Osip Mandelstam: Notre Dame (From Russian)

Notre Dame
By Osip Mandelstam
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Russian
Click to hear me recite the English

Here where barbarians knelt in Roman court
Stands the basilica: original
As joyous Adam, stretching nerves, the tall
Groined archway bunches muscle as for sport.

But things outside betray
 the secret plan:
A pact of arch and buttress here forestalls
The heavy mass from flattening the walls
In deadlock with the bold vault's battering ram.

A well-turned maze. Primeval wood and stone.
The Gothic spirit's rational abyss.
Egyptian brawn and Christian timidness.
Reed next to oak. The plumb-line takes the throne.

But, stronghold Notre Dame, the more acutely
I studied your great ribs' monstrosity,
The more I thought: a time shall come for me
To likewise make grim bulk a thing of beauty.

The Original:

Notre Dame
Осип Мандельштам

Где римский судия судил чужой народ —
Стоит базилика, и — радостный и первый —
Как некогда Адам, распластывая нервы,
Играет мышцами крестовый легкий свод.

Но выдает себя снаружи тайный план,
Здесь позаботилась подпружных арок сила,
Чтоб масса грузная стены не сокрушила,
И свода дерзкого бездействует таран.

Стихийный лабиринт, непостижимый лес,
Души готической рассудочная пропасть,
Египетская мощь и христианства робость,
С тростинкой рядом — дуб, и всюду царь — отвес.

Но чем внимательней, твердыня Notre Dame,
Я изучал твои чудовищные ребра,—
Тем чаще думал я: из тяжести недоброй
И я когда-нибудь прекрасное создам


Gde rímskij sudijá sudíl čužój naród -
Stoít bazílika, i - rádostnyj i pérvyj -
Kak nékogda Adám, rasplástyvaja nérvy,
Igrájet mýšcami krestóvyj lëgkij svod.

No vydajët sebjá snarúži tájnyj plan,
Zdésj pozabótilasj podprúžnyh árok síla,
Čtob mása grúznaja stený ne sokrušýla,
I svóda dërzkogo bezdéjstvujet tarán.

Stihíjnyj labirínt, nepostižímij les,
Duší gotíčeskoj rassúdočnaja própastj,
Jegípetskaja mošč, i hristiánstva róbostj,
S trostínkoj rjádom - dub, i vsjúdu carj - otvés.

No čem vnimáteljnej, tverdýnja Notre Dame,
Ya izučál tvoí čudóviščnyje rëbra -
Tem čášče dúmal ja: iz tjážesti nedóbroj
I ja kogdá-nibudj prekrásnoje sozdám

Zbigniew Herbert: The Landscape (From Polish)

The Landscape
By Zbigniew Herbert
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A wind-ridden night and an empty road where the army of the Prince of Parma
Left the horses' corpses behind
There atop the bald mountain blaze the bones of the newly razed castle
There is only stone sand dung and a colorless aimless wind

This is a landscape brought to life by a moon jammed sharp in the sky
And grungy shadows down below
Along with a white gallows that dangles gaunt pods
Of flesh revived by the wind that shadowless cloudless wind

The Original:


Jest wietrzna noc i pusta droga na której armia księcia Parmy
pozostawiła trupy końskie
na łysej górze świeca kości niedawno zdobytego zamku
jest tylko kamień piasek gnój i wiatr bez celu i koloru

To co ożywia ten krajobraz to księżyc ostro wbity w niebo
i trochę brudnych cieni w dole
a także biała szubienica bo na niej wiszą chude strąki
ciał którym wiatr przywraca życie ten wiatr bez drzew i bez obłoków

Ives Roquetta: Every Language (from Occitan)

Every Language
By Ives Roquetta
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Every language is spoken at home
Or just noise, powerless against silence.
The words let themselves be led
To the slaughterhouse like those oxen
You saw grazing down in the dell
Horn against horn, as if still
Yoked together.
They are also like the dead
When the earth molds them
Into gods once and for all.
Still, you can't ask everything of them.
They're just what you are.

The Original:

Tota Lenga
Ives Roquetta

Tota lenga es la de l'ostal
o pas que bruch sens poder sul silenci.
Las paraulas se daissan menar
al masèl coma aqueles buòus
que vesiàs pastencar dins la comba
bana contra bana, e coma
s'èran juntats pel jo encara.
Revèrtan los mòrts atanben
quand la tèrra se los pasta
per los far Dieus un còp per totes.
Mas i pòdes pas tot demandar.
Son çò que siás.

Victor Hugo: "At dawn tomorrow..." (From French)

At Dawn Tomorrow
By Victor Hugo
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

At dawn, tomorrow as the plains grow bright
I’ll leave. I know you're waiting for me too:
I'll cross the woodland and the mountain height.
I can no longer be away from you.

With eyes fixed on my thoughts, I will go forth.
The world outside me I'll not hear or see,
Unknown, alone, hands crossed, back hunched toward earth
In grief, and day will be as night to me.

I will not see the gold of evening gloam
Nor the sails off toward Harfleur far away,
And when I come, I'll place upon your tomb
Some blooming heather and hollies in bouquet.

The Original: 

Demain Dès l'Aube

Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et, quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Louise Labé: Sonnet 8 (From French)

Sonnet 8
By Louise Labé
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I live, I die: I burn myself, I drown.
        I'm hot in the extreme while suffering cold.
        Life is too soft for me, too hard to hold.
        My joy and heavy ache are mixed in one
At once I laugh and smile, and weep and frown
        In pleasure, my heart finds great pangs and grief.
        The good flies off, yet stays without relief.
        At once I blossom green, and wither brown.
Thus does Love lead me on capriciously,
        And when I think my lot is but more pain
        With scarce a thought I find myself pain-free.
Then when I think my joy a certainty
        And fortune's peak is finally my domain, 
        He casts me down to deep old grief again. 

The Original:

Je vis, je meurs : je me brule et me noye.
        J’ay chaut estreme en endurant froidure :
        La vie m’est et trop molle et trop dure.
        J’ay grans ennuis entremeslez de joye :
Tout à un coup je ris et je larmoye,
        Et en plaisir maint grief tourment j’endure :
        Mon bien s’en va, et à jamais il dure :
        Tout en un coup je seiche et je verdoye.
Ainsi Amour inconstamment me meine :
        Et quand je pense avoir plus de douleur,
        Sans y penser je me treuve hors de peine.
Puis quand je croy ma joye estre certeine,
        Et estre au haut de mon desiré heur,
        Il me remet en mon premier malheur.

Note on the French text:

L13: Heur does not, as all of Labé's most prominent English translators seem to think, have the primary meaning of "hour." The Renaissance French word for hour was heure, with an E at the end, just as in modern French. Heur, here being opposed to the related malheur, meant "fortune, chance." Reading it as "hour" makes the line in question into bathetic nonsense. Hours, being time units, tend to pass. Why Labé would think herself at the peak of her sought-after hour, and then expect the reader to be surprised that that hour passes away, as is the wont of hours to do, is a mystery to me.
The mistake of translators is all the more amusing given that plays on heur vs heure were, as one would expect, quite common. For example there's Labé's colleague Maurice Sceve writing "Et tant me fut l'heur, et l'heure importune..." and Labé herself lamenting l'heur passé "past fortune" which one translator renders as "hours, gone now" thereby allowing linguistic incompetence to riotously yet unpardonably force Labé's subversion of a cliché to be replaced with the actual cliché itself.
The mistake may be due to the fact that the word is little used in modern French, with the exception of some fossilized phrases such as Il n'y a qu'heur et malheur dans ce monde "There is but fortune and misfortune in this world" and Je n'ai pas eu l'heur de... meaning "I haven't had the pleasure of...", usually meant sarcastically with the implication that the object of the phrase is something rather unpleasurable.

Louise Labé: Sonnet 23 "Men and their Clichés" (From French)

Sonnet 23
Louise Labé
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

What use to me that you sang long ago 
 The perfect praise of my gold flowing hair,
 And my eyes' beauty like unto a pair
 Of suns, whence Love drew back a subtle bow
To shoot the bright shafts needling you with woe?  
 Ah momentary tears, where are you now?
 Where now is Death whereby you bound that vow
 Of steadfast love which you repeated so?
Was this the goal behind the ruse you gave me? — 
 Pretend to serve, the better to enslave me.
 Forgive me this time, love, if I speak free
For I'm beside myself with rage and spite, 
 Yet I should like to think: wherever you be,
 You're no less miserable than me tonight.  
Sonnet 23
Louise Labé
Click to hear me recite the original French

Las! Que me sert, que si parfaitement  
 Louas jadis et ma tresse doree,
 Et de mes yeus la beaulté comparee
 A deus soleils, dont Amour finement
Tira les trets causez de ton tourment? 
 Où estes vous, pleurs de peu de duree?
 Et Mort par qui devoit estre honoree
 Ta ferme amour et iteré serment?
Donques c’estoit le but de ta malice 
 De m’asservir sous ombre de service?
 Pardonne moy, Ami, à cette fois,
Estant outree et de despit et d’ire: 
 Mais je m’assure, quelque part que tu sois,
 Qu’autant que moy tu soufres de martire.

Two notes on the French text:

L5: Trets of course means "darts, arrows (of love)" and also "traits, features."

L9: Renaissance French Malice is not the malignity of Modern English "malice" though almost all Labé's translators into English seem to have taken this as the primary sense. The word has, and has had over the history of the French language, a multitude of meanings and shades thereof. By this word, in her time and place, Labé probably means something like "toying" or more precisely: screwing around with someone without due regard for their well-being, but more for your own pleasure than out of a desire to do them harm. Yet the word also has other resonances, and polysemy is one of Labé's best skills.

On Louise Labé:

Louise Labé was - apart from being a great poet of 16th century France - an accomplished scholar, a spirited horsewoman and an outspoken defender of women's humanity. I don't like to use the term "feminism" to describe advocates of women's dignity from before the 19th century, but in Labé's case I think it applies. Her surviving writings  attest to a vision of emancipation for women both in public and private life. Her achievement was possible because Lyonnais society, relatively speaking, offered women a considerable measure of freedom and opportunities which would have been denied them in other parts of Europe at the time. It is no accident that not just Labé but a few other women of letters hailed from 16th century Lyon. One might compare this to the exclusively male output of other contemporaneous literary centers.
"Since the time has now come, Madamoiselle. when men’s draconian laws can no longer prevent women from applying themselves to scholarship and learning, it seems to me that those with the means should avail themselves of this deserved freedom— which our sex so deeply desired in ages past —to pursue them: demonstrate to men how wrong they were to deprive us of the benefit and esteem we might have earned by achieving these things."
"Estant le tems venu, Madamoiselle, que les severes loix des hommes n’empeschent plus les femmes de s’apliquer aus sciences et disciplines: il me semble que celles qui ont la commodité, doivent employer cette honneste liberté, que notre sexe ha autre fois tant desiree, à icelles aprendre: et montrer aus hommes le tort qu’ils nous faisoient en nous privant du bien et de l’honneur qui nous en pouvoit venir"
-Louise Labé, from an epistle written in 1555. 
Labé could not have known that the growing trend of female emancipation in her region was going to completely reverse itself a few decades after her death, and her dream would have to wait hundreds of years more to begin to be realized.

That she was a celebrated beauty we know because her male contemporaries did as men often do with women who distinguish themselves intellectually, and made much of her appearance. One wonders whether the amatory verse of her male contemporary, the celebrated Pierre de Ronsard, would have achieved preeminence had readership and posterity paid that kind of attention to how very ugly he was by the standards of his time.

She was also the subject of much popular male opprobrium in her own day (the society of Lyon may have been relatively flexible and free, but even the Lyonnais had limits), and much male innuendo in the centuries after her death, principally for her forays into typically male domains. Calvin famously called her a plebeia meretrix "common whore." He especially disapproved of her wearing men's clothes, and of her encouraging women to focus on cultural and intellectual development rather than on jewels and fashion.

While not always approaching Calvin's crudity, a goodly amount of the scholarship on her until recently has focused - to put it bluntly - on which men she did, or did not, have sex with (and if so, how much.) I'm not even kidding. The writings about her from before the second half of the 20th century, with the wildly overblown comparisons between her and Sappho, sometimes read like an almost parodic refraction of male sexual psychoses into the realm of literary criticism. On the other hand, her habit of masculinizing herself socially lead critics as late as the 60s to use the term "Amazon" to describe her.

Now onto Labé's actual poetics:

The Petrarchan poetic tradition, imported from Italy, exerted a strong influence on the literary scene of Labé's place and time, and she imbibed it deeply, even going so far as to write one of her sonnets in Italian. She writes not merely within, but also against, that universe, constantly exploring the both the possibility and the difficulty of using it as a medium to express feminine lust, and much more besides.

She is quite remarkably unflinching in claiming her own passion for male beloveds. At the same time she uses the Petrarchan tradition to critique or mock the insincerity or absurdity that the male dominance of that tradition typically suppresses. The result seems like something of a love-hate relationship with the tradition itself.

Alongside statements of passion, and urgings directed toward other women to explore their desire, the reader finds, for example example, a sonnet lamenting a desired man's sexual impotence. Elsewhere in prose, she has an insecure Venus validating herself exclusively through Cupid's visual assessment of her own good looks, and does so to satirize the blason (a Renaissance poetic genre characterized by male praise of specific female body parts.)

In the poem translated above, one finds Labé lamenting - as is her wont - a man's failure to deliver. In this case, she is undercutting the semantic value of the poetic clichés men's verse typically used to describe women (golden hair, eyes like suns, cupid's arrow, I would die before I cease to love thee, etc.)  and demonstrating that that banality corresponds to  dishonesty, namely that of a man lacking the courage of his conceits.

Goethe: Prometheus (From German)

This translation goes out to skeptics, agnostics, secularists and unbelievers everywhere.  

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original German
Click to hear me recite the English

Cover Your heavens, Zeus,
With cloud vapor
And try Your strike, as a boy 
Beheading thistles,
Against oaken tree and mountain height;
You still must leave me
My Earth standing 
And my hut which You did not build,
And my hearth, home's glowing
Fire which You begrudge me.

I know of nothing poorer
Under the sun than You gods!
Indigently You feed
Your majesty
On proffered sacrifice 
And breathfuls of prayer.
You would starve to naught
If children and beggars
Were not such fools full of hope.

When I was a child
That knew not its way in the world
I would lift my deluded eyes
To the sun as though out beyond it
There were an ear to hear my complaints
A heart like mine
That would take pity on my oppression.

Who came to my aid
Against the Titans' and their insolent rage?
Who delivered me from death,
From slavery?
Was it not you, sacred heart ablaze,
Who achieved it all?
And, swindled in your youth and good will,
Did you not glow, with thanks fit for a Savior,
For that mere Sleeper on high?

I should honor You? For what?
Did You ever gentle
The ache of my burden?
Did You ever dry
The tears of tribulation?
Was I not forged to manhood
By Time Almighty
And Eternal Destiny,
My masters and Yours?

Perhaps You believed
I should find life hateful,
And flee to the wilderness
Because not all my blossom-dreams 
Reached ripeness?

Here I sit, fashioning men
In my own image,
A race after my likeness,
A race that will suffer and weep,
And rejoice and delight with heads held high
And heed Your will no more
Than I!

The Original:


Bedecke deinen Himmel, Zeus,
Mit Wolkendunst
Und übe, dem Knaben gleich,
Der Disteln köpft,
An Eichen dich und Bergeshöhn;
Mußt mir meine Erde
Doch lassen stehn
Und meine Hütte, die du nicht gebaut,
Und meinen Herd,
Um dessen Glut
Du mich beneidest.

Ich kenne nichts Ärmeres
Unter der Sonn als euch, Götter!
Ihr nähret kümmerlich
Von Opfersteuern
Und Gebetshauch
Eure Majestät
Und darbtet, wären
Nicht Kinder und Bettler
Hoffnungsvolle Toren.

Da ich ein Kind war,
Nicht wußte, wo aus noch ein,
Kehrt ich mein verirrtes Auge
Zur Sonne, als wenn drüber wär
Ein Ohr, zu hören meine Klage,
Ein Herz wie meins,
Sich des Bedrängten zu erbarmen.

Wer half mir
Wider der Titanen Übermut?
Wer rettete vom Tode mich,
Von Sklaverei?
Hast du nicht alles selbst vollendet,
Heilig glühend Herz?
Und glühtest jung und gut,
Betrogen, Rettungsdank
Dem Schlafenden da droben?

Ich dich ehren? Wofür?
Hast du die Schmerzen gelindert
Je des Beladenen?
Hast du die Tränen gestillet
Je des Geängsteten?
Hat nicht mich zum Manne geschmiedet
Die allmächtige Zeit
Und das ewige Schicksal,
Meine Herrn und deine?

Wähntest du etwa,
Ich sollte das Leben hassen,
In Wüsten fliehen,
Weil nicht alle
Blütenträume reiften?

Hier sitz ich, forme Menschen
Nach meinem Bilde,
Ein Geschlecht, das mir gleich sei,
Zu leiden, zu weinen,
Zu genießen und zu freuen sich,
Und dein nicht zu achten,
Wie ich!


Pushkin: Stanzas to Tsar Nicholas I (From Russian)

Stanzas to Tsar Nicholas I
By Alexander Pushkin
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

In hopes of glory and good will
With fearless gaze I look ahead.
The star of Peter's dawn was ill
With many a rebel's severed head. 

But he with truth engaged men's hearts,
With learning gentled uncouth ways,
And honored Dolgorúki's arts 
Against the Musketeers' mad frays.

He bid with autocratic hand
Seeds of enlightenment grow free,
And did not spurn his native land,
Knowing full well its destiny.

Man of the sword, man of the scroll,
As shipmate and as shipwright known,
For with his all-embracing soul
He was a workman on the throne. 

In kinship likeness, then, take pride;
By noble lineage stand defined.
Like him let staunchness be your guide.
Eschew, like him, a vengeful mind. 
Line 1: Czar Nicholas had just let Pushkin out of exile upon his accession to the throne.
Line 3: i.e. Peter the Great
Line 7: Vasiliy Dolgoruki, sent abroad to be educated by Peter and later represented the Russian empire in several embassies in Western Europe. His later career was decidedly less lofty and decidedly unsuccessful in preventing his head from being liberated from the rest of his body.
Line 8: The Musketeers i.e. the Streltsy, units of guardsmen responsible mainly for border and municiple duties (including the protection of the Kremlin) who attempted to prevent Peter from coming to power 1682 and were subsequently disbanded.


В надежде славы и добра 
Гляжу вперед я без боязни: 
Начало славных дней Петра 
Мрачили мятежи и казни.

Но правдой он привлек сердца, 
Но нравы укротил наукой, 
И был от буйного стрельца 
Пред ним отличен Долгорукой.

Самодержавною рукой 
Он смело сеял просвещенье, 
Не презирал страны родной: 
Он знал ее предназначенье.

То академик, то герой, 
То мореплаватель, то плотник, 
Он всеобъемлющей душой 
На троне вечный был работник.

Семейным сходством будь же горд; 
Во всем будь пращуру подобен: 
Как он, неутомим и тверд, 
И памятью, как он, незлобен.


V nadéžde slávy i dobrá
Gljažú vperëd ja bez bojázni:
Načálo slávnykh dnej Petrá
Mračíli mjáteži i kázni.

No právdoj on privlëk serdcá,
I nrávy ukrotíl naúkoj,
I byl ot bújnogo streljcá
Pred nim otlíčen Dolgorúkoj.

Samoderžávnoju rukój
On smélo séjal prosveščénje,
Ne prezirál straný rodnój:
On znal jejó prednaznačénje.

To akadémik, to gerój,
To moreplávatelj, to plótnik,
On vseobjémljuščej dušój
Na tróne véčnyj byl rabótnik.

Seméjnym skhódstvom budj že gord;
Vo vsém budj praščuru podóbem:
Kak on neutomím i tvërd,
I pámjatju, kak on, nezlóben. 

Tyutchev: The Sacred Night (From Russian)

The Sacred Night
By Fyodor Tyutchev
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the poem in Russian

The sacred night has scaled the sky and rolled
The day of cheer, the day of graciousness
Up and away like a great golden shroud:
A shroud, spread over an abyss.

The outer world is over like a vision,
As Man, a homeless orphan, takes his place
In naked helplessness to stand alone
Before the big black of unfathomed space.

He is abandoned to his very self.
His mind is orphaned, thought is nullified.
He plummets through the fissure of his soul
With no support or limit from outside.
As all things of the living and the light
Seem but a dream to him, a dream long past,
In the unsolved, the strange, the very night,
He feels a fateful heritage at last.

The Original:
"Святая ночь"
Федор Тютчев

Святая ночь на небосклон взошла,
И день отрадный, день любезный
Как золотой покров она свила,
Покров, накинутый над бездной.

И как виденье, внешний мир ушел...
И человек, как сирота бездомный,
Стоит теперь, и немощен и гол,
Лицом к лицу пред пропастию темной.

На самого себя покинут он —
Упразднен ум, и мысль осиротела —
В душе своей, как в бездне, погружен,
И нет извне опоры, ни предела...
И чудится давно минувшим сном
Ему теперь все светлое, живое...
И в чуждом, неразгаданном, ночном
Он узнает наследье роковое.

Stefan George: "Think not too much..." (From German)

"Think not too much..."
By Stefan George
Requested by Georg Schulz (Thank you for your support)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original German

Think not too much about what no one knows!
The meaning of life’s figures can't be solved:
The wildswan you shot down then kept alive
A while out in the yard with shattered wing,
Recalled - you said - a thing of distant nature
Kindred to yours which you destroyed in him.
He ailed away with no thanks for your care
Nor rancor… yet when the dying came he did
Rebuke you with his dwindling eye for driving
Him through into another cycle of things.  

The Original:

Denk nicht zuviel von dem was keiner weiss!
Unhebbar ist der lebenbilder sinn:
Der wildschwan den du schossest den im hof
Du kurz noch hieltest mit zerbrochnem flügel
Er mahnte – sagtest du – an fernes wesen
Verwandtes dir das du in ihm vernichtet.
Er siechte ohne dank für deine pflege
Und ohne groll... doch als sein ende kam
Schalt dich sein brechend auge dass du ihn
Um-triebst in einen neuen kreis der dinge

Abraham Sutzkever: "Who will remain..." (From Yiddish)

This is one of Abraham Sutzkever's best-known, most widely-quoted and heavily translated poems. 
A question I sometimes get asked when I translate a poem which, like this one, been translated competently already numerous times is: why? Aren't there less over-exposed texts to work on? Answer: To see what I could do. 

(I have also written an Esperanto translation of this poem, available here)

By Abraham Sutzkever
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Yiddish

Who will remain? What will remain? There will remain a wind.
There will remain the blindness of the disappearing blind.
There will remain a strand of foam: a token of the sea.
There will remain a little hank of cloud stuck in a tree.

Who will remain? What will remain? A word's chance will remain
Prime mover cultivating grass of Genesis again
And there, in honor of none but itself, a violin rose
As understood by seven grasses of that grass that knows,

And more than all the stars in the expanse from north to here
There will remain the star that sinks down in a simple tear.
A drop of wine will always be there in the pitcher too.
Who will remain? God will remain. That not enough for you?

The Original:

װער װעט בלײַבן? װאָס װעט בלײַבן? בלײַבן װעט אַ װינט,
בלײַבן װעט די בלינדקײט פֿונעם בלינדן, װאָס פֿאַרשװינדט.
בלײַבן װעט אַ סימן פֿונעם ים: אַ שנירל שוים,
בלײַבן װעט אַ װאָלקנדל פֿאַרטשעפּעט אויף אַ בוים.

װער װעט בלײַבן? װאָס װעט בלײַבן? בלײַבן װעט אַ טראַף,
בראשיתֿדיק אַרויסצוגראָזן װידער זײַן באַשאַף.
בלײַבן װעט אַ פֿידלרויז לכּבֿוד זיך אַלײן,
זיבן גראָזן פֿון די גראָזן װעלן זיך פֿאַרשטײן.

מער פֿון אַלע שטערן אַזש פֿון צפֿון ביז אַהער,
בלײַבן װעט דער שטערן, װאָס ער פֿאַלט אין סאַמע טרער.
שטענדיק װעט אַ טראָפּן װײַן בלײַבן אין זײַן קרוג.
װער װעט בלײַבן? גאָט װעט בלײַבן, איז דיר ניט גענוג?

Joan Brossa: Time (From Catalan)

By Joan Brossa
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

This line is the present.

That line you just read is the past
(It fell behind after you read it)
The rest of the poem is the future,
existing outside your

The words
are here, whether you read them
or not. And no power on earth
can change that.

The Original:

El Temps

Aquest vers és el present.

El vers que heu llegit ja és el passat
-ja ha quedat enrera després de la lectura.
La resta del poema és el futur,
que existeix fora de la vostra

Els mots
són aquí, tant si els llegiu
com no. I cap poder terrestre
no ho pot modificar.

J.V. Foix: My Lord God (From Catalan)

Lord God
J.V. Foix
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Lord God, make my work hard and give me more.
Darken the night and keep the landscape sealed.
Raise walls against me on a harsher shore,
And weave your work on forestland and field.

Hands tied and dry as Hindus’, let me see
You clad in skins. Cut fissures for your dew
Into my mind! I am the Nobody
Who yell in tears and yell the name of You.

I’ll be a common serf for you, Dear God.
Raping the field and gleaning in the sod,
My lowly body burdened and diseased,

I'm free if in the blackest depths your eye
Illumines with its gaze the worlds where I 
Take my delight in you, and life is eased. .

The Original:

Senyor Déu

Feu, Senyor Déu, el meu treball més dur,
Fosca la nit, i el paisatge més clos,
Alceu-me murs en un ribatge cru,
Empal'lieu forests, prades i flors.
Lligat de mans i sec com un hindú,
Vestit de pells, obriu al Vostre ròs
La meva ment! Entre tots, só ningú,
I Us dic el nom sense repòs, i amb plors.

Só el serf comú si així Us plau, Senyor Déu,
I en camps forçats o en foradats pregons,
Plagat de cos i amb fardells damunt meu,
Em sé llibert si en el més negre fons
Els Vostres ulls il·luminen els mons
Que amb Vós delesc, i em fan el viure lleu.

Uri Tzvi Greenberg: On A Night of Rain In Jerusalem (From Hebrew)

To comment properly on this nigh-untranslatable poem would require an essay of considerable length. Which I will append here if I ever write it Suffice it to say that one should remember that this was written before Israel gained control of East Jerusalem (and with it, the Old City.)

On A Night of Rain in Jerusalem
By Uri Tzvi Greenberg
Requested by Daniel Harpaz  (thank you for your support)
Click to hear me recite the original Hebrew

The few trees in the yard moan like trees of a woodland,
River-laden, the loud deep thunderclouds reign.
The Angels of Peace guard my slumbering children
In the moan of the trees, and dark gathering of rain.

Out there: Jerusalem - city of Abraham's trial and glory
Where he bound his Son on a mount when time came.
The fire kindled at dawn still burns on the mountain.
The rains quench it not: the covenant's flame..

"If God commands me now as once He commanded
My Father of old, I shall surely obey"
Sing my heart and my flesh in this night of rain
And Angels of Peace guard my children till day!

What can equal this glory, this miraculous zeal
For Mount Moriah - alive from that ancient day on?
The covenant's blood sings in this father in prayer
Prepared for a Temple Mount offering at dawn. 

Out there: Jerusalem, and the moaning trees of God
Felled there by enemies throughout all of time,
The river-laden clouds bear sundering lightnings
And thunders, which in this night of rain are my signs
From the Almighty's Mouth to the end of all times.


The Original:

בליל גשם בירושלים

עצי מעט בחצר הומים כעצי יער,
כבדי נהרות עננים מרעמים,
מלאכי השלום למראשות ילדי
בהמיית העצים וחשרת הגשמים

בחוץ– ירושלים: עיר מסת הוד האב
ועקדת בנו באחד ההרים
האש–מישחרית עוד דולקת בהר
הגשמים לא כיבוה: אש בין הבתרים

אם אל יצווני כעת כשצווה"
לאבי הקדמון– אציית בודאי"
רן ליבי ובשרי בליל הגשם הזה
ומלאכי השלום למראשותי ילדי

מה מהוד מה משל לזה רגש פילאי
חי מקדם שחרית עד כעת אל הר מור:
מיתרונן דם הברית בגוף אב תפילי
נכון לקרבן הר הבית עם אור!

בחוץ ירושלים...והמיית עצי יה
שכרתום האויבים בה מכל הדורות
עננים כבדי נהרות: בם ברקים
ורעמים, שהם לי בליל גשם – בשורות
מפי הגבורה עד סוף הדורות


Beleyl géšem birušaláyim

ˁatsey meˁat beḥatser homim kaˁatsey yáˁar
Kivdey neharot ˁananim morˁamim,
mal'axey hašalom limra'ašot yeladay
Behemyat haˁetsim veḥašrat hagšamim 

Baḥuts - yerušaláyim: ˁir masat hod ha'av
vaˁakedat bno be'aḥad heharim
Ha'eš mišaḥarit ˁod doléket bahar
Hagšamim lo xibúha, eš beyn habtarim

Im el yetsavéni kaˁet kešetsiva 
Le'avi hakadmon, atsayet bevaday
Ran libi uvsari beleyl hagéšem haze
Umal'axey hašalom limra'ašotey yeladay

Ma mehod, ma mašal leze régeš pil'i
Ḥay mikédem šaḥarit ˁad kaˁet el har mor
Mitronen dam habrit beguf av tfili
Naxon lekorban har habáyit ˁim or

Baḥuts yerušalayim, vehemyat ˁatsey ya
Šekratum ha'oyvim ba mikol hadorot 
ˁananim kivdey neharot, bam brakim
Ureˁamim šehem li beleyl géšem bsorot
Mipi hagvura ˁad sof hadorot.