Page 36 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
2 8
illustrations, beginning with Carmi’s conclusion to his poem
“For the Leader” (1956). The title is a heading taken from The
Book of Psalms, and is translated also “To the Chief Musician.”
For the leader
of the dancing of the grapevines
a mute psalm:
His hands move
and ten-thousand choirs reply
with a song of degrees.
For the leader
of our lives
Radiant angel,
beast-of-song, miracle-of-praise—
and our dithyramb־of־light.
For the leader
a prayer for the son
destroy not.
The point is that this is a love poem,9 and this passage can be
read in its context as an evocation of sexual intercourse, in which
the man is “the leader.” Here is the concluding section of Y.
Amichai’s version of “King Saul and I ” (1958):
I am tired,
my bed is my kingdom.
My sleep is my righteousness,
my dream, the judgment.
I have hung my clothes on a chair
for tomorrow.
He hung his kingship
in a frame of golden wrath
on a wall of the heavens.
My arms are short, like a piece of thread
too short to tie a bundle.
His arms were chains in the harbor
for a burden beyond time.
He is a dead King.
I am a tired man.
9 The word we have rendered as “dithyramb” is “shiggaion,” usually
transliterated as a rather obscure technical term in translations of Psalms,
but thought to have connotations of an exalted wildness, like that of a
Greek dithyramb.