23 December, 2007

Evening’s roses: erev shel shoshanim

Filed under: Hebrew,Music,Poetry by Joel @ 5:41 pm, 23 December 2007.

Another upcoming wedding, another song. Erev shel shoshanim is a classic. Unfortunately, the first few results for translations of its lyrics are far too literal1 and hardly able to be sung to its beautiful tune.

The original song also approximately rhymes the 2nd and 4th line of each of its three stanzas, which none of those translations do. So here is my go at a singable translation of Erev Shel Shoshanim:

Evening of roses
Let’s go out among the trees
Spices, perfumes, sweetest myrrh
Furnish beneath your knees

Slowly the nighttime falls
A rose-scented wind above
I whisper to you, my love, a song
Softly a song of love

At dawn, a cooing dove
Your hair’s filled with moisture’s beads
Your lips to the morning are a rose
The rose that I pick for me

Erev shel shoshanim
Netze na el habustan
Mor besamim ulevona
Leraglech miftan

Layla yored le’at
Veruach shoshan noshva
Hava elchash lakh shir balat
Zemer shel ahava

Shachar homa yona
Roshech malei telalim
Pikh el haboker shoshana
Ektefeinu li

ערב של שושנים
נצא נא אל הבוסתן
מור בשמים ולבונה
לרגלך מפתן

לילה יורד לאט
ורוח שושן נושבה
הבה אלחש לך שיר בלאט
זמר של אהבה

שחר הומה יונה
ראשך מלא טללים
פיך אל הבוקר שושנה
אקטפנו לי


  1. Although most insist that shoshanim are roses, when the word often means lilies. []


  1. How do you read all the hebrew letters without dotted vowels in them…?
    I have been learning biblical hebrew, and now am anxious to learn some real currently used hebrew…
    By the way… it’s a nice and neat blog of yours.

    Comment by Luke Lee — 31 December, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  2. Reading without vowels is not so different from knowing how to pronounce English words, despite the fact that there is not a lot of consistency between the letters used and the pronunciation (especially with regard to vowels). In this case, it is particularly easy to read because I know the song! But knowing the patterns that words are likely to fall in, and what they mean, is really what helps.

    Comment by Joel — 13 January, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  3. תודה רבה על האתר הנחמד, אהבתי.
    גם אני מזמינה אותך להכנס לבלוג שלי
    ולקרוא את ספר השירה הראשון שלי:
    המאהבת של האמת – אופנת השירה היפה
    90 שירים נוקבים סוראליסטים וציוריים של חיפוש אחר החופש המשמעות והיופי שבהלך
    החיים המתרחשים בכמה עולמות.
    באהבה ושמחה, רחל לוריא

    Comment by Teejugbex — 22 January, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  4. I’m a beginning Hebrew learner and haven’t run across the answer to why some words appear to have dipthongs, but single vowels seem to be the norm for Hebrew (except for some Ashkenazi pronounciations) My question:

    Why is ורוח pronounced veruach instead of verucha?

    “Verucha” seems to follow the pattern of classical/biblical Hebrew. Can you clarify this for me?


    Comment by Julian Girouard — 29 June, 2010 @ 5:09 am

  5. Hi Julian,

    The phenomenon you refer to is known as “furtive patah/patach” or a פתח גנובה.

    Hebrew pronunciation developed such that certain guttural consonants can only appear at the end of a syllable if proceeded by an a-vowel. This is because of how the throat needs to be positioned to pronounce a guttural, and is not entirely unlike the way nasal consonants (n, m, ng) in English affect the vowel before them (though not as much as in French), or how in Japanese if you stick the sound ‘s’ before an i-vowel, it becomes “shi”. Nowadays, when most Hebrew — under European influence — does not pronounce the gutturals very gutturally, it is much harder to comprehend what’s going on, and listening to an eastern pronunciation of the word might help make it clearer.

    But then why is it written so strangely? You have to remember that the vowels were added to the alphabet to describe certain pronunciation phenomena, not the other way (which is what you as a learner is trying to do), so ultimately you just need to accept what the Masoretes who added the vowels have done! They did not have the option of adding in another letter under which to write the vowel before the final guttural. Some typesetting does indicate the furtive vowel a little to the right of the final letter; but once you’ve learnt the rule it’s never broken, so usually extra typesetting sophistication is unnecessary.

    Comment by Joel — 29 June, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  6. Thankyou so much Joel for your great rendition and work on translation!

    Comment by Tal Marron — 14 November, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  7. You’re welcome, Tal! Happy singing!

    Comment by Joel — 14 November, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  8. Hi there,

    I thought you – and others – might be interested in this English rhyming version of Erev Shel Shoshanim that I worked on for my friends’ wedding a couple of years back. It’s more of an interpretation of the original than a literal translation, as literal translations, even when they rhyme, can sound a little awkward.

    All the best!

    Roses fill the night
    ‘Neath stars and sky we meet
    All my senses lead me to
    The threshold at your feet

    Evening begins to fall
    As breezes of roses bring
    Whisperings so quietly
    Songs of love to sing

    We wake to sounds of dawn
    Your hair is bathed in light
    Your mouth to the morning like a rose
    To kiss again tonight

    Comment by Danny — 18 December, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  9. Hey, Thanks everyone for all this wonderful info! I have just finished an SSAA a cappella choral arrangement of this piece and I’m doing background work on it.

    Danny, may I use your lyrical translation in my choral arrangement?

    Comment by Susan — 4 April, 2013 @ 3:49 am

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