Nov 292013

This kind of incorrigible player-hating is what got Yaakov chased out of Mantua. Not that it did much to dissuade him. And good for us, because in the grand and noble history of hating players (but never the game), few have done it with such panache as Yaakov Frances. This is one of several poems Frances wrote against an ideological opponent named Yechiel, whose name Frances wrote in a code of his own devising in the superscriptions above his poems. This one was evidently composed after said Yechiel’s death; the superscription reads: “para a morte de amramb, homim de nenhun virtude e par consequencia enemigo dos virtuosos” — “For the death of ‘amramb’ [Yechiel], a man lacking all virtue and thus the enemy of virtuous men.”

And does Yaakov treat the death of a bitter ideological foe with the grace and dignity one might expect of learned rabbi and man of letters? No. Actually, he writes a sonnet begging the King of Demons to torture the hell out of the motherfucker.

Yaakov Frances (1615 – 1667)
Rise, Ashmodai!

Rise, Ashmodai! Rise up, send out runners,
Speed to your Hell, and throughout every region
Within your domain, charge that now is the season
To gather the tar and the sulfur and timbers;

Order from all of your fleetest taskmasters:
Gather the hosts of the demons, the legions!
This wrathful day is to punish the treasons
Of this hateful villain, this father of jesters!

Spark up the fire, don’t be tender-hearted
If you should recall ere a day he still sent
To fill up your Pit hordes of spirits departed;

Upon necks of princes he trampled unguarded,
And if, Ashmodai, you should think to relent —
By his brazen hands from your crown you’ll be parted!

יעקב פראנשיס
קום אשמדאי

קוּם, אַשְׁמְדַאי! קוּם לָךְ, דְּחֹף רָצִים
אֶל תָּפְתְּךָ מַהֵר, וּבִמְדִינוֹת
מַלְכוּתְךָ פִּתְגָם שְׁלַח לִקְנוֹת
עִטְרָן וְנֵפְטְ, גָּפְרִית וְרֹב עֵצִים.

צַוֵּה עֲלֵיהֶם נוֹגְשִׁים אָצִים
לֶאְסֹף צְבָא שֵׁדִים וְלִגְיוֹנוֹת,
כִּי יוֹם עֲבָרוֹת זֶה וְעֵת עַנּוּת
אִישׁ רַע וְשׂוֹנֵא טוֹב, אֲבִי לֵצִים.

הַצֵּת בְּעֵרָה בּוֹ, וְאַל יֵרַךְ
לִבָּךְ בְּעֵת תִּזְכֹּר אֲשֶׁר אֶתְמוֹל
מִלֵּא נְשָׁמוֹת יַרְכְּתֵי בוֹרָךְ;

עַל צַוְּרוֹנֵי רוֹזְנִים דָּרַךְ
אִישׁ זֶה, וְאִם בּוֹ, אַשְׁמְדַאי, תַּחְמֹל —
מָחָר בְּעַזּוּת יַעֲשֹׁק כִּתְרָךְ.


Qum, ‘Ashmedái! Qum lakh, deḥóf ratzím
‘el toftekhá mahéir, u-vimdinót
malkhutkhá pitgám sheláḥ liqnót
ʕitrán ve-neift, gofrít ve-róv ʕetzím.

Tzavéih ʕaleihém nogshím ‘atzím
le’sóf tzevá sheidím ve-ligyonót,
ki yom ʕavarót zeh ve-ʕéit ʕanút
‘ish raʕ ve-sonéi tov, ‘aví leitzím.

Hatzéit beʕeiráh bo, ve-‘ál yeirákh
libákh be-ʕéit tizkór ‘ashér ‘etmól
miléi neshamót yarketéi vorákh;

ʕal tzavronéi rozním darákh
‘ish zeh, ve ‘im bo, ‘Ashmedái, taḥmól —
maḥár be-ʕazút yaʕashók kitrákh!

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