May 022014
 

Well, I was going to translate a different Zelda poem, since I and everyone else had been enjoying them so much lately, but when I picked up the book, it flipped open to this one, and I damn near got misty.

Side note: I wish I could translate “געגועים” into “saudade,” but unfortunately, this is an English website.

Zelda (1914 – 1984)
Black Lily

Did my longing create
a black lily you gave me
in dreams
or did yours make its way in the form of a flower
from the unrevealed world
to my dream.
And why did I suddenly
ask you for earrings,
a thing I had never once done
when you were yet in the land of the living.

זלדה
שושנה שחורה


הַאִם גַּעְגּוּעַי בָּרְאוּ
שׁוֹשַׁנָּה שְׁחוֹרָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ לִי
בַּחֲלוֹם
אוֹ גַּעְגּוּעֶיךָ חָדְרוּ בִּדְמוּת פֶּרַח
מִן הָעוֹלָם הַכָּמוּס
אֶל חֲלוֹמִי.
וּמַדּוּעַ בִּקַּשְׁתִּי מִמְּךָ
פִּתְאֹם עֲגִילִים,
דָּבָר שֶׁלֹּא עָשִֹיתִי מֵעוֹלָם
כַּאֲשֶׁר הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Ha-‘ím gaʕguʕái bar’ú
shoshanáh sheḥoráh she-natáta li
ba-ḥalóm
‘o gaʕguʕékha ḥadrú bidmút péraḥ
min ha-ʕolám ha-kamús
‘el ḥalomí.
U-madúaʕ biqáshti mimkhá
pit’óm ʕagilím,
davár she-ló ʕasíti mei-ʕolám
ka-‘ashér hayíta be-‘éretz ha-ḥayím.

May 022014
 

I think rappers like to believe that they invented the oft-intertwined concepts of “rhyme-biting” and “beef.” They did not.

Yaakov Frances (1615 – 1667)
Who Put, You Braying Ass

Who put, you braying ass, into your purse
The silver of this poetry? You twit,
Who stashed inside your sack this gleaming goblet—
Or’s filthy lucre how you’ve been imbursed?

It’s not, buffoon, we know it’s not your verse —
Your song? I shake my head at it, I spit,
Decry it all the way you would a bandit,
And may its glory be your shame and curse.

Could I believe that your fool mind attained
The lofty heights of verse, when up ’til now
You and your songs we jeered time and again!

And if this poem our vocal praise has gained,
It’s not for your unworthy self, I vow:
For our acclaim goes only to your pen.

יעקב פראנשיס
מי שם, חמור נוער


מִי שָֹם, חֲמוֹר נוֹעֵר, בְּאַמְתַּחְתֶּךָ
כֶּסֶף מְלִיצָה זֹאת? וּמִי הִצְנִיעַ,
בַּעַר, בְּפִי שַֹקָּךְ יְקָר גָּבִיעַ —
לוּלֵי גְזֵלָה הִיא בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתֶךָ?

לֹא לָךְ, כְּסִיל, לֹא לָךְ מְלִיצָתֶךָ —
לִזְמִירְךָ אֶשְׁרֹק וְרֹאשׁ אָנִיעַ,
עָלָיו כְּעַל גַּנָב אֲנִי אָרִיעַ,
וִיהִי כְבוֹד הוֹדוֹ לְרֹב בָּשְׁתֶּךָ.

אֵיךְ אַאֲמִין כִּי דַעְתְּךָ הִגִּיעָה
לִשְׁמֵי מְרוֹם הַשִּׁיר — הֲרֵי עַד עָתָּה
כָּל פֶּה לְךָ לָעַג וְלִרְנָנֶיךָ!

גַּם אִם לְזֹאת תּוֹדָה בְּקוֹל נַשְׁמִיעָה,
לֹא לָךְ תְּהִי, כִּי לֹא לְךָ יָאָתָה:
הַמַּהֲלָל יֻתַּן לְצִפָּרְנֶיךָ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Mi sam, ḥamór noʕéir, be-‘amtaḥtékha
Késef melitzáh zot? U-mí hitzníaʕ,
Báʕar, be-fí saqákh yeqár gavíaʕ —
Luléi gezeiláh hi be-tókh beitékha?

Lo lakh, kesíl, lo lakh melitzatékha —
Lizmirkhá ‘eshróq ve-rósh ‘aníaʕ,
ʕaláv ke-ʕál ganáv ‘aní ‘aríaʕ,
Vihí khevód hodó le-róv boshtékha.

‘Eikh ‘a’amín ki daʕtekhá higíʕah
Lishméi meróm ha-shír — haréi ʕad ʕátah
Kol peh lekhá laʕág ve-lirnanékha!

Gam ‘im le-zót todáh be-qól nashmíʕah,
Lo lakh tehí, ki lo lekhá ya’átah:
Ha-mahalál yután le-tzipornékha.

May 022014
 

Well, in my last installment, I cut off the title character mid-monologue, which is probably bad form in serialization, but hey, you want good form, in the immortal words of that incomparable British rock ‘n’ roll foursome, “gimme some money.” So here we go with the rest of that aborted monologue, plus some cornstarch-gluey plot-thickening.

***

The manner of most men when they mention Jerusalem is to add Ir ha-Koydesh,1 but me, when I mention Jerusalem I don’t add a single word, because her holiness is in her name, in the name itself. Go on up, my son, go on up, and don’t trip on the steps. So many times I told the gabbai2 of the kollel3 that the stairs needed fixing, and what answer did he answer me with, the gabbai? The courtyard is old and about to fall into ruin and it’s not worth wasting a penny on. So come to ruin the houses of Israel until they’re abandoned and the Ishmaelites come and take them. Houses built with the tears of their fathers, the sons abandon. Again I’m babbling and bringing about my end. Continue reading »

  1. “The Holy City.”
  2. Sexton, synagogue caretaker.
  3. An institution in which adult Jewish men study Jewish texts as a career, supported by charity.
May 022014
 

Since my randomly undertaken translation of the rare original edition of S.Y. Agnon’s “Agunot” has proven strangely popular, judging by my metrics, I’ve decided now that the serialization is done, it’s time to put out the “trade paperback,” as it were. So here, available for download at your convenience, is the entire story in one handy PDF. Ain’t I a swell fella.

Download “Agunot” here (PDF).