Commentary Magazine


Six Poems from the Hebrew: On the Wings of Eagles

Translation is by Herbert Howarth.

 

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              To Watch Zion’s flag unfurled
              On an embassy mast overseas
              The Exiles rallied in thousands,
              Survivors of fire and sword,
              Remnants of Israel overseas.
              So many, they shone like Israel’s fields
              Bringing to pass
              The prophecy of Ezekiel
              That hopeless and desperate,
              Children and graybeards together,
              They should come thronging, driving forward Like driven sea. . . .

              Smiling joy and tears
              Their eyes longingly
              Lift to the flag, as to
              The copper serpent in Sinai.
              It is Israel’s great day
              Shot with the dread and glory
              Of the vision of God
              By the river Kebar.
              Delight in their eyes, their hearts stirring
              That a promise is fulfilled
              With God’s own surety,
              The Advent, the End of Evil Days.

              The sky is Exile’s cloud-deep sky
              But the light of the Seven Great Days
              Flames on the face of the people.
              Transfigured beyond precedent,
              Heart and eye answering heart and eye
              And the flag of Israel breaking and
              Making them people who dream:

And behold, a dray-cart of heavy timber and iron bracings
Yoked to a pair of hinnying, galloping horses,
From whose jaws saliva drips and sparks fly from their hooves.
A tattered mantle, held round his waist with a string,
Wraps the driver, who stands by the seat with red bright face
And cracks his whip over the horses
And storms with the reins and makes them spurt and kick.
And now comes his lusty shout:
“He who said grow to the grass and it grew,
He who said fly to the birds and they flew,
He who said know to my heart and it knew,
He will speak to my horses now and they will know what to do.
My heart is longing for Zion. Thrust out, my eagles.
Pounce on my fathers’ land down the track of the seagulls.”

              Hearing this verse like the subsiding ocean
              The crowd fell quiet,
              The whole audience hushed
              And silently huddled together
              Amazed and conjecturing.
              And lo, before the gaze of thousands
              The dray was swung up over the earth
              And the dray-horses soared like eagles.
              See, they are climbing across the city,
              Their flaming paws almost chip
              The tip of the flagstaff of Zion
              As they thrash aloft in a great sweep.

And at ebb of day when the skies are on fire
The sentries, strict at the watch, on Haifa’s hill
Guarding Elijah’s cave, scanning the sea,
Sight horses and dray and a driver flying east
And leap to attention, salute, tremble.
And ringed in the flames of the sunset
The chariot of fire, the horses of fire, burn rose. . . .
The cart dips in its flight and at one bound
Drops to the brook Kishon and comes to rest—

And in that dear light gleams out Kfar Hasidim.

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