Gazing Through the Night

by Samuel ha Nagid

English version by Peter Cole
Original Language Hebrew

Gazing through the
          night and its stars,

     or the grass and its bugs,

I know in my heart these swarms
are the craft of surpassing wisdom.

     Think: the skies
          resemble a tent,
     stretched taut by loops
and hooks;

and the moon with its stars,
     a shepherdess,
          on a meadow
               grazing her flock;

and the crescent hull in the looser clouds

     looks like a ship being tossed;

     a whiter cloud, a girl
          in her garden
               tending her shrubs;

and the dew coming down is her sister
     shaking water
     from her hair onto the path;

     as we
          settle in our lives,

like beasts in their ample stalls --

     fleeing our terror of death,
          like a dove
               its hawk in flight --

though we'll lie in the end like a plate,
     hammered into dust and shards.

-- from Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, Translated by Peter Cole

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Recommended Books: Samuel ha Nagid

Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid Jewish Prince in Moslem Spain: Selected Poems of Samuel Ibn Nagrela The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain

Gazing Through the