Avraham Ben Yitzhak: A Lonely Few Say (from Hebrew)

This poem uses a peculiar blend of the rhythms of Biblical poetry and a music all the poet's own. 

A Lonely Few Say
By Avraham Ben Yitzhak
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the Hebrew

"Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge"
-Psalms [19:2]

Day unto day leaves a dimmed sun, and leaves;
And night mourns for night all night long
And summer after summer is gathered up with downed leaves
And the world in its sorrow gives song

And tomorrow we shall die with word no more in us
And shall stand at the gate at its closing, as on our last of days,1
And the heart rejoicing - for God has drawn us close-
Shall tremble in fear of betrayal and repent of its ways.

Day unto day bears a burning sun westward
And night after night lifts stars to atone.
On the lips of a lonely few, poetry pauses.
We part seven ways and return by the One.2


1- An echo of a phrase from the prayer that concludes the Yom Kippur service- "Open for us the gate at the time of the closing of gates, unto which the day has turned"

2- An allusion to the invocation Shma Israel, wherein God is referred to as "the One."

The Original:

בודדים אומרים:
אברהם בן-יצחק

יום ליום ינחיל שמש דועכת
ולילה על לילה יקונן.
וקיץ אחר קיץ יאסף בשלכת
ועולם מצערו מתרונן.

ומחר נמות, ואין הדבר בנו,
וכיום צאתנו נעמוד לפני שער עם נעילה.
ולב כי יעלוז: הן אלוהים קרבנו,
והתנחם וחרד מפחד המעילה.

יום ליום ישא שמש בוערת
ולילה אחר לילה ישפך כוכבים,
על שפתי בודדים שירה נעצרת:
בשבע דרכים נתפלג ובאחד אנו שבים.


Bodedim Omrim
Avraham Ben Yitsḥak

Yom leyom yanḥil šémeš doˁéxet
Veláyla ˁal láyla yekonen
Vekáyits aḥar káyits ye'asef bašaléxet
Veˁolam mitsaˁaro mitronen

Umaḥar namut ve'eyn hadiber bánu
Uxyom tseténu naˁamod lifney šáˁar ˁim neˁila
Velev ki yaˁaloz: hen elohim kervánu
Vihitneḥam veḥarad mipáḥad hameˁila.

Yom leyom yisa šémeš boˁéret
Veláyla aḥar láyla yišpox koxavim,
ˁal siftey bodedim šira neˁetséret:
bešévaˁ draxim nitpaleg uve'aḥad ánu šavim. 


  1. Great poetry and translation is not bad
    Are you really from Alexandria Egypt?

  2. Nicely done! "Hitnakhem" could be translated "shall rejoice", but the niqqud reads "hitnekham" which more likely means "shall regret" (this is a non-standard form which is close to the biblical "nikham" as opposed to "nikhem").

  3. sorry, disregard... I should have read your translation more closely. :)


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