmarin wid glittahrin eyes
glowin in di glare a di smilin sun

langtime lovah
mi feel blue fi true wen mi tink bout yuh
blue like di sky lingahrin pramis af rain
in di leakin lite in di hush af a evenin twilite
wen mi membah how fus time
di two a wi come een — it did seem
like a lang lang rivah dat is wide an deep

sometime wi woz silent like di langwidge a rackstone
some time wi woodah sing wi rivah sang as wi a wine a galang
sometime wi jus cool an caam andah plenty shady tree
sometime sawfly lappin bamboo root as dem swing an sway
sometime cascadin carefree doun a steep gully bank
sometime turbulent in tempament wi flood wi bank
but weddah ebb ar flow tru rain tru drout
wi nevah stray far fram love rigid rout

ole-time sweet-awt
up till now mi still cyaan andastan
ow wi get bag doun inna so much silt an san
rackstone debri lag-jam
sohtil wi ad woz fi flow wi separet pawt
now traversin di tarrid terrain a love landscape
runnin fram di polueshan af a cantrite awt
mi lang fi di marvelous miracle a hurricane
fi carry mi goh a meetin stream again
lamentid mi saltid fate
sohmizin seh it too late1

לינטון קווייסי ג’ונסון
בלוז ההוריקן


מְאַהֶבֶת וְתִיקָה
כָּל הַזְּמַן אֲנִי מְהַרְהֵר בָּךְ
וַאֲנִי זוֹכֵר שֶׁבְּפַעַם הָרִאשׁוֹנָה
נִכְנַסְנוּ שְׁנֵינוּ — אָז זֶה נִדְמָה
כִּשְׁנֵי נְחָלִים קְטָנִים רְדוּדִים מִתְפַּתְּלִים
צוֹעֲדִים אֻמְּלָלִים מִתְהַלְּכִים בְּלִי מַּפּוֹת
בְּאֶרֶץ מְחֻסְפֶּסֶת שֶׁל שִׁיר לְבָבוֹת.

וְאָז כָּכָה הִמְשַׁכְנוּ
עֲדֵי יוֹם הֲרֵה גּוֹרָל
בְּעִקְבוֹת תְּשׁוּקַת הַהוּרִיקָן
מֵעֵבֶר לְדִּמְיוֹן אוֹ הֲזָיַתוֹ שֶׁל חוֹלֵם
עֲלֵי אוֹתוֹ סֶלַע־אֵם הֻשְּׁכַּבְנוּ
וְאָנוּ יַחַד זוֹרְמִים כְּנָחָל זוֹרֵם
רוֹכְבִים נִשְׂגָבִים בְּאַרְצוֹת אַהֲבָה בְּשִׁפְעָן
כְּשֶׁטַח אַחֲרֵי הַגֶּשֶׁם, בָּהִיר, יָרֹק, רַעֲנָן,
בּוֹהֲקִים בְּעֵינַיִם מַבְרִיקוֹת
לוֹהֲטִים בְּזָהֳרוֹ שֶׁל חִיּוּךְ הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ.

מְאַהֶבֶת וְתִיקָה
אֲנִי בֶּאֱמֶת כָּחֹל כְּשֶׁאֲנִי חוֹשֵׁב עָלַיִךְ
כָּחֹל כְּמוֹ הָהַבְטָחָה הַמִּשְׁתַּהָה שֶׁל גֶּשֶׁם בַּשָּמַיִם
בָּאוֹר הַדּוֹלֵף בְּדִמְמַת דִּמְדוּמֵי הָעֶרֶב
כְּשֶׁאֲנִי זוֹכֵר שֶׁבְּפַעַם הָרִאשׁוֹנָה
נִכְנַסְנוּ שְׁנֵינוּ — אָז זֶה נִדְמָה
כְּנָהָר אָרֹך גַּם רָחָב וְעָמֹק

לִפְעָמִים שָׁתַקְנוּ כִּלְשׁוֹן הַסְּלָעִים
לִפְעָמִים שָׁרְנוּ אֶת שִׁיר הַנָּהָר, מִתְפַּתְּלִים וְהוֹלְכִים
לִפְעָמִים קְרִירִים וּרְגוּעִים הָיִינוּ מִתַּחַת לְעֵץ שׁוֹפֵעַ צֵל
לִפְעָמִים מְלַקְקִים רַכּוֹת אֶת שָׁרְשֵׁי הַחִזְרָן בְּנִיעָם וְנִידָם
לִפְעָמִים עֲלִיזִים נוֹפְלִים כְּאֶשֶׁד בְּמוֹרַד תְּעָלָה תְלוּלָה
לִפְעָמִים סוֹעֲרִים בְּמֶזֶג אָנוּ מֵצִיפִים אֶת הַגָּדָה
אַךְ אִם שֵׁפֶל אוֹ גֵּאוּת אִם גֶּשֶׁם אוֹ בַּצֹּרֶת יְבֵשָׁה
אָנוּ לֹא תּוֹעִים רָחֹק מִדֶּרֶךְ אַהֲבָה הַקְּבוּעָה

מֹתֶק וָתִיק
עַד כֹּה אֲנִי עֲדַיִן לֹא מֵבִין
אֵיךְ הִסְתַּבַּכְנוּ בְּתוֹךְ הַחוֹל וְהַסְּחֹפֶת
סְלָעִים חֲסִימוֹת וּשְׁפֹכֶת
עַד שֶׁכָּל מָה שֶׁנוֹתָר לָנוּ הָיָה לִזְרוֹם בְּנִפְרַד
וּבְכֵן, חוֹצֶה אֶת שִׁטְחָן הַיּוֹקֵד שֶׁל אַרְצוֹת הָאַהֲבָה
נוֹבֵעַ מִזִּהוּמוֹ שֶׁל לֵב מָלֵא חֲרָטָה
אֲנִי מְיַחֵל שֶׁהַנֵּס הַנִּפְלָא שֶׁל הוּרִיקָן
יִשָׂא אוֹתִי לְמִפְגָּשׁ הַנְּחָלִים חִישׁ עוֹד פַּעַם
עַכְשָׁו מְקוֹנֵן עַל גּוֹרָלִי הַמַּר
מֵנִיחַ שְׁזֶּה יוֹתֵר מִדַּי מְאֻחָר
י

  1. Translation to the Queen’s for all of you who don’t listen to loads of reggae and own The Harder They Come, Rockers and Countryman (the mystical reggae kung-fu flick you’ve never heard about):

    longtime lover
    my mind dwells on you constantly
    and I remember how the first time
    the two of us came in — it seemed
    like two shallow little snaking streams
    marching mapless, going hapless along
    through the rugged landscape of the heart’s song

    And we so continued
    until that fateful day
    after the passion of the hurricane
    further than imagination or dream
    we found ourselves laid down on the same bedrock
    flowing now together as one stream
    riding sublime through love’s lavish terrain
    lush and green and bright after the rain
    shimmering with glittering eyes
    glowing in the glare of the smiling sun

    longtime lover
    I feel truly blue when I think about you
    blue like the sky’s lingering promise of rain
    in the leaking light in the hush of an evening twilight
    when I remember how the first time
    the two of us came in — it seemed
    like a long river that was wide and deep

    sometime we were silent as the language of stones
    sometimes we would sing our river song as we wound our way along
    sometimes we were just cool and calm under a generously shady tree
    sometimes softly lapping bamboo roots and they swung and swayed
    sometimes cascading carefree down a steep gully bank
    sometimes turbulent in temperament we flooded our bank
    but whether ebb or flow, through rain, through drought
    we never strayed from from love’s rigid route

    oldtime sweetheart
    even now I still can’t understand
    how we got bogged down in so much silt and sand
    rocks, debris, logjams,
    until all we had left was to flow our separate ways
    now traversing the torrid terrain of love’s landscape
    running from the pollution of a contrite heart
    I long for the marvelous miracle of a hurricane
    to carry me to that meeting stream again
    lamenting my bitter fate
    surmising that it’s too late.

Oct 062013
 

I actually am working on an actual Hebrew to English translation. It’s just very, very long.

William Shakespeare
Sonnet 142

Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O, but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profaned their scarlet ornaments
And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lovest those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!

ויליאם שייקספיר
סונט קמ”ב


חֶטְאִי חִיבָּה, תִעוּב יְקָר טִיבֵךְ,
תִּעוּב חֶטְאִי, עַל פְּרִיצוּתֵךְ בָּנוּי:
הַשְׁוִי בֵּין מַצַּבִי וּמַצַּבֵךְ;
וְתִמְצְאִי, לִגְנוּת הוּא לֹא רָאוּי.
אוֹ אִם לֹא כָּךְ, אַל נָא מֵהַשְּׂפָתוֹת
שֶׁהַשָּׁנִי עֲלֵי עֶדְיָן טִמְאוּ,
בְּרִיתוֹת אַהַב כָּמוֹנִי שָׁוְא כּוֹרְתוֹת,
וּמִמִּטוֹת שֶׁל אֲחֵרוֹת שָׂכָר גָּזְלוּ.
יְהִי חֻקִּי שֶׁחִיבָּתִי רַק לָךְ,
לַמְרוֹת עֵינֵךְ, שֶׁאֲחֵרִים בִּקְשָׁה:
נִטְעִי בַּלֵּב חֶמְלָה וּכְשֶׁתִּצְמַח
אָז חֶמְלָתֵךְ אוּלַי תִּזְכֶּה חֶמְלָה.

אִם לֶאֱחֹז בְּכָמוּסַיִךְ תְּבַקְשִׁי,
כְּדֻגְמָתֵךְ, שְׁמָא אַתְּ תֻּכְחְשִׁי!
י