A Famous Hebrew Love Poem

Graceful gazelle, you’ve captured me with your beauty,

enslaved me ruthlessly by your captivation.

Ever since parting came between us

I’ve not found one as beautiful as you.

So I take comfort in a reddish apple,

whose fragrance is like the frankincense of your breath,

its shape like your breasts, its colour

like the blush visible upon your cheeks.

 

Judah ben Samuel Halevi [Yehuda Halevi; ha-Levi; יהודה הלוי; يهوذا هاليفي] (c. 1075 – 1141)

 

Translation from the Hebrew by Hayyim [Jefim] Schirmann

 

צבית חן שביתני בצביך

 

צְבִיַּת חֵן שְׁבִיתִנִי בְּצִבְיֵךְ

בְּפֶרֶךְ הֶעֱבַדְתִּנִי בְּשִׁבְיֵךְ

וּמִיּוֹם הַנְּדֹד בָּא בֵין שְׁנֵינוּ

דְּמוּת לֹא אֶמְצְאָה נִמְשָׁל לְיָפְיֵךְ

וְאֶסָּעֵד בְּתַפּוּחַ אֲדַמּדָּם

אֲשֶׁר רֵיחוֹ כְּמֹר אַפֵּךְ וְעֶדְיֵךְ

וְתַבְנִיתוֹ כְשָׁדַיִךְ וְעֵינוֹ

כְּעֵין אֹדֶם אֲשֶׁר נִרְאָה בְלֶחְיֵךְ.

Edgar Degas by Daniel Halévy

Date: 1895

(via  (via <a href=”http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/282191?rpp=60&amp;pg=15&amp;ao=on&amp;ft=*&amp;when=A.D. 1800-1900&amp;where=France&amp;what=Photographs&amp;pos=890#fullscreen”>Edgar Degas | Daniel Halévy | The Metropolitan Museum of Art</a>))

‘Tis a fearful thing
To love
What death can touch.
To love, to hope, to dream,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
Love,
But a holy thing,
To love what death can touch.
For your life has lived in me;
Your laugh once lifted me;
Your word was a gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
A holy thing,
To love
What death can touch.
—  Judah Halevi

Tis a Fearful Thing

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

—  Yehuda HaLevi
La Juive - Act 4 - 'Rachel, quand du Seigneur la grâce tutélaire'
  • La Juive - Act 4 - 'Rachel, quand du Seigneur la grâce tutélaire'
  • Halévy
  • Plácido Domingo - Carlo Maria Giulini: Opera Gala
Play

Halévy, “Rachel, quand du Seigneur…” (La Juive)

Carlo Maria Giuliani, The Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra

Placido Domingo, tenor

*

Rachel, quand du Seigneur
La grâce tutélaire
À mes tremblantes mains
Confia ton berceau,
J’avais à ton bonheur voué ma vie entière.
Et c’est moi qui te livre au bourreau!
Mais j’entends une voix qui me crie:
Sauvez-moi de la mort qui m’attend!
Je suis jeune et je tiens à la vie,
Ô mon père, épargnez votre enfant!

(English translation :

Rachel, when the Lord’s grace committed your cradle into my trembling hands, I made your happiness the avowed aim of my whole life.  And I am the one sending you to your execution!

But I can hear a voice calling to me: ”Save me from the death which awaits me! I am young and I cling to life! O my father, spare your child! )

*

Hannibal’s music : show only | extrapolated

Watch on parmandil.tumblr.com

Rachel, quand du Seigneur from Halevy’s La Juive, sung by Mario del Monaco.

Watch on fyeahoperasingers.tumblr.com

For all of my Jews celebrating Passover: Tenor RIchard Tucker sings Eleazar’s ‘Rachel quand du seignur’ from Halevy’s ‘La Juive.’  London, 1973.

Next year in Jerusalem.

Look at me, my fawn, look!
Take full note of my misery
lest I fill with sorrow …
Drip, drip, drip goes my blood,
my life in your hands.

Let your heart be compassionate to the downcast,
who cannot eat and cries when you rage
and waits for your love to return …
Manna, manna, manna for my hunger,
give my daily wage.

If you rejoice in my lovesickness,
so here are my cheeks,
abuse me then, afflict me …
No, no, no disgrace,
just the casualties of innocence.

I have fought this miser of the heart,
and were he only to fear me
he would return my sleep
and I would …
Fly, fly, fly in my slumber,
I would dream double.

I would ask for his honeycomb lips,
reddening like the setting sun
my eyes transfixed on his form …
How, how, how does this man from Aram
color his lips so ruddy?

His song ploughs through my body,
he sings to awaken my fire.
Enough, my love, drink from my mouth.
Kiss, kiss, kiss my mouth,
Put aside your black mood, my friend.

—  Look At Me, My Fawn, Look by Yehuda Halevi, a 16th century rabbi and religious writer. Translated by Rabbi S. Greenberg.
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