The Song of Songs

Falk, Marcia

THE SONE OF SONGS poems from a new rendition Marcia Falk The following poems are an excerpt from my translation of the Song of Songs, a book which has been translated, interpreted, arranged, and...

...We'll help you look for him...
...Her research for this translation was sponsored in part by a Fulbright Grant to Israel in 1973-74...
...And for this reason if no other, they cannot be considered faithful renditions of the original, which is sophisticated and compelling poetry...
...Eyes like doves, afloat Upon the water...
...Cheeks like beds of spices, Banks of flowers, Lips like lilies, sweet And wet with dew...
...The eyes of many morning suns Have pierced my skin, and now I shine Black as the light before the dawn...
...Why one more translation...
...The image is both itself and more than itself...
...Because, as a collection of love poems unified by their participation in a common tradition but each having its own mood and meaning, the Song has never received its poetic due in English...
...She is graceful and complete, yet he, wanting to share love (not possess the beloved), adorns her with his own gifts...
...O women of the city, Swear by the wild field doe Not to wake or rouse us Till we fulfill our love...
...My love thrusts his hand at the latch and my heart leaps for him...
...Where has he gone...
...Should I get up, get dressed, and dirty my feet...
...The interpretations reflected here are based on philological research, literary analysis, and, at times, investigation of external sources...
...Friend and lover chosen For my love...
...This translation is an attempt to fill that need...
...Set in gold, his legs, Two marble columns He stands as proud as cedars In the mountains...
...By far the most acclaimed English version has been the King James, which, although it is prose, achieves a level of grace and eloquence that earns it a unique place among English classics...
...O women of the city, Swear to me...
...The men who roam the streets, guarding the walls, beat me and tear away my robe...
...I then rendered each into a poem in English...
...For love is strong as death, Harsh as the grave...
...Living water, you are a fountain, A well, a river flowing from the mountains Come, north winds and south winds...
...Man of pleasure sweet To taste his love...
...My lover's voice here, at the door Open, my love, my sister, my dove, my perfect one, for my hair is soaked with the night...
...My love is radiant As gold or crimson, Hair in waves of black Like wings of ravens...
...19 / sleep, but my heart stirs, restless, and dreams...
...basing my decisions on such considerations as subject matter, tone, changes of speaker, and implied context...
...and radiant O city women watching me As black as Kedar's goathair tents Or Solomon's fine tapestries...
...A puzzling image: mares did not draw chariots...
...28 Stamp me in your heart, Upon your limbs, Sear my emblem deep Into your skin...
...Thus, at times, my renditions will seem to depart quite radically from other more literal versions...
...She is a beautiful creature, a quiet profile, yet also a terrible and captivating power...
...If you find my lover You will say That I am sick with love...
...Today most scholars view the Song of Songs as a collection of love poems rather than as an allegory, a drama, or a structurally unified poem...
...I'd bring you to my mother's home (My mother teaches me) And give you wine and nectar From my pomegranates...
...I divided the Hebrew text into thirty-one poems, Marcia Falk is a poet and translator whose work has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies both here and abroad...
...J_ Like a mare among stallions, You lure, I am held your cheeks framed with braids your neck traced with shells I'll adorn you with gold And with silver bells J_ The sound of my lover coming from the hills quickly, like a deer upon the mountains Now at my windows, walking by the walls, here at the lattices, he calls Come with me, my love, come away For the long wet months are past, the rains have fed the earth and left it, bright with blossoms Birds wing in the low sky, dove and songbird singing in the open air above Earth nourishing tree and vine, green fig and tender grape, green and tender fragrance Come with me, my love, come away 18 Enclosed and hidden, you are a garden, A still pool, a fountain...
...Copyright © 1976 by Marcia Falk...
...These poems are a gift back to their source, and an attempt to share in the tradition...
...Will you disrobe me with your stares...
...Hence the need to go one step farther, to combine scholarship with conscious poetic craft and sensibility...
...Unfortunately, all these versions lack the texture and density of good English verse, so obviously, in fact, that one must conclude that they were never intended to be read as verse translations...
...J_ Yes, I am black...
...Bathed in milk, at rest On brimming pools...
...But the Egyptians set mares loose in war to drive the enemies' stallions wild, and this is the crux of the metaphor...
...Stretching your limbs, you open A field of pomegranates blooms, Treasured fruit among the blossoms, Henna, sweet cane, bark, and saffron, Fragrant woods and succulents, The finest spices and perfumes...
...My aim in translating was fidelity, not to isolated images but to their meaning in context and to the effects they had upon the culture from which they emerged...
...I rise to open for my love, my hands dripping perfume on the lock...
...For example, in chapter 1, line 9 of the Hebrew (poem 4 here), the woman is compared to a mare among Pharaoh's chariots...
...Its tongues are flames, a fierce And holy blaze...
...Who is your love, And why do you bind us by oath...
...Feast, drink and drink deeply lovers...
...NOTE: The different type faces indicate different speakers, evident in the Hebrew because gender is attached to second person pronouns and pronominal suffixes...
...Beautiful woman, Where has your lover gone to...
...Endless seas and floods, Torrents and rivers Never put out love's Infinite fires...
...I open, but he has gone...
...M.F...
...O for his arms around me, Beneath me and above...
...Breathe upon my garden, Bear its fragrance to my lover, Let him come and share its treasures...
...My bride, my sister, I have come To gather spices in my garden, To taste wild honey with my wine, Milk and honey with my wine...
...And I have faced the angry glare Of others, even my mother's sons Who sent me out to watch their vines While I neglected all my own...
...However, the decisions concerning where one poem ends and the next begins are the result of literary interpretation, and no two analyses are alike...
...My aim was not to Hebraicize English but to probe the roots of the Hebrew and uncover the resonances lost in other translations...
...Studded with jewels, his arms Are round and golden, His belly smooth as ivory, Bright with gems...
...She is completing a Ph.D...
...Those who think that wealth Can buy them love Only play the fool And meet with scorn...
...Rather I set out to write the best verse I could...
...Still, from the perspective of scholarship, the King James Version is long outdated...
...My love has gone to walk Among his gardens To feed his sheep and there To gather flowers...
...None of my translations is literal neither word for word nor line by line but all are attempts to draw closer to the meanings, intentions, and spirit of their Hebrew counterparts...
...Our understanding of the Hebrew text has changed considerably since the time of the King James, particularly in this century, and one of the results of modern research has been a string of new translations (the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible, the New English Bible, and the new translation of the Megilloth by the Jewish Publication Society, to name only a few...
...I turn to meet my love, He'll turn to me, Who leads his flock to feed Among the flowers...
...All translations are, by necessity, interpretations...
...THE SONE OF SONGS poems from a new rendition Marcia Falk The following poems are an excerpt from my translation of the Song of Songs, a book which has been translated, interpreted, arranged, and to use Franz Rosenzweig's image "convulsed" many times...
...Rather than trying to echo the rhythms or diction of the King James, I sought to create an entirely fresh version, one that would open up the locked gardens of the Hebrew and give them new life on American soil...
...Nor did I attempt to mimic the aesthetic techniques of Hebrew poetry, for this would have resulted in a work that was neither Hebrew nor English verse but "translationese...
...25 Oh, if you were my brother Nursed at my mother's breast, I'd kiss you in the streets And never suffer scorn...
...I run out after him, calling, but he is gone...
...Thus, Italic indicates a female voice, Cairo, a male voice, and Vogue, all third persons and plural voices...
...in English at Stanford University and teaches comparative literature, creative writing, and Hebrew at the State University of New York at Binghamton...

Vol. 1 • April 1976 • No. 9


 
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