Another by the Russian Hebrew poet Haim Lensky. Many of his poems, like this one, give the impression of being "Russian poems in Hebrew" just as Preil's give the impression of being American poems in Hebrew. Even when writing â€” as here â€” about Jewish concerns, his mental universe and linguistic aesthetic seem to be Russian through and through.
Then again, what is Russian, really? That question ultimately has no better answer than that of what is really American.
Cossacks, with their habits of raiding Jewish quarters, were much feared by Russian Jews. Near the Mill By Haim Lensky Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Glitter of metal, clatter of hoofs on the hill. The Ataman1 to his Cossacks2 said "The miller's a kike!"3 They leapt ahead. Black were the boots that entered the mill. The boots that left dripped red.
Glitter of metal, clatter of hoofs on the hill. A Red Army lad said "what's the harm In checking up on my dad." For a lark He jumped and hastened into mill. The day when he left was dark.
Glitter of metal, clatter of hoofs on the hill. The soldier returned to his camp and flag. The fall wind scattered the flour of the mill, The flour from his coat, his hair that will Never again be black.
1- Ataman â€” A term for a leader of cossack groups, and the official term for generals of cossack armies in the Russian Empire. The word, which is left unvocalized in the Hebrew text I have, could be interpreted either as "Hetman" or as "The Ataman" though the later makes a bit more sense.
2- Cossacks â€” the original actually says "haydamaks." I've chosen a term that would be more familiar in English.
3- "Kike" here translates a Russian loanword Å¾id in the Hebrew text. Å½id is not easily translated into English. The best way to describe it is that Russian Å¾id is to "Jew" as American English nigger is to "Black." English doesn't have quite the anti-Semitic repertoire that Eastern European languages do. Many anti-semitic slurs simply have no translation that quite conveys to the English speaker the level of disrespect and hate implicit in them. This word has not been pejorative at all times in all places however (as demonstrated by e.g. the Ukrainian Jewish surname Zhydenko.) In medieval Russian it was a quite neutral term, as Polish Å¼yd is to this day. (In Polish, benevolence and malevolence can only be shown in the plural. The benevolent plural is the native Polish plural Å¼ydzi. The malevolent plural is the Russian loan Å¼ydy.)
Back to Gabriel Preil, the most famous Hebrew poet of America, who has the distinction of being the only Hebrew poet ever to write an entire series of poems about the state of Maine.
A Celebration Beyond Things Gabriel Preil Translated by A.Z. Foreman A celebration beyond things, A play on worded things beyond the light, the heavy, beyond bread, table, car. This mist, for example, or that sun. (And it is not important if the New York mist is much different from that of Oregon, or for that matter, if Oregon's sky has reservations about Maine's.) The thing of it is I'm almost ready to swear The variations in the skies can drive The clouds themselves crazy, Or me, in any case, Attentive as I am to the gamut of shades Seduced by the weathers of Poems and loves. Even the rain-sluiced stone Now celebrates something.
Born in Lithuania, Hillel Bavli came to the United States in 1912 and attended Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he earned a doctorate in Hebrew literature. He joined the faculty of the Seminary in 1920. In 1954, he was awarded the Lamed Prize in Hebrew literature for his translation of Shakespeareâ€™s â€œAntony and Cleopatra.â€ He died in 1961 at the age of 69 after a period of illness. Seagulls in My Heart By Hillel Bavli Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Seagulls in my heart Peck me, squawk and draw me toward the shore. The creaking shrieking ships, The sloshing waves, Wayward breezes breathing of sulfur and salt, Bustling sailors, cussing poets. No yoke of yore, no daily decrees. Blurring mists of the ages of ages, The bonds of place and time dissolve. I'm drawn away. Seagulls in my heart. The Original: