Shmu'el HaNagid: On the death of his son, Jacob


Before me the world is a binding seal,
and my home to me is a prison, my son.
After your death I'll go in fear
no more of Time-- for my terror has come.

  --By Shmu'el HaNagid, also known as Samuel ibn Naghrilla (993-after 1056) from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, edited and translated by Peter Cole (2007). Cole is a poet himself and has won the MacArthur award, among many others.

Moshe Ibn Ezra: Let man remember he's on his way towards death

Jonas Schleske Yearning Flickr

Let man remember throughout his life
he's on his way toward death:
each day he travels only a little
so thinks he's always at rest--

like someone sitting at ease on a ship
while the wind sweeps it over the depths.

  --By Moshe Ibn Ezra (ca 1055-after 1138) from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, edited and translated by Peter Cole (2007). Cole is a poet himself and has won the MacArthur award, among many others.

Remember, Man, that thou art dust


Remember, Man, that thou art dust
and unto dust thou shalt return.

       --Traditionally said on Ash Wednesday by priest to Catholics, as he marks a cross of ashes on their foreheads to mark the beginning of Lent. The phrase is from the Catholic liturgy, based on a translation of Genesis 3:19, below in Latin.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es
et in pulverem reverteris.

Mary Frye: Do not stand at my grave and weep


Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

       --Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004). According to Wikipedia, she wrote this poem when a young German-Jewish woman who was staying with her family in Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1930s, when Nazis had taken over Germany, told her how sad she was that when her mother died in Germany, she could not be there to "stand by my mother's grave and shed a tear." The poem has been put to music many times.

From the depths I called to you


Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

        --Psalm 130, De profundis, King James Bible version

מִמַּעֲמַקִּים קְרָאתִיךָ    יְהוָה.
אֲדֹנָי,    שִׁמְעָה בְקוֹלִי:
תִּהְיֶינָה אָזְנֶיךָ, קַשֻּׁבוֹת--    לְקוֹל, תַּחֲנוּנָי.


Georges Moustaki: Grandfathers


It's for you that I play Grandfather-- it's for you.
All the others hear me but you, you listen.
We're made of the same wood, we have the same blood,
and I carry your name and you are a little bit me.

Exiled from Corfu and Constantinople,
Ulysses who never retraced his steps,
I am from your country, a métèque like you,
a child of the child that Penelope bore you.

You were already old when I was just born,
arriving just in time to take up the relay.
And I will end up one day resembling
the photo where you posed as an ancestor.


It's for you that I play Grandfather, it's for you
that I slide my fingers along my six strings
to awaken a tranquil single-chord tune
that's all that I know to do with my ten fingers.

Master of laziness, expert at poaching,
like you I have lived in the shadow of boats
and to make a feast I would steal birds
that the sea wind brought me from the deep

Like you I ran after girls and dreams
drinking at each stream I crossed
and without ever really quenching my thirst
without ever tiring of sowing my seed.

It's for you that I play Grandfather, it's for you.
To put back in the present all that has passed
since I began to speak only French
and I write songs you don't understand

It's for you I play Grandfather, it's for you.
All the others surround me but you wait for me
even though you are far off in space and in time
when it's time to die we'll find each other again.

      --Georges Moustaki (1934-2013), written in 1969. He was born to Greek Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, and became a famous singer in French.


C'est pour toi que je joue Grandpère c'est pour toi
Tous les autres m'écoutent mais toi tu m'entends
On est du même bois on est du même sang
Et je porte ton nom et tu es un peu moi

Exilé de Corfou et de Constantinople
Ulysse qui jamais ne revint sur ses pas
Je suis de ton pays, métèque comme toi
Un enfant de l'enfant que te fit Pénélope

Tu étais déjà vieux quand je venais de naître
Arrivé juste à temps pour prendre le relais
Et je finirai bien un jour par ressembler
A la photo où tu as posé à l'ancêtre

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Que je glisse mes doigts le long de mes six cordes
Pour réveiller un air tranquille et monocorde
C'est tout ce que je sais faire de mes dix doigts

Maître en oisiveté expert en braconnage
Comme toi j'ai vécu à l'ombre des bateaux
Et pour faire un festin je volais les oiseaux
Que le vent de la mer me ramenait du large

Comme toi j'ai couru les filles et les rêves
Buvant à chaque source que je rencontrais
Et sans être jamais vraiment désaltéré
Sans jamais être las de répandre ma sève

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Pour remettre au présent tout ce qui est passé
Depuis que je ne parle plus que le français
Et j'écris des chansons que tu ne comprends pas

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Tous les autres m'entourent mais toi tu m'attends
Même si tu es loin dans l'espace et le temps
Quand il faudra mourir on se retrouvera.

To everything there is a season

Angel_harvesting To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.


I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life....That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past....

       --Ecclesiastes 3, The Bible