This morning, after waking up very early, I was reading Yehuda Mirsky's biography of Rav Kook. On page 35 he quotes a line from a Bialik poem, לא זכיתי באור מן ההפקר.
I dutifully looked up the poem in my copy of Kol Kitvei Bialik and was quite taken by the short poem. A google search for the text brought to my attention that Miki Gavrielov (http://jazztimes.com/guides/artists/14267-miki-gavrielov) had actually put this song to music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8Th7oH5HUA
(These are all things that I’m sure any Israeli my age would know like the back of their hands—but, of course, I’m not Israeli.)
Being up so early, I felt motivated to translate this beautiful poem. After completing my translation, I discovered that I was not the first (nor, I’m sure the last) to have tried my hand at translating this poem (for example: http://www.soulandgone.com/2014/05/03/hayim-nahman-bialik-lo-zakhiti-be-or-min-ha-hefqeir/ this is also the site from which I stole the Hebrew with nikkud) but here’s my attempt:
I Did Not Merit the Light from the Castoff
I did not merit the light from the castoff,
Nor did it come as an inheritance from my father,
But from my rock and my slab I cleaved it
And hewed it from my heart.
One spark is concealed in the flint of my heart,
A small spark—but it is all mine,
Neither borrowed from another, nor stolen—
But it is from me and in me.
Under the hammer of my great sorrows
For my heart bursts, my strength’s rock,
The spark flies, it leaps into my eye,
And from my eye—to my verse.
And from my verse it escapes to your hearts,
And in the burning of your fire that I have ignited, it vanishes,
And I, with my flesh and my blood
Shall fulfill the burning-flame.
לֹא זָכִיתִי בָאוֹר מִן-הַהֶפְקֵר,
אַף לֹא-בָא לִי בִירֻשָּׁה מֵאָבִי,
כִּי מִסַּלְעִי וְצוּרִי נִקַּרְתִּיו
נִיצוֹץ אֶחָד בְּצוּר לִבִּי מִסְתַּתֵּר,
נִיצוֹץ קָטָן – אַךְ כֻּלּוֹ שֶׁלִּי הוּא,
לֹא שְׁאִלְתִּיו מֵאִישׁ, לֹא גְנַבְתִּיו –
כִּי מִמֶּנִּי וּבִי הוּא.
וְתַחַת פַּטִּישׁ צָרוֹתַי הַגְּדוֹלוֹת
כִּי יִתְפּוֹצֵץ לְבָבִי, צוּר-עֻזִּי,
זֶה הַנִּיצוֹץ עָף, נִתָּז אֶל-עֵינִי,
וּמֵעֵינִי – לַחֲרוּזִי.
וּמֵחֲרוּזִי יִתְמַלֵּט לִלְבַבְכֶם,
וּבְאוּר אֶשְׁכֶם הִצַּתִּיו, יִתְעַלֵּם,
וְאָנֹכִי בְּחֶלְבִּי וּבְדָמִי