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 literal 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

26 November, 2007

Strength and yearning: translating Hebrew poetry

Filed under: Hebrew,Music,Poetry by Joel @ 12:23 am, 26 November 2007.

I just came back from the first in a series of close friends’ weddings. All in all it was beautiful and a lot of fun. As the bride entered, I and another three (including her grandmother) sang (two verses of) a setting of a 17th century poem, based on the Song of Songs, which I also had the opportunity to translate.

Having never tried to translate poetry before, it was an exciting challenge. Some poems require a literal translation; others need to have the right sense but also the rhythm and rhyme. In this case, I chose the latter.

With the help of others, especially Simon Holloway, this is what we came up with:

Chishki Chizki (חשקי חזקי) by Isaac Aboab da Fonseca (1605-1693)

My strength, my yearning day by day:
O king, dispel my dark away!
My source, my sun, though still so bright:
Your sun, my king, shall give me light.

Awake; Awake! O ten-stringed lyre:
Sing all your songs in voiced desire.
Your moon, your glow, need not return:
Here comes your light; my light is born.

חִשְׁקִי חִזְקִי מִדֵּי יוֹם יוֹם
מַהֵר הָאֵר מַלכִּי חָשׁכִּי
רִמְשִׁי שִׁמְשִׁי עוֹד לֹא יִכְבֶּה
יָאִיר לִי אוֹר שִׁמְשֵׁךְ מַלְכִּי

עוּרִי עוּרִי נֵבֶל עָשׂוֹר
בְּקוֹל זִמְרָה שִׁירִים שִׁירִי
יַרְחֵךְ זַרְחֵךְ לֹא יָבוֹא עוֹד
כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ קוּמִי אוֹרִי

17 January, 2007

15th January, Montreal finally white.

Filed under: Poetry,USA,Weather by Joel @ 2:47 am, 17 January 2007.

Snow storm is an oxymoron
One is subtle and quiet
The other raging and thunderous
Together, the snow floats (or pours) down
In heavy washes of tiny drifting specks,
Building white, wind-swept dunes

This used to be a city with gutters
But the scattererd spatterings of silty white
Amass to envelop and elide
The distinction between road and path
So that cars slow to a stroll so unlike autumn’s rush
It silences the sounds, the steps,
Each stride only deepens and imprints the soft
Snowy coat upon the pavement, upon the streets
And it keeps piling, turning the once-green once-red brown hills white.

14 September, 2006

Shooting at Dawson

Filed under: Current affairs,Poetry by Joel @ 8:15 am, 14 September 2006.

Where are the smiles gone from the streets?
Forced away by empathy and common sorrow?
Or maybe it’s just the weather.

Nearby there are sirens in the streets,
Sadistic onlookers whirring in the air.
But down here is the solemnity only in my head?

There is blood in the streets.
The TVs are all turned on.
More sirens. I’m in Israel again.

16 August, 2006

Subway childhood

Filed under: Poetry,USA by Joel @ 3:20 pm, 16 August 2006.

one, two, three, four
small heads on
small boys
look out as
i pass by, on a
wooden seat, on a
concrete platform
while to them,
i move, with the
tracks, with the

with the tan man
with foreheaded sunglasses
that checks his wrist-watch

with the pale bearded man
devoutly whispering each word
from a hand-held dog-eared book

with the young woman
standing, conversing

with the older woman
frowning, leaning
wood riveted to wall
wall above tracks
where carriages pass

one, two, three, four
keep their arms and eyes inside
the vehicle at all times,
avoid others
dose out a
small slap on a
small wrist of a
small boy
if ever he makes
(back-turned) a
small movement, a
small sound
disturbing a gentle equillibrium
of mixed-flavoured men waiting for
the city street
to open up before them

18 July, 2006

A bit of Sin City

Filed under: Poetry,USA by Joel @ 8:14 pm, 18 July 2006.

Entering the Venice canalsPokiesVegas brings day to night
All night
Vegas brings night to day
Every day


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