Five More Translations of Alexander Penn

I surfer came upon my translation of Penn’s “Confessions” (the one that was used in a film) and I promised that I would, one day, post  my translations of  some of his other poems. So here they are.  When the songs were well-known folk songs, one of my goals was to render it singable!

Five translations.

(Because formatting the Hebrew in WordPress is a pain, I am simply providing links to the Hebrew.)

It Still Is — No!

Translation copyright Linda Yechiel

עדיין לא

The sun – a blistering hell.
The blasting wind — hot anger wrought.
To you, I will candidly say:
I cannot!

I can’t bear the shriek of the vulture,
nor the soil – all cactus and sand,
can’t bear life on the edge of a fissure —
just to proclaim my homeland.

An ancient frenzy stokes my fervor, oh –
but I can’t bear this hell … it still is – no!

* * * * *

A New Homeland

Translation copyright Linda Yechiel

מולדת חדשה

Musical rendition.

For this homeland that I knew not of before
nor of her fragrant breezes from orchards of gilt –
I’ve surrendered my soul, with joyous fervor,
To burn in the blaze of the Hamsin wind.

What is a life devoid of decadence and thunder,
without tempest of fire, or flash of the knife,
where an endless sun spews out her flames in anger,
lacking stretches of snow for hearts weary of life?

I adore her sands and her clubs and her swords,
I cherish this place – yes this one – my home –
tall and thin – like a quavering song,
All alone amongst the cactus will I roam.

So my song of the wild has changed and it’s new,
tossed into your sandy heart, this is now my fate.
Two homelands I have: Russia and here
And I’ve knowingly fastened the gate.

* * * * * 

The Song of the Drunkard

Translation copyright Linda Yechiel

שיר השיכור
With music, sung by Arik Lavie (very old recording!)

The road seems to be, oh, so long and extended,
The serpentine path curls away,
I’m swaying and reeling and you are so distant
The moon is much closer, I’d say.

I’m reeling, I know, but what’s the big deal?
The whole world is reeling so, too.
To the left? To the right? I’ll tell you the truth,
At the moment I haven’t a clue.         

My head’s in a sky that is festooned with stars
A blanket of vino: a cloud
I’m reeling and searching through masses of billows,
You seem to be lost in the crowd.

I’ve bumped into something! A cop or a post?
So drunk yet so brave is this post.
Just like me and like you, it’s forsaken, alone,
And lost in the gloom like a ghost.

I’m reeling non-stop, cannot stop, cannot cease –
take a step, stand up tall, and then sprawl.
Tell me why do you think it is better to suffer,
and why does my reeling appall?

So I’ll continue to reel till my light has turned dim,
until I can’t straighten my knee –
and still you won’t fathom the soul of the lush,
whose path he just can’t seem to see.

Bye bye, dearest pillar, it isn’t my fault
your lamps look like eyes all askew.
Her eyes were as bright as the evening star,
her heart a hot wind blazing through.

Goodbye, but we’ll meet yet, I’ll walk very slow –
My feet know just where they should be.
Perhaps I am reeling, but I’m not alone,
A drunk world is reeling with me.

* * * * *

On the Hills of Sheikh Abreik and Hartia

Translation copyright Linda Yechiel

עַל גִּבְעוֹת שֵׁיח’ אַבְּרֵיק   (אדמה, אדמתי

Note: This is a popular folk song in Israel, so here my prime goal was to render it “singable” to the folk tune (this is the popular version sung by Yehoram Gaon).

Land, oh land, you’re my land
Beloved to me till my end.
Wild winds churn and roil all your ruins
Wild winds churn and roil.
   We are one, joined by blood
   Silent and blood red
On the hills of Sheikh Abreik, and Hartia.

Undulating waves of dancing
Arc and form into circles.
Rise, bright sun, forever in Hartia,
Rise, bright sun in Hartia!
   Through the nights and through the days,
   My Jewish labor pays
On the hills of Sheikh Abreik, and Hartia.

Olive trees, their crowns a-rustle
chant: Yeah, this is my homeland.
Every rock whispers: Yes, I know him.
Whispers: Yes, I know him.
   On the summit, dance a hora,
   Hail my harvest, ripe and gold
On the hills of Sheikh Abreik, and Hartia.

An impassioned promise made
now you’re captive to me.
No, my heart will not renege its sacred vow,
Not renege its sacred vow.
   For great freedom calls to me,
   a man of mere simplicity,
On the hills of Sheikh Abreik, and Hartia. 

* * * * *


Translation copyright Linda Yechiel

רומאנס – היה או לא היה

Every chance encounter reveals a hidden room,
and every first coquettish glance – a lilac’s nascent bloom.
It was or it wasn’t – there are nights such as this:
his night was not yours, though your night was all his.

They met quite by chance, but chance meetings are had,
he was somber and drunk, she had been rather sad.
“This world is astounding,” he ventured to say,
“If a wonder like you can come into my day.”

She loved him so much, he - the drink was his passion,
but both loved the night in the street in its fashion.
Each midnight, he’d lead her to her house of the moon,
to his beaming “Rest well,” she would just say

It was or it wasn’t – to me the meaning’s blurred,
their meeting was a symphony that never was quite heard …
For him each chance encounter was just a fatal whim:
his night was not for her, though she would give her night to him!
She loved him so much, he – loved just the bars,
though both found much pleasure in gathering stars.
The moon had a fondness for both her and the other,
the moon still loves love, and it loves every lover.

They stood and were silent, no words filled the air.
The only caress was his gaze on her hair.
She envied the goblet for which his lips pined,
his passion to kiss just the fruit of the vine.

Was it or wasn’t it? Was she foolish? Naive?
Nights led to her threshold, and then he would leave ...
Was it or wasn’t it – a reverie? A wonder?
Her night was all for him, his night was not for her.

The days lost their patience, couldn’t wait any more,
because life must continue its row to the shore.
She thought, What a trick this world’s played on me,
if I can love this man – so much, so totally.

Her love was for him, but his – where he drank,
though both of them loved the keenness of angst.
But then the moon heard – and shivered in fright
At the words that she finally told him one night:

“Was it or wasn’t it? This tryst I can’t define.
My night was all yours, but your night was not mine.
In very chance encounter, there is an ending you can see:
I am tired of my love for you … Goodbye, you’re not for me!”