Sunday, January 19, 2014

Judah Halevi

Judah Halevi, aka Abu-I-Hasan ibn Leví [elpensadorsolitario]

poetry by Judah Halevi from Raymond P. Scheindlin's The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage:

I know a man who is the best
of henna blossoms, finest nard,
the first in fragrances and every tasty thing;
and that man has a garden
with its beds arranged just so
around a pool—
a well of generosity
inside a vale of plenty.

This paradise has a pebble floor,
a surface ringed with columns,
and all inlaid with gold.
From below the water flows,
gushing upward, sprinkling the sky,
spraying upward, dripping downward,
determined to outdo the clouds,
flying, soaring,
heavy though it be.

There’s a shelter in that garden,
made of willow branches
with doves and swallows on them,
and below, dear friends and fellows—
henna blossoms, rose blossoms,
new ones, old ones—
more than enough delights
to satisfy your appetite;
other delights, too,
served in cups and pitchers,
brought round eagerly by Jupiter and Mars . . .

Detour me through Cairo,
past the Red Sea, then by Sinai;
take me the long way round to Shiloh
only then to reach the ruined Temple’s mound.
Let me take the ark of the covenant’s route
to where it now lies buried
and lick that soil—so sweet!—
see the lovely maiden’s nest she long ago forgot—
the place from which the doves were driven,
settled now by ravens.

This wind of yours is a perfumed wind, O West,
with saffron in its wings and apple scent,
as if it came from the perfumer’s chest,
not from the chest of the winds.

The wings of swallows flutter to your breath.
You set them free,
like myrrh-tears, from a bundle poured.
And how we long for you,
we who ride a board on the back of the sea!

Never release your grip from the ship
when the day makes its camp, when the day blows away.
Flatten the deep, rip the heart
of the seas, hit the holy mountains
and there take your rest,
wind of the west!
Shout down the east wind when it makes
the ocean break and creates
a seething pot in the heart of the sea. . . .

Raymond Scheindlin [The Jewish Theological Seminary]

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