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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Poems of Zion by Heine & Antonio Enríquez Gómez

Poems of Zion were a popular genre among Jewish poets through the ages. Here are two poems of Zion from poets who had to live part of their lives falsely as Christians, given the pressures and oppressions of their times.

Heinrich Heine is often considered the greatest lyric poet of the German language. His native tongue was not exactly German, it was the western dialect of Yiddish spoken by Jews in Germany. Heine always considered himself a Jew and wrote a beautiful description of a Sabbath eve in the home of a poor Jew.
Here Heine starts out by contrasting Zion with Laura, a lady whom the Italian poet Petrarch [Petrarca] loved from afar.

She was not a Laura whose
Eyes, fading stars
Lit an ardent flame,
In church on Holy Friday.

Nor a noble lady
Who in the splendor of youth
Presides over a joust and awards
A laurel wreath to the lucky winner.

The woman the rabbi loves
Has a sign of mourning on her face
And despair in her heart
She is called Jerusalem.
[Heine, Hebrew Melodies, in Charles Lehrmann, Jewish Influences on European Thought (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson U Press 1976; trans. George Klin or Victor Carpenter), p 87]

May my right hand wither
If I ever forget thee, O Jerusalem!
[Heine, Hebrew Melodies, translation slightly modified by Eliyahu; in Lehrmann, p 162]

Antonio Enríquez Gómez [1660-1663] lived an adventurous life. He was born in Segovia, Spain, to a father whose family were converted Jews from Portugal. His real name was Enrique Enríquez de Paz. His rose to the rank of captain in the Spanish army and then left Spain, escaping from the Inquisition, settling in France where he became a secretary to King Louis XIII. Curiously, it was in France that most of his works were published. His plays were admired by the famous playwright Lope de Vega. Gómez later moved on to Amsterdam where he openly reverted to Judaism. Strangely enough, he returned to Spain incognito, living and writing under the name Fernando de Zarate. He was in Spain in 1660 when the Inquisition burned an effigy of him as a Judaizer. The Inquisition found him eventually and put him to death in 1663. [On his career, see Lehrmann, the Encyclopedia Judaica, Israel S Revah's writings on him, and the Wikipedia article linked to above]

I am dying for the law You wrote,
For the holy precepts that you ordained,
For the holy people that You chose,
For the commandments that you prescribed.

I die for the country that You gave me,
And the glory with which You honored Your people,
I die for Israel, but primarily
For Your true, ineffable name.

In Spanish:
Yo muero por la ley que Tú escribiste,
Por los preceptos santos que mandaste,
Por el pueblo sagrado que escogiste,
Y por los mandamientos que ordenaste,
Yo muero por la patria que me diste,
Y por la gloria con que el pueblo honraste;
Muero por Israel, y lo primero
Por tu inefable nombre verdadero.
[Antonio Enríquez Gómez, El Sansón Nazareno (a play), in Lehrmann, p 99]
- - - - - - - - - -
Coming: More on Hebron, more on Jews in Jerusalem, more on peace follies, etc.

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