Jun 132013
 

I think this tajnis is a poem of mourning for a musician friend of the poet.

Vidal Benveniste (15th century)
Lyre and Harp

Lyre and harp, O shatter, you players / let sound a wail of fright
For fled is the light of every tune / for you songs shall be as the night.

וידאל בנבנשת
כינור ונבל נפצו


כִּנּוֹר וְנֵבֵל נַפְּצוּ / נוֹגְנִים וְהַשְׁמִיעוּ יְלֵיל
כִּי נָס מְאוֹר כָּל הַזְּמִיר / הַשִּׁיר יְהִי לָכֶם כְּלֵיל
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Kinór ve-neivéil naptzú / nogním ve-hashmíʕú yeléil
Ki nas me’ór kol ha-zamír / ha-shír yehí lakhém ke-léil

Feb 212013
 

Time. It has its detractors.

Vidal Benveniste (15th century)
Time Murdered

Though armed with no weapon, Time murdered my heart
  And drank of my blood like the grape’s in its glass
The day that you left set my honor astray
  To dwell in the wastes with the hawk1 and the owl
To pine there for days of companions’ rapport,
  Which were its due portion, the glass in its hand!

וידאל בנבנשת
זמן רצח


זְמָן רָצַח בְּלִי שֶׁלַח לְבָבִי
 וְיֵשְׁתְּ דָּמִי כְדַם עֵינָב בְּכוֹסוֹ
וְהֵנִיד אֶת כְּבוֹדִי יוֹם נְדוּדָךְ
 וְלִשְׁכֹּן עִם קְאַת מִדְבָּר וְכוֹסוֹ
וְשָׁם יוֹחִיל יְמֵי חֶבְרַת יְדִידִים
 אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה מְנַת חֶלְקוֹ וְכוֹסוֹ
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Zeman ratzáḥ bli shélaḥ levaví / ve-yéisht damí khe-dám ʕeináv be-khosó
Ve-heiní ‘et kevodí yom nedudákh / ve-lishkón ʕim ke’át midbár ve-khosó
Ve-shám yoḥíl yeméi ḥevrát yedidím / ‘ashér heimáh menát ḥelkó ve-khosó

  1. Actually, to use scholarly terminology, nobody really knows what exactly the fuck a ka’at is, other than a bird that lives in the desert.
Feb 042013
 

It’s short! The addressee is female, so it’s probably not one of those poems that’s secretly about God. Unless it is.

Vidal Benveniste (15th century)
The Children of Time

The children of time set an ambush / and spread out cruel traps for my spirit
Ensconced in the charm of your speaking / towards freedom I’ll rise up and set out
And woe upon woe to my spirit / if ever your tongue should fall silent.

וידאל בנבנשת
ילדי זמן

 
יַלְדֵּי זְמָן פָּרְשׂוּ פַח / יוֹקְשִׁים וְאָרְבוּ לְנַפְשִׁי
וּבְחֵן נְאוּמֵךְ וְנִיבֵךְ / אֵלֵךְ וְאֵצֵא לְחָפְשִׁי
אוֹיָה וְאוֹיָה לְנַפְשִׁי / אִם הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Yaldéi zemán parsú paḥ / yokshím ve-‘arvú le-nafshí
Uv-ḥéin ne’uméikh ve-nivéikh / ‘eiléikh ve-‘eitzéi le-ḥofshí
‘Oyáh ve-‘oyáh le-nafshí / ‘im haḥaréish taḥaríshi.

Jan 172013
 

One of the very last Hebrew poets of Spain, before Hebrew culture in Iberia was eradicated during the, y’know, unpleasantness. I have chosen it because it is a tajnis, and thus short enough to translate in the brief window the last of this left-over root canal Vicodin has me feeling more or less like a human being. Soon enough, it will be back to alternately shivering uncontrollably and soaking through my sheets with sweat, and being unable to swallow. I’m so happy to be alive. Every day holds wonderful new surprises.

The Key Word in this tajnis is tzir, which can mean “envoy,” “intense pain” or “hinge/axis.” Also “sauce” and “contraction” (as in childbirth). It’s a handy word.

Vidal Benveniste (15th century)
O Shapely Girl

O shapely girl, my thoughts have so desired you
  That as an envoy to your mercy they’ve sent this poem
So it might let you know how great their pain has grown
  How your grace and beauty seized them with distress
The torment of your parting encompasses their heart
  Like the turning of a door upon a hinge.

וידאל בנבנשת
יפת תואר

 
יְפַת תֹּאַר שְׂעִפַּי חָשְׁקוּ בָךְ / וְשִׁירָם זֶה לְחַסְדֵּךְ שָׁלְחוּ צִיר
לְהַגִּיד לָךְ אֲשֶׁר גָּדַל כְּאֵבָם / וְעַל חִנֵּךְ וְיָפְיֵךְ יֹאחֲזֵם צִיר
וְצִיר נוּדֵךְ עֲלֵי לִבָּם יְסֹבֵב / כְּמוֹ דֶּלֶת אֲשֶׁר תִּסֹּב עֲלֵי צִיר
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Yefát tó’ar seʕipái ḥashkú vakh / ve-shirám zeh le-ḥasdéikh shalḥú tzir
Lehagíd lakh ‘ashér gadál ke’eivám / ve-ʕál ḥinéikh ve-yofyéikh yoḥazéim tzir
Ve-tzír nudéikh ʕaléi libám yesovéiv / kemó délet ‘ashér tisóv ʕaléi tzir.

Jan 092013
 

HE WAS ON A HIGHER SPIRITUAL MADREIGAH OKAY?!

Todros Abulafia (1247 – after 1300)
In Loving a Girl

In loving a girl, there’s no shame and no sin
  If lads lust for a lass, there’s no crime!
But by law you must lust for Arab girls only —
  Even if not fair or pure or sublime.
And keep far away from all Spanish girls
  Though bright as the sun they may shine;1
Do not Spanish girls completely lack grace,
  Though covered in silk, woven linens so fine?2
Their garments are full of filth and of mud,
  The impurity in their skirts3 is so vile.
They’ll capture no hearts the way they whore around,
  They’re simple in whoring; they know nothing worthwhile.4
But each Arab girl’s full of beauty and grace,
  She captures the heart, calms the clamorous mood,
As if all her clothes were inlaid with gold
  She charms those who see her – especially nude!
On the day of the deed,5 she won’t fail to please,
  In whoring she’s handy, in lust an artiste,
She’ll wrap her legs tight6 around a man’s neck,
  And moaning out, “Oh!” — she’d raise the deceased!
Against this the man who lusts for a Spaniard
  Might as well be a man who sleeps with a beast!7

טודרוס אבולעפיה / طدروس أبو العافية
באהבת נערה

 
בְּאַהְבַת נַעֲרָה אֵין חֵטְא וְאַשְׁמָה
 וְאֵין רַע בַּחֲשֹׁק עֶלֶם לְעַלְמָה,
אֲבָל דָּת לַחֲשֹׁק כָּל בַּת עֲרָבִים —
 וְאִם לֹא תִהְיֶה יָפָה וְתַמָּה,
וְלִרְחֹק עַד מְאֹד מִכָּל אֲדוֹמִית —
 וְאִלּוּ תִהְיֶה בָרָה כְּחַמָּה.
הֲכִי אֶל בַּת אֱדוֹם אֵין חֵן, וְאִלּוּ
 תְכַס מֶשִׁי וְתִלְבַּשׁ שֵׁשׁ וְרִקְמָה:
בְּגָדֶיהָ מְלֵאִים טִיט וְחֶלְאָה
 וְטֻמְאָתָהּ בְּשׁוּלֶיהָ זְהוּמָה,
וְלֹא תִּקַח זְנוּתָהּ לֵב, הֲכִי הִיא
 פְתַיּוּת בַּזְּנוּת, בַּל יָדְעָה מָּה.
אֲבָל כָּל בַּת עֲרָב חֵן לָהּ וְיֹפִי
 מְלַבֵּב לֵב וּמֵסִיר כָּל מְהוּמָה,
כְּאִלּוּ מִשְׁבְּצוֹת זָהָב לְבוּשָׁה,
 לְרוֹאָהּ תִּיף, וְאִם תִּהְיֶה עֲרֻמָּה!
וְיוֹם הַמַּעֲשֶׂה תִּנְעַם, וּבִזְנוּת
 תְּבוּנָה לָהּ, וּבַזִּמָּה מְזִמָּה,
בְּצַוַּאר הָאֱנוֹשׁ תִּרְקַע בְּרַגְלָהּ
 וְתֹאמַר: ״אָח!״ וְהַמֵּת חַי מְקִימָה.
לְזֹאת חוֹשֵׁק אֲדוֹמִית הוּא כְאָדָם
 אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן שְׁכָבְתּוֹ בַּבְּהֵמָה!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Be-‘ahavát naʕaráh ‘ein ḥeit ve-‘ashmáh
Ve-‘éin raʕ ba-ḥashók ʕélem le-ʕalmáh,
‘Avál dat laḥashók kol bat ʕaravím —
Ve-‘ím lo tiheyéh yafáh ve-tamáh,
Ve-lirḥók ʕad me’ód mi-kól ‘adomít —
Ve-‘ílu tiheyéh varáh ke-ḥamáh.
Hakhí ‘el bat ‘edóm ein ḥein, ve-‘ílu
Tekhás méshi ve-tilbásh sheish ve-rikmáh:
Begadéha melei’ím tit ve-ḥel’áh
Ve-tum’atáh be-shuléha zehumáh,
Ve-ló tikáḥ zenutáh leiv, hakhí hi
Fetayút ba-zenút, bal yadʕáh mah.
‘Aval kol bat ʕaráv ḥein lah ve-yófi
Melabéiv leiv u-meisír kol mehumáh,
Ke-‘ílu mishbetzót zaháv levusháh,
Le-ro’áh tif, ve-‘ím tiheyéh ʕarumáh!
Ve-yóm ha-maʕaséh tinʕám, u-viznút
Tevunáh lah, u-va-zimáh mezimáh,
Be-tzavár ha-‘enósh tirkáʕ be-ragláh
Ve-tomár: “Aḥ!” ve-ha-méit ḥai mekimáh.
Le-zót ḥoshéik ‘adomíit hu khe-‘adám
‘Ashér yitéin shekhavtó babheimáh!

  1. Song of Songs 6:10.
  2. Ezekiel 16:10.
  3. Lamentations 1:9.
  4. Proverbs 9:13.
  5. 1 Samuel 20:19.
  6. Ezekiel 6:11, re-interpreting the verb raka`.
  7. Leviticus 20:15.
Jan 082013
 

[frum tsk-ing noise] R’ Abulafia was a tremendous godol, with incredibly deep Torah insight, and if his drashos seem to be talking about gashmiyus, chas ve-sholom, it’s only because he was simply on another madreiga in his avodos Hashem. Maybe we all be zokhe to have such havonoh.

Todros Abulafia (1247 – after 1300)
How, You Fool

Oh how, you fool, could you chastise a man who has
Embraced a young gazelle — and then raise your voice?
How could you? Our own faith has said that when
You see a shapely girl, then you may take her!1

טודרוס אבולעפיה / طدروس أبو العافية
איכה, כסיל

 
אֵיכָה, כְּסִיל, תָּלִין עֲלֵי אָדָם אֲשֶׁר
חִבֵּק צְבִיַּת חֵן וְתָרִים קוֹלְךָ?
אֵיכָה? וְהִנֵּה אָמְרָה הַדָּת: בְּעֵת
תִּרְאֶה יְפַת תֹּאַר וְלָקַחְתָּ לְךָ!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Eikháh, kesíl, talín ʕaléi ‘adám ‘ashér
ḥibéik tzeviyát ḥein ve-tarím kolkhá?
‘Eikháh? Ve-hinéih ‘amráh ha-dát: be-ʕéit
tir’éh yefát tó’ar ve-lakaḥtá lekhá!

  1. Deuteronomy 21:10-11: “When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you see among the captives a shapely woman and desire her, you may take her (as your wife).” Todros leaves out that last bit.
Jan 062013
 

Todros Abulafia was sort of a medieval Spanish Alex Portnoy. He talks about sex a lot and he’s totally nuts for shiksas. I’m sure his poetry is meant to be interpreted allegorically, however. Certainly not as a commentary on the middos of the holy yidden in medieval Spain.

Todros Abulafia (1247 – after 1300)
In Love I Travail

Concerning an Arab girl whose love was sweet to me, whom I saw in the company of other young women, all kissing one another:

I have not given birth, though in love I travail,
Being caught in the snare of this Arab gazelle.
My own soul so desires to kiss her sweet lips
That I long to be female, to no avail —
For she’s perfectly willing to kiss other girls,
Oh, how I’ve missed out, being born a male!

טודרוס אבולעפיה / طدروس أبو العافية
באהבה חלתי

 
על בת ערב ערבה לי אהבתה, ובתוך עלמות ראיתי אותה, משיקות אשה על אחותה.
 
בָּאַהֲבָה חַלְתִּי וְלֹא יָלַדְתִּי,
וּבְפַח צְבִיָּה בַּת עֲרָב נִלְכַּדְתִּי.
לִנְשֹׁק בְּפִיהָ אִוְּתָה נַפְשִׁי עֲדֵי
לִהְיוֹת נְקֵבָה בַעֲדָהּ חָמַדְתִּי —
כִּי הַנְּקֵבוֹת הִיא מְנַשֶּׁקֶת, וּבִשְׁ־
בִיל שֶׁאֲנִי זָכָר, אֲנִי הִפְסַדְתִּי!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Ba-‘ahaváh ḥálti ve-ló yaládeti,
U-ve-fáḥ tzeviyáh bat ʕaráv nilkádeti.
Linshók be-fíha ‘ivtáh nafshí ʕadéi
Liheyót nekeiváh vaʕadáh ḥamádeti —
Ki ha-nekeivót hi menashéket, u-vish-
víl she-‘aní zakhár, ‘aní hifsádeti!

Dec 242012
 

When we last left our friend Ḥever the Kenite in the sixth chapter of the Taḥkemoni, he had developed an acute case of buyer’s remorse over his, ah, blushing new bride. Here we pick up exactly where we left off, as Ḥever desperately tries to make the best of a bad situation:

יהודה אלחריזי / يهودا الحريزي

וּבִרְאוֹתִי הַמַּרְאֶה הַזֶּה נָפְלָה עָלַי חֲרָדָה. וּפַחַד קְרָאַנִי וּרְעָדָה. וְאָמַרְתִּי: בָּא יוֹם הַפְּקֻדָּה. אַךְ הִתְאַפַּקְתִּי. וְרַכּוֹת אֵלֶיהָ דִּבָּרְתִּי. וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהּ: בִּתִי אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר פָּנַיִךְ כְּשָׁמִיר וָשַׁיִת. הַגִּידִי לִי מַה יֵש לָךְ בַּבַּיִת. וְאַיֵּה שִׂמְלוֹתַיִךְ וּמְעִילַיִךְ. וְחוֹתָמַיךְ וּפְתִילַיִךְ. וְסַהֲרוֹנַיִךְ וַעֲגִילַיִךְ. וְתַמְרוּקֵי עֲדָנַיִךְ. וּכְלֵי שְׁמָנַיִךְ. אָמְרָה לִי: לֹא יֶחְסַר לִי כֹּל. כִּי חַנָּנִי אֱלֹהִים וְכִי יֶשׁ לִי כֹּל. וְכָל בְּגָדַי עָזַבְתִּי צְרוּרִים בְּבֵית אֲדוֹנִי אָבִי. וּבִנְוֵה מוֹשָׁבִי. אָמַרְתִּי לָהּ: וּמָה הַפִּקָּדוֹן. אֲשֶׁר עָזַבְתְּ בְּבֵית הָאָדוֹן. אָמְרָה לִי: עָזַבְתִּי שְׁנֵי שַׂקִּים בָּלִים. וְשִׁבְרֵי כֵלִים. וְצַלַּחַת וְקַלַּחַת. וּמִטְפַּחַת וְצַפַּחַת. וּמִשְֹעֶנֶת וְאַמְתַּחַת. וּמַדִּים קְרוּעִים. וְכֵלִים נְגוּעִים. וּשְׁתֵּי קְעָרוֹת. וְשָׁלֹשׁ קְדֵרוֹת. וּבְשָׁמְעִי דְּבָרֶיהָ נָפַלתִּי עַל פָּנַי. וְאָבְדוּ רַעְיוֹנַי. וְלֹא מָצְאוּ חָזוֹן מֵיְיָ.
 
וָאֶשָׂא מְשָׁלִי וָאֹמַר:
י

And terror fell upon me when I saw her appear, and trembling seized me, and fear. I said: “The Day of Reckoning must surely be here!” But I held back my dread, and tenderly speaking I said: “My dear, since thistles and thorns are the stuff of your face, tell me at least what you have in your place. Where are your dresses and where are your frocks? Your seals, your threads, all your fine stocks? Your ornaments, your earrings, all your heirlooms? Where are your oils? Where are your perfumes?” And she said: “I lack not a thing. God’s granted me all that his kindness could bring. I left all my clothes bundled when they asked me to come, in the house of my father, in the place that I’m from.” I said to her: “So what else is there? What else did you leave in your father’s care?” She said: “I left two worn-out bags. A scarf, a bottle, some rags. A cauldron and one or two platters. Used utensils and garb left in tatters. A cushion and also some sacks. Two bowls, three pots, some dishes with cracks.” As I heard her words, I fell on my face, and all my thoughts too fell out of their place, finding no insight from God in his grace:

And I raised my voice and said:

Were you formed out of demons and shades?
  May God put you under a curse!
The angels of ruin and wrath seem your brothers —
  But you, the firstborn, are worse!
Your body looks like that of Azazel’s goat —
  How did you slip out of the wastes?1
It’s as if Time grew to lust after Lilith —
  Her love sent you to her as a gift!
Your creator created you just so you’d be
  A help to the Angel of Death,
Your father’d be happy if he’d died at your birth,
  And would that your mother were barren!
Your own lips resemble the lips of a bull,
  Your mouth is a tomb, your belly a cave,
Your teeth are as foul as the teeth of a bear,
  They’re a bowlful of dung mixed with spit,
Your eyes, like a stovetop, billow forth smoke
  Your face is the bottom of a pot.
You’re tall as the tree they hanged Haman from,2
  May I see you swing from it soon!
The night that you came seemed like to me
  Angels of wrath coming forth in their rage,
Like Pharaoh the night he drowned in the sea,
  Like Haman when he hung from the tree,
Like Sisera after he’d fled to Yael,3
  Like Eglon in his breezy salon!4
Your belly’s as swollen as a full skin of wine,
  Your form is as black as your luck.
Your hands are as hairy as the hands of an ape,
  Your fingers are coals on a stove.
The sound of your words is like thunder at night,
  Your mouth’s breath is the wind of a storm.
Your mouth is a tomb for your food and your drink,
  Which like poison in your belly will churn,
Like a mortar you crush everything ‘twixt your teeth,
  The people flee like they fled to Be’er.5
May God overturn you so your head is in Hell,
  As he overturned foul Sodom and Gomorrah!
May he make you a shroud from the bellies of lions,
  And make your grave in the depths of their guts!

הֲמִשֵּדִים וְזִקִּים אַתְּ גְּזוּרָה
 יְשַׁלַּח בָּךְ אֱלֹהִים הַמְּאֵרָה.
כְּאִלּוּ מַלְאֲכֵי זַעַם וּמַשְׁחִית
 לְאַחִים לָךְ אֲבָל לָךְ הַבְּכוֹרָה.
כְּאִלּוּ תָאֳרַךְ כִּשְׂעִיר עֲזָאזֵל
 וְאֵיךְ נִמְלַטְתְּ מֵאֶרֶץ גְּזֵרָה?
כְּאִלּוּ הַזְּמַן חָשַׁק בְּלִילִית
 וּמֵאַהְבָה שְׁלָחֵךְ לָהּ תְּשׁוּרָה.
וְיוֹצְרֵךְ לֹא יְצָרֵךְ רַק לְמַעַן
 תְּהִי אֶל מַלְאֲכֵי מָוֶת לְעֶזְרָה.
וְאַשְׁרֵי יוֹלְדֵך לוּ מַתְּ בְּלִדְתֵּךְ
 וּמִי יִתֵּן תְּהִי אִמֵּך עֲקָרָה.
שְׂפָתַיִךְ כְּמוֹ שִׂפְתֵי שְׁוָרִים
 וּפִיךְ קֶבֶר אֲבָל בִּטְנֵךְ מְעָרָה.
וְשִׁנַּיִךְ כְּשִׁנֵּי דֹב זְהוּמוֹת
 וּבָם צוֹאָה וְרִיר כִּמְלֹא קְעָרָה.
וְעֵינַיִךְ כְּמוֹ כִּירָה עֲשֵׁנִים
 וּפָנַיִךְ כְּמוֹ שׁוּלֵי קְדֵרָה.
וְקוֹמָתֵךְ כְּעֵץ הָמָן גְּבוֹהָה
 וּמִי יִתֵּן וְאֶרְאֵךְ בּוֹ מְהֵרָה.
וְלֵיל בּוֹאֵךְ חֲשָׁבְתִּיו לִי כְּמוֹ מַלְ-
 אֲכֵי זַעַם בְּעֵת בּוֹאָם בְּעֶבְרָה.
כְּפַרְעֹה לֵיל אֲשֶׁר טָבַע בְּיָם סוּף.
 כְּמוֹ הָמָן בְּיוֹם נִתְלָה בּקוֹרָה.
כְּסִיסְרָא עֵת אֲשֶׁר בָּרַח לְיָעֵל.
 כְּעֶגְלוֹן בַּעֲלִיַּת הַמְּקֵרָה.
וְלָךְ בֶּטֶן כְּבֶטֶן נֹאד נְפוּחָה
 וְצוּרָתֵךְ כְּמַזָּלֵךְ שְׁחוֹרָה.
וְיָדַיִךְ יְדֵי הַקּוֹף שְׂעִירוֹת
 וְאֶצְבָּעוֹת כְּמוֹ אוּדִים בְּכִירָה.
וְקוֹל נִיבֵךְ כְּרַעַשׁ בַּחֲצוֹת לֵיל
 וְנִשְׁמַת פִּיךְ כְּמוֹ רוּחַ סְעָרָה.
וּפִיךְ קֶבֶר לְמַאְכָלֵךְ וּמַשְׁקֵךְ
 וְיָשׁוּבוּ בְּתוֹךְ בִּטְנֵךְ מְרוֹרָה.
בְּשִׁנֵּךְ תִּכְתְּשִׁי הַכֹּל בְּמַכְתֵּש
 וּמִשָּׁם נָסְעוּ הָעָם בְּאֵרָה.
אֱלֹהִים יַהֲפֹךְ רֹאשֵׁך בְּשַׁחַת
 כְּמַהְפֵּכַת סְדוֹמָה וַעֲמוֹרָה.
וְתַכְרִיכֵךְ יְשַׁו בִּטְנֵי אֲרָיוֹת
 וְיָשִׂים לָךְ בְּתוֹךְ קִרְבָּם קְבוּרָה.
י

What happens next is…slightly disturbing.

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Ha-mi-sheidím ve-zikím ‘at gezuráh?
Yeshaláḥ bakh ‘elohím ha-me’eiráh.
Ke-‘ílu mal’akhéi záʕam u-mashḥít
Le-‘aḥím lakh ‘avál lakh bekhoráh.
Ke-‘ílu to’aréikh ki-seʕíi ʕazazéil
Ve-‘éikh nimlátet me-‘éiretz gezeiráh?
Ke-‘ílu ha-zemán ḥashák be-lilít
U-mei’aheváh shelaḥéikh lah teshuráh.
Ve-yotzréikh lo yetzaréikh rak le-máʕan
Tehí ‘el mal’akhéi mávet le-ʕezráh.
Ve-‘ashréi yoldéikh lu mat be-lidtéikh
U-mí yitéin tehí ‘iméikh ʕakaráh.
Sefatáyikh kemó siftéi shevarím
U-fíkh kéver ‘avál bitnéikh meʕaráh.
U-shináyikh ke-shinéi dov zehumót
U-vám tzo’áh ve-rír ki-meló keʕaráh.
Ve-ʕeináyikh kemó kiráh ʕasheiním
U-fanáyikh kemó shuléi kedeiráh.
Ve-komatéikh ke-ʕéitz hamán gevoháh
U-mí yitéin ve-‘er’éikh bo meheiráh.
Ve-léil bo’éikh ḥashavtív li kemó mal-
‘akhéi záʕam be-ʕéit bo’ám be-ʕevráh.
Ke-farʕóh leil ‘ashér taváʕ be-yám suf.
Kemó hamán be-yóm nitláh be-koráh.
Ke-siserá ʕeit ‘ashér baráḥ le-yaʕéil.
Ke-ʕeglón ba-ʕaliyát ha-mekeiráh.
Ve-lákh béten ke-véten nod nefuḥáh,
Ve-tzuratéikh ke-mazléikh sheḥoráh.
Ve-yadáyikh yedéi ha-kóf seʕirót
Ve-‘etzbaʕót kemó ‘udím be-khiráh.
Ve-kól nivéikh ke-ráʕash ba-ḥatzót leil
Ve-nishmát pikh kemó rúaḥ seʕaráh.
U-fíkh kéver le-ma’khaléikh u-mashkéikh
Ve-yashúvu be-tókh bitnéikh meroráh.
Be-shinéikh tikhteshí ha-kól be-makhtéish
U-mi-shám nasʕú ha-ʕám be’eiráh.
‘Elohím yahafókh roshéikh be-sháḥat
Ke-mahepakhát sedomáh va-ʕamoráh.
Ve-takhrikhéikh yesháv bitnéi ‘arayót
Ve-yasím lakh betókh kirbám kevuráh.

  1. Leviticus 16:22.
  2. Esther 7:9-10.
  3. Judges 4:17-21.
  4. Judges 3, in which Ehud vividly assassinates the obese Moabite king Eglon as he sits in the “cool chamber” in the upper floors of his palace.
  5. Numbers 21:16.
Dec 232012
 

Whatever. I don’t lie. I tell the truth all the time. I tell the truth like crazy. I’m telling the truth right now. You can always trust a poet.

Meshulam de Piera (? – after 1260)
They Asked Me: O Wise of Heart

They asked me: “O wise of heart, who is it
Who fails to tell goodness and evil apart,
And who sings of the honor of the men of his time,
Though the truth has been measured and checked in his heart?”
I answered them: “Oh, my dear friends! I am he!
I am he, the poet who lies as his art!”

משולם דיפיארה
שאלוני חכם לבב

 
שְׁאֵלוּנִי: חֲכַם לֵבָב, וּמִי זֶה
אֲשֶׁר בֵּין טוֹב וּבֵין רַע לֹא יְבַקֵּר,
וְיָשִׁיר אֶל מְתֵי הַדּוֹר בְּכָבוֹד,
וְלִבּוֹ הָאֱמֶת אִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר?
הֲשִׁיבֹתִים: מְיֻדָּעַי, אֲנִי הוּא,
אֲנִי הוּא הַמְשׁוֹרֵר הַמְשַׁקֵּר!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

She’eilúni: ḥakhám leiváv, u-mí zeh
‘Ashér bein tov u-véin raʕ lo yevakéir,
Ve-yashír ‘el metéi ha-dór be-khavód,
Ve-libó ha-’emét ‘izéin ve-ḥikéir?
Hashivotím: meyudaʕái, ‘aní hu,
‘Aní hu ha-meshoréir ha-meshakéir!

Oct 302012
 

In the sixth chapter of the Taḥkemoni, Ḥever the Kenite, the narrator’s friend and foil, meets an old woman who talks him into paying 2000 pieces of silver for what she promises is a surpassingly beautiful bride – sight unseen. I’ve picked up the thread as Ḥever awaits the mystery bride, who is late arriving to the wedding. To give you something of the flavor of a maqama (rhymed prose narrative) like the Taḥkemoni, and how, well, goofy the Taḥkemoni itself is, I’ve made the translation of the narrative lead-up to the poem rhyme. If it seems a bit silly, light-hearted or even Dr. Seuss-y, that’s because it is.

יהודה אלחריזי / يهودا الحريزي

וְכַאֲשֶׁר נִכְתְּבָה הַכְּתֻבָּה קְרָאוּהָ נֶגֶד הַיְּהוּדִים. וָאֶכְתֹּב בַּסֵּפֶר וְאֶחְתֹם וָאָעֵד עֵדִים. וְכַאֲשֶׁר שָׁקְעָה הַחַמָּה. עָלְתָה הַחֵמָה. וְכֻסְּתָה הָאָרֶץ חֹשֶׁךְ וַאֲפֵלָה. וְהֵבִיאוּ הַכַּלָּה. בְּקוֹל הֲמֻלָּה. וְהָעָם עוֹנִים עַל הַמְּסִלָּה. יִשְׂמַח חָתָן בְּכַלָּה. וְכַאֲשֶׁר הֶאֱרִיכוּ לָשֶׁבֶת לְשׁוֹרֵר בְּגִילָה. מֵעֶרֶב עַד חֲצוֹת לַיְלָה. הָלְכוּ אִישׁ לְדַרְכּוֹ כָּל קְהָלָם. מִקְּטָנָם וְעַד גְּדוֹלָם. וְנוֹתַרְתִּי אְנִי לְבַדִּי. וְהִיא יוֹשֶׁבֶת לְצִדִּי. וְאָמַרְתִּי בְלִבִּי: זֶה הַלַּיְלָה אֲחַדֵּשׁ כַּנֶּשֶׁר נְעוּרִים. וְאַעֲלֶה אֵבֶר כַּנְּשָׁרִים. וְזֶה לֵיל שִׁמּוּרִים. וָאָסוּר אֵלֶיהָ. וּפָשַׁטְתִּי מְעִילֶיה מֵעָלֶיהָ. וַהֲסִירוֹתִי הַמַּסְוֶה אֲשֶׁר עַל פָּנֶיהָ. וְהִקְרַבְתִּי הַנֵּר לְפָנֶיהָ. וְהִנֵּה פָנֶיהָ פְּנֵי זַעַם. וְקוֹלָהּ כְּקוֹל רַעַם. וְצוּרָתָהּ כְּעֵגֶל יָרָבְעָם. וּפִיהָ כְּפִי אֲתוֹן בִּלְעָם. וְאַפֶּיהָ הִבְאִישׁ רֵיחָם. וּלְחָיֶיהָ נָס לֵחָם. כְּאִלּוּ הַשָּׂטָן בְּקַדְרוּת הֱטִיחָם. וּפָעַל בַּפֶּחָם. עַד חֲשַבְתִּיהָ מִבְּנוֹת חָם. אֲבָל אִם חָשַׁך מִשְּחוֹר תָּאֳרָהּ. שַׂעֲרוֹתֶיהָ הִלְבִּינוּ. וְיָמֶיהָ הִזְקִינוּ. וּשְׂפָתֶיהָ לַעֲלוֹת לְמַעְלָה יָהִינוּ. וְשִנֶּיהָ כְּמוֹ שִׁנֵּי זְאֵבִים אוֹ דֻּבִּים. וְעֵינֶיהָ עֵינֵי עַקְרַבִּים.
 
וָאַעַן וָאֹמַר:
י

  And when the ketubah had been written, before the Jews it was recited. And I signed my name onto the scroll before the witnesses I’d invited. And as daylight died, my rage grew inside, as the land was covered by darkness’ tide – and finally they brought the bride! And such tumult went up with her every stride, and along the path each man replied: “May the groom find favor with his bride!” And so they sat and sang with delight, from the evening and unto midnight. And finally each man left, one and all, from the biggest to the very small. And so I was alone with my bride, and she was sitting at my side. And so I told my heart, “In truth! Tonight I will restore my youth! And I’ll raise my ‘wing’1 like eagles in flight – for a night to be much observed2 is tonight!” I turned to her; her frock I stripped, and off her face the veil I whipped, I brought the lamp close – my heart skipped! Wrath and rage were her face’s form – her voice was like a thunderstorm! Her figure? Like Jeroboam’s calf,3 alas – she had a mouth like Balaam’s ass!4 Her nose’s breath made things decay; the life in her cheeks had run away! As if Satan himself in his black hole had cast her features out of coal! “A daughter of Ham,”5 I thought, “by my soul!” But if her form was black as night, the hair on her head was just as white. Her days had aged from youth to blight; her daring lips reached for the heights!6 Her teeth were like a wolf or bear’s in size; like scorpions were her two eyes!

And I responded thus:

Her teeth look to me like the teeth of a bear,
That know only to eat, to devour and shred.
Her eyes rob the heart and then make it stop –
Covered in boils is the skin of her head!
She’s big as a wall, and her calves seem to me
Two trees in the forest torn up from their bed.
Her cheeks are like coal, her lips are as twisted
As those of a donkey who’s been underfed.
Her figure is that of the Angel of Death –
Each person who touches her falls over dead.

תִּדְמֶה בְשִׁנֶּיהָ לְשֵן דֻּבִּים
אוֹכְלִים אֲשֶׁר מוֹצְאִים וּמַצְמִיתִים.
רֹאשָׁהּ שְׁחִין נִמְלָא וְעֵינֶיהָ
גוֹזְלִים שְׂשׂוֹן הַלֵּב וּמַשְׁבִּיתִים.
קוֹמָה כְּמוֹ חוֹמָה וְשׁוֹקַיִם
כִּשְׁנֵי עֲצֵי יַעַר מְכֹרָתִים.
וּלְחִי כְּפֶחָם רַק שְׂפָתֶיהָ
שִׂפְתֵי חֲמוֹר גֶּרֶם מְעֻוָּתִים.
צוּרָה כְּצוּרַת מַלְאֲכֵי מָוֶת
כָּל פּוֹגְעִים בָּהּ יִפְּלוּ מֵתִים.
י

And if you think that’s bad, wait until Ḥever finds out about her dowry!

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Tidméh ve-shinéha le-shein dubím
‘Okhlim ‘ashér motz’ím u-matzmitím.
Rosháh sheḥín nimlá ve-ʕeinéiha
Gozlím sesón ha-léiv u-mashbitím.
Komáh kemó ḥomáh ve-shokáyim
Kishnéi ʕatzéi yáʕar mekhoratím.
U-leḥí ke-féḥam rak sefatéha
Siftéi ḥamór gérem meʕuvatím.
Tzuráh ke-tzurát mal’akhéi mávet
Kol ha-pogʕím bah yiplú meitím.

  1. This pun, ‘eiver meaning ‘feather’ and ‘eiver meaning “(sexual) organ,” is even cruder in Hebrew.
  2. Leil shimurim. Exodus 12:42, “(Passover) is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt.”
  3. 1 Kings 12:28.
  4. Numbers 22:28.
  5. Genesis 9:22-27.
  6. She has a cleft palate.