Apr 222014
 

Diss track! This Yehuda apparently spent his life in Mantua, where he must have witnessed in his youth Yaakov Frances get chased out for aiming too-finely-honed poetic barbs against powerful members of the Jewish community, but that youthful lesson didn’t stop him from writing this hate-sonnet to fellow poet Yehuda Ancona. I don’t have any biographical information on Ancona, but from the tenor of this sonnet, I’m tempted to say he must have converted to Christianity — thus perhaps the references to “idol tenders” and the “dead god” and “serving the created [by God]”, i.e., a man. “Serve” and “worship” are, of course, the same word in Hebrew.

Yehuda Brieli (Leon Brieli) (1643 – 1722)
Idol Tenders

Idol tenders who scorn their faith have shouted
Lofty are their wisest men, so very smart
But those who look well never once have doubted
Truth they’ve plastered o’er, to hide from eyes and heart.

And this Yehuda who among them sprouted
Darkness like they languish in he would impart
So virtue he and his dear wife have flouted
And their children they’ll corrupt in equal part.

You who seek your people’s ill, your path forsake
Serve not those made by God, but their Creator know
So turn and then from Sheol your soul retake.

If you leave the dead god in the earth’s foundation
And knowledge of the living God you show
You’ll save your spirit from annihilation.

יהודה בריאלי
רועי אליל

 
רוֹעֵי אֱלִיל בּוֹזֵי בְדִין צָוָחוּ
כִּי נִשְׂגְּבָה בִינַת נְבוֹנֵיהֶם
אַךְ יֶחֱזוּ מִתְבּוֹנֲנִים כִּי טַחוּ
קֹשְׁטְ מֵרְאוֹת לִבָּם וְעֵינֵיהֶם.
 
עֵינֵי יְהוּדָה זֶה אֲשֶׁר נִפְקָחוּ
מַחְשָׁךְ כְּמוֹהֶם בִּקְשׁוּ לָהֶם
הֵן הוּא וְרַעְיָתוֹ בְּרַע שָׂמָחוּ
וַיְשַׁחֲתוּ גַם צֶאֱצָאֵיהֶם.
 
דֹּרֵשׁ לְעַמּוֹ רַע עֲזֹב דַּרְכֶּךָ
אַל־תַּעֲבֹד נִבְרָא וּבוֹרֵא דַע
וּפְנֵה וְהוֹצֵא מִשְּׁאוֹל נַפְשֶׁךָ.
 
אִם תַּעֲזֹב אֵל־מֵת בְּתַחְתִּית אָרֶץ
וּלְךָ אֱלֹהִים חַי יְהִי נוֹדָע
אֶת־נַפְשְׁךָ תַּצִּיל בְּבֹא עֵת קָרֶץ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Roʕéi ‘elíl bozéi ve-dín tzaváḥu
Ki nisgeváh vinát nevoneihém
‘Akh yeḥezú mitbonaním ki táḥu
Qosht meir’ót libám ve-ʕeineihém.

ʕeinéi yehudáh zeh ‘ashér nifqáḥu
Maḥshákh kemohém biqshú lahém
Hein hu ve-raʕyató be-ráʕ samáḥu
Va-yeshaḥatú gam tze’etza’eihém.

Doréish le-ʕamó raʕ ʕazóv darkékha
‘Al taʕavód nivrá u-voréi daʕ
Ufnéih ve-hotzéi mi-she’ól nafshékha.

‘Im taʕazóv ‘eil meit be-taḥtít ‘áretz
U-lekhá ‘elohím ḥai yehí nodáʕ
‘Et nafshekhá tatzíl be-vó ʕeit qáretz.

Apr 202014
 

Another Baroque Italian poet, another one of those direct-translation Hebrew surnames. In the absence of critical editions and crucial historical/cultural context in the gaping black hole of Italian Hebrew poetry, it can be occasionally hard to understand what a particular poem is driving at. This poem is a good example. My not-entirely-uneducated guess is that the poet, who writes in Hebrew (thus his complaint that is poetry isn’t understood) is addressing another Jewish poet, one he feels is a superior wordsmith, and criticizing him for composing poetry in Italian rather than Hebrew (thus the reference to wasting his gifts in “Ashterot Karnayim,” a Canaanite city explicitly named for the goddess Astarte mentioned in Genesis. All kinds of different non-Israelite tribes in the Bible stand in for the native gentiles, and the religious practices, of any given country in Hebrew poetry – in an era in which Christian scholars were increasingly Hebrew-literate and interested in what the Jews were saying amongst themselves, references to Jewish antipathy towards Christians and Christian belief had to be ever-more circumspect). There are contemporary examples of this exact poetic dispute among the Jewish poets of Italy.

Yehuda ‘Asael mei-ha-Tov (Leon del Bene) (? – 1678)
My Poetry, Not Understood

My poetry / not understood / is sour wine / against the teeth
And you confuse / its wisdom’s light / like rising smoke / into the eyes
And it’s a lass / in its concerns / first giving birth / upon the stool
And like the bird / who sits on eggs / which fail to hatch / within the nest
But it’s for you / a friend who weighs / its dulcet tones / upon the scales
A singing tune / upon the lute / upon the lyre / straight to the ears
And if I’m small / compared to you / and only reach / up to your hips
My value is / of middling worth / the arm’s length of / an average man
And you have joined / both supple tongue / and graceful soul / in great supply
Which you, O poet / roundly scorn / In Ashterot Karnayim

יהודה עשהאל מהטוב
מליצתי לאין מבין

 
מְלִיצָתִי / לְאֵין מֵבִין / כְּחֹמֶץ רַע / לְשִׁנָּיִם
תְּבַלְבֵּל בּוֹ / מְאוֹר שִׂכְלוֹ / כְּמוֹ עָשָׁן / לְעֵינָיִם
וְהוּא אִשָּׁה / בְּעִיוּנוֹ / כְּמַבְכִּירָה / עַל־הָאָבְנָיִם
וְכַקֹרֵא / אֲשֶׁר דָּגַר / וְלֹא יָלַד / תּוֹךְ מַחְנָיִם
אֲבָל הִיא לָךְ / יְדִיד שׁוֹקֵל / נְעִימוּתָהּ / עִם מֹאזְנָיִם
נְגִינַת שִׁיר / עֲלֵי עָשׂוֹר / עֲלֵי נֵבֶל / בְּאָזְנַיִם
וְאִם קָטָן / אֲנִי נֶגְדָּךְ / וּמַגִּיעַ / לְמָתְנָיִם
מְדֹד עֶרְכִּי / כְּבֵינוֹנִי / בְּאַמַּת אִישׁ / הַבֵּינָיִם
וְאָסַפְתָּ / שְֹפַת לָשׁוֹן / וְרוּחַ חֵן / בְּחָפְנָיִם
אֲשֶׁר מֵלִיץ / תְּנַגַח בָּם / בְּעַשְׁתְּרוֹת / הַקַּרְנָיִם.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Melitzatí / le-‘éin meivín / ke-ḥómetz raʕ / le-shináyim
Tevalbéil bo / me’ór sikhló / kemó ʕashán / le-ʕeináyim
Ve-hu ‘isháh / be-ʕiyunó / ke-mavkiráh / ʕal ha-‘ovnáyim
Ve-kha-qoréi / ‘ashér dagár / ve-ló yalád / tokh maḥnáyim
‘Avál hi lakh / yedíd shoqéil / neʕimutáh / ʕim moznáyim
Neginát shir / ʕaléi ʕasór / ʕaléi néivel / be-‘oznáyim
Ve-‘ím qatán / ‘aní negdákh / u-magíaʕ / le-motnáyim
Medód ʕerkí / ke-veinoní / be-‘amát ‘ish / ha-beináyim
Ve-‘asáfta / sefát lashón / ve-rúaḥ ḥein / be-ḥofnáyim
‘Ashér meilítz / tenagáḥ bam / be-ʕashterót / ha-qarnáyim.

Apr 192014
 

Another Baroque Italian poet, another scant bit of biographical information. Apparently he lived in Chieri and Casale Monferrato. What else he did, who knows.

Yaakov Segrè (late sixteenth century – after 1629?)
Woman, Heed Your Path

In all things, woman, take heed of your path
  Chasing refuge in the garb of those untrue
What are you doing, with your crimson clothes
  The company of the blemished you pursue
You’d know these things are pointless in hard times
  If your pride’s smoke you’d let the wind blow through
And so call out then, “After all I’ve seen,
  Grace is but a lie, and beauty’s empty too.”

יעקב בן יצחק סגרי
אישה בכל אלה ראי דרכך

 
אִשָּׁה בְּכָל־אֵלֶּה רְאִי דַרְכֵּךְ
 עֵת עֹז וּבֶגֶד בּוֹגְדִים תִּרְדֹּפִי
מַה־תַּעֲשִׂי כִּי תִלְבְּשִׁי שָׁנִי
 וַתֵּלְכִי לִדְרשׁ אֲגֻדּוֹת דֹּפִי
לֹא תֵדְעִי שַׁחְרָהּ בְּיוֹם צָרָה
 אִם אֶת־עֲשַׁן הַגַּאֲוָה תִנְדֹפִי
אָז תִּקְרְאִי ״גַּם אַחֲרֵי רֹאִי
 שֶׁקֶר מְאֹד הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל יֹפִי״.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Isháh be-khól ‘éileh re’í darkéikh
ʕeit ʕoz u-véged bogdím tirdófi
Mah taʕasí ki tilbeshí shaní
Va-telkhí lidrósh ‘agudót dófi
Lo teidʕí shaḥráh be-yóm tzaráh
‘Im ‘et ʕashán ha-ga’aváh tindófi
‘Az tiqre’í, “Gam ‘aḥaréi ro’í
Shéqer me’ód ha-ḥéin ve-hével yófi.”

Apr 162014
 

Yaakov Hai Yisrael (mid-18th century)
You Lice and You Fleas

You lice and you fleas, will none of you tell me
Who summoned you here, who was it who called you
To come to my bed, to keep me from sleeping?
Now speak up, you rogues, and start talking quickly —
To guests here you do all the things that you do,
Unbidden, by night to wake me you creep in.
Get up and get out, for if you do nothing
Your seed I’ll restore once again unto nothing.

But like asps they are, their ears quickly sealing,
My words they ignore, they pay no attention.
And with its own breath, my body they wither;
Oh, wipe out their names and spare them no feeling.
Their corpses ignite, with every intention
To scatter their ashes both hither and thither.
As fierce lions roar to feed on their quarry,
So was my flesh for your cruel teeth your quarry.

Like brothers who band together at midnight
My finger and thumb I’ve firmly united;
Avenging my blood, so fully diminished,
By crushing them dead, with all strength and all might.
A needle they’ll wield and stab them, delighted,
They’ll toss them in lamps, in wrath they’ll be finished.
But when they’ve been struck, and so being scattered,
Then by the thousands they’ll swarm out and scatter.

And so from my friends I’ve humbly requested
To find for my soul a measure of respite,
“Oh, what,” were my words, “you stiff-neckèd nation,
Oh, what can I do that I haven’t tested?”
“Killing them’s hopeless,” they told me, “forget it;
Wait for the winter, for that’s your salvation.”
And so my soul cried as much as was seemly,
“Oh, hurry, please, autumn, and winter, redeem me!”

יעקב חי ישראל
כינים ופרעושים


כִּנִּים וּפַרְעֹשִׁים הֲלֹא תֹאמֵרוּ
מִי זֶה אֲשֶׁר קָרָא אֲלֵיכֶם הֵנָּה
לָבֹא בְמִטָּתִי לְהָעִירֵנִי
אִמְרוּ בְּנֵי עַוְלָה וְחִישׁ דַּבֵּרוּ
לָאוֹרְחִים פֹּה תַעֲשׂוּ כָהֵנָּה
לָבֹא בְּלִי רִשְׁיוֹן לְהָקִיצֵנִי
קוּמוּ וּבִמְהֵרָה צְאוּ, אִם אָיִן
אֶת־זַרְעֲכֶם אָשִׁיב כְּאָז אֶל־אָיִן.

אַךְ הֵם כְּפֶתֶן אָטְמוּ אָזְנֵימוֹ
לֹא שָֹמְעוּ מִלַּי וְלֹא הִקְשִׁיבוּ
וִיצַמְּקוּ גוּפִי בְמוֹ כָל־רוּחַ
יִמַח שְׁמָם לָעַד וְגַם זִכְרֵימוֹ.
וּבְלַהֲבַת הָאֵשׁ כָּעֵץ יַלְהִיבוּ
גּוּפָם, וְאֶפְרָם יִזְרְקוּ לָרוּחַ
כִּי כַכְּפִירִים שׁוֹאֲגִים לָטָרֶף
הָיָה לְשִׁנֵּיהֶם בְּשָֹרִי טָרֶף.

לָכֵן כְּמוֹ אַחִים בְּאִישׁוֹן לַיִל
גוּדָל וְאֶצְבַּע נוֹעֲדוּ נֶחְבָּרוּ
לִנְקֹם נְקַם דָּמַי אֲשֶׁר צָמָקוּ
וַיִּכְתְּשׁוּ מֵהֶם בְּעֹז וָחָיִל.
מֵהֶם בְּמַחַט הָרְגוּ דָקָרוּ
מֵהֶם לְאוׂר הַנֵּר בְּאַף זָרָקוּ
אַךְ כַאֲשֶׁר נֻכּוּ וְכִי נִפְרָצוּ
כֵּן לִרְבָבוֹת שָׁרְצוּ פָרָצוּ.

כָּכָה אֱלֵי רֵעַי אֲנִי שָׁאַלְתִּי
לִמְצֹא לְנַפְשִׁי פֹה מְעַט מַרְגּוֹעַ
״מָה״ אֹמְרָה “אֶל־עַם קְשֵׁה הָעׂרֶף
מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לָהֶם וְלֹא פָעָלְתִּי״
וַיַּעֲנוּ “לֹא יוּכְלוּ לִגְוֹעַ
כִּי אִם בְּהִתְקָרֵב יְמֵי הַחֹרֶף״
אָז צָעֲקָה נַפְשִׁי ״אֲהָהּ חָנֵּנִי
חִישׁ־נָא סְתָיו וּבֹא וְהוֹשִׁיעֵנִי״.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Kiním u-farʕoshím ha-ló toméiru
Mi zeh ‘ashér qará ‘aleikhém héinah
Lavó ve-mitatí le-haʕiréini
‘Imrú benéi ʕavláh ve-ḥísh dabéiru
La-orḥím poh taʕasú kha-héinah
Lavó bli rishyón le-haqitzéini
Qúmu u-vimheirá tze’ú, ‘im ‘áyin
‘Et zarʕakhém ‘ashív ke-‘áz ‘el ‘áyin.

‘Akh heim ke-féten ‘atmú ‘oznéimo
Lo shamʕú milái ve-ló hiqshívu
Vitzamqú gufí ve-mó khol rúaḥ
Yimáḥ shemám la-ʕád ve-gám zikhréimo.
U-ve-lahavát ha-‘éish ka-ʕéitz yalhívu
Gufám, ve-‘efrám yizreqú la-rúaḥ
Ki kha-kefirím sho’agím la-táref
Hayáh le-shineihém besarí táref.

Lakhéin kemó ‘aḥím be-‘ishón láyil
Gudál ve-‘etzbáʕ noʕadú neḥbáru
Linqóm neqám damái ‘ashér tzamáqu
Va-yikhteshú meihém be-ʕóz va-ḥáyil.
Meihém be-maḥát hargú daqáru
Meihém le-‘ór ha-néir be-‘áf zaráqu
‘Akh kha-‘ashér nukú ve-khí nifrátzu
Kein lirvavót shartzú farátzu.

Kákhah ‘eléi reiʕái ‘aní sha’altí
Limtzó le-nafshí foh meʕát margóaʕ
“Mah,” ‘omráh, “‘el ʕam qeshéih ʕóref
Mah ‘eʕeséh lahém ve-ló faʕálti?”
Va-yaʕanú, “Lo yukhlú ligvóaʕ
Ki ‘im be-hitqaréiv yeméi ha-ḥóref.”
‘Az tzaʕaqáh nafshí, “Aháh ḥanéini
Ḥish na setáv u-vó ve-hoshiʕéini.”

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.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

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!

Jul 062013
 

How many Hebrew sonnets have I translated? What am I doing with my life?

Shabtai Ḥayim Marini (1690 – 1748)
Vainly, O Mountains

Vainly, O mountains, you seethe and you crumble;
Vainly, O heaven’s foundations, you blare, yet
Vainly, you pour hail and rain in your torrent,
Fleeting as smoke, the world empty shall tumble.

Steadfast’s my pillar, which those who are humble,
Pure-hearted, clean-handed, surely will merit,
Vast worlds within they will doubtless inherit;
All those who ask may take hold and ne’er stumble.

Silence, foundations of heaven! Don’t wear your
Praiseworthy mantle, endowed with its savor.
Be filled with shame today, odium and terror.

Foes of injustice, take hold and don’t waver,
Rally while grasping the roots of my succor;
Know you shall ride forth atop heights of favor.

שבתאי חיים מאריני
שווא תרגזו הרים

 
שָׁוְא תִּרְגְּזוּ הָרִים וְהִתְקַלְקָלוּ
שָׁוְא תִּרְעֲשׁוּ אַדְנֵי שְׁמֵי שָׁמַיִם
שָׁוְא תִּשְׁטְפוּ בָרָד וְזֶרֶם מָיִם
לָרִיק פְּנֵי תֵבֵל כְּעָשָׁן כָּלוּ.
 
עַמּוּד נְחוּשָׁה לִי וּבוֹ יִנְחָלוּ
כָּל אִישׁ טְהוֹר לֵבָב נְקִי כַפָּיִם
בֹּו יִמְצְאוּ עוֹלָם רְחַב יָדָיִם
בּוֹ יַחֲזִיקוּ כֹל אֲשֶֹר יִשְׁאָלוּ.
 
דֹּמוּ יְסוֹדֵי רוֹם וְלֹא תִלְבָּשׁוּ
מַעְטֵה תְהִלָּה בַאֲשֶׁר יָאָתָה
הִכָּלְמוּ הַיּוֹם וְהִתְבּוֹשָׁשׁוּ.
 
הִתְחַזְּקוּ כָּל שֹוֹנְאֵי עַבְלָתָה
עַל מוֹסְדוֹת עֶזְרִי וְהִתְאוֹשָׁשׁוּ
כִּי תִרְכְּבוּ עַל בָּמֳתֵי עֶזְרָתָה.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Shav tirgezú harím ve-hitkalkalú
Shav tirʕashú ‘adnéi sheméi shamáyim
Shav tishtefú varád ve-zérem máyim
La-rík penéi teivéil ke-ʕashán kalú.

ʕamúd neḥusháh li u-vó yinḥalú
Kol ‘ish tehór leiváv nekí khapáyim
Bo yimtze’ú ʕolám reḥáv yadáyim
Bo yaḥazíku khol ‘ashér yish’alú.

Dómu yesodéi rom ve-ló tilbashú
Maʕtéih tehiláh va-‘ashér ya’atáh
Hikalmú ha-yóm ve-hitboshashú.

Hitḥazkí kol son’éi ʕavlatáh
ʕal mosdót ʕezrí ve-hit’oshashú
Ki tirkevú ʕal bamotéi ʕezratáh.

Jun 252013
 

I like it when they address their own souls.

Eliezer Ḥeifetz (mid-18th century?)
My Soul, You Golden Jewel

My soul, you golden jewel, the pride of heaven,
A narrow cell’s your home on terra firma.
Could you forget you stood atop high heaven?
Should you exult in empty terra firma?

My soul, know that you part by way of heaven,
To see, in gloom, the shame of terra firma.
In kingly garb be graced; the glow of heaven
Will light for you the dark of terra firma.

When you with sickly body behold heaven
Then gather the sweet fruit of terra firma
And bear your ample sheaves unto your heaven.

Forsake your corpse below on terra firma.
To your Creator say, “O, Lord of Heaven,
Behold my earthly works, from terra firma.”

אליעזר חפץ
נפשי שכית פז

 
נַפְשִׁי שְׂכִיַּת־פָּז צְבִי שָׁמַיִם
הֵן אַתְּ בְּסֹהַר צַר עֲלֵי הָאָרֶץ
אֵיךְ תִּשְׁכְּחִי עָמְדֵךְ בְּרוֹם שָׁמַיִם
אֵיךְ תִּשְׂמְחִי בַגִּיל בְּהַבְלֵי־אָרֶץ?
 
נַפְשִׁי דְּעי עָזְבֵךְ שְׁבִיל שָׁמַיִם
לִרְאוֹת בְּמוֹ־אֹפֶל בְּעֶרְוַת־אָרֶץ
תַּעְדִּי יְקָר מַלְכוּת וְזִיו שָׁמַיִם
יָאִיר וְיַבְרִיק לָךְ בְּחֶשְׁכַּת־אָרֶץ.
 
עֵת אַתְּ בְּגוּף נָגוּף תִּרְאִי שָׁמַיִם
לִקְטִי פְרִי נֶחְמָד בְּקַצְוֵי־אָרֶץ
וּשְׂאִי אֲלֻמָּתֵךְ אֱלֵי שָׁמַיִם.
 
עִזְבִי גְוִיָּתֵךְ בְּתַחְתִּית אָרֶץ
אִמְרִי לְקוֹנֵךְ אָז ״אֲדוֹן שָׁמַיִם
אֵלֶּה יְגִיעוֹתַי בְּתֵבֵל אָרֶץ.״
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Nafshí sekhiyát paz tzeví shamáyim
Hein ‘at be-sóhar tzar ʕaléi ha-‘áretz
‘Eikh tishkeḥí ʕomdéikh be-róm shamáyim
‘Eikh tismeḥí va-gíl be-havléi ‘áretz?

Nafshí deʕí ʕozvéikh shevíl shamáyim
Lir’ót be-mó ‘ófel be-ʕervát ‘áretz
Taʕdí yekár malkhút ve-zív shamáyim
Ya’ír ve-yavrík lakh be-ḥeshkát ‘áretz.

ʕeit ‘at be-gúf nagúf tir’í shamáyim
Liktí ferí neḥmád be-katzvéi ‘áretz
U-se’í ‘alumatéikh ‘eléi shamáyim.

ʕizví geviyatéikh be-taḥtít ‘áretz
‘Imrí le-konéikh ‘áz ‘adón shamáyim
‘Éileh yegiʕotái be-teivéil ‘áretz.

Jun 142013
 

The Italian poets write diss tracks with a frequency that puts today’s most prominent poets to shame.

Shimshon Cohen Modon (1679 – 1727)
Towards the Mount of Songs

Towards the mount of songs today are climbing
But simple donkeys burdened with the saddle
The ape and owl, men whose minds are addled,
Oh, all garbled of tongue with joy are shining!

The chiefs of poems a border built, confining,
Around the mount, in hopes that none could straddle,
Yet they broke through by force of fault and prattle,
Though it’s no use, they’re climbing on and rising.

The light of song they’ve shadowed, once so sunny!
And poems like fire-blackened pots they’ve faded.
With gall they’ve bittered poetry’s sweet honey.

Sealed off to them is sweet song’s gushing geyser,
They know not speech, yet poems they’re always singing;
If they would shut up, I would call them wiser.

שמשון כהן מודון
אל הר זמירות

 
אֶל־הַר זְמִירוֹת לַעֲלוֹת יַעְפִּילוּ
הַיּוֹם חֲמוֹרִים נוֹשְׂאֵי מַרְדַּעַת
הַקּוֹף וְהַיַּנְשׁוּף וְאִישׁ מָךְ דַּעַת
כָּל־עִלְּגֵי שָׂפָה בְּרֹן יַצְהִילוּ.
 
מֵאָז קְצִינֵי־שִׁיר גְּבוּל הִגְבִּילוּ
סָבִיב לְהָר לֹא יוּכְלוּ לָגַעַת
אַךְ פָּרְצוּ גָדֵר בְּרֹב מִגְרַעַת
גַּם יַעֲלוּ עָלֹה וְלֹא הוֹעִילוּ.
 
הָהְ כִּי מְאוֹר זִמְרָה בְּצֵל הִקְדִּירוּ
שׁירוֹת כְּסִירוֹת מִשְּׁחוֹר הוּעָמוּ
נֹעַם מְלִיצוֹת־צוּף בְּמַר הֵמִירוּ.
 
לָהֶם מְקוֹרוֹת הַזְּמִיר נִסְתָּמוּ
לֹא יָדְעוּ דַבֵּר וְשִׁיר יָשִׁירוּ
לוּ יַחֲרִישׁוּ אֹמְרָה יֶחְכָּמוּ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘El har zemirót laʕalót yaʕpílu
Ha-yóm ḥamorím nos’éi mardáʕat
Ha-kóf ve-ha-yanshúf ve-‘ísh makh dáʕat
Kol ʕilgéi safáh be-rón yatzhílu.

Me’áz ketzinéi shir gevúl higbílu
Savív le-hár lo yukhlú lagáʕat
‘Ak partzú gadéir be-ráv migráʕat
Gam yaʕalú ʕalóh ve-ló hoʕílu.

Hah ki me’ór zimráh be-tzéil hikdíru
Shirót ke-sirót mi-sheḥór huʕámu
Nóʕam melitzót tzuf be-már heimíru.

Lahém mekorót ha-zemír nistámu
Lo yadʕú dabéir ve-shír yashíru
Lu yaḥaríshu ‘omráh yeḥkámu.

Apr 162013
 

As it turns out, Immanuel, God gave them speaking tongues so they could one day run Aish Discovery seminars. To everything there is a season.

Immanuel Frances (1618? – 1710?)
If All That Comes Between

If all that comes between a beast
And man is the power to speak —
What made God give a speaking tongue
To stupid boors whose minds are weak?

עמנואל פראנשיס
אם ההבדל

 
אִם הַהֶבְדֵּל בֵּין בַּעַל חָי
אֶל הָאָדָם הוּא הַדִּבּוּר —
לָמָּה הָאֵל נָתַן לָשׁוֹן
דּוֹבֶרֶת לַטִּפֵּשׁ וָבוּר?
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Im ha-hevdéil bein báʕal ḥai
‘el ha-‘adám hu ha-dibúr —
Lámah ha-‘éil natán lashón
dovéret la-tipéish va-vúr?

Apr 152013
 

The Italian Hebrew poets were especially known for their linguistic dexterity, often inserting puns (or creating entire poems) based on similar-sounding words in Hebrew and Italian/Portuguese. This is a small taste of that cleverness. According to the poem’s superscription, a young Frances wrote the poem for a friend in love with a girl named Surlina. Her name is worked into the last line of the poem – suri li na means “please turn towards me!” (in the feminine imperative). Cute.

Yaakov Frances (1615 – 1667)
For a Girl Named Surlina

If your voice is so sweet,
If your form is so fine —
Can your heart be so cruel?
May it be like their kind!
For how long can I pine?
Oh, please cleave unto me,
My spirit, draw near me,
My desire, turn towards me!

יעקב פראנשיס
לנערה בשם סורלינה


אִם קוֹלֵךְ עָרֵב,
אִם מַרְאֵך נָוֶה —
אֵיךְ לִבֵּךְ אַכְזָר?
לָהֶם נָא יִשְׁוֶה!
עַד מָה לָךְ אֶדְוֶה?
עִמִּי תִדְבָּקִי,
גּשִׁי לִי, נַפְשִׁי,
סוּרי לִי נָא, חֶשְׁקִי!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Im koléikh ʕaréiv.
‘Im mar’ikh navéh —
Eikh libéikh ‘akhzár?
Lahém na yishvéh!
ʕad mah lakh ‘edvéh?
ʕimí tidbakí,
Goshí li, nafshí,
Súri li na, ḥeshkí!