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!”

Sample Translations of Children’s Books

Please click on the links to see some sample translations for children’s books.

You will see how I often had to change the “exact” wording to make the English text rhyme, while still keeping the original idea.

Because of the different syntax and the fact that (obviously) two words that rhyme in one language will generally not rhyme in the other, creative solutions are always required.

When “creating” solutions, I also take into account the rhythm and rhyming schemes in the source language. But my goal is always to make the English text as engaging as the source.


gaya dickermanedelman sun






A very short sample from the over 3,ooo words of rhyme in the book, The Bell Maiden, by Nava Semel.


אֵין לִי מְנוּחָה

מַמְלַכְתִּי אַדִּירָה

אֲבָל אֵין בִּי שִׂמְחָה

רֵיק, רֵיק, רֵיק

שָׁכַחְתִּי אֵיךְ לְנַשֵּׁק, לְחַבֵּק

כְּאִילּוּ אֲנִי מֵת

אֲפִילּוּ דִּמְעָה מְסָרֶבֶת לָצֵאת

מַה שֶּׁהָיָה לִי אֵי פַּעַם

רַק צְלִיל מּופְלָא – הוּא יָשִׁיב לִי הַטַּעַם.


I have possessions beyond measure,

but nothing brings me pleasure.

I can’t fall asleep,

I can’t find any peace.


All is empty, all is amiss,

I’ve forgotten the joy of a hug or a kiss.

My heart is like stone, no tears can I shed,

I have no emotions, inside I am dead.


I believe only music that is perfect and true

will bring back the gladness that at one time I knew.





Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twisted Canary.

*** A creative writing assignment. A combination of two classes that I took: American Drama and Contemporary Literary theory. In the former, we discussed the play, A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell. In the latter, we discussed various literary theories using the writings of Conan-Doyle as a point of departure. So I started to think: how would have Conan-Doyle dealt with the story told by Glaspell. (The footnotes indicate actual quotes from SH stories.)

dead canary

Read it all here: The Adventure of the Twisted Canary


Choosing a Poet

I’ve never been much
for poets, or words
arranged in some way
to express what they say.

To listen for symbols
or grasp something obscure,
is it deep down inside
they have something to hide?

And though I’m lost in a sea,
of strange waves and strange lines,
Amongst millions I find,
I must make up my mind.

So poet, who are you
whose thoughts will I see through?


(*Written for class 727.)

Shakespearean Bones

The Milton paper is done and submitted (over a week already) and I was challenged by a friend to write a “Shakespearean sonnet” about my dogs’ bones (the kind they chew, not the ones inside them).

You can read it here.

Another ITA conference over… and I was a speaker!

The annual ITA (Israel Translators Association) conferences have always been one of the highlights of the year for me. There are always plenty of interesting lectures to listen to, and it’s fun renewing and making new acquaintances.

This year’s conference was no less enlightening, except for one difference. I was one of the presenters! I offered to share the (little bit of) knowledge I have about a couple of nifty software programs that I enjoy  using.

My first idea was to present Paymo ( but realized that I didn’t need the entire allotted time of 30 min just for that, so I added Memsource, and then Stretch Break. And because I’ve just started exploring Scrivener, I mentioned that too. I have been asked to write a blog about the programs (i.e. to do my presentation “as a blog”), and I’ll do that later. Here, I’d just like to talk about the preparations.

I had the idea that I could just stand up and “do it live” in front of the audience, but then I was afraid of computer glitches, or even worse, internet failure, and also a lot of dead “air time.” So I decided to record my actions and put them as video clips into a power point presentation.

Now, I, unfortunately, didn’t TIME myself to see how long it would take me to make up the demo, but I can say it was in the range of HOURS! and HOURS. I realize why it takes 3 years to film an hour-and-a-half movie! And after I had the films cut down nicely, and I practiced with one of my “guinea pigs,” I was told that it wasn’t good that people could see the names of some of my clients. So I had to go and redo them. Of course, by this time I knew the exact sequence I needed, so at least it went quicker.

By the way, I used the program “Screen Recorder” to capture my screen.

I went through a long complicated process preparing screen shots: Prtscr -> paste into Paint -> save as. And then go into power point -> add file -> and find the file where I’d saved it. After doing it this way umpteen times, I realized all I had to do was to Prtscr -> paste into the power point page.

The same with clips. Sometimes I realized they were too long or needed bits cut out. So I opened them again in Movie Maker and started again with the editing, and then saving and then publishing as movie. Until I realized that Power Point offers a “trim video” option. And if I needed to cut out bits in the middle, I simply could duplicate the slide, and then trim the first one back, and the second one from the beginning, and just click to make the slides start one after the other.

On the whole, I enjoy doing PPPs. I love fooling with the animations and stuff. So it was quite a learning experience.

Just a pity it took soooooo long!


What’s the difference between editing and proofreading? And translating for that matter?

There are various levels of “perfection” between the processes of translating, editing and proofreading.

The client who understands the differences will be the client who is satisfied with the product he receives.

A document that is translated is NEVER ready to go directly from the translator to the publisher, and woe to he that believes so. It is virtually impossible for a translator to edit his own work, because translating is, for all intents and purposes, writing. No writer can edit his own work. Of course, the translator strives to deliver a perfect document, but don’t count on it!

The next stage is editing, where the foremost job is to make sure that the writer’s prose is flowing and coherent, and may often include suggestions regarding changes in the content or order of the text. The editor looks for errors in logic or holes in the story that the writer may not have realized exist. Additionally, grammar is checked, style sheets are produced (addressing style issues such as serial commas, spellings of unconventional or foreign words), spelling of names and places are checked, and data is confirmed for accuracy (were thermoses actually used in 1829?), styles of heading levels are determined and much more. Furthermore, the editors job is

This is usually done on the manuscript using track changes.

Finally, proofreading is usually to check for typographical errors. In “old times” proofreading was actually done on a proof of the printed document (hence the name) using all those funny squiggly marks. Today it may be done on a pdf file.

For a full explanation of the differences between editing and proofreading, please go here to Daily Writing Tips.