Sunday 17 November 2019

The Sunday Poem

Anthony Cronin
Anthony Cronin

Anthony Cronin

THIS wise and beautiful poem is translated from the Yiddish, a combination of German and Hebrew, once widely used by Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. The great master of Yiddish in the twentieth century is held to be Isaac Bashevis Singer. Rachel Korn was born in Polish Galicia to a well-to-do Jewish family and she wrote originally in Polish. In her twenties however she turned to Yiddish and published poems widely in that language.

When the Nazis occupied Poland she escaped to Sweden and subsequently to Russia. A Communist in Poland, where it was forbidden before the war to be such, she became disillusioned in Moscow and eventually anti-Soviet. When the war ended she returned to Poland but, two years later, emigrated to Canada and lived in Montreal. She also wrote fiction and published two collections of stories as well as eight volumes of verse. Elohim is a Hebrew word for God.

 

Keep Hidden From Me

Rachel Korn trans. Carolyn Kizer

 

Keep from me all that I might comprehend!

O God, I ripen toward you in my unknowing.

The barely burgeoning leaf on the roadside tree

Limns innocence: here endeth the first lesson.

Keep from me, God, all forms of certainty:

The steady tread that paces off the self

And forms it, seamless, ignorant of doubt

Or failure, hell-bent for fulfilment.

To know myself: is that not the supreme disaster?

To know Thee, one must sink on trembling knees.

To hear Thee, only the terrified heart may truly listen;

To see Thee, only the gaze half-blind with dread.

Though the day darken, preserve my memory

From Your bright oblivion. Erase not my faulty traces.

If I aspire again to make four poor walls my house,

Let me pillow myself on the book of my peregrinations.

God, grant me strength to give over false happiness,

And the sense that suffering has earned us Your regard.

Elohim! Though sorrow fill me to the brim,

Let me carefully bear the cup of myself to Thee.

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