Yonatan Ratosh was born in 1908 in Warsaw, and emigrated to Palestine in 1921. In 1939 he founded the Canaanite movement, which rejected both Judaism and Zionism in favor of a new "Canaanite" identity which was, as Yatosh believed, more organic to the Fertile Crescent, and which sought to liberate all who lived the region from the stranglehold of Abrahamic monotheism. The Canaanite movement cultivated an archaic Biblical (or, theoretically, pre-Biblical) diction modeled to some degree on the language of Ugaritic epic (c.f. the Ugariticizing term "father of years" in this poem.)
This dirge was written for the poet's father, and is envisioned as a hymn for the pall-bearers. It describes how the dead father is carried westward beyond the sea to the dwelling of El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon.
The title of this poem in Hebrew is Et NiÅ¡mat, literally "The Soul of." (The form with et is in the accusative, and cannot normally stand alone in Hebrew anymore than the accusative form Requiem can stand alone in Latin.) It comes from the beautiful prayer El Mole Raá¸¥amim "God Full of Mercy." That prayer is recited by a cantor at Jewish funerals, and is also traditionally recited during the walk up to a person's grave. Line 7 begins Et NiÅ¡mat "The Soul Of" followed by a place where one is to utter the actual name of the deceased. This poem is an alternative to that prayer, a polytheistic (neo-)Canaanite dirge.
I felt it appropriate to make the recording for this poem using an archaizing pronunciation of Hebrew. In addition to the pharyngeal fricatives, I distinguish ×› from ×§ in all cases, and realize the historical geminates as such.
Dirge By Yonatan Ratosh Requested by Victor Leibowitz Translated by A.Z. Foreman Click to hear me recite the original Hebrew Righteousness shall go before him Making clear his way Righteousness the shield-bearer before him in the darkness Righteousness shall walk before him. Now to the God of the Sea Winds Now to the God of the West Spirits In the heart of the twin abysses In the heart of heaven and earth To the God whose wing makes evening gloam, Whose beard is the grey of seething foam. Up with the lamp of the Gods you've come Now you course Down with the lamp of the Gods, the sun To its source. Unto the end of all mighty waters The fountainhead of all the world's earth Of every road ascending to the heavens Of every road descending to Sheol. Unto the God of the Sea Winds Unto the God of the West Spirits In the timbered hall, the father of years In whose hand is the soul of all flesh At whose feet bow all living things. This man has known Affliction and its rod. This man has ceased his labors Bound for home. Righteousness shall go before him Making clear his way Righteousness the shield-bearer before him in the darkness Righteousness shall walk before him. Into the heart of the twin abysses Into the heart of heaven and earth To the timbered hall of the father of years, Whose hand gave the crown of Baal Whose hand gave the might of Anat Whose hand gave the wisdom of Kothar Whose hand gave the good of Astarte At his right hand â€” the horn of Baal At his left hand â€” the weight of Mot. Almighty-pinioned El Who shade the corners of the world Who deal justice in your depths, Justice in heaven and earth, Bless him who returns to his kin. Bless the soul of Your servant Gone forever To his repose. Righteousness shall go before him Making clear his way Righteousness the shield-bearer before him in the darkness Righteousness shall walk before him.