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4/21 poetry rec - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
4/21 poetry rec
Keeping with the not-originally-in-English theme (and I will get to a Psalm eventually), here's a favorite Hebrew poem, usually sung--you can hear a cantor singing it at this page, as well as see it in Hebrew letters. It's very brief. The title is "Eili, Eili," or in English, "Oh, Lord, my God." (Actually, "My God, My God," but the English is translated to the former. It also translates "the prayer of man" into "the prayer of the heart.") By Hannah Senesh

Eili Eili
Shelo yigameir l'olam,
Hachol v'hayam
rishrush shel hamayim,
B'rak hashamyim
t'filat ha-adam.

O Lord, my God,
I pray that these things shall never end.
The sand and the sea,
the rush of the waters,
the crash of the heavens,
the prayer of the heart.

Anyone who knows Hebrew better than I do is more than welcome to point out where the translation isn't exactly literal.

(EDIT: Heh, didn't notice until I c/p'd that this site does translate it as "prayer of man." I've never actually heard it that way! So I changed the translation to what I know. Even though I know what I know is a very bizarre way to render that particular translation.)

(EDIT 2: HA!!! I just looked at the credits on the page, and one of the site coders is a guy I used to write with!)


6 comments or Leave a comment
she_universe From: she_universe Date: April 22nd, 2006 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, i don't know hebrew all that well, but wouldn't the first two lines (as i think i remember learning) go more like such (not to be a stickler):

Eili Eili
Shelo yigameir l'olam


My God, My God
May it never end--

I don't know why the addition of "I pray" bothers me, but thinking on it, it does sound a bit off to me. But heh, translating from and into hebrew is always a nightmare.
she_universe From: she_universe Date: April 22nd, 2006 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)
...ah, edit on my part.

So rereading what i wrote a bit too late, i see why it might have been added...for the reason that "she" as a prefix means "that," but in english and "that" floating round is gibberish, so i guess to keep all original words they;d have to add something. My introduction of "may" is really changing words, but keeping an overall meaning, because i guess you cannot have both. Eh.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 22nd, 2006 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Especially when they're trying to keep the same syllable count for the musical rendition of it. But that's good to know. I like to have the actual translation as well!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 22nd, 2006 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just tossing in what I've read about translation -

When translating poetry or any prose that is meant to convey feelings and images as well as the literal meaning, translators have the thorny problem of recreating the words while still being true to the original text.

For example, this poem starts with a repetition, "My God, my God." From what I've read, repetitions, dualisms, and so on are a major part of Hebrew poetry and there are poetic forms deliberately built around it (or so I've read from bits and pieces about Bible translation).

In English, however, repetition often seems awkward and is generally avoided. "Oh Lord, my God" is still an appropriate translation but hopefully captures more of the original resonance of the words by being less word for word literal.

From: (Anonymous) Date: April 23rd, 2006 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

translation pick

"rishrush" translates more literally to "murmur" (as in a stream), but the monosyllable works better in the rhythm.

More importantly - While "barak" does mean "lightning", which would explain the poetic "crash", it can also mean "shine", "flash" or "gleam". The abbreviated form "b'rak", as in the poem, would indicate an adjunct of "heavens", so I always understood that line in the poem as:
"the gleam of the heavens".
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 23rd, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Shloz wuz here

Sorry - forgot to sign!

6 comments or Leave a comment