Apr 252014

You know how Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” is purportedly about a woman, but reveals itself (explicitly, eventually, for those very slow on the uptake) to actually be about hip-hop itself? This too is a poem along those lines. (That’s Soul and Gone: coming with that old-school shit to…that older-school shit.)

Rather than a genre, however, the sonnet below, by Mr. Ferrarese of Padua, is dedicated to a poet whose name I, quite frankly, cannot fully make out:

Do you see the manuscript quality I suffer for you people? Anyway, judging from the poem, his father’s name must be Yishai, and I think his is Avraham ha-Kohen…something. Zante? He must have been pretty swell, whoever he was.

Mordechai Ferrarese (early 18th century)
A Most Gorgeous Maiden

A most gorgeous maiden whose bounty of grace
Was rained down upon her from thundering skies
Arouses with brilliance, the light of her face,
Desire in all hearts, with one look from her eyes.

If her raiment’s splendor she would but embrace
She’d take golden embroid’ry and furs as her guise,
Each necklace and bracelet and ring in its place,
The glow of her fire would twofold arise.

The glory of kings too will yet raise its crown
On monarchy’s throne at the city’s top height
With amethyst, diamond and agate and sapphire.

With their rhymes, up on high have risen and shone
The poems of Yishai’s son, so filled with delight;
To the heavens their horn has raised e’er higher.1

מרדכי פיראריסי
עלמה יפהפיה

עַלְמָה יְפֵהפִיָּה אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ
חֵן חֵן תְּשֻׁאוֹת יִרְעֲפוּ שָׁמָיִם
תָּעִיר בְּזִיו יָפְיָהּ בְּאוֹר פָּנֶיהָ
חֶמְדַּת לְבָבוֹת עִם רְאוֹת עֵינָיִם.
אַךְ אִם תְּכַהֵן גַּם פְּאֵר כֵּלֶיהָ
תַּעְדֶּה מְעִיל רִקְמַת זְהַב פַּרְוָיִם
נִזְמָהּ וְחֶלְיָתָהּ וְקִשּׁוּרֶיהָ
יִגַּהּ שְׁבִיב אִשָּׁהּ צְבִי כִפְלָיִם.
גַּם הוֹד מְלָכִים עוֹד יְרוֹמֵם כֶּתֶר
עַל כֵּס מְלוּכָה עַל מְרֹמֵי קָרֶת
בֵּין יַהֲלֹם סַפִּיר שְׁבוֹ אַחְלָמָה.
כֵּן בַּחֲרוּזִים נִשְׂאוּ עַל־יֶתֶר
שִׁירֵי בְנוֹ יִשַׁי בְּרֹב תִּפְאָרֶת
קַרְנָם בְּכָבוֹד עַד־שְׁחָקִים רָמָה.


ʕalmáh yefeifíyah ‘ashér ʕaléha
Ḥein ḥein teshu’ót yirʕafú shamáyim
Taʕír be-zív yofyáh be-‘ór panéha
Ḥemdát levavót ʕim re’ót ʕeináyim.

‘Akh ‘im tekhahéin gam pe’éir keiléha
Taʕdéh meʕíl riqmát zeháv parváyim
Nizmáh ve-ḥelyatáh ve-qishuréha
Yigáh shevív ‘isháh tzeví khifláyim.

Gam hod melakhím ʕod yeroméim kéter
ʕal keis melukháh ʕal meroméi qáret
Bein yahalóm sapír shevó ‘aḥlámah.

Kein ba-ḥaruzím nis’ú ʕal yéter
Shiréi venó Yishái be-róv tif’áret
Qarnám be-khavód ʕad sheḥaqím rámah.

  1. To those who haven’t flipped through their Gideon’s Bible, “to have one’s horn raised” is an ancient Hebrew expression of pride, appearing in Chana’s prayer of thanks in 1 Samuel – “my horn has been raised by God.”

  2 Responses to “Mordechai Ferrarese, “`Almah Yefeifiyah””

  1. Hi again, It’s indeed Zante, As you might have noticed reading Schirmann’s collection, the same Abraham responded with a sonnet of his own, using the same rhymes. I remembered Meir Benayahu wrote an article concerning “Rabbi Abraham ha-Cohen of Zante and the Group of Doctor-Poets in Padua”, which was published in HaSifrut and to which I have no access at the moment (sidenote: I hate HaSifrut for its poor page layout, which makes the text almost unreadable). And Lo & Behold, going to wiki yeilded the following:
    (the hair, the HAIR)

  2. Wow, he has a Wikipedia page, now I’m embarrassed. I even looked! I spent fifteen minutes Googling! I also now see that the very next poem in Schirmann is by him, and would have cleared up the whole name issue. I was looking for his name before Ferrarese’s, not after. Hey, I can be stupid. I guess I’ll have to translate the response poem next, even though it’s kind of racist.

    Also, yes. The hair. I could have lived without that image of these guys in my mind.

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