Hafiz: Ghazal 246 "The Night of Power" (From Persian)

The Night of Power, or šab-i qadr (laylatu l-qadr in Arabic) is the night on which, according to Islamic mythology, the first revelations of the Qur'an were made to the prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. Hafez toys with the the term by putting it in an amatory context, while also reinforcing its religious aspect (three of the lines are actually written in Arabic, one of which is an almost exact quotation from the Qur'ān.) The Sufi overtones which had been forced on the Persian lyric vocabulary by the mystical tradition allow both the religious and amatory implications to coexist in quite harmonious yet paradoxical, and surely intentional, balance and tension. The age-old question of whether Hafiz is being amatory or spiritual is badly framed and worse than useless when it comes to poems of his like this one, and the reader would be well-advised to keep in mind that a key feature of Hafez' aesthetic is to undermine notions of consistency. You don't know what the meaning of the poem really is, because there really isn't any one meaning.  Hafiz would be the first to remind us that trying to make too much sense of something, like why I seem to have spelled his name two different ways in this paragraph, might just ruin the fun, and that the meaning of a poem, like the meaning of life itself, does not need to be completely understood for you to enjoy it.

Ghazal 246: The Night of Power
By Hafiz
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Persian

It is the Night of Power, the scroll 
Of loss is rolled away.
     Peace be unto this sacred night.
     Peace until break of day.
My heart in travel on the path 
Of love, be strong and true.
     You are to be requited for
     Each step along that way.
And even though you wound me with
Banishment and disdain,
     I'll not repent of what I am:
     A wanton debauché. 
My heart is gone. I caught not one
Glimpse of its sweet thief's face.
     Such tyranny! Such heartlessness!
     What else is there to say? 
Dear God, Oh God! Restore the light
Of morning to my heart.
     The dark of separation's night
     Has wiped my sight away. 
Hafiz, endure this faithless torment
If you seek love and faith.
     Before a merchant turns a profit,
     There's first a cost to pay.

The Original: 

شب قدر است و طی شد نامۀ هجر
 سلامٌ فيه حتی مطلع الفجر
دلا در عاشقی ثابت قدم باش  
که در اين ره نباشد کار بی اجر
من از رندی نخواهم کرد توبه  
ولو آذيتنی بالهجر والحجر
برآی ای صبح روشن دل خدارا  
که بس تاريک می‌بينم شب هجر
دلم رفت و نديدم روی دلدار
 فغان از اين تطاول آه از اين زجر
وفا خواهی جفاکش باش حافظ
فإنّ الربح و الخسران فی التجر

Tajik Cyrillic:

Шаби қадрасту тай шуд номаи ҳаҷр,
Саломун фиҳи ҳатто матлаъ-ил фаҷр.
Дило, дар ошиқӣ собитқадам бош,
Ки дар ин раҳ набошад кори бе аҷр.
Ман аз риндӣ нахоҳам кард тавба,
Валав озайтанӣ билҳачри валҳаҷр,
Барой, ай субҳи рӯшандил, Худоро,
Ки бас торик мебинам шаби хаҷр.
Дилам рафту надидам рӯи дилдор,
Фиғон аз ин татовул, оҳ аз ин заҷр.
Вафо хоҳӣ, ҷафокаш бош, Ҳофиз
Фаиннал рабҳа вал ҳисрона филтаҷр.


Šab-i qadrast u tay šud nāma-i hajr.
Salāmun fīhi ħattā maṭlaˁi l-fajr.
Dilā, dar 'āšiqī sābitqadam bāš,
Ki dar īn rah nabāšad kār-i bē'ajr.
Man az rindī naxwāham kard tawba,
Wa-law āðaytanī bi-l-hijri wa-l-ħajr.
Barāy, ay subh-i rōšandil, xudārā,
Ki bas tārīk mēbīnam, šab-i hajr.
Dilam raft u nadīdam rōy-i dildār.
Fiɣān az īn tatāwul, āh az īn zajr.
Wafā xwāhī, jafākaš bāš, Hāfiz,
Fa'inna l-ribħa wa-l-xusrāna fī l-tajr.

Nazeeh Abu Afash: God The Infidel (From Arabic)

Nazeeh Abu Afash is a self-identified Arab Christian Atheist (yes, they exist) profoundly concerned with God as an idea, and deeply influenced by the book of Job. The poem here translated may be read as updating the voice of Job for the modern condition, and also taking God down a notch. 

God the Infidel
By Nazeeh Abu Afash
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Arabic 

O god! Tell me the truth!
My enemies say:
    "Everyone wants to..." et cetera
And the enemies of my enemies say:
    "Everyone wants to...." et cetera.
As for me, since you created every one and everyone,
I still - resting assured of your immaculacy and justice -
Raise my hand
Like a schoolchild threatened with expulsion
But as ever
Get nobody's permission to say anything

My god, O my god!
You, god of worms and vegetation, of cattle and all weeping creatures...
Could you have been messing with me?*
What everybody says means there's an everybody that knows the truth
       and another everybody that knows another truth.
What everybody says means that I do not exist
What everybody says means that nobody but everybody exists
What they say means
      That you were messing with me.  

*Full disclosure: The expression ḍaħika ˁalā normally means "deride, make fun of" but it can, depending on, context also mean "to kid (someone), to pull (someone's) leg" as in the phrase ˁalā man taḑħak? "Who do you think you're kidding? What're you trying to pull?" In this context "mess with" rather than, say,  "make fun of" seemed called for, both to bring the Jobian implications out fully, and because one of Abu Afash's favorite tactics (one especially on display here) involves subverting the lofty by casting it in un-lofty and often flippant terms. "Mess with" seemed the most appropriate, connotatively more than denotatively, for what Abu Afash seems to have been trying to accomplish (I decided against the option of "screw with" since, while Abu Afash often inclines toward approximations of colloquial language, this seemed like overkill in a number of ways.)      

The Original:

الله الكافر
نزيه ابو عفش

الهي! قل لي الحقيقة!
اعدائي يقولون: 
    "الناس كلهم يريدون ان..." الى آخره
وأعداء اعدائي يقولون: 
"الناس كلهم يريدون ان...." الى آخره.
أما أنا، منذ أن خلقت كلهم وكلم،
فلا أزال - مطمئنّاً إلى نزاهتك وعدلك- 
أرفع اصبعي الى فوق
كما يفعل تلميذ مهدد بالطرد
لكن، على الدوام، 
لا احد يأذن لي أن اقول شيئاً

الهي! يا الهي!
إله الديدان والنباتات والبهائم والكائنات الباكية
أتكون قد ضحكت عليّ؟
ما يقوله الجميع يعني أن ثمّةَ "جميعا" على حق
و"جميعا" آخر على حق آخر.
ما يقوله الجميع يعني أنني لست موجودا.
ما يقوله الجميع يعني ألّا وجودَ لأحدٍ غير الجميع.
ما يقولونه يعني

أنك ضحكت عليّ


Allāhu l-Kāfir

Ilāhī! Qul lī l-ħāqīqa
Aˁdā'ī yaqūlūn: 
"Al-nāsu kulluhum yurīdūna an..." ilā āxirih
Wa-'aˁdā'u aˁdā'ī yaqūlūn:
"Al-nāsu kulluhum yurīdūna an..." ilā āxirih.
Ammā anā, munðu an xalaqta kullahum wa-kullahum,
Fa-lā azālu - muṭma'innan ilā nazāhatika wa-ˁadlik
Arfaˁu iṣbaˁī ilā fawq
Kamā yafˁalu tilmīðun muhaddadun bi-l-ṭard
Lākin, ˁalā l-dawām
Lā aħada ya'ðinu lī an aqūla šay'an. 

Ilāhī! Yā ilāhī!
Ilāha l-dīdāni wa-l-nabātāti wa-l-bahā'imi wa-l-kā'ināti l-bākiya
A-takūnu qad ḍaħikta ˁalayya?
Mā yaqūluhū l-jamīˁu yaˁnī anna θammata "jamīˁan" ˁalā ħaqqi
Wa-"jamīˁan" āxara ˁalā ħaqqin āxar.
Mā yaqūluhū l-jamīˁu yaˁnī annanī lastu mawjūdan.
Mā yaqūluhū l-jamīˁu yaˁnī allā wujūda li-'aħadin ɣayra l-jamīˁ
Mā yaqūlūnahū yaˁnī

Annaka ḍaħikta ˁalayya

Samuel HaNagid: The Approach of Death (From Medieval Hebrew)

Usually when I set out to translate a lengthy text, unless it's a donor's request, I find myself bailing out halfway through, leaving the partially translated poem to gather digital dust amid my drafts till I come back to it months or sometimes even years later. I feared that would be the case here, when in a flurry of ambition I decided I'd attempt to render the 86 lines of this Hebrew meditation on old age and death by Samuel Hanagid. Surprisingly I managed to do the whole thing. Again, in keeping with the formal aesthetic I have been developing for Islamicate poetry, I have rendered the monorhyme of the original with assonance in English. The lines of my English are in accentual tetrameter.  

The Approach of Death
By Samuel HaNagid
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
"And he found - God treasure him - that his strength and body were declining with age in the battle which took place in the summer of 1054, whereupon he composed this lament."
Is there among my friends a heart
   As bitten, bitter as mine today?1
Is there among my neighbors a woman
   Whose grieving is greater than my wail?
Will the deer lend me legs to run to the jackals
   Who'd teach me to mourn my better days?  
After sixty one years, is a hair's breadth left
   In my soul for delight at a songgirl's strains?
Now that heaven's withdrawn the rainclouds of youth,
   Will Time spread its youthful dew on my plain?
Now my manhood's light has dimmed, is there 
   Yet oil to pour in my lamp for flame?

My friends' graves say I'm to join them tomorrow
   To pitch my tent deep in their domain: 
If I cannot regain the vigor I seek,
   Best take up a shovel and start my grave. 
The grief of age has set in my heart
   A fire whose tongues burn my hair bright gray.
Weakness has strengthened the pain in my knees.
   I strain even at court, on level terrain.
I grieve for my soul which is dear to me,
   And it's right to mourn what is dear always.
As my beard goes white, I see in my heart

   A spot like soot on a pot: dark age.
Had I power over Time, I'd bind his hands
   From brushing the black of my beard with gray.
Were it mere sorrow's fire now searing my skull,
   Juice squeezed from my winepress would quench the blaze.
But age has squeezed all young manhood out 
   From my face. Young women avert their gaze.

Would I could have the knowledge of God:
    How near, how distant is that dread day?
How long shall I rest as spiritless dust
   And when will my spirit rise again? 
The heart says: Live on. Whatever rends 
   The body, may God heal my wounds away.
May He grant me strength in my weakness, empower
   My limbs like wings on a bird of prey
In His goodness and grace. For in Him I rest
   The hope and trust of all my days. 

They say: in the grave is rest and peace.
   But I fear it is where I will face my failures.
They call death "Going unto the Fathers."2
   They are right. There my fathers and mothers await.
But why when I die must you drive my body
   From my shady roof to the netherworld's shades?
Why clothe my corpse in a shroud when both
   That cloth and I in the grave will degrade?
Why cleanse me in water, when come the morrow
   I'll be foul with the stench of my rotting waist?

Many ages passed on this earth, O Lord,
   And I was nothing among the ages.
Then You called me to mind, and sent me to be
   Alive, though I never asked to be made,3
Then gave me in birth to dearth and destruction,
   A source of sorrows, stone flung by Fate.
And though at my birth You beautified me,
   Come the end You will deform my frame.
But Your word is true and Your works are righteous.
  My spirit and mouth were crooked and snaked.

Bring me a scroll. Get me ink and a quill
   And today I'll darken it with my tale. 
My eyes as I read will flow like fountains
  Because there can be no tears in the grave. 
I'll mourn this lovely form that my friends
  Will rush to the bonehouse that is man's fate, 
This splendid form garbed in no greater splendor
  Than dust, eyes shuttered, mouth plugged agape. 
Like a stone in the heart of the sea, my tongue
  That once told of my feats will be stilled in the crate. 
The eyes that witnessed much wonder will rot 
  In their sockets, consumed in a pit of decay,
My limbs lie idle, my ears go deaf,
  My palate bereft of speech and taste.
This bitterer still: I'll be called to rise
  From dust and the grave on my judgment day
To be held in the balance of all my deeds
  As my merits and sins on the scales are laid. 

Yet perhaps an angel will speak for me,4
  Lighten my wrongs, give my virtues weight,
And, at judgment, remind my Lord how I labored
   In study of Scripture and Law for His sake.
I'll hear: "Long has the Lord in thy work found favor"5
   As the weight of virtue tilts the scales
And in death I'll rejoice, gathered unto His Glory,
  As He gathers the moon and stars of my gaze. 


1 - c.f. Proverbs 14:10 "The heart knoweth its own bitterness..."
2 - c.f. Genesis 15:15,  1 Chronicles 17:11 "And it shall come to pass, when thy days are fulfilled that thou must go to be with thy fathers..."
3 - c.f. Avoth 4:22 "Let not thy nature make thee believe that the grave is a place of refuge. For not of thy will wast thou formed, and not of thy will dost thou live, and not of thy will dost thou die, and not of thy will art thou to give just account and reckoning before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He."
4 - c.f. Job 33:23-24 "If there be for him an angel, an intercessor, one among a thousand, to vouch for a man's uprightness, then He is gracious unto him ..."
5 - c.f. Ecclesiastes 9:7 "...for God hath already accepted thy works"

The Original:

הנמצא ברעי
שמואל הנגיד
וּמְצָאָהוּ, יוֹקִירֵהוּ הָאֵל, חֲלִישׁוּת הַכֹּחַ וְהַגּוּף מִדֶּרֶך הַזִּקְנָה בַּמִּלְחָמָה אֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה בַּקַּיִץ שֶׁל שְׁנַת תתי"ד וְאָמַר בָּזֶה שִׁיר כְּמִתְאוֹנֵן:
הֲנִמְצָא בְּרֵעַי מַר לְבָבוֹ לְמָרוֹתַי     
וְאִם אֶמְצְאָה בַעְלַת נְהִי רַב בְּגָרוֹתַי
וְאִם יַחֲלִיף רַגְלָיו צְבִי לִי וְאָרוּץ בָּם     
לְתַנִּים וְיוֹרוּנִי  סְפֹד עַל בְּחוּרוֹתָי?
הֲיֵשׁ, אַחֲרֵי אַחַת וְשִׁשִּׁים עֲבַרְתִּימוֹ,     
בְּנַפְשִׁי מְקוֹם חֵפֶץ כְּשַׂעְרָה בְּשָׁרוֹתַי,
וְאַחַר עֲצֹר שַׁחַק עֲנַן אוֹר עֲלוּמַיטַל-     
עֲלוּמִים זְמַן יוֹרִיד וְיַשְׁכִּיב בְּאוֹרוֹתָי?
ואַחַר כְּהוֹת נֵרוֹת־בְּחוּרַיהֲיֵשׁ לִיצֹק  
כְּמֵאָז, מְאוֹר שֶׁמֶן־בְּחוּרִים בְּנֵרוֹתָי?
קְבוּרוֹת חֲבֵרַי דִּבְּרוּ כִּי אֲנִי בָהֶם     
לְמָחָר, וְעִמָּם אָהֳלִי אַט בְּגֵרוּתַי
וְאִם אֵין אֲנִי שָׁב אֶל נְעוּרַי אֲחוֹרַנִּית –     
קְחוּ אֵת וְהָחֵלּוּ לְהָכִין קְבוּרוֹתָי!
יְגוֹנֵי זְקוּנִים הֶעֱלוּ עַל לְבָבִי אֵש־     
יְקוֹדִים, לְשׁוֹנוֹתָם מְאִירוֹת בְּשַׂעְרוֹתַי,
וְצִירֵי חֲלוּשָׁה עוֹרְרוּ מַחֲלֵי בִרְכַּי,     
וְהִנֵּה אֲנִי כוֹשֵׁל בְּמִישׁוֹר בְּחַצְרוֹתַי!
אֲנִי אֵבְךְּ נַפְשִׁי, כִּי יְקָרָה מְאֹד נַפְשִׁי,     
וְלִי נָאֲוָה לִסְפֹּד וְלִבְכּוֹת יְקָרוֹתַי,
וְאֶרְאֶה, בְּהִתְלַבֵּן זְקָנִי, בְּמוֹרָשַׁי     
מְקוֹם שַׁחֲרוּת זֹקֶן כְּפִיחַ בְּסִירוֹתַי
וְלוּ אֵרְדְּ בּוֹ כִּמְעַט אֲסַרְתִּיו בְּמֵיתָר עַד     
אֲשֶׁר לֹא יְנוֹפֵף יָד לְהַלְבִּין שְׁחֹרוֹתָי.
וְלוּ אֵשׁ יְגוֹנִים לִהֲטָה קָדְקֳדִי, הָיוּ     
צְרִי אֵשׁ יְגוֹנִיםמֵי עֲנָבִים בְּפוּרוֹתַי,
וְאוּלָם בְּזִקְנָה נִנְעֲרוּ מֵי־נְעוּרַי מִן     
זְקָנִי, וְזִקְנָה נִאֲצַתְנִי לְנַעְרוֹתָי!
וּמִי יִתְּנֵנִי כָאֱלֹהִים וְאֶתְבּוֹנֵן     
הֲקָרוֹב וְאִם רָחוֹק יְהִי יוֹם מְגוּרוֹתַי
וְכַמָּה אֱהִי עָפָר בְּקִבְרִי בְּלִי רוּחַ,     
וּמָתַי תְּחִי רוּחִי וְתֻפַּח בְּעַפְרוֹתַי
וְיֹאמַר לְבָבִי כִּי אֱחִי עוֹד, וְאִם יִכְאַב     
בְּשָׂרִייְרַפֵּא אֵל אֱלֹהִים חֲבוּרוֹתַי,
וְיִתֶּן אֱיָל חֵלֶף לְחָלְשִׁי, וְיִתֶּן לִי     
כְּכֹחַ בְּאֶבְרוֹת הַנְשָׁרִים בְּאֶבְרוֹתַי,
וְכֵן יַעֲשֶׂה לִי אֵל בְּטוּבוֹ וְחַסְדּוֹ, כִּי     
בְּאֵל מַחֲסִי שַׂמְתִּי בְּעוֹדִי, וְשִׂבְרוֹתַי.
וְיֹאמְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים כִּי מְנוּחָה בְּקֶבֶר יֵשׁ –     
וְאֶדְאַג אֲנִי פֶּן אֶפְגְּעָה בּוֹ בְּסָרוֹתָי.
וְהֵם יִקְרְאוּ מָוֶת 'הֲלִיכָה אֱלֵי אָבוֹת'     
וְצָדְקוּ, לְמַעַן שָׁם אֲבוֹתַי וְהוֹרוֹתָי.
עֲלֵי מָה בְּיוֹם מוֹתִי תְּחִישׁוּן בְּגוּפָתִי     
אֱלֵי צֵל שְׁאוֹל, מִצֵּל מְעוֹנִי וְקוֹרוֹתַי
וְלָמָה תְּצוּרוּן עַל בְּשָׂרִי בְּתַכְרִיכֵי     
קְבוּרָה וְשָׁם אֶבְלֶה אֲנִי עִם צְרוֹרוֹתָי!
וְלָמָּה בְּמַיִם תִּטְבְּלוּנִי לְהִטַּהֵר –     
וּמָחָר תְּטַנֵּף צַחֲנָתִי חֲגוֹרוֹתָי!
אֱלֹהִים, כְּבָר עָבְרוּ זְמַנִּים וְדוֹרוֹת עַל     
אֲדָמָה וְהָיִיתִי כְּאַיִן בְּדוֹרוֹתַי,
וְאַחַר, פְּקַדְתַּנִי לְרָצוֹן וְיָצָאתִי,     
לְבַל אֶשְׁאֲלָה צֵאת מִמְּךָ, אֶל מְכוֹרוֹתַי
וְאַחַר יְצִיאָתִילְהַוּוֹת נְתַתַּנִי     
וּמָקוֹר לְמִקְרוֹתַי וְכִצְרוֹר לְצָרוֹתָי.
וְאַתָּה יְצַרְתַּנִי בְּעוֹלָם, יְפֵה מַרְאֶה –     
וְאַתָּה בְּאַחְרִיתִי תְּשַׁנֶּה יְצִירוֹתָי.
וְאוּלָם צְדָקָה מַעֲשֶׂיךָ, וְאִמְרָתָךְ     
אֱמוּנָהוְרוּחַ פִּי מְעֻקָּל, וְאִמְרוֹתָי.
קְחוּ לִי מְגִלָּה וַעֲשׂוּ לִי דְיוֹ וָעֵט     
לְיָדִי וְאַשְׁחִירָהּ כְּהַיּוֹם בְּקוֹרוֹתַי,
וְאֶקְרָא וְתִזַּלְנָה כְּעֵינַי מְאוֹרוֹתַי
לְמַעַן בְּקֶבֶר לֹא אֲדַמַּע מְאוֹרוֹתַי,
וְאֶבְכֶּה עֲלֵי צוּרָה יְפֵיפָה יְאִיצוּן בָּהּ,     
לְמוֹעֵד בְּנֵי אָדָם, חֲבֵרַי וְחַבְרוֹתַי,
וְיִפְעָה כְּבוּדָה, כָּל כְּבוֹדָהּ בְּכַסּוֹתָהּ     
בְּעָפָר, וּבִסְתֹם פִּי, וְעַצֵּם שְׁמוּרוֹתַי,
וְכִי אָז יְהִי דוֹמֵם בְּאָרוֹן, כְּמוֹ אֶבֶן     
בְּלֶב יָם, לְשׁוֹנִי הַמְסַפֵּר גְּבוּרוֹתַי,
וְעֵינִי, אֲשֶׁר חָזְתָה פְּלָאִים, אֲזַי תֵּעַשׁ     
בְּחוֹרָהּ בְּרִקָּבוֹן, וְתִמַּק בְּנִקְרוֹתַי
וְכִי אֵין בְּחֵךְ טַעַם וְשִׂיחַ, וְאֵין שֵׁמַע     
לְאָזְנַי, וּבָטְלָה יָד, וּבָטְלוּ מְמַהְרוֹתָי.
וְרָעָה אֲשֵׁר רָעָה וּמָרָה עֲלֵי כָל זֹאת     
עֲלוֹתִי לְמִשְׁפָּט מִן רְגָבַי וְקִבְרוֹתַי,
וְכִי כָל פְּעֻלּוֹתַי שְׁקוּלוֹת בְּמֹאזְנַיִם,     
בְּכַף זֹאת זְכֻיּוֹתַי וּבָזֹאת מְרוֹרוֹתַי.
וְאוּלַי יְהִי מַלְאָךְ וּמֵלִיץ בְּדָבָר טוֹב     
לְהָרִים עֲווֹנוֹתַי וְהַשְׁפֵּל יְשָׁרוֹתַי,
וְיַזְכִּיר, בְּהִשָּׁפְטִי, לְצוּרִי, חֲקִירוֹתַי     
בְּדָתֵי תְעוּדוֹתַי וְדָרְשִׁי בְּתוֹרוֹתַי,
וְאֶשְׁמַע: כְּבָר רָצָה אֱלֹהִים פְּעָלֶיךָ!     
וְתֵרֵד בְּכָזֹאת מֵעֲבֵרַי כְּשׁוּרוֹתַי
וְאֶשְׂמַח בְּצֵאתִי אֶל כְּבוֹד אֵל לְאָסְפֵנִי     
וְאֶשְׂמַח בְּהֵאָסֵף יְרֵחִי וְאוֹרוֹתָי.

Yehuda HaLevi: Supplication for Yom Kippur (From Medieval Hebrew)

Supplication for Yom Kippur
By Yehuda HaLevi
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by Michael Leibowitz (Thank You For Your Support)
Click to hear me recite the original in medieval Andalusi Hebrew

O Lord, here before You is all my desire,1
    Whether or not it escapes my lips.    
I would seek Your favor, a moment, then die
    If only You would grant my wish.
I’d commit my spirit into Your hands,2
    And sleep. Such a sleep would delight.
Afar from You - in life I am dead,
    But when I cleave close - in death I'm alive.3
In faith I know not how I might draw near You,
    What worship to give, what words to try.
Instruct me, Lord, in Your ways. With guidance
    Deliver me from the dungeon of lies.
While yet I have strength to bear affliction
    Teach me and do not despise my plight,
Before I become to myself but a burden,
    And what little I am weighs me down with time,
Before I must yield against my own will
    And collapse as my cankered bones expire,
And come to the place my forefathers came to
    And there by their place of rest find mine.
For across the face of this earth I am foreign,
    While deep in her womb my true home lies.
My youth till now has done what it wanted.
    When shall I provide for me and mine? 
The world of pleasures He placed in my heart
    Has kept me from keeping my end in mind.
How can I serve my Creator, while captive
    To nature’s lust, and servant to desire?
When I know the rank worm will soon be my sister,4
    How can I aspire to a rank on high? 
And how can my heart rise merry today
    Knowing not if a merry morrow will rise?
Night upon night, and day upon day
    Have pledged to consume this flesh of mine.
They will scatter me half to spiriting wind
    And return me half to dust for all time.
What more can I say? I’ve been hunted from boyhood
    Through withering age by my enemy desire. 
What is Time to me but Your will and favor?
    And if not with You, then what am I?
Here I stand stripped naked of any virtue,
    My only covering Your justice and kindness.
So what use this speaking? Why plead or aspire? 
    O Lord, here before You is all my desire.


1- c.f. Psalms 38:10 Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my sighing is not hid from Thee.
2- c.f. Psalms 31:6 Into Thy hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, Thou God of truth.
3- c.f. Berakhoth 18a-b, where the wicked are called dead while living, and the virtuous called living while dead.
4. c.f. Job 17:14 If I have said to corruption: 'Thou art my father', to the worm: 'Thou art my mother, and my sister'

The Original:

אֲדֹנָי! נֶגְדְּךָ כָל‑ תַּאֲוָתִי,   וְאִם לֹא אַעֲלֶנָּה עַל שְׂפָתִי.
רְצוֹנְךָ אֶשְׁאֲלָה רֶגַע ‑ וְאֶגְוָע,   וּמִי יִתֵּן וְתָבוֹא שֱׁאֶלָתִי,
וְאַפְקִיד אֶת‑ שְׁאָר רוּחִי בְּיָדְךָ   וְיָשַׁנְתִּי וְעָרְבָה לי שְׁנָתִי!
בְּרָחְקִי מִמְּךָ – מוֹתִי בְחַיָּי,   וְאִם אֶדְבַּק בְּךָ – חַיַּי בְּמוֹתִי,
אֲבָל לֹא אֵדְעָה בַּמֶה אֲקַדֵּם,   וּמַה תִּהְיֶה עֲבֹדתִי וְדָתִי.
דְּרָכֶיךָ, אֲדֹנָי, לַמְּדֵנִי,   וְשׁוּב מִמַּאֲסַר סִכְלוּת שְׁבוּתִי,
וְהוֹרֵנִי בְעוֹד יֶשׁ‑ בִּי יְכֹלֶת   לְהִתְעַנּוֹת, וְאַל תִּבְזֶה עֱנוּתִי,
בְּטֶרֶם יוֹם אֱהִי עָלַי לְמַשָּׂא,   וְיוֹם יִכְבַּד קְצָתִי עַל קְצָתִי,
וְאִכָּנַע בְּעַל כָּרְחִי, וְיֹאכַל   עֲצָמַי עָשׁ וְנִלְאוֹ מִשְּׂאֵתִי,
וְאֶסַּע אֶל מְקוֹם נָסְעוּ אֲבוֹתָי,   וּבִמְקוֹם תַּחֲנוֹתָם תַּחֲנוֹתִי.
כְּגֵר תּוֹשָׁב אֲנִי עַל גַּב אֲדָמָה,   וְאוּלָם כִּי בְּבִטְנָהּ נַחֲלָתִי.
נְעוּרַי עַד הֲלֹם עָשׂוּ לְנַפְשָׁם,   וּמָתַי גַּם אֲנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה לְבֵיתִי?
וְהָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן בְּלִבִּי   מְנָעַנִי לְבַקֵּשׁ אַחֲרִיתִי!
וְאֵיכָה אֶעֱבֹד יוֹצְרִי – בְּעוֹדִי   אֲסִיר יִצְרִי וְעֶבֶד תַּאֲוָתִי?
וְאֵיכָה מַעֲלָה רָמָה אֲבַקֵּשׁ –   וּמָחָר תִּהְיֶה רִמָּה אֲחוֹתִי!
וְאֵיךְ יִיטַב בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה לְבָבִי,   וְלֹא אֵדַע – הֲיִיטַב מָחֳרָתִי?
וְהַיָּמִים וְהַלֵּילוֹת עֲרֵבִים   לְכַלּוֹת אֶת­‑ שְׁאֵרִי עַד כְּלוֹתִי.
וְלָרוּחַ יְזָרוּן מַחֲצִיתִי,   וּלֶעָפָר יְשִׁיבוּן מַחֲצִיתִי.
וּמַה אֹמַר – וְיִצְרִי יִרְדְּפֵנִי   כְּאוֹיֵב מִנְּעוּרַי עַד בְּלוֹתִי?
וּמַה לִּי בַּזְמָן – אִם לֹא רְצוֹנְךָ?   וְאִם אֵינְךָ מְנָתִי ‑ מַה מְנָתִי?
אֲנִי מִמַּעֲשִׂים שׁוֹלָל וְעָרוֹם   וְצִדְקָתְךָ לְבַדָּהּ הִיא כְסוּתִי –
וְעוֹד מָה אַאֲרִיךְ לָשׁוֹן וְאֶשְׁאַל!   אֲדֹנָי, נֶגְדְּךָ כָל‑ תַּאֲוָתִי!


ǎðonai neɣdǎxa kol ta’ǎwaθi
wǐ’im lo aʕǎlenna ʕal sǎfaθi
rǎṣonxa eš’ǎla reɣaʕ wě’eɣwaʕ
umi yitten wǎθavo’ še’ělaθi
wǎ’afqið eθ šǎ’ar ruħi bǐyaðxa
wǐyašanti wǎʕarva li šǎnaθi!
bǎraħqi mimmǎxa moθi bǎħayyay,
  wǐ’im aðbaq bǎxa ħayyay bǎmoθi,
ǎval lo eðǎʕa bamma ǎqaddem,
uma tihye ʕǎvoðaθi wǎðaθi.
Dǎraxéxa, ǎðonay, lamměðeni,
wǎšuv mimma’ǎsar sixluθ šǎvuθi,
wǔhoréni bǔʕoð yeš bi yǎxoleθ
lǐhiθʕannoθ wǎ’al tivze ʕěnuθi
bǎṭerem yom ěhi ʕale lǎmassa’
wǐyom yixbað qǎṣaθi ʕal qǎṣaθi,
wě’ekkanaʕ bǎʕal karħi, wǐyoxal
ʕǎṣamay ʕaš wǎnil’u missě’eθi,
wě’essaʕ el mǎqom nasʕu ǎvoθay
ǔvimqom taħǎnoθam taħǎnoθi.
kǎɣer tošav ǎni ʕal gav ǎðama
wǔ’ulam ki bǎviṭna naħǎlaθi
nǔʕuray ʕað hǎlom ʕasu lǎnafšam,
umaθái gam ǎni ěʕse lǎveθi?
wǎhaʕolam ǎšer naθan bǎlibbi
mǎnaʕani lǎvaqqeš aħǎriθi
wě’exa eʕěvoð yoṣri bǔʕoði
ǎsir yiṣri wěʕeveð ta’ǎwaθi?
wě’exa maʕǎla rama ǎvaqqeš
umaħar tihye rimma ǎħoθi?
wě’ex yiyṭav bǐyom ṭova lǎvavi,
wǎlo eðaʕ - hǎyiyṭav maħǎraθi?
wǎhayyamim wǎhalleloθ ʕǎrevim
lǎxalloθ eθ šě’eri ʕað kǎloθi,
wǎlaruaħ yǎzerun maħǎṣiθi,
wǎleʕafar yǎšivun maħǎṣiθi.
uma omer wǐyiṣri yirdǎfeni
kǔ’oyev minnǔʕuray ʕað bǎloθi?
uma li bazǎman - im lo rǎṣonxa?
wǐ’im enxa mǎnaθi ma mǎnaθi?
ani mummaʕǎsim šolal wǎʕarom
wǎṣiðqaθxa lǎvadda hi xǎsuθi.
wǔʕoð ma a’ǎrix lašon wě’eš’al?
aðonay, neɣdǎxa kol ta’ǎwaθi.

Yehuda HaLevi: My Heart is in the East (From Medieval Hebrew)

This poem, the first from the poet's cycle מכבל ערב mikkevel ˁarav "Out of Arabian Bonds", is one of his most famous today because, as one of his poems of yearning to return to the Land of Israel, it has warmed the cockles of many a modern Zionist's heart, and is even taught to Israeli highschool students today. Indeed, Yehuda HaLevi (in a questionable retroactive projection of modern political identity) is often touted as "the first Zionist," sometimes even by scholars who really should know better.

My Heart Is In The East
By Yehuda HaLevi
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in a reconstruction of medieval Andalusi Hebrew pronunciation

My heart is in the east, and the rest of me at the edge of the west.
How can I taste the food I eat? How can it give me pleasure? 
How can I keep my promise now, or fulfill the vows I've made
While Zion remains in the Cross's reign1, and I in Arab chains? 
With pleasure I would leave behind all the good things of grand Spain,
If only I could gaze on the dust of our ruined Holy Place.


1- The poet had made a vow to leave Spain behind and journey to Jerusalem, which was at the time held by the Crusaders. The Crusaders, when they took the city of Jerusalem in 1099, had forbidden Jews to reside there.

The Original:

לבי במזרח
יהודה הלוי

לִבִּי בְמִזְרָח וְאָנֹכִי בְּסוֹף מַעֲרָב
אֵיךְ אֶטְעֲמָה אֵת אֲשֶׁר אֹכַל וְאֵיךְ יֶעֱרָב
אֵיכָה אֲשַׁלֵּם נְדָרַי וָאֱסָרַי, בְּעוֹד
צִיּוֹן בְּחֶבֶל אֱדוֹם וַאֲנִי בְּכֶבֶל עֲרָב
יֵקַל בְּעֵינַי עֲזֹב כָּל טוּב סְפָרַד, כְּמוֹ
יֵקַר בְּעֵינַי רְאוֹת עַפְרוֹת דְּבִיר נֶחֱרָב.


Libbi vǎmizraħ wǎ’anoxi bǎsof maʕǎrav
Ex eṭʕǎma eθ ašer oxal wǐ’ex yeʕěrav
Exa ǎšallem nǎðaray we’ěsaray, bǔʕoð
ṣiyyon běħevel ěðom wa’ǎni bǎxevel ʕǎrav.
Yeqal běʕenay ʕǎzov kol ṭov sǎfarað kǎmo
Yeqar běʕenay rǔ’oθ ʕafroθ dǎvir neħěrav

Samuel HaNagid: In Your Time of Grief (From Medieval Hebrew)

In Your Time Of Grief
By Samuel HaNagid
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in reconstructed medieval Andalusi Hebrew pronunciation

In your time of grief, hold up your heart,
Even if you stand at slaughter's doors. 
The candle, before flickering out, flares up,
And the lion with a stab-wound roars.

The Original:

בְּעִתּוֹת עָצְבְּךָ חַזֵּק לְבָבָךְ,
וְאִם תַּעְמֹד עֲלֵי שַׁעַר הֲרֵגָה:
לְנֵר – מָאוֹר בְּטֶרֶם הַדְּעִיכָה,
וְלִכְפִירִים מְדֻקָּרִים – שְׁאָגָה.

Catullus: Poem 85 (From Latin)

Poem 85
By Catullus
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I loathe and love. You probably want to know why I do.
I do not know. But I do feel. I'm being cut in two. 

The Original:
Click here to download the Latin text with macrons

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Horace: Ode 3.30 (From Latin)

Ode 3.30: My Monument
By Horace
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A monument outlasting bronze I've raised,
Whose heights no dynast's pyramid can exceed,
Which neither North Wind's bluster nor the rains'
Gnawing, nor countless years in slow stampede,
Nor flight of eras can level to the ground.
I'll not all die. Much of me will thrive long

Past Queen Funeria's reach. I in renown 
Of latter days shall grow ever fresh and young.
While yet the pontiff with the quiet virgin
Ascends to the Temple of Jove on that great hill,
I, born where the Aufidus river in violence surges
And droughted Daunus ruled a wild people, will 
Be named: the mighty leader from low birth
Who first led Greek song to Italic measure.
Now, Muse, take on the pridefulness I've earned,
And lay the laureate's wreathe on me with pleasure.

The Original:

Carmen XXX, Liber III
Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
non omnis moriar. Multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam. Usque ego postera
crescam laude recens. Dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex;
Dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens
princeps Aeolium, carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. Sume superbiam
quaestam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.

Yehuda Amichai: My Father (From Hebrew)

This is a poem whose full scope I did not appreciate until recently. 

Every generation that goes to war hopes that the next will not have to do likewise. The hope is often misplaced, as when The War to End All Wars proved to be no such thing in the face of its even more deadly and infinitely more tragic sequel. 
Yehuda Amichai's father, with whom this poem begins, served in WWI on the side of the Germans. Later Amichai himself volunteered and fought in WWII in the British army as a member of the Jewish Brigade, and then as a commando in the Negev Brigade during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, on which note the poem abruptly ends.
In the case of the father fighting for the Germans, the war is rightly described as "theirs." Yet for Amichai, the wars are understood as being very much his own, fighting as a Jew for his people. (The year after this poem was published, Amichai would serve yet again in the Sinai War, and again after that two decades later in the Yom Kippur War.)
The poem is understatedly tragic, as many of Amichai's poems are. The father had hoped to give his son wisdom, the understanding that all human beings are in some sense to be loved - a love which his son was to experience by seeing through his father's gaze. Yet the son cannot afford to accept that wisdom and vision. Like the leftovers of mother's cake in the father's knapsack, such understanding can no longer give sustenance. There is no place for universal love now, as he goes off to fight for his people. 
In the logic of the poem, though, the son will not be able to develop an understanding like that of his father in the wars he goes to. His father could only do so because he fought in someone else's (their) war, a war in which he could afford to see enemy combatants in a detached way. The son, now fighting a war of his own, will be forced to have a different perspective. As the people on whose side the father fought saw the war as their own and thus could not achieve the perspective the father did, so the son now in a war for his own people will presumably not be able to develop such a wisdom. He will also not be able to impart it to his own children. The wisdom and worldview of his forbears are dead, collateral damage in the cause of a people's nationhood. 
My translation is a function of this reading. This reading, in turn, is my own, and a function of my own perspective. Whether I am merely a tendentious fabulator, or am picking up on undercurrents of Amichai (not restricted to this poem) that many readers have not wanted to see, is really up to you to decide. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I will say that the words "like them" in the final line are my addition.

My Father
By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Hebrew

Four years my father fought that war of theirs,
And did not love or hate his enemies.
But I know he was forming me, even there,
Day by day, out of his tranquilities,

The precious few tranquilities he gleaned
Between the smoke and bombs for a child's sake
And put them in the knapsack tattered at the seams,
With leftovers of mother's hardening cake.

He gathered with his eyes the nameless dead.
The numerous dead he gathered so I'd know
And love them, seeing them as he saw, instead 

Of dying, as they died, in gore and terror.
He filled his eyes with them. He was in error.
Onward like them to all my wars I go. 

The Original: 


אבי היה ארבע שנים במלחמתם
ולא שנא אויביו ולא אהב.
אבל אני יודע, כי כבר שם
בנה אותי יום-יום משלוותיו

המעטות כל-כך, אשר לקט
אותן בין פצצות ובין עשן,
ושם אותן בתרמילו הממורטט
עם שארית עוגת-אימו המתקשה.

ובעיניו אסף מתים בלי שם
מתים רבים אסף למעני
שאכירם במבטיו ואוהבם.

ולא אמות כמוהם בזוועה…
הוא מילא עיניו בהם והוא טעה:
אל כל מלחמותיי יוצא אני.



Aví hayá arbáˁ šaním bemilħamtám
Veló sané oyváv veló aháv.
Avál aní yodéaˁ ki kvar šam 
Baná otí yom-yóm mišalvotáv

Hamuˁatót kol-kax ašer lakat
Otán beyn petsatsót uvéyn ašán,
Vesám otán betarmiló hamemurtát
ˁIm še'erít ˁugát-imó hamitkašá.

Uveˁeynáv asáf meytím bli šém
Meytím rabím asaf lemaˁaní
Še'akirém bemabatáv ve'ohavém.

Veló amút kamóhem  bazvaˁá...
Hu milé ˁeynáv bahém vehú taˁá:
El kol milħamotáy yotsé ani. 

Catullus: Poem 46 (From Latin)

Poem 46: Springrise
By Gaius Valerius Catullus
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Now spring retrieves the warm heart of the year,
as equinoctial blusters of the heavens
are hushed at last in Zephyr's tender breezes.
Catullus, time to leave the plains of Troy
and the rich lands of sweltering Nicaea:
Off now, to the famed cities of the Agaean!
The mind is fluttering with wanderlust, 
These eager feet cannot stay still, and dance.
So now it is farewell to dear companions
who from a faraway home set out together,
whom several roads now separately return. 

The Original:

Carmen 46

Iam ver egelidos refert tepores,
iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
iucundis Zephyri silescit aureis.
Linquantur Phrygii, Catulle, campi
nicaeaeque ager uber aestuosae:
ad claras asiae volemus urbes.
Iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.
O dulces comitum valete coetus,
longe quos simul a domo profectos
diversae varie viae reportant.

Garcilaso de la Vega: "While there is yet the color of the rose" (From Spanish)

The donor who requested this poem also requested that I make my audio recording of the original Spanish using a reconstruction of the pronunciation Garcilaso himself would have used (similar to my reading of this sonnet by Ronsard in Renaissance French.) This I have done. More information about this pronunciation follows the text.

Sonnet XXIII
By Garcilaso de la Vega
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Requested by Enrique Flores

While there is yet the color of the rose
And of the lily in your countenance,
And while the burning candor of your glance 
Can fire the heart and yet constrain its throes;

And while yet that soft hair of yours which flows
From a gold vein, in a disheveled dance
Is tangled by wind's sudden dalliance
As round that lovely proud white neck it blows,     

Gather the harvest from your joyous spring
Of sweetest fruit before Time comes in rage
Of snow to cover that fair peak at last.

The rose will wither in the wind's chill blast.
So changing everything comes flighty Age    
Never to change its way for anything.
Soneto XXIII
Garcilaso de la Vega
Click to hear me recite the original Spanish

En tanto que de rosa y de açucena
se muestra la color en vuestro gesto
y que vuestro mirar ardiente honesto
enciende el coraçon y lo refrena,

Y en tanto que el cabello que en la vena
del oro se escogio con buelo presto
por el hermoso cuello blanco enhiesto
el viento mueue esparze y desordena

Coged de vuestra alegre primauera
el dulce fruto antes que el tiempo ayrado
cubra de nieue la hermosa cumbre

Marchitara la rosa el viento elado
todo lo mudara la edad ligera
por no hazer mudança en su costumbre

The pronunciation I use in my recording is a very conservative one, differing in only one respect from the phonology reconstructed for Medieval Spanish. Though such a pronunciation underlies Antonio de Nebrija's Gramática de la Lengua Castellana (published in 1492, having incidentally the distinction of being the first grammatical description of a Romance language), it would probably not have been typical for the majority of Spanish speakers in Garcilaso's time. It is, however, the type of speech the old Toledo upper class of Garcilaso's time would have favored, as can be deduced from e.g. Juan de Valdés' Diálogo de la Lengua (1535) in which the author gives much information about the cultured Toledan accent which he praises, and about other accents whose deviations from the former he disparages.
It follows that Garcilaso, a privilege-born upper crust Toledan courtier who was on speaking terms with the king himself, would have spoken in this fashion, at the very least for elevated linguistic performance such as the reading of poetry. This is all the more likely since his poetic project involved the elevation of the Castillian language in imitation of Italian and classical Greco-Roman models, at some remove from the popular lyric tradition. Of course it is anyone's guess whether he also used this pronunciation to cuss when he stubbed his toe.
This pronunciation was to fall out of fashion among the cultured elite in less than a century, owing in no small part to the fact that Philip II was to move the court, and therefore the center of linguistic prestige, from Toledo to the more phonologically innovative Madrid.

Borges: Texas (From Spanish)

By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

And so it is here too. Here too, as at
the Americas' other edge: the measureless
plain where a cry dies unattended. Yes,
here too, the Indian, mustang, lariat.

Here too the secret bird that ever yet
over the clamorings of history
sings for an evening and its memory;
here too the stars with mystic alphabet

that dictate to my writing hand below
such names, today, as the unceasing maze 
of days and turning days does not displace,

as San Jacinto and the Alamo,
and such Thermopylaes. Here, too, is rife
with that brief unknown anxious thing called life.    
Jorge Luis Borges

Aquí también. Aquí, como en el otro
confín del continente, el infinito
campo en que muere solitario el grito;
aquí también el indio, el lazo, el potro.

Aquí también el pájaro secreto
que sobre los fragores de la historia
canta para una tarde y su memoria;
aquí también el místico alfabeto

de los astros, que hoy dictan a mi cálamo
nombres que el incesante laberinto
de los días no arrastra: San Jacinto

y esas otras Termópilas, el Álamo.
Aquí también esa desconocida
y ansiosa y breve cosa que es la vida.

Borges: Ewigkeit (From Spanish)

Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Let Spanish verse turn on my tongue, affirm
Once more in me what it has always said
Since Seneca in Latin: that true dread
Sentence that all is fodder for the worm.
Let it turn back with song to hail pale ash,
The calends of death, and the victory
Of that word-ruler queen whose footfalls smash       
The banners of our empty vanity.

Not that. I'll cravenly deny not one

Thing that has blessed my clay. I know of all
Things, one does not exist: oblivion.
That in eternity beyond recall 
The precious things I've lost stay burning on:
That forge, that risen moon, that evening-fall.

Jorge Luis Borges
Click to hear me recite the original Spanish

Torne en mi boca el verso castellano
a decir lo que siempre está diciendo
desde el latín de Séneca: el horrendo
dictamen de que todo es del gusano.
Torne a cantar la pálida ceniza,
los fastos de la muerte y la victoria
de esa reina retórica que pisa
los estandartes de la vanagloria.

No así. Lo que mi barro ha bendecido
no lo voy a negar como un cobarde.
Sé que una cosa no hay. Es el olvido;
sé que en la eternidad perdura y arde
lo mucho y lo precioso que he perdido:
esa fragua, esa luna y esa tarde.
*"Ewigkeit" is German for "Eternity."

Quevedo: Love Constant Beyond Death (From Spanish)

It has occurred to me to try out a side-by-side presentation of my translations instead of the consecutive presentation I've been employing heretofore. I originally eschewed a side-by-side presentation of my translations because I wanted to discourage a particular kind of reading, which I know from experience to be tempting if one is familiar with the language of the original. The reader gets through line one of the original, then line one of the translation, then back to line two of the original and then of the translation and so forth, resulting in an impoverished appreciation of both texts and an overfocus on difference. As J.F. Nims put it:

Objections to what some may regard as intrusions, as foreign matter in the English version, generally come from those who do not understand the nature of poetry - those who read the translation and its original on facing pages, line by line, ping-pong fashion, eyes right, eyes left, triumphant when a discrepancy is found. Perhaps it would be better - many have thought so - not even to print the text of a poem together with a translation which itself is meant to be a poem. The original is an experience. The translation, different but an analogous, is an experience - but the two experiences cannot well be enjoyed together.
And yet I decided to try it. Stupidly perhaps. But here goes. 

Love Constant Beyond Death
By Francisco de Quevedo
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

    That terminal shadow may with darkness seal          
my eyes shut when it steals white day from me,
and in an instant, flattering the zeal
of this my eager soul, let it go free.
    But on this hither shore where once it burned
it shall not leave behind love’s memory.
My flame can swim chill waters. It has learned
to lose respect for laws’ severity. 
    This soul that was a god's hot prison cell,
veins that with liquid humors fueled such fire,
marrows that flamed in glory as I strove
    shall quit the flesh, but never their desire.
They shall be ash. That ash will feel as well.
Dust they shall be. That dust will be in love.
Amor Constante Mas Allá de la Muerte
Francisco de Quevedo
Click here to hear me recite the original Spanish

    Cerrar podrá mis ojos la postrera
sombra que me llevare el blanco día,
y podrá desatar esta alma mía
hora a su afán ansioso lisonjera;
    mas no de essotra parte, en la riuera,
dexará la memoria, en donde ardía:
nadar sabe mi llama l'agua fría,
y perder el respeto a lei severa.
    Alma qu'a todo un dios prissión ha sido,
venas qu'umor a tanto fuego an dado,
medulas qu'an gloriosamente ardido,
    su cuerpo dexarán, no su cuydado;
serán ceniça, mas tendrá sentido;
polvo serán, mas polvo enamorado.

Borges: Christ on the Cross (From Spanish)

I think this may be the best poem in the Spanish language about Christ's crucifixion (and there are a lot of Spanish poems on that topic. Few interesting.) 
Borges here portrays Jesus as a simple human being, shorn of the Christian God-made-Flesh that he will be turned into. This enables Borges to do two things:  
(1) By mentioning the future acts committed in his name amid a handful of otherwise terrestrial woes, Borges implies that it would wound this human Jesus greatly were he aware of what ideas and ideologies he would be resurrected as following his death as a person. In a sense he is to be forever on the cross, the nails of historic Christendom ever skewering him in effigy. Jesus is therefore lucky he doesn't know what will become of him as Christ. And if Jesus were divine, and did survive death, then Christian history would be above all else a source of torment for Him as he watched from his non-corporeal vantage point. But now I digress. 
(2) Thus fully humanized as a man and nothing but, he can be a metaphor with which Borges can reveal, or at least intimate, his own suffering in the final lines without arrogance or aggrandizement. After all, Borges is here not comparing himself to a god, but to another human being like himself. Paradoxically this effectuates a kind of textual reverse-kenosis. In ceasing to be God, being truly empty of any godhood, Jesus fulfills the premise of truly becoming Man, the flesh that dwells among us, in a way relatable to the equally human Borges. In this light, we can furthermore see the post mortem deification as what, in the logic of the poem, it would have to be: dehumanization in the fullest sense.

Christ on the Cross
Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Christ on the cross. The feet touch solid earth.
The three beams made of wood are the same height. 
Christ is not in the middle. He's the third.
The black beard hangs down heavy over his chest.
His face is not the face from the engravings.
It's harsh and Jewish. I do not see him
And will keep questing for him till the final
Day of my steps falling upon this earth.
The broken man is suffering and silent. 
The cutting crown of thorns is hurting him. 
He's unreached by the jeering of the mob
Which has so often seen his agonies.
His or another's. It is the same thing. 
Christ on the cross. Confusedly he thinks
About the kingdom that perhaps awaits him,
About the woman that was never his.
It's not for him to see Theology,
The indecipherable Trinity,
The Gnostics, the cathedrals, Occam's razor,
The purple, the mitre, the liturgy,
Guthrum's conversion by the sword of Alfred,
The Inquisition hallowed, blood of martyrs,
Crusade atrocities, young Joan of Arc
Afire, the Vatican that blesses armies.
He knows he is no god and is a man
That dies with day. To him it is no matter.
What matters is the nails' hard piercing iron.
He's not a Roman. Not a Greek. He moans. 
He has left us some splendid metaphors 
And a doctrine of pardon with the power 
To cancel out the past. (This is a dictum
Written down by an Irishman in gaol.)
The soul seeks for the end, frenetically.
It has grown dark a bit. Now he is dead.
A fly walks up across the flesh in quiet.
What good does it all do me that that man
Has suffered so, when I am suffering now? 

The Original:

Cristo En La Cruz
Jorge Luis Borges

Cristo en la cruz. Los pies tocan la tierra.
Los tres maderos son de igual altura.
Cristo no está en el medio. Es el tercero.
La negra barba pende sobre el pecho.
El rostro no es el rostro de las láminas.
Es áspero y judío. No lo veo
y seguiré buscándolo hasta el día
último de mis pasos por la tierra.
El hombre quebrantado sufre y calla.
La corona de espinas lo lastima.
No lo alcanza la befa de la plebe
que ha visto su agonía tantas veces.
La suya o la de otro. Da lo mismo.
Cristo en la cruz. Desordenadamente
piensa en el reino que tal vez lo espera,
piensa en una mujer que no fue suya.
No le está dado ver la teología,
la indescifrable Trinidad, los gnósticos,
las catedrales, la navaja de Occam,
la púrpura, la mitra, la liturgia,
la conversión de Guthrum por la espada,
la inquisición, la sangre de los mártires,
las atroces Cruzadas, Juana de Arco,
el Vaticano que bendice ejércitos.
Sabe que no es un dios y que es un hombre
que muere con el día. No le importa.
Le importa el duro hierro con los clavos.
No es un romano. No es un griego. Gime.
Nos ha dejado espléndidas metáforas
y una doctrina del perdón que puede
anular el pasado. (Esa sentencia
la escribió un irlandés en una cárcel.)
El alma busca el fin, apresurada.
Ha oscurecido un poco. Ya se ha muerto.
Anda una mosca por la carne quieta.
¿De qué puede servirme que aquel hombre
haya sufrido, si yo sufro ahora?

Clementina Arderiu: Song of the Beautiful Trust (From Catalan)

Since I haven't translated anything from Catalan in a while

Song of the Beautiful Trust
By Clementina Arderiu
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I’ve given my lover
all my keys,
and I have got his
and we are at peace.
But there’s still one room
where deep things begin,
and not for one second
dare we go in.
So many a musing
and secret power
flee into it with each
passing hour!
It isn't worth it
to pry at the lock:
the uproar would blast you
harder than rock.
The echos and shadows
will do just fine.
Let him keep his accounts
and I’ll keep mine.

The Original:

Cançó de La Bella Confiança

A l'amat he donades
totes les claus;
jo tinc totes les seves,
i fem les paus.
Però resta una cambra
al fons del fons
on entrar no podríem
ni breus segons.
Tantes forces ocultes,
tants pensaments
allà dins són escàpols a tots
Bé seria debades
sotjar-hi un poc:
l'aldarull colpiria
més que no un roc.
Contentem-nos d'una ombra
o d'un ressò.
Que ell es digui els seus comptes
com me'ls duc jo.

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