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Hayyim Nahman Bialik

Summer is dying

Summer is dying in the purple and gold and russet
of the falling leaves of the wood,
and the sunset clouds are dying
in their own blood.

In the emptying public gardens
the last strollers break their walk
to lift their eyes and follow
the flight of the last stork.

The heart is orphaned. Soon
the cold rains will be drumming.
'Have you patched your coat for winter!
Stocked potatoes against its coming?'

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I Didn’t Win Light In A Windfall

I didn’t win light in a windfall,
nor by deed of a father’s will.
I hewed my light from granite.
I quarried my heart.

In the mine of my heart a spark hides –
not large, but wholly my own.
Neither hired, nor borrowed, nor stolen –
my very own.

Sorrow wields huge hammer blows,
the rock of endurance cracks
blinding my eye with flashes
I catch in verse.

They fly from my lines to your breast
to vanish in kindled flame.
While I, with heart’s blood and marrow
pay the price of the blaze.

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A Long Bough

A bough sank down on a fence, and fell asleep –
so shall I sleep.
The fruit has fallen; and what do I care
for my root and stock?

The fruit has fallen, the flower is long forgotten,
only leaves remain.
One day a storm will rage and they will fall,
casualties, to earth.

Afterwards, terrible nights.
No respite, no sleep.
I wrestle alone in darkness, batter
my head on the wall.

Spring will blossom again. Only I
hang on to my stem –
bald shoot with no bud and no flower
no fruit and no leaf.

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A Twig Alighted

A twig alighted on a fence and dozed;
So do I sleep.
The fruit fell and what have I to do with my trunk,
What with my branch?
The fruit fell, the flower is already forgotten,
The leaves survive.
One day the storm will rage, they will drop.
To the ground, dead.
Afterwards, the nights of dread go on,
No rest or sleep for me,
Alone I thrash about in the dark, smashing
My head against my wall.
And again spring blossoms,
And alone I hang from my trunk
A bare shoot, without bud or flower,
Without fruit or leaf.

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Take Me Under Your Wing

Take me under your wing,
be my mother, my sister.
Take my head to your breast,
my banished prayers to your nest.

One merciful twilight hour,
hear my pain, bend your head.
They say there is youth in the world.
Where has my youth fled?

Listen! another secret:
I have been seared by a flame.
They say there is love in the world.
How do we know love’s name?

I was deceived by the stars.
There was a dream; it passed.
I have nothing at all in the world,
nothing but a vast waste.

[...] Read more

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Return

Once more. Look: a spent old scarecrow
shrivelled face
straw-dry shadow
swaying like a leaf
bending and swaying over books.

Once more. Look: a spent old crone
weaving and weaving
knitted stockings
mouth full of curses
lips forever mumbling curses.

There’s the household cat
has not moved since I left,
still dreaming by the stove
playing cat and mouse
in his dream.

And as ever, in darkness
the spider weaves

[...] Read more

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Alone

Wind blew, light drew them all.
New songs revive their mornings.
Only I, small bird, am forsaken
under the Shekhina’s wing.

Alone. I remain alone.
The Shekhina’s broken wing
trembled over my head. My heart knew hers:
her fear for her only son.

Driven from every ridge –
one desolate corner left –
in the House of Study she hides in shadow,
and I alone share her pain.

Imprisoned beneath her wing
my heart longed for the light.
She buried her face on my shoulder
and a tear fell on my page.

[...] Read more

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The Old Acacia Tree

Neither daylight nor the darkness
See how silently I wander.
Not on mountain, nor in valley,
Does an old acacia ponder.

The acacia solves all mysteries,
Tells my fortune while I tarry.
I shall ask the tree to tell me
Whom O whom, am I to marry?

Where will he be from, O Acacia,
Is it Poland, Lithuania?
Will he come with a horse and a carriage
Or with staff and sack will he appear?

And what presents will be bring me -
Necklace of pearls and coral flower?
Tell me, will he be fair or dark-haired?
Still unmarried or a widower?

[...] Read more

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In The City Of Slaughter (excerpt)

Proceed thence to the ruins, the split walls reach,
Where wider grows the hollow, and greater grows the breach;
Pass over the shattered hearth, attain the broken wall
Whose burnt and barren brick, whose charred stones reveal
The open mouths of such wounds, that no mending
Shall ever mend, nor healing ever heal…

Terror floating near the rafters, terror
Against the walls in darkness hiding,
Terror through the silence sliding.
Didst thou not hear beneath the heap of wheels
A stirring of crushed limbs?

Much suffering and tribulation–tried
Which in this house of bondage binds itself.
It will not ever from its pain be pried.
Brief-weary and forespent, a dark Shekhinah
Runs to each nook and cannot find its rest;
Wishes to weep, but weeping does not come;
Would roar; is dumb….

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One, Two

One, two, three, four —
find yourself a wife — choose her!
Do not dally, don't be late
or someone else'll get there first.

I myself found me some honey
but it never came to my lips.
Two she had her, this one widow:
one brunette and one had fair hair.

Not girls-pearls,
fillies fine and gorgeous,
the joy of whoever saw their face
and I loved both of them.

But who'll foretell and who'll say
which of them I loved more.
The time went, I don't know how
I dillydallied, dillydallied.

[...] Read more

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