Spanish Jewish Philosopher, Poet, Critic and Linguist
Moses ibn Ezra, fully Rabbi Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, known as ha-Sallah "Writer of penitential prayers"
Spanish Jewish Philosopher, Poet, Critic and Linguist
The Wandering Jew - Circumstance has estranged my friend. For exile, and for love, they [tears] flow— Exile and love, that rend the frame Of them who dwell from friends apart. The new blossoms all came forth in honor of Time renewed, came gaily to welcome him. Let man remember all the days of his life that he is being led to death. I behold graves of ancient time, of days long past, wherein a people sleeps the eternal sleep. Is there vengeance for a lover’s blood? My night is plunged into a silent sea of darkness. Grave tunneling into grave, headstone and obelisk crumbled into one dust, bodies heaped upon bodies, in motionless orgy - yet God has set eternity in my heart. Drink, my friend… and if you see me going under revive me with your minstrelsy. I rose at dawn to praise Thy name, my sins o’erwhelmed my soul with shame, but comfort after penance came, for all my hopes are set in Thee. Yet verily, though He slay me still will I trust in Him; and if He hide His face, I will bethink me of His tenderness, and turn thereto. Bring with sweets of love, my soul to life again! Oh, hear the cry of Thy people and incline unto their plea—In their misery. . . My son, yea, I will send thee aid, bend thou thy steps to me, be not afraid. No nearer friend than I am, hast thou made, possess thy soul in patience one more night.
Unto the house of prayer my spirit yearns,
Unto the sources of her being turns,
To where the sacred light of heaven burns,
She struggles thitherward by day and night.
The splendor of God’s glory blinds her eyes,
Up without wings she soareth to the skies,
With silent aspiration seeks to rise,
In dusky evening and in darksome night.
To her the’ wonders of God’s works appear,
She longs with fervor Him to draw anear,
The tidings of His glory reach her ear,
From morn to even, and from night to night.
The banner of thy grace did o’er me rest,
Yet was thy worship banished from my breast.
Almighty, thou didst seek me out and test
To try and to instruct me in the night.
I dare not idly on my pillow lie,
With winged feet to the shrine I fain would fly,
When chained by leaden slumbers heavily,
Men rest in imaged shadows, dreams of night.
Infatuate I trifled youth away,
In nothingness dreamed through my manhood’s day.
Therefore my streaming tears I may not stay,
They are my meat and drink by day and night.
In flesh imprisoned is the son of light,
This life is but a bridge when seen aright.
Rise in the silent hour and pray with might,
Awake and call upon thy God by night!
Hasten to cleanse thyself of sin, arise!
Follow Truth’s path that leads unto the skies,
As swift as yesterday existence flies,
Brief even as a watch within the night.
Man enters life for trouble; all he has,
And all that he beholds, is pain, alas!
Like to a flower does he bloom and pass,
He fadeth like a vision of the night.
The surging floods of life around him roar,
Death feeds upon him, pity is no more,
To others all his riches he gives o’er,
And dieth in the middle hour of night.
Crushed by the burden of my sins I pray,
Oh, wherefore shunned I not the evil way?
Deep are my sighs, I weep the livelong day,
And wet my couch with tears night after night.
My spirit stirs, my streaming tears still run,
Like to the wild birds’ notes my sorrows’ tone,
In the hushed silence loud resounds my groan,
My soul arises moaning in the night.
Within her narrow cell oppressed with dread,
Bare of adornment and with grief-bowed head
Lamenting, many a tear her sad eyes shed,
She weeps with anguish in the gloomy night.
For tears my burden seem to lighten best,
Could I but weep my heart’s blood, I might rest.
My spirit bows with mighty grief oppressed,
I utter forth my prayer within the night.
Youth’s charm has like a fleeting shadow gone,
With eagle wings the hours of life have flown.
Alas! the time when pleasure I have known,
I may not now recall by day or night.
The haughty scorn pursues me of my foe,
Evil his thought, yet soft his speech and low.
Forget it not, but bear his purpose so
Forever in thy mind by day and night.
Observe a pious fast, be whole again,
Hasten to purge thy heart of every stain.
No more from prayer and penitence refrain,
But turn unto thy God by day and night.
He speaks: “My son, yea, I will send thee aid,
Bend thou thy steps to me, be not afraid.
No nearer friend than I am, hast thou made,
Possess thy soul in patience one more night.”
O Thou, that graciously attendest
To the voice of suppliants,
And So the sweet words of psalmody,
Bethink Thee of the trustful one
Who knocks at the gates of prayer,
And in the darkness at the dead of night
Whilst the world sleeps,
Cries: “I stand upon my ward
All the night.”
Them that were drawn with the bands of man,
With the leading strings of love,
Thou hast forgotten in the prison of their woe,
Where they dwell, like the dead, among the shadows.
Where is their Redeemer and Deliverer,
Whose loving-kindness never ceases?
Where are the signs and the wonders,
And the mighty proofs?
Of old, Thou madest Israel like a vineyard—
Wherein Thou didst plant tender vines.
Alas! Thou hast broken down his fences,
All they that pass by, hiss at him.
Thou hast strengthened the hand of his enemies,
He is shaken out and emptied.
They have stript off his branches
And heaped them up in the road.
Oh, hear the cry of Thy people
And incline unto their plea—
In their misery,
Hide not Thine eyes from their grief!
Oh, hasten their deliverance—
For Thou art their Redeemer—
And cast all their sins
Like a stone, into the depths.
Come, let us seek the spots where dwelled of old
The folk belovèd.
Fate bath scattered them,
And only ruins of their homes remain.
Where stood the shelter of the roes, behold
The lair of lions and the wolves’ terrain.
I hear afar, the cry of the gazelle
That wails in Edom’s keep, or Ismael’s chain;
She weeps for her beloved One, estranged,
The bridegroom of her youth.
Oh, may she sing
For joy, instead of grief! Oh, may her words
Find favor as aforetime:
With Thy endearments, as with flagons. Bring
With sweets of love, my soul to life again!”
Why is my loved One wroth—
That He should be disdainful of me,
While my heart, in its yearning for Him,
Is shaken like a reed?
He hath forgotten the time
When, joyously, I followed Him into the wilderness;
Else, how should I cry this day,
And He answer not?
Yet verily, though He slay me
Still will I trust in Him;
And if He hide His face,
I will bethink me of His tenderness, and turn thereto.
The loving-kindness of the Lord will not fail His servant
For pure gold changes not, nor dims.
I rose at dawn to praise Thy name,
My sins o’erwhelmed my soul with shame,
But comfort after penance came,
For all my hopes are set in Thee.
Thou, O Almighty, knowest all
The passions that my heart enthrall,
Thy many mercies I recall,
And to Thy throne for refuge flee.
No profit unto Thee it were
That I Thy chastening rod should bear,
Turn then, O Lord, and hear my prayer
And pardon mine iniquity.
To Thee my hopes, my longings, rise,
To Thee my soul for succour flies,
And I bewail my sins with sighs,
Like to the moaning of the sea.
Thy name puts all my cares to flight,
And radiates through my darkest night.
The thought of Thee is my delight,
And sweet as honey-comb to me.
Men are children of this world
yet God has set eternity in my heart.
All my life I have been in the desert
but the world is a fresh stream.
I drink from it. How potent this water is!
How deeply I crave it!
An ocean rushes into my throat
but my thirst remains unquenched.
And where are the graves, so many graves
Of all who have died on the earth since the beginning?
Grave tunnelling into grave,
Headstone and obelisk crumbled into one dust,
Bodies heaped upon bodies, in motionless orgy—
All sleeping together in deep holes,
Fragments of chalk,
Who will take revenge upon the [mouth of] lions for my blood? Who will demand my sleep from the gazelles? Is there vengeance for a lover’s blood? Can he ever savour sleep? His pain will not allow it! It is as if his eyes were painted with burning embers and his pupils filled with painful briars. His eyelids cannot come together; it is as if they were tied to their brows. My night is plunged into a silent sea of darkness, where no waves rise—a sea that is to me far wider than the sea; for it has no coast, no shore for those who voyage. The moon, in his glory, moves like a shepherd, slowly grazing his lambs in broad pastures; or like a general, commissioned by the sun, to be the rearguard of his armies. And I do not know if this night is long or short how can a man who is oppressed with grief know such a thing?
These are old tombs, from ancient times, where men sleep the eternal dream. Inside them, there is no hate or envy, nor love or enmity between neighbors. When one sees them, my mind is not capable of distinguishing slaves from lords.
I behold graves of ancient time, of days long past,
Wherein a people sleeps the eternal sleep.
There is no enmity among these folk—no envy;
No loving of neighbor and no hating;
And my thought, envisioning them, cannot discern
Master from slave!
Let man remember all the days of his life that he is being led to death. Stealthily he journeys on, day after day; he thinks he is at rest, like a man who is motionless on board ship, while the ship is flying on the wings of the wind.
My thoughts impelled me to the resting-place
Where sleep my parents, many a friend and brother.
I asked them (no one heard and none replied):
“Do ye forsake me, too, oh father, mother?”
Then from the grave, without a tongue, these cried,
And showed my own place waiting by their side.
O brook, whose hurrying waters go
To the far land that holds my friend,
By thee, my greeting let me send;
And if thy waves seem red as blood,
Tell him my tears have stained thy flood;
The mingled drops of eye and heart,
For exile, and for love, they flow—
Exile and love, that rend the frame
Of them who dwell from friends apart.
O brook, bespeak him tenderly;
Fill thou his heart with thought of me,
So that usurper may not claim
My place therein.
Make him to know
That for his ransom I would give
What years I yet may have to live—
Or if my life be all too little worth,
That which I hold most precious upon earth.
The garden put on a coat of many colours, and its grass garments were like robes of brocade. All the trees dressed in chequered tunics and showed their wonders to every eye. The new blossoms all came forth in honour of Time renewed, came gaily to welcome him. But at their head advanced the rose, king of them all, for his throne was set on high. He came out from among the guard of leaves and cast aside his prison-clothes. Whoever does not drink his wine upon the rose-bed—that man will surely bear his guilt!
Circumstance has estranged my friend.
He has bolted the door
but I will enter the portal
despite my enemies.
I will shatter locks with words.
I will break bolts with my songs
and will persuade myself
that nettles are sprigs of balsam.
I will dance and shout to their bitter juice
as if I were drunk on wine
and humble myself
and pretend that hell stream is icy
if it will get me through the darkness
into his light.
Go now, my song,
take this message to my beloved,
for song is a faithful messenger.
I went out into the garden in the morning dusk, When sorrow enveloped me like a cloud; And the breeze brought to my nostril the odor of spices, As balm of healing for a sick soul.
No sin is so light that it may be overlooked. No sin is so heavy that it may not be repented of.
Dive into the sea of thought, and find there pearls beyond price.
The ancient books are everything I want;
their wisdom is the balm that soothes my pain.
With them I keep sweet company,
my own true circle, and my trusty friends.
They are my sea of wisdom, where I plunge
and bring up pearls to ornament the throat of time.
My heart and eyes get true delight from them,
and to them in return my lips give hymns,
Incense, sweetness, light, and song
to breath and tongue, to ear and eye;
they elevate me, give me pride;
my thoughts are all of them until I die.
Wisdom is like gold ore in the ground, mixed with rock and sand; logic is the mercury used to extract the gold dust.