I decided to try my hand at translating a Hebrew poem by the poet Avraham Ben Yitzchak. The poem was translated a number of years ago by Peter Cole, who I admire greatly, but I thought I could render the selfless generosity embodied in the poem somewhat more pointed...
Indeed, there are people who sow, so that others (the poor) might reap. Indeed, there are people who give in absolute anonymity, without any desire for recognition. For them, this is a matter of pride. And Ben-Yizchak's poem is a tribute to those who desire no tribute. Below is the Hebrew original, followed by my English translation.
אשרי הזורעים ולא יקצורו
אַשְׁרֵי הַזּוֹרְעִים וְלֹא יִקְצֹרוּ
כִּי יַרְחִיקוּ נְדוֹד.
אַשְׁרֵי הַנְּדִיבִים אֲשֶׁר תִּפְאֶרֶת נְעוּרֵיהֶם
הוֹסִיפָה עַל אוֹר הַיָּמִים וּפִזְרוֹנָם
וְהֵם אֶת עֶדְיָם הִתְפָּרָקוּ - עַל אֵם הַדְּרָכִים.
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֵּאִים אֲשֶׁר גֵּאוּתָם עָבְרָה גְבוּלֵי נַפְשָׁם
וַתְּהִי כְעַנְוַת הַלֹּבֶן
אַחֲרֵי הֵעָלוֹת הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן.
אַשְׁרֵי הַיּוֹדְעִים אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא לִבָּם מִמִּדְבָּר
וְעַל שְׂפָתָם תִּפְרַח הַדּוּמִיָּה.
אַשְׁרֵיהֶם כִּי יֵאָסְפוּ אֶל תּוֹך לֵב הָעוֹלָם
לוּטֵי אַדֶּרֶת הַשִּׁכְחָה
וְהָיָה חֻקָּם הַתָּמִיד בְּלִי אֹמֶר.
Blessed Are They Who Sow
But Do Not Reap…
Blessed are they who sow but do not reap—
For they shall ward off wandering.
Blessed are the generous—the splendor of their youth
Would add unto the light of days and their extravagance—
Who thrust aside their jewelry at the crossroads.
Blessed are the proud—their pride surpasses the borders of their soul
Becoming the white humility
That follows the rainbow after it ascends into a cloud.
Blessed are the knowing ones—their heart calls out from the desert
And on their lips the silence blooms.
Blessed are they—for they shall be gathered to the heart of the world,
Enwrapped in a cloak of forgetfulness,
An eternal judgment of quiet.
Avraham Ben Yitzchak
Trans. Yehuda Hausman