Salvatore Quasimodo: Agrigentum Road (From Italian)

Agrigentum Road
By Salvatore Quasimodo
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

There a wind remains that I recall afire
within the manes of horses as they slanted
their way across the planes, a chafing wind
that eats at the sandstone, erodes the hearts
of derelict caryatids cast down
Onto the grass.
Soul of antiquity
Gone gray with age and rage, turn back and lean
into that wind, breathe of the delicate moss
clothing those giants tumbled out of heaven.
How lonely what is left to you must be!
And worse: to break your heart to hear once more
that sound resound and dwindle
out to sea
where Hesperus already streaks the dawn:
a sad jew's-harp reverberating through
the throat of that lone cartman as he slowly
ascends his moon-cleansed hill again through dark
murmurings of the Moorish olive trees.

Audio of me reading the original Italian:


The Original:

Strada di Agrigento

Là dura un vento che ricordo acceso
nelle criniere dei cavalli obliqui
in corsa lungo le pianure, vento
che macchia e rode l'arenaria e il cuore
dei telamoni lugubri, riversi
sopra l'erba. Anima antica, grigia
di rancori, torni a quel vento, annusi
il delicato muschio che riveste
i giganti sospinti giù dal cielo.
Come sola nello spazio che ti resta!
E più t'accori s'odi ancora il suono
che s'allontana verso il mare
dove Espero già striscia mattutino
il marranzano tristemente vibra
nella gola del carraio che risale
il colle nitido di luna, lento
tra il murmure d' ulivi saraceni.

Goethe: The Elvenking (From German)

The Elvenking1
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click hear me recite the German

Who rides so late on a night so wild?
A father, through darkness and wind, with his child.
He holds the youngster. His arm is tight
To keep him warm in the cold of the night.

"What's wrong? Son, why are you hiding your eyes?"
"Look father; can't you see the Elvenking rise?
The Elvenking there, all gowned and crowned?"
"My son, it's only fog from the ground"

Dear little child, come away with me.
Our games together- what game's they'll be!
I've gorgeous gardens along the shore.
My mother will cloak you in gold galore.

"O father! My father: oh can you not hear
The promise the Elvenking breathes in my ear?"
"Son, easy. Take it easy there.
It's withered leaves in the windy air. "

So, sweet little boy, will you come my way?
My daughters will wait on you night and day.
My daughters will dance through the night in a ring.
You'll rest as they rock you and sleep as they sing.

"O Father! My father: oh can you not see
His daughters in darkness looking at me?"
"My son, my son. What I see is the way
The old gray wayside willow trees sway."

I love you! Your beauty is stirring my lust.
And if you're unwilling, I'll take as I must!
"O father! My father! He won't let me go!
Elvenking's holding me, hurting me so!"

The father shudders. He spurs his horse on.
His arm is clasping his moaning son.
Back home under strain and stress he sped,
And in his arms the boy was dead.


1 The coinages Erlkönig and Erlenkönig in German, which actually mean "the king of the alder-trees" are in fact Herder's fortuitous mistranslations of the Danish word ellerkonge: elf king. Erlkönig therefore became associated with trees. In his folksong collection, Herder published his rendering of a Danish ballad in which a knight, riding through the forest is taken by a sprite who introduces herself as "the elf king's daughter." Goethe adopted Herder's hybridized form.

The Original:

Erlkönig

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?-
Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif?-
Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.

"Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
Gar schöne Spiele spiel ich mit dir,
Manch bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
Meine Mutter hat manch güldne Gewand."

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?-
Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;
In dürren Blätern säuselt der Wind.

"Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?
Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,
Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein."

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort?-
Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh es genau;
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau.

"Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt."-
Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!-

Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

Psalm 113 (From Biblical Hebrew)

Psalm 113: Hallelujah
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

 Yahweh's servants! Praise praise the name of Yahweh.
 Blessed be the name of Yahweh now and evermore
 From the source of dawn to the seat of sundown praised be Yahweh's name.
 High over all nations, Yahweh;  and over the heavens His glory
 Who is there like Yahweh our God throned on high,
 Looking below on heavens and earth?
 Raiser of paupers from dust, from dungheaps lifting the needy,
to seat him with princes, the princes of his people,
and seating the barren woman at home a mother of sons in joy.


Audio recording of me chanting the original in reconstructed Tiberian Hebrew pronunciation:

(I must say, trying to follow the Talmudic prescriptions for the reading of Hallel psalms in the early synagogue made things a bit long-winded in this one with all the responsory Halaluyahs after every half-verse. I figured I'd alternate them with upward and downward motifs. That way, highlighting the structure of the verse-line, they at least have a job to do.)

The Original:

הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ ׀
הַ֭לְלוּ עַבְדֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה
  הַֽ֝לְל֗וּ אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם יְהֹוָֽה׃
יְהִ֤י שֵׁ֣ם יְהֹוָ֣ה מְבֹרָ֑ךְ
  מֵ֝עַתָּ֗ה וְעַד־עוֹלָֽם׃
מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁ֥מֶשׁ עַד־מְבוֹא֑וֹ
  מְ֝הֻלָּ֗ל שֵׁ֣ם יְהֹוָֽה׃
רָ֖ם עַל־כׇּל־גּוֹיִ֥ם ׀ יְהֹוָ֑ה
  עַ֖ל הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם כְּבוֹדֽוֹ׃
מִ֭י כַּיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ
  הַֽמַּגְבִּיהִ֥י לָשָֽׁבֶת׃
הַֽמַּשְׁפִּילִ֥י לִרְא֑וֹת
  בַּשָּׁמַ֥יִם וּבָאָֽרֶץ׃
מְקִ֥ימִ֣י מֵעָפָ֣ר דָּ֑ל
  מֵ֝אַשְׁפֹּ֗ת יָרִ֥ים אֶבְיֽוֹן׃
לְהוֹשִׁיבִ֥י עִם־נְדִיבִ֑ים
  עִ֗֝ם נְדִיבֵ֥י עַמּֽוֹ׃
מֽוֹשִׁיבִ֨י ׀ עֲקֶ֬רֶת הַבַּ֗יִת
  אֵֽם־הַבָּנִ֥ים שְׂמֵחָ֗ה
    הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃

Psalm 117 (From Biblical Hebrew)

The audio recording for this is a little different from my usual Tiberian Hebrew recordings. See the note below for more.

Psalm 117
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Praise Yahweh, nations all
 Salute Him, peoples all
For His kindness prevails upon us
 and Yahweh's truth is forever.
  Praise the Lord.

Audio recording of me chanting the original in reconstructed Tiberian Hebrew pronunciation:

A friend pointed out to me — in connection with the reading of this and other Hallel psalms — that the Babylonian Talmud (Sukkah 38b and also Tractate Sofrim believed to be composed in Palestine) and, in a more oblique way, the Jerusalem Talmud (Shabbat 16) inform us as to the specifics of communal participation in the chanting of the hallel psalms in the early synagogue. Specifically, they state that it was done with the first helf-verse as a call-response, then with the rest as a responsory with הללויה. I am uncertain as to whether the song-final instance of הללויה in the actual text is to be treated as its own half-verse for these purposes (and thus get a responsory הללויה before and after it) or if the reader is to read the whole påsūq up to הללויה on his own uninterrupted, and then be answered by a final הללויה in response. I figure the former, more orthopractically fastidious reading would be likely to crop up anyhow no matter what so I went with that. 
The practice is I understand not common today, but the inference I take (given that not only the Talmuds attest this, but Rambam endorses it) is that people living in the Land of Israel during the Masoretic period — the actual user-base of the Tiberian reading tradition — would likely have chanted the hallel psalms in this fasion. 

So I figured, why not incorporate that into my Tiberian reading of this psalm? It's a simple matter of recording on multiple tracks and rhythmicizing the cantillation in a way proper to psalmodic delivery. On hearing the result, a certain person, who shall remain anonymous, remarked "wow, that sounds so Christian". Make of that what you will. To me, fact that I managed to produce something Christian-sounding simply by following directives from Rambam and the Sages of the Talmud, is absolutely hysterical. 

The Original:
 הַלְלוּ אֶת-יְהוָה, כָּל-גּוֹיִם;    
שַׁבְּחוּהוּ, כָּל-הָאֻמִּים.
 כִּי גָבַר עָלֵינוּ, חַסְדּוֹ   
וֶאֱמֶת-יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם: 
הַלְלוּ-יָהּ.

Psalm 1: "Happy the man" (From Biblical Hebrew)

"Happy the Man"
Psalm 1
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Happy the man who has not walked as the wicked counsel
 nor sat in scoffers' sessions
 nor stood the wrongers' way. 
But makes Yahweh's teaching his desire
 and murmurs His teaching night and day. 
He is to be as a tree planted by water streams
 that bears its fruit in season
  with never-withering leaf,
and thrive in every thing he does. 

Not so the ungodly wicked,
 but like chaff wind whips away.
So no the wicked shall not stand in judgment,
 nor wrongers with the righteous host. 
For Yahweh grasps the way of the righteous
 and the wicked's way is lost.

Audio recording of the original text chanted in Tiberian Hebrew:


The Original:


אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים
           וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד 
     וּבְמוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב׃
כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהֹוָ֗ה חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ
     וּֽבְתוֹרָת֥וֹ יֶהְגֶּ֗ה יוֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה׃
וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮ שָׁת֢וּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם
     אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְי֨וֹ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתּ֗וֹ
וְעָלֵ֥הוּ לֹֽא־יִבּ֑וֹל
   וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ׃
לֹא־כֵ֥ן הָרְשָׁעִ֑ים
     כִּ֥י אִם־כַּ֝מֹּ֗ץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶ֥נּוּ רֽוּחַ׃
עַל־כֵּ֤ן לֹא־יָקֻ֣מוּ רְ֭שָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט
     וְ֝חַטָּאִ֗ים בַּעֲדַ֥ת צַדִּיקִֽים׃
כִּֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יְ֭הֹוָה דֶּ֣רֶךְ צַדִּיקִ֑ים
     וְדֶ֖רֶךְ רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד׃

Anonymous: Litany Against Fear (from Biblical Hebrew)

(Note for people who haven't read Dune: this is just me screwing around)

Discovered unvocalized in a Qumran fragment. A vocalized version was found palimpsested in Aharon Ben Asher's recipe book.

Audio recording of the "original" text chanted in Tiberian Hebrew:


Prayer of the Sons of Gesserit
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A prayer of the Sons of Gesserit at a time of trouble.
I must not fear. For fear is the mind's murderer.
Fear is the little death that turns 
To end my life over and over.
Without fear, I will die only once. 

The Original:




תְּפִלָּ֖ה לִבְנֵ֥י כתיב הגשרים קרי הַגְּֽסֵּרִי֑ת בְּעֵ֖ת הַֽצָּרָֽה׃ 
אַ֖ל אֶפְחָ֑דָה                 כִּ֣י פַ֔חַד ה֖וּא הוֹרֵ֥ג הַלֵּֽב׃
פַּ֛חַד ה֖וּא הַמָּ֥וֶת הַֽקָּט֑וֹן הַמִּֽתְהַפֵּ֖ךְ לַֽהֲמִיתֵֽנִי׃ 
כְּאֵ֕ין פַּ֖חַד אָמ֑וּת          רַ֖ק פַּ֥עַם אֶחָֽת׃

Bible: Song of Heshbon (From Hebrew)

This may or may not be a very old text, but I think it is. As befits an old text, there are points of obscurity. Scholarly opinion is much divided as to what exactly it is: a taunt-song celebrating an Israelite victory over Sihon, an ancient Amorite victory-song celebrating Sihon's victory over Moab, an Israelite victory song celebrating the conquest of Moab, or a taunt-song referring to the defeat of Moab by some non-Israelite enemy. The great uncertainty is a function of the obscurity of several components of the last verse, where a text that ceased to be intelligible spawned multiple different attempts to make sense of it. As far as the redactor of the prose text is concerned, it celebrates an Amorite victory over Moab. Its purpose in the Book of Numbers does not seem mysterious. Heshbon was a great Amorite city, apparently famous in song for how its king wrested land from the Moabites. For the Israelites to be written into the story as a people that did to Sihon what he did to Moab magnifies their stature, and de-fangs the song of Sihon's accomplishments into mere prelude to his downfall. At some point before the close of the Masoretic period, this ceased to be understood, resulting in a revocalization of the key word ונירם as if it were a verb and messing up the rhythm.

If it is an adaptation into Judean Canaanite of a passage from what was once a well-known Amorite epic, it may be counted the first known instance of literary translation in Jewish history. Then again, I'm not quite sure the party that sutured this passage into the Book of Numbers even conceived of Amorite and Judean as entitely different languages from each other. It's tempting, but probably pointless, to ask how different might the "real" original have been. Perhaps enormously, and perhaps not very.

At verse 28 I emend בלעה for בעלי per the LXX and follow a version of Hanson's reconstruction in this and much else including the ending. At 17 the MT's parsing of the opening of the poetic passage is screwy. The Masoretic accents make perfectly good sense as is (something like "Come to Heshbon! Let the city of Sihon be built and stand firm.") But poetically it seems like it would work better to shift the ʔaṯnåḥ over to תבנה. (This would require making באו חשבון a level 2 conjunctive-disjunctive unit, and letting ותכונן stand as an unbound disjunctive.) So hypothetically, I think: בֹּ֥אוּ חֶשְׁבּ֖וֹן תִּבָּנֶ֑ה וְתִכּוֹנֵ֖ן עִ֥יר סִיחֽוֹן׃. This gives a neater syntactic balance, and the two clauses stand in chiastic relationship to each other. Perhaps the habit of joining תיבנה ותיכנה (as e.g. when mentioning Jerusalem among some Mizrahim, as a friend informs me) gave the Masoretes a sense — at a late date — that those two verbs had to stand as a single conjunctive-disjunctive phrase.

I have translated the text according to this hypothetical reconstruction of the original parsing, and with heavy emendation. But in my recording, I have allowed the Masoretic text to stand as is. This is because, when I do Tiberian readings to accompany my translations of Biblical verse, my principle is to let the MT stand in the audio reading without emendation of any kind— no matter how obviously garbled a given word or passage may be. The Tiberian reading is a descendant of, and liturgical heir to, the "proto-Masoretic" reading tradition cultivated in priestly circles of the Second Temple. Particular effort was expended to stabilize and preserve it in the Middle Ages (obviously, without success). Tiberian Hebrew being the most direct heir to the priestly reading of the temple, it seems proper for a reading in it to respect the Masoretic text with all its quirks and wrinkles.

I've translated the poetic passage into a slightly loose accentual alliterative meter of the kind known from early Germanic.

Audio recording of the original text read in Tiberian Hebrew:



The Song of Heshbon: The Amorites' Defeat of Moab
Numbers 21:26-30
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Heshbon is the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites. He had battled the first king of Moab and wrested all the land from him as far as the Arnon. So the tale-singers tell it:

Come to Heshbon  be it built high
 Let the city of Sihon  stand unshaken. 
A fire has burst  forth from Heshbon,
 A flame from the town  of towering Sihon.
It consumed all  of Ar in Moab,
 swallowed whole  the heights of Arnon.
Woe is you  wallowing Moab.
 People of Chemosh your kind is done. 
He has turned his sons  to sorry refugees
 surrendered his daughters  as slaves to a king
  to the Amorite sire,  to King Sihon.
Their yoke is done  from Heshbon to Dibon.
 Chemosh annulled  from Nofah to Medba.

The Original: (Masoretic Text)




כִּ֣י חֶשְׁבּ֔וֹן עִ֗יר סִיחֹ֛ן מֶ֥לֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִ֖י הִ֑וא וְה֣וּא נִלְחַ֗ם בְּמֶ֤לֶךְ מוֹאָב֙ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן וַיִּקַּ֧ח אֶת־כׇּל־אַרְצ֛וֹ מִיָּד֖וֹ עַד־אַרְנֹֽן׃ עַל־כֵּ֛ן יֹאמְר֥וּ הַמֹּשְׁלִ֖ים 

בֹּ֣אוּ חֶשְׁבּ֑וֹן תִּבָּנֶ֥ה וְתִכּוֹנֵ֖ן עִ֥יר סִיחֽוֹן׃ 
כִּי־אֵשׁ֙ יָֽצְאָ֣ה מֵֽחֶשְׁבּ֔וֹן לֶהָבָ֖ה מִקִּרְיַ֣ת סִיחֹ֑ן 
אָֽכְלָה֙ עָ֣ר מוֹאָ֔ב בַּעֲלֵ֖י בָּמ֥וֹת אַרְנֹֽן׃ 
אוֹי־לְךָ֣ מוֹאָ֔ב אָבַ֖דְתָּ עַם־כְּמ֑וֹשׁ 
נָתַ֨ן בָּנָ֤יו פְּלֵיטִם֙ וּבְנֹתָ֣יו בַּשְּׁבִ֔ית לְמֶ֥לֶךְ אֱמֹרִ֖י סִיחֽוֹן׃ 
וַנִּירָ֛ם אָבַ֥ד חֶשְׁבּ֖וֹן עַד־דִּיבֹ֑ן 
וַנַּשִּׁ֣ים עַד־נֹ֔פַח אֲשֶׁ֖רׄ עַד־מֵֽידְבָֽא׃


Emended: 


כי חשבון עיר סיחן מלך האמרי הוא והוא נלחם במלך מואב הראשון ויקח את כל ארצו מידו עד ארנן על כן יאמרו המשלים

באו חשבון תבנה     ותכונן עיר סיחון
אש יצאה מחשבון    להבה מקרית סיחן
אכלה ער מואב    בלעה במות ארנן
אוי לך מלך מואב   אבדת עם כמוש
נתן בניו פליטם      ובנתיו בשבית לסיחון
נירם אבד   חשבון עד דיבן
נשם כמוש   נפח עד מידבא

Litany Against Fear (from Gothic)

An ancient Gothic war-prayer that Fritigern had his men recite before doing battle with the Romans.

Well, it was either the Goths or the Bene Gesserit. Can't quite remember which.

Gothic Litany Against Fear
"Translated" by A.Z. Foreman

I shall not fear
for fear is minddoom. 
Fear is the spirit-slayer
and vile smalldeath 
that ceaselessly slays 
and knifes up the soul. 
Fear is everdeath 
that obliterates for a lifetime. 
But fearless I die 
simply of a sudden. 
Yea, fearless I perish
in a prick of time. 
Come Tiw lead me
 on a day of Tiw 
while war is vaulting 
in the veins of men. 
My blood bless you: 
embolden my bonehouse 
against the cloud of swords 
across the earth.
I shall not fear. 
See fully, my eyes.  

The "Original":

𐌽𐌹 𐍃𐌺𐌰𐌻 𐌹𐌺 𐍉𐌲𐌰𐌽 𐌹𐍃𐍄 𐌰𐌿𐌺 𐌰𐌲𐌹𐍃 𐌼𐌿𐌽𐌰𐌵𐌹𐍃𐍄𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃
𐌰𐌲𐌹𐍃 𐌹𐍃𐍄 𐌰𐌷𐌰𐌼𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌸𐍂𐌾𐌰 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐍃𐌰 𐌰𐍂𐌼𐌰𐌳𐌰𐌿𐌸𐌹𐌻𐍉
𐍃𐌰𐌴𐌹 𐌰𐍆𐍃𐌻𐌰𐌷𐌹𐌸 𐍃𐌹𐌽𐍄𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍉 𐌿𐍆𐌿𐌷𐍃𐌽𐌴𐌹𐌸𐌹𐌸 𐍃𐌰𐌹𐍅𐌰𐌻𐌰𐌹
𐌹𐍃𐍄 𐌰𐌲𐌹𐍃 𐌰𐌾𐌿𐌺𐌳𐌰𐌿𐌸𐌿𐍃 𐍃𐌰𐌴𐌹 𐌰𐌻𐌳𐌰𐌹 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌵𐌹𐍃𐍄𐌴𐌹𐌸
𐌰𐌺𐌴𐌹 𐌿𐌽𐌰𐌲𐍃 𐌳𐌹𐍅𐌰 𐌹𐌺 𐌰𐌹𐌽𐍆𐌰𐌻𐌸𐌰𐌱𐌰 𐌰𐌽𐌰𐌺𐍃
𐌾𐌰𐌹 𐌿𐌽𐌰𐌲𐍃 𐍃𐍅𐌰𐌻𐍄 𐌹𐌺 𐌹𐌽 𐍃𐍄𐌹𐌺𐌰 𐌼𐌴𐌻𐌹𐍃
𐌷𐌹𐍂𐌹 𐍄𐌴𐌹𐍅 𐌼𐌹𐌺 𐍄𐌹𐌿𐌷 𐍄𐌴𐌹𐍅𐌹𐍃 𐌳𐌰𐌲𐌹𐍃
𐌼𐌹𐌸𐌸𐌰𐌽𐌴𐌹 𐍅𐌰𐌲𐌾𐌹𐌸 𐍅𐌴𐌹𐌲𐍃 𐌹𐌽 𐍅𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌴𐌳𐍂𐍉𐌼
𐌸𐌿𐌺 𐌱𐌻𐍉𐍄𐌰𐌹 𐌼𐌴𐌹𐌽 𐌱𐌻𐍉𐌸 𐌼𐌴𐌹𐌽 𐌱𐌰𐌹𐌽𐌷𐌿𐍃 𐌱𐌹𐌱𐌰𐌻𐌸𐌴𐌹
𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐌼𐌴𐌺𐌴𐌹𐍃 𐌼𐌹𐌻𐌷𐌼𐌰𐌽 𐌿𐍆𐌰𐍂 𐌼𐌹𐌳𐌾𐌿𐌽𐌲𐌰𐍂𐌳
𐌽𐌹 𐍃𐌺𐌰𐌻 𐌹𐌺 𐍉𐌲𐌰𐌽 𐌰𐌿𐌲𐍉𐌽𐌰 𐌲𐌰𐍃𐌰𐌹𐍈𐌰𐍄𐍃

Nī skal ik ōgan 
ist auk agis munaqisteins
agis ist ahamaurþrja  
jah sa armadauþilō
saei afslahiþ sinteinō  
ufuhsneiþiþ saiwalai
ist ja agis ajukdauþus  
saei aldai fraqisteiþ
akei unags diwa ik  
ainafalþaba anaks
jai unags swalt ik 
in stika mēlis
Hiri Teiw mik tiuh 
Teiwis dagis
miþþanei wagjiþ weigs 
in wairēþrōm
þuk blōtai mein blōþ  
mein bainhūs bibalþei
ana mēkeis milhman 
ufar midjungard
Ni skal ik ōgan.  
Augōna, gasaiƕats.


Exodus 14.30-15.18 "Song of the Sea" (From Biblical Hebrew)

The dating of the Song of the Sea is a matter of some dispute. There is a widely held view that it is extremely old, on linguistic grounds. Indeed, the language of this song is more consistently archaic than any other coherent long passage of the Hebrew Bible. There is nonetheless a robust tradition of positing a relatively late (i.e. post-exilic) date for the Exodus 15. These all hinge on an ability to discount the archaisms as being intentional, the result of a late composer's (apparently uniquely successful) attempt to compose in an old style rather than an early composer using the language as it existed at the time.
The tendency for poetic language to tend toward, or preserve, archaic language more than prose does (e.g. Latin and Greek at every period, Old English, 18th Century English, French, Modern Welsh, Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Dutch, etc.) is so robustly attested cross-linguistically that it can be taken for granted as a commonplace of human linguistic behavior. Elaborations of this staggeringly banal fact have been used on the regular to try and argue a late date for all manner of apparently archaic compositions, and Exodus 15 is among their number, the most extensive case (and, for me, by far the most irritating) being the decades-long attempt of literary historians to argue for a late text of Beowulf.
Of course, there also exists the opposite tendency: arguing an early date for a text which on linguistic grounds cannot belong to that period. This involves claims that the text got partly modernized in transmission. There is general consensus on this matter regarding a lot of Old Irish poetry. Another Celtic case in point is the scholarship surrounding Y Gododdin, a Welsh poem which survives in a 13 century manuscript but is traditionally attributed to the 6th century Brythonic poet Aneirin. (Well, he is traditionally called a Welsh poet, but his stomping ground would actually lie in what is today Scotland.) The idea in this case is that the material was heavily modernized in transmission, leaving only portions of earlier language intact.

Literary attempts to project a late date onto a text in transparently early langauge always mean situating the text in an era which we know more about. This may be a large part of the appeal of such an approach. Thus for example Brenner's thesis that Ex. 15 was composed for the Passover feast during the Second Temple Period is father to his dismissal of all of the seeming archaisms as intentional stylistic options. But no other Biblical Hebrew poem really looks like this. We've no affirmative evidence that someone in the Second Temple period, trying to compose something new, would intentionally produce such a text with such a heavy and consistent freight of archaisms. All the archaic elements of Exodus 15 can be found individually in other — often late — poetic material but never with the same consistency and concentration in this fashion all together. If you knew nothing of the Song of the Sea, but knew the other poetic material of the Pentateuch as well as the more archaic of the psalms, you would never be able to use them as a model from which to derive the archaic style of Exodus 15 which just so happens to be supported by material in other Semitic languages. When late Biblical poets try to be archaic, they don't produce material that looks like this, and the most straightforward explanation is that they were either not able, or not inclined, to do so. Why should a late author of the Song of the Sea be so stylistically radical as to use archaic constructions in precisely the way that someone using an early form of Canaanite naturally would?

Anyway I think that the text really is an early poem, not a late poet's attempt to compose in an otherwise unattested archaic style. Here's a fun trick to try. If you run the sound-changes in reverse, you can get some sense of what it may have sounded like early on at some point in early Iron Age Judah. Given how speculative it is (relative chronology is one thing, but with absolute chronology?) I hesitate to call this a reconstruction of anything. The word would have to drop the prefix to describe it. It is definitely a construction. Of what, though, Dagon only knows.


As with all my translations of poetry from the Hebrew Bible, and poetry from early medieval Palestine, I am including audio recordings in Tiberian Hebrew. (Since I have gone and learned to read Hebrew in this fashion in order to produce an audio-companion for a book about this now-dead Hebrew liturgical dialect, and then lent my voice to a whole website about it, I figure I might as well get some use out of it.) I have included Exodus 14.30-31 in the text here, translated as as a small-font preface. The tail end of Ex. 14 forms the context in which Jewish readers since the Middle Ages have most commonly encountered Song, which is to say in prayer books, where it is grouped in with the Pesūqē deZimrā which may be said every day during the Šaḥarīt (Morning Prayer). Since I was including a Tiberian (i.e. medieval) reading, it seemed fitting to follow the siddurim and include Ex. 14:30-31 as a preface. Oh and here's an IPA transcription of the Tiberian Reading.

Here's a recording of me chanting the beginning (through 15:5) in Tiberian Hebrew, using the Temani Shira mode:

Here's a recording the whole text in a speaking voice


Song of the Sea
Exodus [14:30-15:1-18]
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

 And on that day did Yahweh deliver Israel from the hand of Egypt, and Israel see Egypt dead on the seashore. Israel saw what great handiwork Yahweh had wrought down on Egypt, and the people feared Yahweh, and trusted in Yahweh and in His slave Moses. 
 Then did Moses and the Israelites sing this song for Yahweh. They said:  

Sing1 for Yahweh for his coup of splendor:
Horse and horseman he hurled to the sea.
Yahweh is my strength and stave2 he became my salvation.
This god is mine whom I exalt,
god of my father  whom I extol:
Yahweh the war man3. Yahweh is his name.

Pharaoh's forces4 he flung to the sea
His pick of captains pitched in the Reed Sea.
The depths whelmed them over
They were downed in the deep like stone

Your right hand, Yahweh is majestic and right.
Your right hand, Yahweh, shatters enemies.
In ultimate splendor you felled those against You.
Fired forth your fury to combust them like straw.

At your nostrils' flare the waters heaped,
The waves like mounds stood up.
The deep congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said "I'll pursue, I'll subdue
I will share out the spoils, my gullet will glut on them
I will draw my sword,  my hand despoil them."
But you blew forth your breath and sea whelmed them over.
They went like lead, down  in the mighty water.

Who is like you,  Yahweh among the gods?
Who is like you  awesome among the holy?
Awe-bringer  hymn-hearer
Wreaker of wonders!

You stretched your right hand  and earth gulped them under,
You guided in your kindness  that folk you redeemed,
In your strength led their road
To your holy abode.

Peoples heard  and as peoples quaked,
The dwellers of Plesheth throttled with anguish.
The chieftains of Edom panicked.
The sires of Moab   seized with shudders
The kings of Canaan   quailed and melted.
Down upon them fell every horror;
Your brawned arm loomed and they were like stone
As your people crossed over,  Lord Yahweh,
As the people you made your creation crossed over.

You brought them to plant them  on the mount you bequeathed,
The ground you deemed   your dwelling, Yahweh
The sanctum O Lord your hand founded.

All hail Lord Yahweh
King for all time.


1 - I have emended the opening with the verson from Ex. 15:21

2 - the character string יהויהי is probably best divided as יהו יהי.

3 - The Pšiṭṭā gives a translation implying יהוה גיבור במלחמה which is also found in the Samaritan Pentateuch. The LXX has Κύριος συντρίβων πολέμους  "The Lord who shatters wars" which has been written about a great deal. There are three possibilities for the LXX. (a) it reflects — in translation — a radically pious intervention against the anthropomorphism of the MT version, (b) it reflects a slightly pious rendering of something like the Samaritan version (with the ב particle understood in the sense "against"), or (c) it reflects a variant which has left no trace elsewhere (and therefore the pious intervention lies not in the translation but its Vorlage). The real possibility of (c) should be kept in mind. Consider that while the Vulgate's "Dominus quasi vir pugnator, Omnipotens nomen eius" may reflect a Hebrew text according with the MT in the first half (though the "quasi" is either a bit of minor pious fudging or reflecting a Hebrew text with כאיש instead as in Isa 42:13), the following "Omnipotens nomen eius" seems utterly inexplicable as reflecting anything other than a Herbrew text containing שדי שמו, (which I think actually works nicer as poetry). More's the pity that we have no Qumran text for Exodus 15. In any case, evidently at some point a confusion crept into the tradition which yielded the Samaritan-type version for this line, whether or not it underlies the LXX. As איש מלחמה and גבור are commonly synonymous, conflation of two variants (יהוה איש מלחמה and יהוה גבור) seems like a plausible reason. גבור makes better sense metrically, but איש מלחמה seems to reflect the early anthropomorphism. Anyway, my translation doesn't care about literalism and so this is a bit moot on that score.

4 — metrically, if one were feeling speculative, one might wonder if מרכבת פרעה and פרעה וחיל are ancient variants which have been conflated. I went with the former. Of course, as always, my Tiberian Hebrew reading (meant to be a rendering of the text as it was known to the Tiberian Masoretes of the late first millennium) sticks to the Masoretic Text without any emendations.


The Original:

ויושע יהוה ביום ההוא את־ישראל מיד מצרים וירא ישראל את־מצרים מת על־שפת הים וירא ישראל את־היד הגדלה אשר עשה יהוה במצרים וייראו העם את־יהוה ויאמינו ביהוה ובמשה עבדו: אז ישיר־משה ובני־ישראל את־השירה הזאת ליהוה ויאמרו לאמר

שירו ליהוה   כי־גאה גאה
סוס ורכבו  רמה בים׃
עזי וזמרת יהוה  יהי־לי לישועה
זה אלי ואנוהו  אלהי אבי וארממנהו׃
יהוה איש מלחמה  יהוה שמו

מרכבת פרעה  ירה בים
מבחר שלשיו  טבעו בים־סוף׃
תהמת יכסימו  ירדו במצולת כמו־אבן׃

ימינך יהוה  נאדרי בכח
ימינך יהוה  תרעץ אויב׃
וברב גאונך  תהרס קמיך
תשלח חרנך  יאכלמו כקש׃
וברוח אפיך  נערמו מים
נצבו כמו־נד נזלים  קפאו תהמת בלב־ים׃

אמר אויב  ארדף אשיג
אחלק שלל תמלאמו נפשי
אריק חרבי  תורישמו ידי׃
נשפת ברוחך  כסמו ים
צללו כעופרת  במים אדירים׃
מי־כמכה  באלם יהוה
מי כמכה  נאדר בקדש
נורא תהלת  עשה פלא׃

נטית ימינך  תבלעמו ארץ׃
נחית בחסדך  עם־זו גאלת
נהלת בעזך  אל־נוה קדשך׃

שמעו עמים ירגזון
חיל אחז ישבי פלשת׃
אז נבהלו אלופי אדום
אילי מואב יאחזמו רעד
נמגו כל ישבי כנען׃
תפל עליהם  אימתה ופחד
בגדל זרועך  ידמו כאבן
עד־יעבר עמך יהוה  עד־יעבר עם־זו קנית׃
תבאמו ותטעמו  בהר נחלתך
מכון לשבתך  פעלת יהוה
מקדש אדני  כוננו ידיך׃
יהוה ימלך  לעלם ועד׃


Jules Boissière: The Buddha (From Occitan)

This translation originally appeared on Asymptote's blog as a Translation Tuesday feature

Born in 1863, Jules Boissière (Juli Boïssièra) spent his early years as a journalist, hobnobbing with the likes of Amouretti and Murras, and writing anemic verse with great virtuosity in two languages. In 1886 he changed careers, and headed for Hanoi, part of the recently consolidated territory of French Indo-China. He served in the 11th Alpine Infantry Battalion, and saw combat in some of the last few battles to conquer the Tonkinese countryside, before beginning his tenure in the French administrative corps in Saigon and Huế where he learned the language today known as Vietnamese, acquired at least a basic knowledge of Classical Chinese, and cultivated the fondness for opium for which he was to become notorious. He served a long post in Bình Định before returning to France to marry Thérèse Roumanille (Terèsa Romanilha), daughter of Joseph Roumanille the reactionary patriarch of the Provençal Félibre movement. Boissière returned to Tonkin with his wife in 1892, taking stewardship of the Revue Indochinoise. After another leave of absence in 1895, he was promoted to Vice-Resident 1st Class and died a painful intestinal death two years later.
Boissière wrote prolifically, but published little during his life. He is now best remembered for his collection of French Indo-Chinese short stories titled Fumeurs d'Opium "Opium Smokers". He also produced a sizable amount of poetry, both in French and in Occitan, a lot of which — particularly that from his later years — is extremely good. It is likely that some of his poetry remains unpublished. A posthumous collection of his Occitan verse Li Gabian "The Seagulls" was published in 1899 by his wife, who extracted the poems from among his manuscripts. Reading it, I have come across quite a few interesting pieces, the more so because generally "colonial exotic" themes are rare in Occitan literature of this period, which preoccupied itself mostly with its own soil. Like the stories in Fumeurs d'Opium, some of the poems deal with Chinese and Indo-Chinese themes. Interwoven with long odes of nostalgic yearning for his native country and rhapsodies to his fellow félibres, one finds things like an imaginative sonnet depicting a Chinese Princess reading Li Bai, or some lusciously lilting lines about stargazing from a boat gliding down the Mekong. Some are of a piece with some of the best of his French "oriental" poems. And then there are three or four poems where he goes Next Level, as in the one translated here, which caught me completely by surprise. It is like nothing at all that he wrote in French that I've seen. I was not expecting this. Not even a little bit.



The Buddha
By Jules Boissière
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Our soldiers won then torched a domicile. 
The owner with his sons ran half a mile
Under gunfire. On the ancestors' altar
Not guarding the old creeds or their old shelter,
The Buddha gave the wolfish men a smile.

How many hours has it been since! Where now
Is that house? Where's the pudgy god whose brow
And smile are sign of fate's indifferent law?
When man beneath mute Heaven prays or cries
I see again that Buddha's ruddy jaw,
His moonlike face and his too tranquil eyes.

Audio of me reading this poem in Occitan


The Original:

Though Boissière was a native speaker of Lengadocian Occitan, he like the rest of his generation wrote in Provençal Occitan, specifically the variety of Rhodanian Provençal which had been raised to literary status by Mistral and others among the Félibrige movement. I give the poem in original Roumanille-Mistralian orthography, copied directly from Li Gabian, and in the more recent  classicizing orthography. For all future Provençal texts in Roumanille-Mistralian orthography, I plan to include a parallel version in classical orthography.

Classical Orthography
Lo Boddha
Juli Boïssièra

Brulavan un ostau, nòstei soudards vincèires;
— Lo mèstre ambé sei fius peralin fugissiá
Sota la fusilhada; e sus l'autar dei rèires,
Luènh d'aparar l'ostau, l'autar e lei vièlhs crèires,
Ais òme' alobatits lo Boddha sorrisiá

Quant d'ora' an debanat desempèi! Monte es ara
L'ostau? Monte es lo Dièu poput de quau la cara
Sorrisenta retrais lo Sòrt indifferent?
— E sota lo cèu mut, quand l'òme prèga e crida,
Revese dau Boddha lei gauta' acolorida'
E sa fàcia de luna, e sei vistóns serens.
Original Orthography
Lou Bouddha
Juli Bouissiero

Brulavon un oustau nòsti soudard vincèire;
Lou mèstre emé si fiéu peralin fugissié
Souto la fusihado; e sus l’autar di rèire,
Liuen d’apara l’oustau, l’autar e li vièi crèire,
Is ome aloubati lou Bouddha sourrisié.

Quant d’ouro an debana desempèi! Mounte es aro
L’oustau? Mount es lou diéu poupu de quau la caro
Sourrisènto retrais lou sort indiferènt?
E souto lou cèu mut, quand l’ome prègo e crido,
Revese dóu Bouddha li gauto acoulourido,
E sa fàci de luno, e si vistoun seren.

Psalm 23 (From Biblical Hebrew)

Yahweh the Shepherd
Psalm 23
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Yahweh shepherds me I want for naught.
He lets me lie down  in grassy meadows,
He guides me out  by quiet waters.
He brings my life back.  
He leads me straight on Justice's footpaths
For his name's sake. 
Though I tread  in the death-shadow vale
I dread no harm:  for you are with me.
Your shepherd's crook,  Your walking-staff...
These things are my solace.  
You lay out a table to feed me  in the face of my foes.
You moisten my head with ointment. My cup overflows.
Let naught but goodness and kindness  flock with me
All the days of my life 
And the House of Yahweh  be my abode
For many long days. 

Audio recording of me chanting the original in reconstructed Tiberian Hebrew pronunciation:



The Original:


יְהוָה רֹעִי, לֹא אֶחְסָר.
בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא, יַרְבִּיצֵנִי;
עַל-מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי.
נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב;
יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי-צֶדֶק,
לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ.
גַּם כִּי-אֵלֵךְ
בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת,
לֹא-אִירָא רָע--
כִּי-אַתָּה עִמָּדִי;
שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ,
הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי.
תַּעֲרֹךְ לְפָנַי, שֻׁלְחָן--
נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי;
דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי,
כּוֹסִי רְוָיָה.
אַךְ, טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי
כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי;
וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה,
לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים.

Shmuel ben Hoshaˁna: "On Resurrection" (From Hebrew)

The payṭan Shmu'el ben Hoshaˁna (known also as Hashlishi "the Third", the ultimate rank he attained at the Yeshiva) was one of the central figures of the Eretz Israel Yeshiva in Jerusalem in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, and a prolific author of Hebrew liturgical poetry. The Yotzer is a sequence of poems which adorn the benedictions associated with the morning reading of the Shemaˁ.

This brief piyyūṭ is an ahava, the fourth in such a sequence, introducing the second benediction before the Shemaˁ, dealing with God's love for Israel. (Whence Israel as the "beloved" of the final verse). Like many ahavot, it includes an alphabetic acrostic. In this case, though, the letters occur in reverse order, evoking the Resurrection's reversal of death at the end of days. It draws on the Bible heavily for its language, and the effect of its language (e.g. for the ending see Hosea 14:5).

My translation is fairly free and interpretative. For example, the Messiah is not directly mentioned in this poem by that title. Rather his coming is mentioned in oblique form "with (the) Nūn of (the verb) Yinnōn" which means more or less something like "when the Messiah's reign begins" or perhaps "when the Messiah is born" depending on which way you swing the mysticism. Yinnōn is an obscure verb occurring only once in the Hebrew Bible (Ps. 72:17). Some (see e.g. B. Sanhedrin 98b) took it to be the Messiah's name, and Yinnōn is frequently used as a byword for the Messiah in piyyūṭīm. The letter nūn wound up especially associated with the Messiah in this connection, in part on account of the fact that n-w-n was taken to be the verb's root.

The audio recording is chanted in a reconstruction of Tiberian Hebrew. Shmuel, being a member of the Palestinian Yeshiva (which had recently been moved to Jerusalem from Tiberias) would have been well positioned to know this pronunciation of Hebrew. (Although readers who could teach this pronunciation were to quickly become impossible to find outside of Palestine.) It is not hard to picture Shmuel using it in reading his own Yotzerot.

An Ahava on the Resurrection
Shmuel Ben Hoshaˁna
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

You turn man back to dust,
but will turn back in kind
with kindness that we hymn.
You will bind back his bones,
extend again his tendons,
defend and fend for him.
You will fit him with flesh, 
you will screen him with skin
at the Messiah's dawn.
Then will your beloved
blossom like the lily,
cast root like Lebanon.


Audio recording of me chanting the original in Tiberian Hebrew:


The original:



דַּכָּא תָּשֵׁב אֱנוֹשׁ וְתָשׁוּב תָּחֹן וְתַחֲנֹן.
גְּרָמִים תְּדַבֵּק, גִּידִים תִּמְתַּח, וְגָנוֹן תִּגְנֹן,
בָּשָׂר תַּעֲלֶה, וְהָעוֹר תַּקְרִים בְּנוּן יִנּוֹן.
אֲהוּבְךָ יִפְרַח כַּשּׁוֹשַׁנָּה, יַךְ שָׁרָשָׁיו כַּלְּבָנוֹן.

Phonetic transcription in Tiberian Hebrew:

dakkʰɔː tʰɔːʃeːv ʔɛnoːʃ vaθɔːʃuːv tʰɔːħoːn vaθaːħanoːn
gaʀɔːmiːm tʰaðabbeːq giːðiːm tʰimtʰaːħ vaʁɔːnoːn tʰiʁnoːn
bɔːsɔːr tʰaːʕalɛː vɔhɔːʕoːʀ tʰaqʀiːm banuːn jinnoːn
ʔahuːvχɔː jifʀaːħ kʰaʃʃoːʃannɔː jaːχ ʃɔːʀɔːʃɔːv kʰallavɔːnoːn

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. 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)

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..

"Should God command me now as once He commanded
My Father of old, I will 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 miracle 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 in all generations. 
The river-laden clouds bear sunders of lightning
And thunder. These in this rainstruck night are my tidings
From the Almighty's Mouth till the end of generations.

-1954


Audio recording of me reading the original Hebrew:



The Original:


בְּלֵיל גֶּשָׁם בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם

עֲצֶי מְעַט בֶּחָצֵר הוֹמִים כַּעֲצֵי יַעַר,
כִּבְדֵי נְהָרוֹת עֲנָנִים מָרְעָמִים,
מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם לִמְרַאֲשׁוֹת יְלָדַי
בְּהֶמְיַת הָעֵצִים וְחַשְׁרַת הַגְּשָׁמִים

בַּחוּץ– יְרוּשָׁלַיִם: עִיר מַסַּת הוֹד הָאָב
וַעֲקֵדַת בְּנוֹ בְּאַחַד הֶהָרִים
הָאֵשׁ–מִשַּׁחֲרִית עוֹד דּוֹלֶקֶת בָּהָר
הַגְּשָׁמִים לֹא כִבּוּהָ: אֵשׁ בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים

אִם אֵל יְצַוֵּנִי כָּעֵת כְּשֶׁצִּוָּה"
לְאָבִי הַקַּדְמוֹן– אֲצַיֵּת בְּוַדַּאי"
רַן לִבִּי וּבְשָׂרִי בְּלֵיל הַגֶּשֶׁם הַזֶּה
וּמַלְאֲכֵי הַשָׁלוֹם לִמְרַאֲשׁוֹתֵי יְלָדַי

מַה מֵּהוֹד מַה מָּשָׁל לְזֶה רֶגֶשׁ פִּלְאִי
חַי מִקֶּדֶם שַׁחֲרִית עַד כָּעֵת אֶל הַר מֹר:
מִתְרוֹנֵן דַּם הַבְּרִית בְּגוּף אָב תְּפִלִּי
נָכוֹן לְקָרבַּן הַר הַבַּיִת עִם אוֹר!

בַּחוּץ  – יְרוּשָׁלַיִם...וְהֶמְיַת עֲצֵי יָהּ
שֶׁכְּרָתוּם הָאוֹיְבִים בָּהּ מִכָּל הַדּוֹרוֹת
עּנָנִים כִּבְדֵי נְהָרוֹת: בָּם בְּרָקִים
וּרְעָמִים, שֶׁהֵם לִי בְּלֵיל גֶשֶׁם – בְשׂוֹרוֹת
מִפִּי הַגְּבוּרָה עַד סוֹף הַדּוֹרוֹת



Eisig Silberschlag: On Heathen Footsteps (From Hebrew)

On Heathen Footsteps
Eisig Silberschlag
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Sun and wind and sea
And your body burning on sand,
Sun and wind and sea
And your body's wordless demand,
Sun and wind and sea
And your body in power of it all,
Sun and wind and sea—
Ah, a life without God, without thrall.


Audio recording of me reading the original Hebrew:


The Original:

בְּעִקְּבוֹת עַכּוּ״ם

שֶׁמֶשׁ וְרוּחַ וְיָם
וְגוּפֵךְ הַלּוֹהֵט עַל הַחוֹל,
שֶׁמֶשׁ וְרוּחַ וְיָם
וְגוּפֵךְ הַתּוֹבֵעַ בְּלִי קוֹל,
שֶׁמֶשׁ וְרוּחַ וְיָם
וְגוּפֵךְ הַחוֹלֵשׁ עַל הַכֹּל,
שֶׁמֶשׁ וְרוּחַ וְיָם —
הָהּ, חַיִּים בְּלִי אֵל וּבְלִי עֹל.

Eugenio Montale: Hitler Spring (From Italian)

Hitler Spring
By Eugenio Montale
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Nor she to see whom the sun turns about..
— Dante (?) to Giovanni Quirini

The dense white cloud of moths whirls crazy around
the whitish lights and over the parapets,
spreading a blanket on the ground that crackles
like sprinkled sugar underfoot. Now coming summer frees
the nightfrosts held in lockdown of the dead
season's secret cellars and in the gardens
that climb down from Maiano to these sandpits.

A hellsent herald just flew over the avenue
to a war-whoop of goons. A gaping orchestral pit, firelit
and decked with swastikas, seized and gulped him down.
Windows are shuttered up, shabby and harmless
though even they are fitted with guns and war toys;
the butcher who laid berries on the snouts
of slaughtered baby goats has closed. The feast day
of killers meek and mild, still ignorant of blood, has turned
to a sick contra dance of shattered wings,
of shadow larvae on the sandbars, and
the water goes on eating at the shore
and nobody is blameless anymore.

So, all for nothing? And the Roman candles
at San Giovanni slowly whitening
the skyline, and the vows and long farewells
as binding as a baptism in dismal
wait for the horde (but a gem scored the air,
strewing your ice, the edges of your coasts,
with the angels of Tobias, the seven,
seed of the future) and the heliotropes
born of your hands — all of it burned away,
sucked dry by a pollen that shrieks like fire
and stings like hail on wind....

                                                 Oh the wounded spring
is still a festival if it can freeze
this death back into death. Look up again
Clizia: it is fate, it is the fate
of changed you keeping up your changeless love,
until the sightless sun you bear within you
is dazzled in the Other and consumed
in Him, for all. Perhaps the sirens, the bells
tolling to hail the monsters on this eve
of all hell breaking loose already blend
with the sound loosed from the heavens that descends
and conquers—with breath of a dawn that may break
for all, tomorrow, white but without wings
of horror, on scorched rockbeds of the south.

The Original:

La Primavera Hitleriana

                Né quella ch’a veder lo sol si gira…
                — Dante (?) a Giovanni Quirini

Folta la nuvola bianca delle falene impazzite
turbina intorno agli scialbi fanali e sulle spallette,
stende a terra una coltre su cui scricchia
come su zucchero il piede; l’estate imminente sprigiona
ora il gelo notturno che capiva
nelle cave segrete della stagione morta,
negli orti che da Maiano scavalcano a questi renai.

Da poco sul corso è passato a volo un messo infernale
tra un alalà di scherani, un golfo mistico acceso
e pavesato di croci a uncino l’ha preso e inghiottito,
si sono chiuse le vetrine, povere
e inoffensive benché armate anch’esse
di cannoni e giocattoli di guerra,
ha sprangato il beccaio che infiorava
di bacche il muso dei capretti uccisi,
la sagra dei miti carnefici che ancora ignorano il sangue
s’è tramutata in un sozzo trescone* d’ali schiantate,
di larve sulle golene, e l’acqua seguita a rodere
le sponde e più nessuno è incolpevole.

Tutto per nulla, dunque? – e le candele
romane, a San Giovanni, che sbiancavano lente
l’orizzonte, ed i pegni e i lunghi addii
forti come un battesimo nella lugubre attesa
dell’orda (ma una gemma rigò l’aria stillando
sui ghiacci e le riviere dei tuoi lidi
gli angeli di Tobia, i sette, la semina
dell’avvenire) e gli eliotropi nati
dalle tue mani – tutto arso e succhiato
da un polline che stride come il fuoco
e ha punte di sinibbio…
                                                Oh la piagata
primavera è pur festa se raggela
in morte questa morte! Guarda ancora
in alto, Clizia, è la tua sorte, tu
che il non mutato amor mutata serbi,
fino a che il cieco sole che in te porti
si abbacini nell’Altro e si distrugga
in Lui, per tutti. Forse le sirene, i rintocchi
che salutano i mostri nella sera
della loro tregenda, si confondono già
col suono che slegato dal cielo, scende, vince –
col respiro di un’alba che domani per tutti
si riaffacci, bianca ma senz’ali
di raccapriccio, ai greti arsi del sud…

T. Carmi: Awakening (From Hebrew)

Awakening
By T. Carmi
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Come pass your hand across my lips. 
For I am not accustomed to this light. 

Our love is batlike, beats about the dark. 
It does not miss its mark. Your face defines
My hands to me. What can I know by light? 
Rise, pass your hand across me.

My sleep (what time is it?) held your childhood in my arms.
It's ten o'clock between the sea and night,
Midnight between us, seven between the dawn-slit blinds.
Oh no, I'm not accustomed to this light

That comes to open up my eyes like cold 
Eyelets. On the gunsights' scales I'll weigh
My blind gaze and the terror of your clay.
Rise, pass your hand through me.

Face to face, will I still have a face?
Perhaps I'll speak. Perhaps I will stay quiet. 
Come pass your hand across my lips. 
For I am not accustomed to this light. 


Audio recording of me reading the original Hebrew:

The Original:

יקיצה
ט. כרמי

בּוֹאִי, הַעֲבִירִי אֶת יָדֵךְ עַל פִּי.
אֲנִי אֵינִי רָגִיל בָּאוֹר הַזֶּה.
 
עֲטַלֵּפִית אַהֲבָתֵנוּ, סְחוֹר וַאֲפֵלוֹת,
וְלֹא תַחֲטִיא. פָּנַיִךְ מַסְבִּירוֹת לִי
אֶת יָדַי. מָה אָבִין בָּאוֹר?
קוּמִי, הַעֲבִירִי אֶת יָדֵךְ עָלַי.
 
שְׁנָתִי (מָה הַשָּׁעָה?) חָבְקָה אֶת יַלְדוּתֵךְ.
עֶשֶֹר בֵּין יָם לְלַיְלָה, חֲצוֹת בֵּינִי
לְבֵינֵךְ, שֶׁבַע בֵּין חֲרַכֵּי־הַשַּׁחַר.
הוֹ לֹא, אֵינִי רָגִיל בָּאוֹר הַזֶּה
 
הַבָּא לִפְקֹחַ אֶת עֵינַי כַּחֲרִירִים
קָרִים. בְּמֹאזְנֵי־הַכַּוֶּנֶת אֶשְׁקֹל
אֶת עִוְרוֹנִי וּפַחַד־עֲפָרֵךְ.
קוּמִי, הַעֲבִירִי בִּי יָדֵךְ.
 
פָּנִים־אֶל־פָּנִים, הַאִם עוֹד יִהְיוּ לִי?
אֲנִי עָלוּל לִשְׁתֹּק, אוֹ לְדַבֵּר.
בּוֹאִי, הַעֲבִירִי אֶת יָדֵךְ עַל פִּי.
אֲנִי אֵינִי רָגִיל בָּאוֹר הַזֶּה.