DB Jonas

Hebrew Andalusian poet (1055 – after 1138)
A Translation

Sing me now your song again, jongleur,
for all these melodies consign my griefs to shadow.
And watching as you play, I marvel at the way
the instrument appears to spring as if
from living bone and sinew, so tightly cleaves
the ‘oud’s convexity to its clever minstrel’s
transports and his slender swaying hollows.

My heart is spellbound by its many courses.
While some you set to vibrate, others
rest in stillness. And I can only marvel
at the flying plectrum’s swift traverse,
the way it, keeping time, will deftly pounce
upon a string and promptly set it free
to throb upon the air, while all your graceful form
enacts the undulations of the song, as if by some
occult concordance of melody and gesture,
as if by some mystic numerology that’s shared
between what’s seen and what is heard,
we’re drawn into the wondrous algebras
made manifest in your performance, the melodies
whose gladness winds about the wounded soul,
caresses like the rippling breeze that whispers
over the face of the deep, shuts tight the doors
of darkness, and opens up to us, your acolytes,
the very mansions of heaven, that we might ascend,
without benefit of any stair, into the blessed realm
of souls and make our way right then and there
away from here, across the rivers of delight.

And hearing you, your hearers’ purest thoughts
radiate so clear that witnesses might even say
the angels of the Lord have cast their spirit down
upon us here, for we afflicted are drawn to join
in joyousness these adepts of the lute and pipe,
in whose company we seek sweet respite
from our weeping. And yet, and yet,
my own laments persist in spite of these delights,
my grief for all those father’s sons who’ve perished
from the earth, and all those other souls beside,
companions driven into exile far and wide.


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