Todros Abulafia: Love's Labor Pangs (From Hebrew)

This little poem poem is a subversion of the morning blessing ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני אשה Blessed art Thou Lord our God, King of the Universe, that hast not made me a woman. It is not the only such subversion in medieval Hebrew letters. Qalonymos ben Qalonymos has another, much longer one, in which he too expresses the wish to have been born a woman.

Love's Labor Pangs
Todros Abulafia (13th cent.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

On an Arab girl whom I'd love to have as a lover, whom I saw with other women kissing one another. 

I've known love's labor pangs, but brought forth naught. 
I'm in the snares of her, an Arab fawn.
My soul so longs for kisses from her mouth
That I long to turn myself into a female
For it is women that she'll woo and kiss
But I am lost. For I was born a male. 

The Original:

באהבה חלתי
טודרוס אבולעפיה
طدروس ابو العافية

על בת ערב ערבה לי אהבתה, ובתוך עלמות ראיתי אותה, משיקות אשה על אחותה.

בָּאַהֲבָה חַלְתִּי וְלֹא יָלַדְתִּי,
וּבְפַח צְבִיָּה בַּת עֲרָב נִלְכַּדְתִּי.
לִנְשֹׁק בְּפִיהָ אִוְּתָה נַפְשִׁי עֲדֵי
לִהְיוֹת נְקֵבָה בַעֲדָהּ חָמַדְתִּי —
כִּי הַנְּקֵבוֹת הִיא מְנַשֶּׁקֶת, וּבִשְׁ־
בִיל שֶׁאֲנִי זָכָר, אֲנִי הִפְסַדְתִּי!



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