Feb 042015
 

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Whenever One Requires My Aid

Whenever one requires my aid
As if for his king are his words of praise;
But if ever I should call on him
With jeers and scorn am I repaid!

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
אשר צריך

 
אֲשֶׁר צָרִיךְ לְעֶזְרָתִי
כְּמוֹ מַלְכּוֹ יְרַצֵּנִי
וְיִלְעַג לִי אֲשֶׁר צָרִיךְ
אֲנִי אֵלָיו וְיִבְזֵנִי.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

‘Ashér tzaríkh le-ʕezratí
Kemó malkó yeratzéini
Ve-yilʕág li ‘ashér tzaríkh
‘Aní ‘eiláv ve-yivzéini.

Jul 032013
 

Keep your friends close. From Ben Mishlei.

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
When You Summon Near

When you summon near the most distant of friends
Spread out for them traps with the words you expend
As your amity sweetens your brother’s own heart
Hang ’round him a charm made of grace and amends.

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
בהקריבך רחוקי הידידים

 
בְּהַקְרִיבָךְ רְחוֹקֵי הַיְּדִידִים
פְּרֹשׂ לָהֶם בְּדִבְרֵי פֶה מְצוֹדִים
וּבַחְלוֹת מִיְּדִידוּתָךְ לְבַב אָח
תְּלֵה עָלָיו קְמִיעָה מֵחֲסָדִים.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Be-hakrivákh reḥokéi ha-yedidím
Perós lahém be-divréi feh metzodím
Uvaḥlót mi-yedidutákh leváv aḥ
Teléih ʕaláv kemiʕáh mei-ḥasadím.

May 222013
 

A famously moving elegy for the poet’s first-born brother.

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Is There a Sea

Is there a sea ‘twixt me and you / that I won’t turn to face your form?
That I won’t run with trembling heart / to sit myself beside your grave?
For truly, if I acted thus / I would betray our brothers’ love!
Alas, my brother, here I sit / before you, here beside your grave
For pain you stir within my heart / the same as on the day you died.
And should I give you tidings now / I’d never hear your fond reply,
And never shall you greet me on / the day I come unto your ground,
And in my presence you won’t laugh / the same as I won’t laugh in yours,
And my own likeness you won’t see / the same way I won’t witness yours,
For Sheol is your house and home / the grave your only dwelling place —
My father’s first, my mother’s son, / O, peace to you here at your last,
And may God’s spirit find its rest / upon your spirit and your soul!
And I return to my own land / for in your land you’re sealed away.
I’ll sleep at times and wake at times — / but you’re forever locked in sleep,
And ’til the day my passing comes / your absence keeps my heart aflame!

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
הים ביני ובינך

 
הֲיָם בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ / וְלֹא אֶטֶּה לְחַלוֹתְךָ
וְלֹא אָרוּץ בְּלֵב חָרֵד / וְאֵשֵׁב עַל קְבוּרָתְךָ?
אֱמֶת, אִם אֶעֱשֶׂה כָזֹאת / אֱהִי בוֹגֵד בְּאַחְוָתְךָ!
אֲהָה, אָחִי, אֲנִי יוֹשֵב / עֲלֵי קִבְרָךְ לְעֻמָּתְךָ
לְךָ מַכְאוֹב בְּתוֹך לִבִּי / כְּמַכְאוֹבִי בְמִיתָתְךָ.
וְאִם אֶתֵּן לְךָ שָׁלוֹם – / וְלֹא אֶשְׁמַע תְשׁוּבָתְךָ,
וְלֹא תֵצֵא לְפָגְשֵׁנִי / בְּיוֹם בּוֹאִי לְאַדְמָתְךָ,
וְלֹא תִשְׂחַק בְּקִרְבָתִי / וְלֹא אֶשְׂחַק בְּקִרְבָתְךָ,
וְלֹא תִרְאֶה תְמוּנָתִי / וְלֹא אֶרְאֶה תְמוּנָתְךָ,
לְמַעַן כִּי שְׁאוֹל בֵּיתְךָ / וּבַקֶּבֶר מְעוֹנָתְךָ –
בְּכוֹר אָבִי וּבֶן אִמִּי, / שְׁלוֹמִים לָךְ בְּאַחְרִיתְךָ,
וְרוּחַ אֵל תְּהִי נָחָה / עֲלֵי רוּחָךְ וְנִשְמָתְךָ!
אֲנִי הוֹלֵךְ לְאַרְצִי, כִּי / בְּאֶרֶץ סָגְרוּ אוֹתְךָ.
וְאָנוּם עֵת וְאִיקַץ עֵת – / וְאַתְּ לָעַד בְּנוּמָתְךָ,
וְעַד בּוֹא יוֹם חֲלִיפָתִי / בְּלִבִּי אֵשׁ פְּרִידָתְךָ!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Ha-yám beiní u-veinékha / ve-ló ‘etéh le-ḥalotkhá
Ve-ló ‘arútz be-léiv ḥaréid / ve-‘eishéiv ʕal kevuratkhá?
‘Emét, ‘im ‘eʕeséh kha-zót / ‘ehí vogéid be-‘aḥvatkhá!
‘Aháh, ‘aḥí, ‘aní yoshéiv / ʕaléi kivrákh leʕumatkhá
Lekhá makh’óv be-tókh libí / ke-makh’oví ve-mitatkhá.
Ve-‘ím ‘etén lekhá shalóm — / ve-ló ‘eshmáʕ teshuvatkhá,
Ve-ló teitzéi lefogshéini / be-yóm bo’í le-‘admatkhá,
Ve-ló tisḥák be-kirvatí / ve-ló ‘esḥák be-kirvatkhá,
Ve-ló tir’éh temunatí / ve-ló ‘er’éh temunatkhá
Le-máʕan ki she’ól beitkhá / u-va-kéver meʕonatkhá —
Bekhór ‘aví u-vén ‘imí, / shelomím lakh be-‘aḥritkhá,
Ve-rúḥ ‘eil tehí naḥáh / ʕaléi ruḥákh ve-nishmatkhá!
‘Aní holéikh le-artzí, ki / be-‘éretz sagrú ‘otkhá.
Ve-‘anúm ʕeit ve-‘ikátz ʕeit — / ve-‘át la-ʕád be-numatkhá,
Ve-ʕád bo yom ḥalifatí / be-libí ‘eish peridatkhá!

Feb 282013
 

I say let the world hire someone else.

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Serve the World

Serve the world in which you are imprisoned
As your spirit’s stopped within your body
With thought deliv’ring,1 guile bereft
And cunning stricken barren.

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
עבוד עולם

 
עֲבוֹד עוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ נֶאֱסַרְתָּ
וְרוּחָךְ שֶׁבְּתוֹךְ גּוּפָךְ עֲצוּרָה
בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה מְיַלֶּדֶת וְעָרְמָה
מְשַׁכֶּלֶת וּבִמְזִימָּה עֲקָרָה.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

ʕavód ʕolám ‘ashér bo ne’esárta
Ve-ruḥákh shebtókh gufákh ʕatzúrah
Be-maḥashaváh meyalédet ve-ʕarmáh
Meshakélet u-vimzimáh ʕakaráh.

  1. As in, to deliver children.
Feb 122013
 

I’ve reached a tacit agreement with my university’s mathematics department: they pretend to justify their continued existence despite having contracted their classes out to a highway-robbing for-profit e-textbook company, and I pretend not to spend my [MANDATORY] class time translating medieval Hebrew poetry.

Seriously, though. The Nagid gets all the attention for his voluminous military poetry, but I can’t get enough of his wine poems. The man had a gift for the blood of the vine.

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Take from the Doe

Take from the doe the grape’s blood in a glass
That flares like a gem, like flame smoldering in hail.
Her lips scarlet threads, and her palate fine wine,
Her mouth is perfumed with the scents of her skin.
Her fingers, stained red from the blood of the slain,
Make half of her ruby, pure crystal remains!

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
קח מצביה

 
קַח מִצְּבִיָּה דְמֵי עֵנָב בְּאֶקְדָּחָה
בָּרָה, כְּמוֹ אֵשׁ בְּתוֹך בָּרָד מְלֻקָּחָה.
בַּעְלַת שְׂפָתוֹת כְּחוּט שָׁנִי, וְחֵךְ לָהּ כְּיֵין
הַטּוֹב, וּפִיהָ כְגוּפָתָהּ מְרֻקָּחָה.
מִדַּם חֲלָלִים קְצֵה יָדָהּ מְאָדָּם – לְכֵן
חֶצְיָהּ כְּאֹדֶם וּמַחְצִיתָהּ בְּדֹלָחָה!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Kaḥ mi-tzeviyáh deméi ʕeináv be-‘ekdaḥáh
Baráh, kemó ‘eish be-tókh barád melukaḥáh.
Baʕlát sefatót ke-ḥút shaní, ve-ḥéikh lah ke-yéin
Ha-tóv, u-fíha khe-gufatáh merukaḥáh.
Mi-dám ḥalalím ketzéih yadáh me’adám — lekhéin
Ḥetzyáh ke-‘ódem u-maḥtzitáh bedolaḥáh!

Feb 072013
 

I thought initially that this might be one of the very few Hebrew poems about white wine, since it refers to wine as “waters of gold,” but then he mentions “rubies” (‘odem). But then again, now that I think about it, Yehuda ha-Levi refers to ‘odem as something apparently golden (tzahov ke-`ein ‘odem – “golden as a likeness of ‘odem“). I translated it as “topaz” in that poem, but even though the identity of precious stones is pretty flexible throughout the various stages of Hebrew’s development, ‘odem does literally mean “redness.” It’s right there in the root. In any case: red wine, white wine, whatever — we can all agree that wine is rad. Right?

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
They Took in Exchange

They1 took in exchange for waters of gold
  mere silver, knowing not what they had sold.
They told me: “You mock us!”2 And so I replied:
  ”So said the fawns3 when your wine they beheld!
They saw in it rubies, the fragrance of myrrh,
  honey’s sweet flavor in goblets combined.
They made me drunk with the juice of their lips,
  which drunken they poured out and mixed with my wine!”

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
לקחו במי זהב

 
לָקְחוּ בְמֵי זָהָב אֲשֶׁר יָקְרוּ
 כֶּסֶף, וְלֹא יָדְעוּ אֲשֶׁר מָכְרוּ.
אָמְרוּ: תְּפַתֵּנוּ! עֲנִיתִים: כֵּן
 בִּרְאוֹת עֳפָרִים יֵינְכֶם אָמְרוּ.
רָאוּ דְמוּת אֹדֶם, וְטַעַם צוּף
 נֹפֶת, וְרֵיחַ מֹר בְּכוֹס חָבְרוּ,
הֵם שִׁכְּרוּנִי מֵעֲסִיס חִכָּם
 מָזוּג בְּיֵינִי אַחֲרֵי שָׁכְרוּ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Lakḥú ve-méi zaháv ‘ashér yakrú
késef, ve-ló yadʕú ‘ashér makhrú.
‘Amrú: tefatéinu! ʕanitím: kein
bir’ót ʕofarím yeinkhém ‘amrú.
Ra’ú demút ‘ódem, ve-táʕam tzuf
nófet, ve-réiaḥ mor be-khós ḥavrú,
Heim shikrúni mei-ʕasís ḥikám
mazúg be-yeiní ‘aḥaréi shakhrú.

  1. Wine merchants.
  2. The wine merchants are skeptical when the speaker tells them that they’ve been “cheated,” so to speak – they’ve sold something worth as much as gold for silver (as in, regular money).
  3. Attractive young men, ephebes, whatever you want to call them. A common subject in medieval poetry.
Jan 282013
 

They’re leaving on that midnight camel train to Córdoba.

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
They Left

They left — and o’er their heads left a cloud that brimmed full
  As their hands had with gifts, or my eyes did with tears
She1 cried at my weeping and told me: “Keep faith!
  For God will return them!” I spoke to her, “Wait!
Hold back ’til they come to the place of their rest,
  Then go forth to meet them with torrents of blessings.
But if they’d be stopped now from leaving by rain,
  Then like the Gihon2 pour yourself out upon them!”

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
נסעו ונסעה

 
נָסְעוּ — וְנָסְעָה עָב עֲלֵי רֹאשָׁם, כְּמוֹ
 כַּפָּם בְּמַתָּן, אוֹ כְעֵינִי בַבְּכִי.
בָּכְתָה לְבִכְיָתִי וְאָמְרָה לִי: חֲכֵה,
 כִּי עוֹד יְשִׁיבֵם אֵל! וְשַׂחְתִּי לָהּ: חֲכִי
עַד יִגְּעוּ אֶל עִיר מְנוּחָתָם וְאָז
 בִּמְטַר נְדָבוֹת אֶל מְנוּתָחָם לְכִי.
אִם יֶחְדְּלוּ נָא מִלְּהַלֵּךְ בַּעֲבוּר
 גֶּשֶׁם עֲלֵיהֶם נָא כְגִיחוֹן תִּשְׁפְּכִי!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Nasʕú — ve-nasʕáh ʕav ʕaléi roshám, kemó
Kapám be-matán, ‘o khe-ʕeiní va-bekhí.
Bakhtáh le-vikhyatí ve-‘amráh li: ḥakhéih,
Ki ʕod yeshivém ‘eil! Ve-sáḥti lah: ḥakhí
ʕad yigʕú ‘el ʕir menuḥatám ve-‘áz
Bimtár nedavót ‘el menuḥatám lekhí.
‘Im yeḥdalú na mi-lehaléikh baʕavúr
Géshem ʕaleihém na khe-giḥón tishpekhí!

  1. The cloud.
  2. The spring that supplies water to Jerusalem, or one of the primeval rivers mentioned in Genesis. Doesn’t really matter which, I guess.
Jan 242013
 

Man, at first I was like, “Did Shmuel ha-Nagid not know where wine comes from?” and I was like, “whaaaaaaaaaaaaat;” but then I remembered that back in the day wine was customarily diluted with water before serving and I was like, “ohhhhhhhhhhh.” 1 Things basically said in Hebrew a thousand years ago: “Wine! It’s like there’s sex in your mouth!”

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Sorrowful Friend

Sorrowful friend! For the son of fountains
  take you a girl from the vines’ own daughters,
Gather them both in a cup and for them
  your mouth will seem like a bridegroom’s chambers,
Inside your head they’ll conceive and give birth
  shortly inside of your heart to raptures.

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
רעה יגונים

 
רֵעֶה יְגוֹנִים! לְבֶן עֲיָנִים / אִשָּׁה לְקַח מִבְּנוֹת גְּפָנִים,
וֶאְסֹף שְׁנֵיהֶם בְּכוֹס, וּפִיךָ / לָהֶם יְהִי כַּחֲדַר חֲתָנִים,
יֶהְרוּ בְתוֹךְ רֹאשְׁךָ וְיֵלְדוּ / פִּתְאֹם בְּתוֹךְ לִבְּךָ שְׂשׂוֹנִים.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Reiʕéh yegoním! Le-vén ʕayaním / ‘isháh lekáḥ mi-benót gefaním,
Ve’sóf sheneihém be-khós, u-fikhá / lahém yehí ka-ḥadár ḥataním,
Yehrú ve-tókh roshkhá ve-yeildú / pit’óm be-tókh libkhá sesoním.

  1. This is actually how I think.
Nov 112012
 

Wine poem! Never fear — I am drinking wine. It’s even raining at the moment, and indeed, Av, Elul and Tishrei have come and gone. How appropriate. Does anyone else think this poem is a fitting thematic basis for a maudlin Southern rock song, or is that the wine talking?

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Av Is Dead, So Too Elul

Av is dead, so too Elul, no longer will they warm —
So too was Tishrei1 gathered unto them.2
And so the must, its voice gone dumb,
Turns red now in the barrel — the days of cold have come.
And seek you now, O friend of mine, companions fast and firm —
And every man shall bring about his aim!
Behold the rain-filled clouds now, they exclaim:
Hear the heavens thunder in their storm,
Behold the frost, the tongues of flame —
How one will fall, the other rise and climb.
Stand up and drain a cup, drain a pitcher with aplomb,
By night, perforce — by day do just the same!

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
מת אב ומת אלול

 
מֵת אָב וּמֵת אֵלוּל, וּמֵת חֻמָּם / גַּם נֶאֱסַף תִּשְׁרֵי וּמֵת עִמָּם,
בָּאוּ יְמֵי הַקֹּר, וְהַתִּירוֹשׁ / אָדַם וְקוֹלוֹ בַכְּלִי דָמַם.
לָכֵן, יְדִידִי, סֹב אֱלֵי רֵעִים / כָּל אִישׁ וְאִישׁ יַעַשׂ אֲשֶׁר זָמַם!
אָמְרוּ: חֲזֵה עָבִים בְּהַגְשִׁימָם / וּשְׁמַע שְׁמֵי מָרוֹם בְּהַרְעִימָם
וּרְאֵה כְפוֹר וּלְשׁוֹן מְדוּרָה – זֶה / יֵרֵד וְזֶה יַעַל וְיִתְרוֹמָם.
קוּמָה, שְׁתֵה בַכּוֹס וְשׁוּב וּשְׁתֵה / בַכַּד, וּבַלַּיִל וְגַם יוֹמָם!
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Meit ‘av u-méit ‘elúl u-méit ḥumám / gam ne’esáf tishréi u-méit ʕimám,
Ba’ú yeméi ha-kór, ve-ha-tirósh / ‘adám ve-koló ba-klí damám.
Lakhéin, yedidí, sov ‘eléi reiʕím / kol ‘ish va-‘ísh yaʕás ‘ashér zamám!
‘Amrú: ḥazéh ʕavím be-hagshimám / u-shemáʕ sheméi maróm be-harʕimám
U-re’éh khefór u-leshón meduráh — zeh / yeiréid ve-zéh yaʕál ve-yitromám.
Kúmah, shtéih va-kós ve-shúv ushtéih / va-kád, u-va-láyil ve-gám yomám!

  1. Av, Elul and Tishrei are the late summer months, roughly from late July to late September.
  2. In Hebrew, being gathered unto one’s people or one’s fathers is a common euphemism for death. See Judges 2:10.
Nov 012012
 

Wine poem! (Seriously, nobody does them like the Nagid.) I’m actually not drinking wine. I’m drinking tea with milk, which careful science has determined is the exact opposite of wine. Tell Shmuel I’m sorry.

Shmuel ha-Nagid (993 – 1056?)
Red to the Eye

Red to the eye and delightful to drinkers —
It’s poured out in Spain and ’til Cochin it lingers
While weak in the cup, it goes straight to the head,
Holding sway o’er the heads of the swayers.
And as for the wretch whose blood blends with his tears —
With the blood of the grape, his woe takes flight and wanders.
As if, passed around, the glasses were diamonds,
And the friends ’round the table were gamblers.

שמואל הנגיד / إسماعيل بن النغريلة
מאדם במראהו

 
מְאָדָּם בְּמַרְאֵהוּ וְעָרֵב לְשׁוֹתֵהוּ
וּמָזוּג בְּאִסְפַּמְיָא וְזִכְרוֹ אֱלֵי הֹדּוּ
וְחַלָּשׁ בְּאַגָּנָיו, אֲבָל בַּעֲלוֹתוֹ אֶל
רָאשִׁים אֲזַי יִרְדֶּה בְרָאשִׁים אֲשֶׁר יֵרְדוּ.
וְשַׁכּוּל אֲשֶׁר דָּמָיו מְסוּכִים בְּדִמְעוֹתָיו
יְגוֹנָיו בְּדַם אֶשְׁכּוֹל יְנוּסוּן וְיִדֹּדוּ.
כְּאִלּוּ יְדִידִים עֵת יְסֻבּוּם אֲשִׁישׁוֹתָיו
מִיָּד לְיָד גּוָֹרל עֲלֵי יַהֲלֹם יַדּוּ.
י

Transliteration/תעתיק:

Me’adám be-mar’éihu ve-ʕaréiv le-shotéihu
U-mazúg be-‘ispámya ve-zikhró ‘eléi hódu
Ve-ḥalásh be-‘aganáv, ‘avál ba-ʕalotó ‘el
Rashím ‘azéi yirdéh ve-rashím ‘ashér yeirdú.
Ve-shakúl ‘ashér damáv mesukhím be-dimʕotáv
Yegoním be-dám ‘eshkól yenusún ve-yidodú.
Ke-‘ílu yedidím ʕeit yesubúm ‘ashishotáv
Mi-yád le-yád gorál ʕaléi yahalóm yadú.