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רָאשֵׁי עָם עֵת הִתְאַסֵּף | When the chiefs of the people meet, a muwassaha poem by Yehudah haLevi (ca. early 12th c.)


Source (Hebrew)Translation (English)
רָאשֵׁי עָם עֵת הִתְאַסֵּף
וּמְלָכִים בְּסוֹדָם
כֻּלָּהַם הוֹדוּ לְיוֹסֵף
כִּי הוּא עֵין כְּבוֹדָם
לִמְשֹׁל בְּיַד אֱלוֹהַּ כֹּסֵף
וְכֵן משֵׁל בְּאָדָם
Ⅰ. When the chiefs of the people meet
with kings in their council
All of them praise Joseph
for he is the fount of their glory
To rule by the hand of God he aspires
and thus he rules over men
חֶמְדַּת אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר כֹּל יַגִּיד
אַחַת הִיא וּבָרָה
מִשְׂרָה מוּכָנָה לְנָגִיד
הִיא לִצְבִי עֲטָרָה
The choicest man whose every utterance
is clear and pure
The high dignity suited for the ruler
is a crown of beauty.
כָּל חֶמְדַּת אֱנוֹשׁ אִם יָקְרָה
תֵּבֵל עִם מְלוֹאָהּ
אָמַרְתִּי הֲכִי הִיא אָמְרָה
עִנְיָנָהּ נְשִׂיאָהּ
יוֹסֵף צוּר לְשִׁבְתּוֹ יְצָרָהּ
לֹא תֹהוּ בְרָאָהּ
Ⅱ. Were it to exceed all human treasure
the world and its fullness
Yet I heard her say that
her chief desire is her Prince
As a throne for Joseph God fashioned her
not for naught did He create her.
בּוֹ נָקֵל עַבְטִיט מַכְבִּיד
כִּי גָבַר וְשָׂרָה
וּבְמִגְדַּל הָעֹז הֶעֱמִיד
עִם נוּסוֹ עֲשָׂרָה
Through him the heavy burden was lightened
for he overcame and ruled
And in the tower of strength he established
with his ten who fled.
בֵּן פֹּרָת בְּאֵיתָן קַשְׁתָּךְ
מַעֲשֶׂיךָ בְּכִשְׁרוֹן
טוּב יָמִים הֲלֹא מֵאִתָּךְ
וּלְךָ חִדְּשׁוּ רֹן
אַתְּ שֶׁמֶשׁ וּמָטָר נִתָּךְ
אַךְ מֵהֶם בְּיִתְרוֹן
Ⅲ. Ben Porat with your bow kept taut
your deeds excel
The goodness of the days is from you
and for you they broke into fresh song
You are the sun and the falling rain
yet greater are you than they
זָרְחוּ בָךְ מְאוֹרֵי תָמִיד
וַתּוֹפַע נְהָרָה
עַל אָרֶץ וְגַם הִיא תָעִיד
כִּי בָךְ נֶעֱזָרָה
Ever burning lights shone out through you
and radiance broke forth
Upon the earth; she too will testify
that she was helped by you.
מַה זֶּה שָׁם הֲמוֹן עָם נִקְלֶה
עַל הַזְּמָן חֲמָסָיו
עַד הוּסַר סִלּוֹן עוֹלֶה
נִשְׂרָף בְּאֵשׁ הֲמָסָיו
לִפְנֵי בּוֹא יְקָר אֵל מָלֵא
עֹמֵד בֵּין הֲדַסָּיו
Ⅳ. What is that multitude of abused people
heaping blame upon their fate
Before the swelling thorn was plucked out
burning in consuming fire
Before the coming of the worthy God inspired man
standing among his myrtles
כִּי שָׁאֳגוֹ שָׂרִים הֶחְרִיד
וְקָלַע בַּשְּׂעָרָה
שָׂמָהוּ אֱלֹהָיו יָחִיד
מִבְצַר עֹז בְּצָרָה
For his roar frightened princes
he hit in the eye of the target
His God appointed him a leader
a fortress of strength in time of distress.
שָׁטְפוּ נַחֲלֵי הַשֶּׁמֶן
נַחַל הָאֲבָנִים
בִּבְשׂרוֹת גְּבִיר הָאֹמֵן
עַם אֵל בַּעֲדָנִים
יְחִי הַשָּׂר אִמְרוּ אָמֵן
וַיִּשְׂאוּ רְנָנִים
Ⅴ. Rivers of oil overflowed
the river of stones
With good tidings announcing the lord who nurtures
God’s people with delights
Long live the Prince: say ye “Amen”
and they raised their voices singing
דש כנד מוסדילה בניד
תן בונה אלבשארה
כם ראיה דשול אשיד
אן ואד אלחגארה.
As soon as my lord comes
such a good tiding
Flashes out like a ray of the sun
in Guadalajara.

“Roshei am et hitasef umlekhim b’sodam” by Yehuda Halevi was translated by Herman Prins Salomon in “Yehuda Halevi and his ‘Cid’” and published in The American Sepharadi (1978), pp. 22-46. The Hebrew offered here was transcribed by Project Ben Yehuda and corrected according to Salomon’s romanized text.




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