Selected Poems

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English, Hebrew Pages 93 [98] Year 1978

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Selected Poems

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‫ז‬

‫י‬

NATAN ALTERMAN vSx 1 J 01^

>‫ יי‬/'‫ד־‬ ‫ד‬/‫ל‬

‫נתן אלתרמן‬ ‫שירים נבחרי□‬

NATAN ALTERMAN Selected Poems

NATAN ALTERMAN SELECTED POEMS Bilingual Edition

Translated by

ROBERT FRIEND

HAKIBBUTZ HAMEUCHAD PUBLISHING HOUSE 1978

ROBERT FRIEND Robert Friend was born in Brooklyn and settled in Israel in 1950. He lives in Jerusalem, where he is Senior Lecturer in English and American Literature at the Hebrew University. He has published four volumes of original poetry and one volume of translations. The Menard Press will publish in 1977 or 1978 a new collection of poems which will include selected translations from several languages. His poems and translations have appeared in many periodicals, among them: Encounter, The London Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Partisan Review,, Poetry, Midstream, Ariel, Commentary, The Jerusalem Post, and various anthologies. Mr. Friend has guest-edited Israeli issues of Modern Poetry in Translation, Triquarterly, and Micromegus. He is a recipient of the Jeannette Sewell Davis Prize (Poetry, Chicago). He has written a study, as yet unpublished, of all E.M. Forster’s fiction.

Books by Robert Friend

Shadow on the Sun, The Press of James A. Decker, Prairie City, Illinois, 1941. Salt Gifts, The Charioteer Press, Washington, D.C., 1964 The Practice of Absence, Beth-Shalom Press, Jerusalem, Israel, 1971. Selected Poems, The Seahorse Press, London, 1976. Selected Poems of Leah Goldberg, Menard, London, 1976.

Translations © Robert Friend No part of this book may be reprinted without the publisher’s written permission, except for quotations or reproduction in reviews or articles.

Printed in Israel B1/GRAPHIKA OFIANIH LTO.T-A

TABLE OF CONTENTS

from STARS OUTSIDE (1938)

15

Moon

17

Summer Night

19

On the Highroad

21

The Stream

25

First Smile

from JOY OF THE POOR (1941) 31 37

The Mole Song to the Wife of My Youth

from THE TEN PLAGUES OF EGYPT (1945) 43

On the Road to Noh-Amon

53

The Ten Plagues

55 59

3. Lice

63

6. Leprosy

1. Blood

67.

7. Hail

71. 8. Locusts 75 10. Death of the First-Born Son

from CITY OF THE DOVE (1958) 81

The Spinner

85 87

Old Song The Smithy

from SUMMER FESTIVAL (1965)

91

The Shadow

93

A Householder Departs from the City

Acknowledgements The poems listed below, most of them now revised, appeared previously in the following publications: Anthology of Modern Hebrew Poetry, Vol. Two, Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem, 1966 Summer Night, Song to the Wife of My Youth, Blood, Hail and The Smithy * Ariel On the Road to Noh-Amon, Blood, Lice, Leprosy, Hail, Locusts, and Death of the FirstBorn Son. Poetry Locusts and Death of the First-Born Son.

The Jerusalem Post Hail I should like to express my thanks to T. Carmi who years ago, when I hardly knew a word of Hebrew, led me to Natan Alterman’s The Ten Plagues of Egypt, and gave me not only a word for word rendition of the entire poem, but brought many of the Hebrew words to life by vividly evoking the associations and feelings they had for him. I should also like to thank Shimon Sandbank, who gave me literal translations of many of the other poems; Ruth Nevo, who generously allowed me to use lines from her own translations and whose rival theory of how Alterman should be translated was a stimulation; and Lois Bar-Yaakov and Laya Beth-Shalom for valuable criticism. R.F.

These translations are dedicated to LOIS BAR-YA’AKOV

and RUTH NEVO

NOTE: If these translations are not always faithful to literal meanings of the original, it is precisely because I have wanted them to be faithful to the essential Alterman. His essence, I believe, resides in his music, in his evocation of a world through his masterly manipulations of rhythm and rhyme, his intricate interweavings of consonants and vowels. Whenever I had to sacrifice something (and to translate a poem something must always be sacrificed), I preferred to change a word or an image, to drop a phrase or add a phrase, rather than to depart from his music. I have wanted to create good Alterman poems in English.

STARS OUTSIDE

‫‪:‬לס‬ ‫גם למךאה נושן יש רגע‬ ‫שמים בלי צפור‬

‫הלדת‪.‬‬

‫ןךים ומבצרים‪.‬‬ ‫בלןלה הקהור מול הלונך עומדת‬ ‫עיר טבולה בבכי מצן־ןנךים‪.‬‬

‫ובךאוקנך כי ‪:‬ךרך עוד צופה אל הלך‬

‫ןה‪:‬לס‬ ‫על כידון הברוש‬ ‫אתה אומר ‪ -‬אלי׳ העוד ישןם כל אלה?‬ ‫העוד נןתר בלהש בעולו?ןם לץ־רש?‬ ‫מא?מיהם המ?ם נבטים אלינו‪.‬‬

‫שוקט העץ‬ ‫באדם עגילים‪.‬‬ ‫לעד לא העקר ממני׳ אלהינו‪,‬‬

‫תוגת צעצועיך הגדולים‪.‬‬

‫‪14‬‬

MOON Even an old landscape has a moment of birth. The birdless heavens are impregnable and strange.

Moonlit, under your window, lies your city bathed in cricket-weeping. But when you see that the path

still looks at the wanderer, and that the moon rests on a spear of cypress,

you ask in wonder: “Are all of these still here? Can I still whisper my greetings to them?” The waters gaze at us from their lagoons.

The tree in its red of earrings keeps its silence. Never, my God, shall the sadness of Your huge playthings be uprooted from me.

15

‫ליל ק?ץ‬ ‫דומיה ??זרקבים שוךקת‪.‬‬ ‫בהק הקכין בעין החתולים‪.‬‬ ‫לילה‪? .‬קה לילה! בעומים שקט‪.‬‬

‫כואבים בקתולים‪.‬‬

‫זס‪ 1‬רהב‪ ,‬רקב• הלב צלצל אלפים‪.‬‬ ‫קל‪ ,‬כמו פגישה׳ את הריקים הצעיף‪.‬‬

‫במגלב ןקב פנס מפיל אפים‬ ‫עקרים שחורים לרהב הךציף‪.‬‬

‫יוה ק?ץ לוקה‪ .‬עמוקה‪ .‬רוגשת‪.‬‬ ‫על כתפי גנים שפתיה ?שפכות‪.‬‬ ‫רע (לקלק• חקיקת אורית {העור‪.‬‬ ‫רחיסת מקמון בקצף הלוחר‪.‬‬ ‫ןהן־הק לגכה‪ ,‬בנהימה מרעבת‪,‬‬

‫עיי אשי עיגיה זהב קצפות‪,‬‬ ‫מהאךה בזעם׳ ?הקרות האבן׳‬ ‫עול הקבילים ןהבפות‪.‬‬

‫‪16‬‬

SUMMER NIGHT Silence whistles in the open spaces.

A knife in a cat’s eye glows.

Night. How much night! In the sky, stillness. Stars in swaddling clothes. A wide, wide time. The heart’s clock strikes two thousand. Dew, like a rendez-vous, veils the eyelashes.

A street lamp hurls black slaves across the pavement as its gold whip flashes. A summer wind wanders, dim and agitated, lips tonguing the shoulders of the gardens. A greenish evil. Suspicions, lights—fermenting. A treasure seething under the froth of darkness. And high on the mountain, with a famished roaring,

its eyes a golden fire, wrathfully a city vaporizes amidst stone pillars, and soaring dome and spire.

17

‫ב‪.‬ךרך הגדולה‬

‫עןבלים נמרגנה והריקות‬ ‫ן^‪.‬ךה ‪3‬זהב עד ערב‪.‬‬ ‫דומית בארות ח־קות‪,‬‬

‫מרחבים עגלי ן‪.‬ך‪,‬ךל‪.‬‬ ‫העצים