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)

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

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.


  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.

  5 Responses to “Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, “Zohar””

  1. Great work! There may not be a massive footfall on your site, but I’m sure those of us who do visit it all appreciate your wonderful translations.

    My Hebrew is not up to much more than slow reading, but if you ever want to translate any poems with Judeo-Arabic lines, let me know.


  2. Hey, a reader from the bottom of the planet (sorry, I have shameless IP address curiosity). Between my Canadian reader and my British reader, soon I’ll have conquered the entire Commonwealth! I’ll have to get a Kiwi, if you two promise to be nice. And soon the sun shall never set on Soul and Gone! (Actually, in all honestly, the sun rarely rises on Soul and Gone, since I’m nocturnal.)

    But all that aside, I thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

    The only poems I’ve encountered with Judeo-Arabic lines (actually, entirely in Judeo-Arabic) are the ones by the Yemeni poets, who seemed to be about the only Arabic-speaking Jews who wrote poetry in the vernacular rather than in fusḥa. The Yemenites don’t get much play here, since they very rarely wrote secular poems, and I very rarely translate religious poems. The Andalusi poets used Arabic all the time, of course, but it was either fusḥa or the insane macaronic mix of Arabic and Romance in the kharajat of muwashshaḥat. Hey, if you can make sure the Arabic is translated and transliterated appropriately in poems like those, please, feel free. The other three readers and I will thank you.

  3. Actually I think you are already pretty clued in with Judeo-Arabic… but I always mean to translate some Judeo-Arabic poetry and never quite get round to it. I do have a Judeo-Arabic poetry anecdote you might appreciate. My early fondness for Shalom Shabazi, which began by my listening to too much Ofra Haza, nearly killed me. As a teenager I ended up stuck in Djibouti because my (also Jewish) friend and I couldn’t get through Ethiopia to Kenya, which was out big travel plan. The only place we could afford to fly to get out was to Yemen, where we could get a cheap flight to Sudan, to get the train back to Egypt. We arrived in Yemen knowing nothing at all about the country, and this was shortly before the internet. All I could remember abut Yemen (from the sleeve notes to the Kiryat Ono Yemenite group) was that Shalom Shabazi came from Ta’izz. I looked at a map, and there it was. So, after spending a week in Sanaa (where we only met two foreigners) we set of for Tai’z in a shared taxi. We did get there, but on the way back got left on the side of the road by the taxi driver because there were bandits on the road. It was evening, we were in a crumbling town with no hotel, darkness was falling. Some quite unfriendly looking locals were gathering around us. I was feeling ill-disposed towards Shalom Shabazi. There were no cars on the road at all. After about ten minutes though, a land rover pulled up and a German engineer wound down the window and incredulously asked us what we were doing. He ushered us into the vehicle and took us back to an armed compound. We heard shooting that night. Apparently there was a terrorist training camp nearby. He took us back to the city the next day.

  4. That’s, uh…that’s totally fucking crazy. I hear they say that Arab Yemenis are proud of their Jewish poet laureate, but it doesn’t sound like reeling off a few Shabazi couplets would have done you much good in that particular situation. But it’s not Shalom’s fault (I can’t remember if he lived before or after the series of pogroms that wiped out approximately half of the Jewish population of Yemen, but there’s a lot of poetry about that). Also, definitely +2 Saving Jewesses karma points for the German people (Lord knows they can use them).

    I hear Sana`a is pretty, though, if it doesn’t kill you!

  5. Oh, and regarding Judeo-Arabic…well, I don’t want to bore you too much with linguistics, since I’m sure you’ve already been bored enough by linguistics in what sounds to be a highly active life…but it’s always weird, because while Arabic and Classical/Mizrachi Hebrew have (give or take, Arabic has a couple extra emphatics) the same basket o’ phonemes, Arabic has distinct letters for some that Hebrew does not. And of course, Judeo-Arabic is always written in Hebrew letters. And there are lot of different systems for, sort of, making up the differences (using the dagesh, using the geresh), or it just gets ignored altogether and left for the reader to figure out. And each community has their own system, so…it’s a mess. I leave it to the experts.

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