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Emet m'Tsiyon

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Poem of Zion by Dunash ben Labrat

Reply to an Invitation to a Feast -- Dunash haLevi ben Labrat

He said: "Do not sleep.
Drink vintage wine,
While henna and lily,
Myrrh and aloes,

Pomegranates and dates,
Tamarisks and grapes,
And pleasant anemones
Fill the garden rows

. . . .

"We shall pour out fine oil,
Burn woody spices.
Let us finish our feast
Before life's last hour"

I rebuked him: "Silence!
How can you talk so,
When the Temple, God's footstool,
Is in the enemy's power?

. . . .

"You no longer think
On the law of God.
You can be happy,
While foxes run loose in Zion.

"How can we drink wine?
How raise our eyes?
When we are nothing,
A race all despise!"

גערתיהו , דום דום ! עלי זאת איך תקדום--
ובית קודש והדום אלוקים לערלים!
. . .
ובציון ירוצון שועלים
!ואיך נשתה יין ואיך נרים עין-- והיינו אין , מאוסים וגעולים

Dunash haLevi ben Labrat [d. 990 CE]. Born in Baghdad, Hebrew linguist and poet. Lived in Fez, Morocco, and then in Cordova in Spain.

Here is a Jewish poet born and living his life in Arab-ruled countries and not entirely pleased with the experience. He was unhappy that the Temple was in enemy hands and that foxes were running loose in Zion. Who was the enemy he was referring to and who were the foxes?
[translation slightly altered/corrected by Eliyahu; basic translation by David Goldstein, Penguin pubs., 1971, in The Jewish Poets of Spain, 900-1250]


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