Haim Gouri: Odysseus (From Hebrew)

Gouri's Odysseus is a blend of the legendary Greek hero and Choni the Circle-Maker, a figure from Hebrew legend. While pondering the question of whether it was possible for a man to fall asleep for seventy years, Choni, as the story goes, actually fell asleep only to wake up seventy years later and learn that his son had died in the meantime. Going about his old haunts, Choni attempted to explain to people who he was. They did not believe him, and poured scorn on him. In his despondency, he begged God to kill him mercifully, and God obliged.

By Haim Gouri
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Hebrew

And when he returned to his native town, he found a sea
And sundry fish, and grass afloat on the slowed waves
And a sapped sun down on the sky's far side.

All errors keep occurring, said Odysseus to himself in his tired heart
Of what had occurred to him, and he returned to the crossroads near the neighboring town
To find the current road to his birthplace which was not the tide.

He came as a wayfarer, full of yearning and tired as if already dreaming,
Among a people whose dialect was now a different Greek.
The words he had taken on his trek as provisions had died.

For a moment, he thought he had overslept his lifetime,
Returning to people who were not shocked to see him,
And were too young to stare wide-eyed.

He resorted to gestures, asking what they tried to comprehend
From beyond the expanse.
Purple turned violet and sank on the selfsame sky's far side.

And the adults got up and gathered their children from circles around him
And hurried them away to house after house
Where light after light grew yellow inside.

Dew came down onto his head.
Wind came round and kissed his lips.
Water came forth and bathed his feet like an old Euryclea
And did not see the scar, and wound on down the slope for such are the ways of the tide.

The Original:

חיים גורי

ובשובו אל עיר מולדתו מצא ים
ודגים שונים ועשב צף על הגלים האטיים
ושמש נחלשת בשולי שמיים.

טעות לעולם
חוזרת, אמר אודיסס בלבו העייף
וחזר עד פרשת–הדרכים השמוכה לעיר השכנה
למצא את הדרך אל עיר מולדתו שלא היתה מיים.

הלך עיף כחולם ומתגעגע מאד
בין אנשים שדברו יונית אחרת.
המלים שנטל עמו כצידה לדרך המסעות גועו בינתיים.

רגע חשב כי נרדם לימים רבים
וחזר אל אנשים שלא תמהו בראותם אותו
ולא קרעו עיניים.

הוא שאל אותם בתנועות והם נסו להבין אותו
מתוך המרחקים.
הארגמן הסגיל והלך בשולי אותם שמיים.

קמו המבוגרים ונטלו את הילדים שעמדו סביבו במעגל
ומשכו אותם.
ואור אחר אור הצהיב בביית אחר ביית.

בא טל וירד על ראשו.
באה רוח ונשקה לשפתיו.
באו מים ושטפו רגליו כאבריקליה הזקנה.
ולא ראו את הצלקת והמשיכו במורד כדרך המיים.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason it reminds me a little of Taha Hussein's treatment of Odesseus and Antigone in Al-Ayyām.


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