https://opensiddur.org/?p=34806חרוז על שחוק האישקקי | Rhymed Poem on Chess (short), by Avraham ibn Ezra (HS. Vatican 171 f.2, oben S. 180)2020-12-26 18:16:37A medieval Jewish poem on the game of Chess by Avraham ibn Ezra..Textthe Open Siddur ProjectAharon N. Varady (transcription)Aharon N. Varady (transcription)Nina Davis Salaman (translation)Avraham ibn Ezrahttps://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/Aharon N. Varady (transcription)https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/Nittel Nacht12th century C.E.49th century A.M.ABCB rhyming schemerhyming translationChess
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מלכים נפגשו אחד לאחד
ומלחמה יעירון בין שניהם
ומחנה זה כמחנה זה במספר
וחיל מול פני חיל פניהם
The Kings have met on the battle plain,
And war upriseth betwixt the twain.
Alike in number is either band,
And face to face do the armies stand.
ונלחמים בלא חרב ורומח
וגם נפש ורוח אין בפיהם
ומלחמתם בתהבולות ערוכה
ובמרמה נבונים מעשיהם
Devoid of sword and of spear their strife;
Within their mouths is no breath of life.
In crafty guise is their battle fought;
With cunning art is their contest wrought.
ופעם יגברו אלה לאלה
ושם נראה נפילות פגריהם
וישובו פגרים אחרי מות
ויפילו חללים שונאיהם
When these prevail o’er their foemen all,
Behold, ’tis then that the dead men fall.
Yet they from death may arise again,
And cast their enemies ‘mid the slain.
ישיבתם והליכתם(?) אסדר
לכל אחד ואחד כאשר הם
והמלך והשגל לצדו
והפילים והסוסים עליהם
Their halt and marching will I relate,
Each one in order of rank and state.
The King, he standeth beside the Queen;
Horses and Elephants nigh are seen.
ומרכבות שנים עוד אלה
וגבורים לפניהם(?) עוד כמוהם
והמלך שתים כן השגל
ואין שוים בלכת פעמיהם
There stand two chariots likewise here;
And facing, warriors, each his peer.
The King and Queen o’er two paces range;
Yet are their movements diverse and strange.
והפילים הליכתם בשליש
והסוסים לארבע רבעיהם
ומרכבות לפנים כל כנגדם
ומצדם גם מאחריהם
Three steps the Elephants, never more;
The Horses turn to their quarters four;
And straight the Chariots forward fly,
Sideways and backward the foe defy.
ושם תראה בכל פנים חדשות
ותתחכם בדרך מעגליהם
חכמים חקרו אותם למראש
וזאת חקר בעינו כל ספריהם
In craft each warrior’s bow is bent:
Vanquished by science, the foe is spent.
In ancient lore are their ways oft told:
Behold them writ in the books of old.
This rhymed poem on chess, חרוז על שחוק האישקקי by an anonymous author, is to be found in a manuscript held in the collection of the Vatican Library (HS. Vatican 171 f.2, oben S. 180.). In the 19th century, the scholar Moritz Steinschneider ascribed the poem to anonymous, and this is reflected in the preface to Nina Salaman’s translation in her Songs of Exile (JPS 1901). Later scholars, beginning with David Kahana, ascribe authorship to Avraham ibn Ezra. (Find Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra: A Collection of his Poems and Aphorisms, his Riddles and Epigrams, with a biography, introductions, corrections and notes,, new edition, vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1922), pp. 148-50. This poem figures as No. 119 in his collection.) (Thanks to Abraham Victor Keats, for noting Kahana’s determination of authorship in his 1993 dissertation, Chess in Jewish History and Hebrew Literature (pp. 76-77).)
Aharon Varady (M.A.J.Ed./JTSA Davidson) is a volunteer transcriber for the Open Siddur Project. If you find any mistakes in his transcriptions, please let him know. Shgiyot mi yavin; Ministarot naqeniשְׁגִיאוֹת מִי־יָבִין; מִנִּסְתָּרוֹת נַקֵּנִי "Who can know all one's flaws? From hidden errors, correct me" (Psalms 19:13). If you'd like to directly support his work, please consider donating via his Patreon account. (Varady also translates prayers and contributes his own original work besides serving as the primary shammes of the Open Siddur Project and its website, opensiddur.org.)
Paulina Ruth "Nina" Salaman (née Davis) (פָּאוּלִינָה רוּת ”נִינָה” דֵעוִיס שָׂלָמָן; 1877 – 1925) was a British Jewish poet, translator, and social activist. She is best known for her English translations of medieval Hebrew poetry, especially of the poems of Judah Halevi. Paulina Ruth Davis was born on 15 July 1877 at Friarfield House, Derby, the second of two children of Louisa (née Jonas) and Arthur Davis. Her father's family were secular Jewish precision instrument makers, who had immigrated to England from Bavaria in the early nineteenth century. A civil engineer by trade, Arthur Davis became religiously observant and mastered the Hebrew language, becoming an accomplished Hebraist noted for his study of cantillation marks in the Tanakh. The family moved to Kilburn, London when Nina was six weeks old, later settling in Bayswater. There, Davis gave his daughters an intensive scholarly education in Hebrew and Jewish studies, teaching them himself each morning before breakfast from the age of four, and taking them regularly to the synagogue. The Davises moved in learned Jewish circles, and friends of Nina's parents included the families of Nathan Adler, Simeon Singer, Claude Montefiore, Solomon Schechter, Herbert Bentwich, and Elkan Adler. Arthur Davis was one of the "Kilburn Wanderers"—a group of Anglo-Jewish intellectuals that formed around Solomon Schechter in the 1880s—members of which took an interest in Nina's work and helped her find publication for her writings.
Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם בֶּן מֵאִיר אִבְּן עֶזְרָא ʾAvraham ben Mēʾīr ʾībən ʾĒzrāʾ, often abbreviated as ראב"ע; Arabic: إبراهيم المجيد ابن عزرا Ibrāhim al-Mājid ibn Ezra; also known simply as Ibn Ezra, 1089 / 1092 – 27 January 1164 / 23 January 1167) was one of the most distinguished Jewish biblical commentators and philosophers of the Middle Ages. He was born in Tudela in northern Spain.
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ויהי נעם אדני אלהינו עלינו ומעשה ידינו כוננה עלינו ומעשה ידינו כוננהו "May the pleasantness of אדֹני our elo’ah be upon us; may our handiwork be established for us — our handiwork, may it be established."–Psalms 90:17
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