On Fleeing His Cityby Samuel ha Nagid
English version by Peter Cole
Original Language Hebrew
And this in his youth on leaving Cordoba:
Spirit splits in its asking,
and soul in its wanting is balked;
and the body, fattened, is vital
and full --
its precious being uneasy...
But the modest man
walks on the earth with his
thought drawn toward sky.
What good is the pulse of man's flesh
and its favors
when the mind is in pain?
And the friends who fray me,
their fine physiques
and slender thinking,
thinking it's ease or gain
that drives me,
pitching from place to place,
my hair wild, my eyes
charcoaled with night --
and not a one speaks wisely,
their souls blunted, or blurred,
Should someone unguilty
hold back from
longing toward heights like the moon?
Should he wait,
weaving its light across him
like a man stretching taut his tent skin,
until he acts and they hear of his action,
as he adds and then adds like the sea
to his fame?
By God and God's faithful --
and I keep my oaths --
I'll climb cliffs
and descend to the innermost pit,
and sew the edge of desert to desert,
and split the sea
and every gorge,
and sail in mountainous ascent,
until the word forever makes sense to me,
and my enemies fear me,
and my friends in that fear
then free men will turn
their faces toward mine,
as I face theirs,
and soul will save us,
as it trips our obstructors.
The beds of our friendship are rich with it,
planted by the river of affection,
and fixed like a seal in wax,
like graven gold
in the windowed dome of the temple.
May YAH be with you as you love,
and your soul which He loves be delivered,
and the God of sentence
beyond both the sun and the moon.
|-- from Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, Translated by Peter Cole|