_ ספר/י לנו מה שגוי

דואל:

זכרו שאין משמעות למספרי שורה או עמוד בטקסט רציף באינטרנט. אנא ציינו מספר פסקה, ו/או העתיקו כמה מלים סביב כל שגיאה, כדי להקל עלינו למצוא את הטעון תיקון.

רשימת הגהות:

נודיע לך בדואל כשנעיין בהגהות ונתקן את הטקסט.

_ נשמע לשמוע מה אהבת!

דואל:

ההמלצה שלך:

(אנו מפרסמים המלצות ביומן הרשת שלנו)
פרויקט בן-יהודה: בפייסבוק | ב-YouTube
יומן הרשת של פרויקט בן-יהודה

Israel’s Sweetest Singer

Yehudah Halevi

(1080-1140)

by Abraham Regelson

including a new translation of LOVE OF ZION

לתוכן הענינים

© כל הזכויות שמורות.  החומר מובא ברשות בעלי הזכויות.

 

 

[published by the Hebrew Poetry Society of America, 1943]

 

“…And the poems of the Levite, Rabbi Yehudah, are a wreathe of grace on the head of Wisdom, and a band of rubies and opals around her neck.  He in the House of Song is the central pillar, firmly embedded in Craftsmanship…  He came into the Storehouse of Poesy, and robbed its Treasury and carried off its vessels of loveliness.  He went out, and closed the gate after him, so that all who follow in his footsteps, seeking to learn the craft of his poems, have not caught up with the dust of his chariots.  And all poets mouth his phrases, and kiss the foot of his bed; for in the labor of verse, his language is clear and polished, and with his songs of prayer he doth attract and conquer all men, and in his songs of passion his speech is like the falling of dew, and firecoals blaze forth from him, and in his laments he maketh flow the Cloud of  Weeping even to breaking… And in the Tent of Song the gates of High Spheres were opened to him, for there Divine Powers were revealed to him…”         ALHARIZI

 

Israel’s Sweetest Singer – YEHUDAH HALEVI

 

Yehudah Halevi, the consummate flower of the Spanish-Arabic school of Hebrew poetry, was born in Toledo, Christian Spain, in 1080.  His father, Samuel, was a rich man, and provided amply for the education of his son both in sacred and secular matters.  To enhance his scholarship, Yehudah was sent to Moslem Spain.  There he studied Talmud at the school of Rabbi Isaac Alphasi, and enjoyed the companionship of some of the eminent scholarsof the time, notably Joseph Ibn Migash and Joseph Ibn Tzadik.  After the custom of the Jewish intellectuals of the time, he chose medicine for his profession, to avoid making the Torah a source of livelihood.  After mastering the teachings of Jewry and the scientific and philosophic lore of the Arabs, he returned to his native town with the intention of settling there.  But the more spacious cultural atmosphere of Moslem Spain attracted him, and he finally established himself at Cordova, there spending all his mature life, till his inner urge drove him forth to seek the ruins and waste places of Palestine.

 

                  Little is known of his private life except that he was respected in his community and happy in his home life.  In this he was different from his two great forerunners in Hebrew poetry, Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Moses Ibn Ezra.  Ibn Gabirol was an orphan, proud and lonely and miserable.  He glorified Eternal Israel in verse, but was at odds with the communities  which sheltered him.  His mind ran to Higher Spheres, to religious ecstasies.  He died young.  Moses Ibn Ezra was a wandering ne’er-do-well, for all of a long life unable to overcome an early disappointment in love.  He compensated for a threadbare existence by a pompous, sensuous poetry, lavish in music and luxuriant in imagery.

                   

                  Yehudah Halevi was the heir of both Ibn Gabirol’s mystic flight and Ibn Ezra’s resplendent metaphor.  As a poet, he blended the extreme qualities of both to a more mellow style, adding a charm and sweetness all his own.  Far from being persecuted and rejected, he was “the heart” of his people during his lifetime, and remains the most beloved poet of all adepts of the Hebrew creative tradition.  The Jewish renaissance of our day leans heavily on him.  Heine popularized his name in a nostalige German poem.  Micah Joseph Lebensohn, Keats’ parallel in time and fate, sang richly of Halevi’s experience in the Holy Land.  Abraham Mappu borrowed the title of the Halevi ode, Love of Zion, for his own romance of ancient Palestinian life.  Recently, the entire Jewish world delved into Yehudah Halevi’s poetic and philosophic work in commemoration of the 800th anniversary of his legend-haloed death in Zion.

 

                  What has come down to us of his philosophic writings is a single book, composed by him in Arabic and translated into Hebrew by Yehudah Ibn Tibbon, –  the Kuzari.  Some hundred-and-fifty years before Halevi’s birth, there flourished in Moslem Spain a Jewish prince, Rav Hisdai Ibn Shaprut.  Rav Hisdai is remembered for three things.  1) He founded a Yeshivah at Cordova under the principalship of a redeemed slave, Moses, the son of Enoch.  From this Yeshivah stems the intellectual activity of Jews in the Moslem countries, which begat Halevi’s Kuzari, Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed, and a host of less renowned works.  2) He supported Hebrew scholars at his table.  Rhymed lampoons originating in rival schools founded by two of these scholars, Menahem ben Sruk and Donash ben Librat, made first use of the Arabic meter in Hebrew verse – an event which gradually led to the development of a real and new Hebrew poetry.  The first true poet of the Spanish Arabic poetic tradition in Hebrew was Rabbi Samuel Hanagid, secretary and army-chief to the Caliph of Cordova; often he composed poems in the very midst of a battle, like the lyric missive to his son, which he attached to a dove’s wing.  Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Moses Ibn Ezra and Yehudah Halevi were Samuel’s great successors.  3) Rav Hisdai is known also for his having made contact with Joseph, the eleventh and last of the Jewish kings of the Kuzarim, a Mongolian people on the shores of the Caspian Sea, who adopted Judaism.  Rav Hisdai had schemed to unite the forces of the Caliphs of Spain with the military strength of the Kuzarim to punish the Christians, and wrest Jerusalem from their hands, returning the Holy City to the Jews.  His plans came to naught when the Russians swept away the Kuzar Kingdom.       

 

                  The story of the Judaization of the Kuzarim, and of the exchange of letters between their last Jewish king and Rav Hisdai Ibn Shaprut, was alive in the consciousness of the Jewish inhabitants of Spain.  Copies of those letters were preserved in synagogue archives, and are now extant.  When Yehudah Halevi wished to express his own philosophy concerning Judaism and the fate of the Jewish people, he put it in the form of a dramatic dialogue between Bulan, the first King of the Kuzarim to embrace Judaism, and a Jewish sage.

 

                  The Kuzari tells that King Bulan had a dream, wherein an angel told him that his intentions were pleasing to God, but his deeds were not.  When the same dream occurred several times, the King was troubled.  He called in a philosopher, a Christian and a Mohammedan, that they might declare to him what is a man’s proper behavior.  The Philosopher offered ideas about a First Cause, and Primal Matter, and the like.  The King found no comfort in his words, for the laws of the universe, as conceived by the philosopher, have no interest in standards of human conduct, and no concern for the miseries of mankind.  The Christian and the Mohammedan expounded the principles of their respective faiths, each after his own way.  The King had not invited any Jew, for he deemed the low estate of the Jews in the world sufficient evidence that God was not fond of them.  But when he heard that both the Christians and the Mohammedans ultimately base their faiths on the facts of Jewish history and the teachings of Jewish prophets, he sent for a Jewish scholar.  The questions and arguments, probings and clarifications, between the King and the Scholar, constitute the main body of the Book of the Kuzari.

 

                  In essence, the Kuzari is a rationalized exaltation of Israel, his Torah, his land and his language.  It proclaims the vital interdependence of these, and laments the condition of Exile as Israel’s sorrow and shame, for it stunts his growth and dims the Light inherent in his seed.  Israel’s misfortune is the misfortune of all humanity, for Israel is “the heart of the nations,” first in suffering, first also in healing.

 

                  To borrow the terminology of a later age, it may be said that Yehudah Halevi’s philosophy of Judaism is democratically pragmatist rather than aristocratically intellectualist.  His arguments for religion against metaphysics, even a metaphysic that includes a form of ethical prescription, are these:  Metaphysics is for more mature and advanced minds only; religion takes care of the young and simple as well as the mentally ripe and astute. Metaphysical thought is controversial, and cannot serve as a general norm; religion is a communal possession.  Metaphysics changes with every day and age, thus precluding the cumulative effect of a practice kept up generation after generation; religion inculcates behavior from generation to generation, until that behavior becomes part of nature; that is, a command obeyed by forefathers because the Torah says so, comes to be obeyed by their progeny as an inclination of the heart.  A metaphysic is a mental product; a religion is the result of a people’s whole experience.  In this, the Jewish religion excels all others, being truly the product of our historical experiences (not an imposition from without) and our tried way of living (not a lifeless idolatry or barren speculation).  When God spoke to the multitude of Israel, He said: “I am the Lord thy God who had brought thee forth from the land of Egypt!” and he did not say: “I am the Ceator of the world and thy Creator.”  In one of his poems Halevi warns a friend against metaphysical abstractions that have no bearing on human experience and life:  “Be not lured by Greek wisdom, which beareth no fruit and hath only flowers.”

 

                  Our Torah is not foreign to human nature.  All nations would profit by obeying its commands, though they could not be like Israel, whose seed was especially chosen by God as best suited for cultivation and in whom the laws of the Torah have become ingrained through the continued observance of many generations.  The laws of the Torah foster fear of God, love to mankind, and sane joy.

 

                  But the Torah does not avail us as long as we are like dry bones scattered in the Exile.  For the bearing of the Divine Fruit, the proper soil is necessary in addition to the right seed and the skillful tending.

 

                  “The Glory mentioned by the Prophets is an outpouring of Divine Light, which can occur only within God’s people and in His own land.”  So declares the Scholar to the truth-seeking King.  The King marvels: “Your saying ‘within His people,’ I somehow understand. But your saying ‘in His land,’ is incomprehensible to me.”  Answers the Scholar: “Let it not be a wonder to you that a certain land distinguishes itself in aught more than another land.  Have you not observed that there be a land in which a particular kind of plant flourishes, and no other kind; a particular mineral is found, and not another mineral; a particular beast lives, and not another beast; and the inhabitants of that place are singular in appearance and dress, and not like the others    all in accordance with the climate thereof?  So also, the climate might affect a soul so that it either gain or miss perfection… See yonder hill, concerning which folks say that a vineyard grows well thereon.  If the vine were not planted there, and the proper labor not expended on the vine, no grapes would issue therefrom.  The prime virtue belongs to the nation, which is a Chosen One and a Heart… The land is of assistance, with all the toil and teachings that pertain to it, even as the grape-grower’s craft pertains to the vineyard.  The nation cannot attain to the Divine Principle without its soil, even as the vineyard cannot prove successful without yonder hill.”

 

                  The Hebrew language, too, suffers from the Exile.  It has degenerated with the degeneration of its people.  We complain of the poverty of Hebrew speech, yet Bezalel, who built the Tabernacle in the desert, and Solomon who built the Temple in Jerusalem, found no lack of expressions for the minutest of technical activities and materials, not to mention the exuberant life of Hebrew in the mouths of Singer and Prophet in ancient days.  When the Jewish people will again be rooted in its proper soil, the land will show its virtue in new growths of field and city, the people will grow admirable in body and spirit, and the Torah will show its living quality in application to a healthy national functioning.  Also the Hebrew language will expand with the expansion of Jewish life, now shrunken and perverted in the Exile; “for all-in-all it is the most important of tongues, whether acording to tradition, whether according to intellectual appraisal.”

 

                  The organic view of Jewish life presented by Yehudah Halevi more than eight hundred years ago, previsions the ideas of Hess, Pinsker and Ahad Ha’am.  All our history would have been different, had his philosophy been transmuted into active emotion in others of his generation as it had been in him.  For he felt his nation’s estrangement from Zion as a personal guilt; and proceeded to redeem the national sin with his own body, becoming the first halutz moving Zionward.

 

                  His poems may be divided into three categories, corresponding to three periods of his life: secular lyrics in youth, sacred hymns in middle age, and songs of the Journey to Zion in old age.

 

                  The strict Arabic verse-forms, on the one hand constrained Hebrew poetic utterance; on the other, forced the coinage of new grammatical uses and stylistic devices, thus enlivening and enriching the ancient tongue.  In Yehudah Halevi’s hands these forms are no longer an impediment.  The music of his poems, though arful, has not a trace of the artificial.  It wells up freely from the heart into the word.

 

                  Early in life he sang, with the usual oriental conceits (by him refined and elevated), of friendship, wine, and the delights and woes of love.  A nuptial song of that period, composed, it may be, at his own wedding, reads:

 

NUPTIAL SONG

 

                                    Dove by streams of water –

                                    Beautiful to the sight she!

                                    Silver in its mine is found.

                                    Like my dove, who can find?

 

                                    Fair my love like Tirzah,

                                    Lovely like Jerusalem!

                                    Whither, whither turneth she

                                    To seek a tent for dwelling?

                                    In my heart, would she reside there,

                                    Is a camp large and spacious.

 

                                    Her breasts have stung my heart,

                                    Have tried me and bewitched me

                                    More than all of Egypt’s wizards.

 

                                    Glory of a precious stone!  Watch it

                                    Now reddening, now whitening!

                                    Marvel!  In a single stone

                                    Seven colors!  (So she is.)

 

                                    Change me to nectar

                                    Serpent-venom of my life!

                                    Many a man wealth doth woo,

                                    But I my heart shall give thee,

                                    Double love for one.

 

                                    They cheek a rose, mine eyes the pluckers;

                                    Thy breasts pomegranates, my hands the gatherers;

                                    Thy lips hot coals, my lips the tongs to grasp them…

 

                                    Where her light is, no darkness is;

                                    Night her candle doth not dim;

                                    The light of day, by her augmented,

                                    Shines sevenfold!

 

                                    This the lover, no mate beside him.

                                    Come, be a helpmeet to him!

                                    Not good it is for one to be alone,

                                    Better are twain than one!

 

                                    The time of love hath come for thee,

                                    The season now for union.

                                    So may come the Season of Seasons

                                    When Israel danceth in companies!

 

                  The last two lines show that even in the midst of personal joy, the Israelite poet did not forget his nation’s hope.

 

 

                  Came the time when earthly joys palled on him.  He began to sing of the vanity of carnal pleasures, of the folly of material possessions.  He made a reckoning of the relations of his Soul to her Maker.  He would have her “shake off Time’s follies like birds shaking off night’s drops.”  He maintains:

 

                                    The servants of time are slaves of slaves.

                                    The servant of God – he alone is free!

                                    Therefore, when each man doth sue for his portion,

                                    “My portion is God,” saith my soul.

 

                  He proclaims the omnipresence of God in the works of creation, and His nearness to those that call on Him.  “When I went forth to meet Thee, Thou didst go forth to meet me!”  He hymns the Seventh Day, whose sanctity inspires him to labor six days of the week.  “Peace, peace with thee, thou Seventh Day!  Over thy love, I drink my cup.”  Above all, he sings of his nation’s present affliction and its final deliverance.

 

 

CURTAINS OF SOLOMON

 

The Poet:

 

                                    Curtains of Solomon, how among Bedouin-tents

                                    Have ye been changed, losing form and beauty?

 

The Curtains:

 

                                    The multitudes that of yore had dwelt in us,

                                    Have left us ruined, no breach walled up,

                                    And the holy vessels have gone into exile and were profaned.

                                    How ask ye beauty of a rose, thorn-stabbed?

 

The Poet:

 

                                    Rejected by their neighbors, they shall be sought out by God.

                                    Each one shall He call by name, not one shall be missing.

                                    Their beauty shall be as of old, He shall restore them at last,

                                    And like the light of seven suns will shine their splendor, now dimmed.

 

                  After the Scholar in the Kuzari had enlarged on the merits of Zion, upholding with many proofs from history and geography his contention that “all who had prophesied, prophesied in her or for her sake,” the King turns on him, saying:

 

                  “If it be so, how scantily you observe the commandments of your Torah, seeing that you do not make that place your goal, and do not make it the house of your life and the house of your death.  Yet you say in your prayer: ‘Have pity on Zion, for she is the house of our life.’  Moreover, you believe that God’s Presence will again dwell there.  Even if that place had no other virtue but that God’s Presence had lingered there for over nine hundred years, all noble souls should yearn thereunto, and strive to return thither, even as folk go on pilgrimages to the haunts of saintly and pious men.  I see that your prostrating yourself and your kneeling in its direction, are only a species of false flattery, or merely a dead custom with no feeling accompanying it.”

 

                  Says the Scholar: “You put me to shame, O King of the Kuzarim!”

 

                  At last, Yehudah Halevi could no longer contain the shame.  He began to make preparations for the journey to Zion.  He was then in his fifty-sixth year.  In vain his friends pleaded with him, pointing out the dangers he was incurring, the robber-infested roads, the menace of the elements at sea, the cruelty of the Christian rulers of waste Palestine, the savagery of its desert tribes.  How could he, at his age, leave the peace of his books to brave unknown difficulties?

 

                  He said in rhymed reply: “Is there any place in the world, in the East or West, where we Jews are safe?  How can we so neglect the source of our eternal life?  Wherefore should I seek crooked paths, when the mother road waits for me?”

 

                  It was hard for him to leave home and grandchildren, and joyous holidays, and the pleasant synagogue nooks, and a class of fine pupils whom he had reared and nurtured like a garden of flowers, and the cemetery where loved ones were buried.  But “his heart was in the East.”  He could not relish meat and drink, till he set out.

 

ON HIS DEPARTURE FOR ZION

 

                                    Hath so tormented me my yearning for the living God,

                                    To visit the places of the thrones of my anointed ones,

                                    That it did not permit me to kiss

                                    My household folks and my friends and kindred:

                                    And I weep not for the garden I had planted,

                                    And watered, and my plants grew well,

                                    And I remember not Yehudah and Azarel,

                                    My two precious flowers, the best of my flowers,

                                    And Isaac whom I did account as my son,

                                    Produce of my sunlight and choice yield of my moons.

                                    Almost had I forgotten the House of Prayer

                                    In whose studies I was wont to find my ease;

                                    And I forget the delights of my Sabbaths,

                                    And the beauty of my holidays and the splendor of my Passovers…

                                    I have exchanged for the shade of woods my rows of citrus trees,

                                    And for a branchy canopy – the safety of my doorbars.

                                    No longer do I tread threshold and floor boarding.

                                    I have made my paths in the midst of the seas –

                                    Till I shall find the footstool of God’s feet,

                                    And there I shall pour forth my soul and my prayer.

 

                  The journey to Zion was a tiumphal march for Yehudah Halevi’s poetic genius.  The singer was in the grip of a mighty ecstasy.  His soul’s flame dartled forth poem after poem.  He converted to Hebrew word-music the tossing and heaving of the sea, the loneliness of a space without shore, the very creaking and sighing of the ship’s sides.  On a clear night, he watched the stars’ reflection dancing in the water:

 

NIGHT ON THE SEA

 

                                    And as the sun sets, night comes up in ranks

                                    Of a heavenly army, led by a moon-captain,

                                    Like an Ethiop woman in garment of checkered gold

                                    And azure inlaid with crystals.

                                    And stars in the heart of the sea confused are

                                    Like aliens from their habitations driven,

                                    And like their counterparts above, they glimmer

                                    In the heart of the sea, flamewise, firewise.

                                    Waters wide as the skies, sea large as night,

                                    Together are mirror-clear.

                                    And sea is like unto sky in aspect –

                                    Two seas are both, enamored mutually,

                                    And between them my heart is a third sea,

                                    Uplifting the waves of my new hymns.

 

                  A storm, which makes the faces of the sailors blanch, frightens him not.  He knows that God’s light will lead him safe to the blessed land.  Joyous he hails the West Wind, for it fills the sails and speeds the ship in the direction of his desire.

 

                  Undoubtedly, the greatest of the Halevi Zion songs, and one of the highest attainments of Hebrew poetry in all ages, is the apostrophe to Mother Zion, which opens with the lines:

 

                                    Zion, thou askest how fare thy prisoners

                                    They that seek thy weal, the remnant of thy flocks?

                                    From west and east and north and south, the greeting

                                    Of far and near, receive from all sides of thee!

                                    Also the greeting of one hope-bound, who sheddeth his tears like the dew

                                    Of Hermon, and longeth to drop them on thy mountains!

 

                  The poet here becomes “a jackal to bewail thy sorrow,” and “a harp, when I dream the return of thy captives.”  All his love for the dusts trodden by Israel’s kings and seers, for Zion’s air which is “the life of spirits,” all his sorrow for Jacob’s lion-bodies dragged through the streets by dogs, for Judea’s eagles tormented by ravens, are in these lines lyrically outpoured.  The poem, named Love of Zion, has been translated many times into many languages, but no translation remotely echoes its magnificence.  It concludes with trumpet peals of liberation.

 

                                    Happy he who waiteth, and shall live to see the arising

                                    Of thy light, and thy dawns shall break over him;

                                    To see the good of thy chosen ones, and to rejoice

                                    In thy joy, when thou returnest to the ancient state of thy youth.

 

                  He arrived safely in Egypt.  The Egyptian Jewish communities made much of him and begged him to stay with them as counsellor and teacher.  But he was led on by his inner drive for the chosen soil.  It was springtime when he arrived in Egypt, and, with senses made keen by his happiness in nearing his goal, he celebrated the beauties of nature on the banks of the Nile in two exquisite poems which we cannot forebear quoting in part:

 

ON NATURE’S GLORY IN EGYPT

 

                                    Hath Time doffed his terror-clothes,

                                    And donned his clothes of loveliness?

                                    And Earth putteth on silks and embroideries,

                                    And with gold-settings doth attire herself.

                                    And the sown riverbank showeth a checker-work, as though

                                    The field of Goshen the High Priest’s breastplate bore!

                                    And one girl, and many a girl, by the river’s edge –

                                    Light as deer they are, yet heavy-laden,

                                    Heavy their hands with bracelets, and

                                    Narrow their steps with ankle-rings.

                                    And the heart groweth foolish, and forgetteth its age,

                                    And remembereth only boy-time and girl-time.

                                    And the grains are greenish-red

                                    In tassel’d gauzes raimented;

                                    And when a sea-wind waveth them, they seem

                                    As if they bow to God, athanking Him.

 

ON THE FLOWERS OF SPRING

 

Earth like a babe hath sucked

                                    The rains of wintertide, and the cloud – her nurse.

                                    Or like a bride was she, winter-bound,

                                    Her soul ayearning for loving-time.

                                    For lover’s season she longed, till summer came:

                                    Then was healed the heart of the pining one.

                                    She weareth golden bedrows and silken embroideries,

                                    Lke a daughter, self-pampered, in clothes indulging,

                                    Every day she changeth her embroidered suits

                                    And casteth raiments on all sides of her.

                                    From day to day she changeth plant-colors,

                                    Mother-of-pearl to rubies and to topazes.

                                    She whiteneth, and greeneth now, and now she reddeneth,

                                    Like a loving maiden in the midst of kissing.

                                    So beautiful her flowers, I deem

                                    The stars of God she hath been arobbing.

 

                  From Egypt, historians trace him to Syria.  There legend takes up the thread of his journey and narrates that he indeed reached the shore of Zion.  And as he kneeled on the ground, watering the parched sands with his tears, kissing each pebble and clod, muttering the words of his poem, “Zion, thou askest…..,” an Arab horseman came by, and stabbed the poet to death with his spear.  Immortalized in divine chant and in heart-wrought philosophy, the sweetest singer of Israel has thus been mated in death, by a nation’s fancy, with the deathless soil of his love.

 

 

 

LOVE OF ZION

 

The poem opens with a greeting to the beloved land from all the corners of the earth, and particularly from the poet who is an instrument attuned to bemoan her present sorrows and to sing her future joys.

Zion, thou askest how fare thy prisoners,

They that seek thy weal, the remnant of thy flocks?

From west and east and north and south, the greeting

Of far and near, receive from all sides of thee!

Also the greeting of one hope-bound, who sheddeth his tears like the dew

Of Hermon, and longeth to drop them on thy mountains!

To bewail thy sorrow I am a jackal, and when I dream

The return of thy captives, I am a harp to sing thy songs.

                                     

 

 

 

 

The poet then speaks of his heart’s yearning for the land, and how he would love to intone his hymns in places hallowed by Royalty and Prophecy.  Alas!  Slaves now occupy the places of Israel’s divinely appointed kings.

 

My heart unto Bethel and unto Peniel doth exceedingly yearn

And unto Mahanayim and all the places where thy pure ones met.

There God’s Presence was thy tenant, and He that created thee

Hath opened thy gates opposite the gates of Heaven,

And God’s Glory alone hath been thy light, nor sun

Nor moon nor stars thy luminaries were.

I choose that my soul pour itself forth in the place

Where God’s Spirit was poured out on thy chosen ones!

Thou art the House of Royalty, and thou the Throne of God, and how

Have slaves sat upon the thrones of thy rulers?

 

 

 

 

 

If only he might wander there!  How he would linger over every plot of ground made sacred by historical event or religious association.

 

Would I were awandering in the places where

God had been revealed unto thy seers and messengers.

Would I had wings that I might fly afar

And move the breakage of heart over thy mountain-breaks.

I would fall on my face upon thy soil, and love thy stones

Exceedingly, and adore thy dusts,

Ah, surpassingly, while I stood upon my fathers’ graves,

And marvelled in Hebron at thy choicest tombs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Moses and Aaron)

 

I would pass through thy woodlands and vinelands, and stand

In thy Gilead, and wonder at thy Mount Abarim,

Mount Abarim, and the Peak of Peaks, where thy two

Great lights thy pathlighters and teachers were!

Spirit-lives make thine earth’s air, and of myrrh-spice

Is thy powdered dust, and of sweetest nectar are thy rivers.

Sweet it were for my soul to walk naked and barefoot upon

The dismal ruins that were once thy Temples –

In the place of thine Ark, now hidden, and the seat

Of thy Cherubim, who had dwelt in thine innermost sanctuaries.

 

 

 

 

He grieves for the heroes of Israel, become a prey to lowly and evil  races.

 

How shall eating and drinking be savory to me, when I see

How dogs are dragging thy lions about?

Or how shall the light of day be sweet unto mine eyes, whilst

I see in the mouths of ravens the corpses of thine eagles?

 

 

 

 

     

       (Samaria)

 

       (Jerusalem)

 

 

 

The cup is too full!  He can no longer bear the sorrow!  The poet turns about and begins to sing of the beauty of Zion, and of  the love all her exiled children bear  for  her.

 

 

Cup of tears, enough!  Cease a while, for

My kidneys and soul are overbrimming with thy bitternesses.

When I remember Ahalah, I drink thy venom,

And when I mind me of Aholibah, I drain thy dregs.

Zion, perfect in beauty, with love and grace dost thou enwrap thyself

Of old, and in thee are wrapt the souls of thy lovers:

They are those who rejoice at thy peace, and are pained

By thy desolation, and weep for thy misfortunes.

From the prison-pit they yearn towards thee, bowing

Each from his place toward the frontage of thy gates,

The flocks of thy multitude, who have been exiled and scattered

From mountain to hill, yet have never forgotten thy walls;

They who hold thy garment’s hem, and strive

To climb up and grasp the branches of thy palm-trees.

 

 

 

Proudly the poet maintains Zion’s greatness against Shinar (which is Babylon) and Pathros (which is Egypt).  All the kingdoms of idolatry are destined to fall, while Zion’s strength is everlasting.

 

Shinar and Pathros, can they match thee in their greatness? Can they

Liken their follies to thine Urim and thy Tummim?

To whom can they compare thine anointed ones, and to whom

Thy prophets, and to whom thy Levites and thy princes?

Will fade and utterly pass away the kingdoms of idolatry –

Thy strength is unto eternity, forever and forever are thy crowns!

 

 

 

He concludes with applause for whomever goes forth to dwell in Zion in her desolate state, and sounds a Shophar for her final deliverance.

 

 

Thy God hath elected thee for His residence, and happy is the man

Who chooseth to come near and dwell in thy courts.

Happy he who waiteth, and shall live to see the arising

Of thy light, and thy dawns shall break over him;

To see the good of thy chosen ones, and to rejoice

In thy joy, when thou returnest to the ancient state of thy youth.

 

 

 

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