Samuel Ibn Naghrillah (Samual ha-Nagid), 993-1056
Man Runs Towards the Grave
Man runs towards the grave,
And rivers hasten to the great deep
The end of all living is their death,
And the palace in time becomes a heap.
Nothing is further than the day gone by,
And nothing nearer than the day to come,
And both are far, far away
From the man hidden in the heart of the tomb.
My Friend, Tell Me
My friend, tell me,
When shall I pour you my wine?
The cry of the cock woke me,
And sleep has deserted my eyes.
Come out and see the morning light
Like a scarlet thread in the East.
Make haste, give me a cup,
Before the dawn starts to rise,
Of spiced pomegranate juice
From the perfumed hand of a girl,
Who will sing songs. My soul
Revives and then dies.
She said: “Be happy that God has helped you reach
The age of fifty in this world,” not knowing
That to me there is no difference between my life’s
Past and that of Noah about whom I heard.
For me there is only the hour in which I am present in this world:
It stays for a moment and then like a cloud moves on.
Translated by Leon J. Weinberger
from Leon J. Weinberger, trans.,
Jewish Prince in Moslem Spain: Selected Poems of Samuel ibn Nagrela.
(Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1997).
Copyright © 1973 by The University of Alabama Press.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Three Love Poems
I’d sell my soul for that fawn
of a boy night walker
to sound of the ‘ud & flute playing
who saw the glass in my hand said
“drink the wine from between my lips”
& the moon was a yod drawn on
the cover of dawn—in gold ink
take the blood of the grape from
her red jeweled glass like fire
in middle of hail
this lady with lips of scarlet
thread roof of her mouth
like good wine
mouth like her body well perfumed:
from blood of corpses the tips
of her fingers are red thus
half of her hand is like ruby
that’s it—I love that fawn
plucking roses from
you can put the blame on me
but if you once looked at my lover
with your eyes
your lovers would be hunting you
& you’d be gone
that boy who told me: pass
some honey from your hive
I answered: give me some back
on your tongue
& he got angry, yelled:
shall we two sin against the living God?
I answered: let your sin,
sweet master, be with me
Translated by Jerome Rothenberg and Harris Lenowitz
From Jerome Rothenberg and Harris Lenowitz, eds., Exiled in the Word:
Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present
(Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1989).
Copyright © 1978, 1989 by Jerome Rothenberg.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher and of Jerome Rothenberg.