גַּמָּדֵי לָיִל | Gnomes of the Night, a poem by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik (ca. 1894)

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

גַּמָּדֵי לָיִל
Gnomes of the Night

לְאוֹר הַיָּרֵחַ, הַזֹּלֵף
בְּנַחַת בִּתְכֵלֶת הָאַוֵּר,
הַמְשַׁכֵּר הַלֵּב כַּחֲלוֹם זָהָב,
וּכְמִקְסָם עֵינַיִם יְעַוֵּר;
In the light of the moon gently spraying
The blue-tinted air with its gleam,
That blinds human eyes with its magic
And fires the heart with a dream;

לְאוֹר הַיָּרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה,
עֵת יִצְלַל מְלֹא תֵבֵל בַּדְּמָמָה,
וּבְסוּת אוֹר קִפָּאוֹן תִּתְעַלֵּף
הַחֹרְשָׁה בְּתַחְתִּית הָרָמָה;
When the whole world is shadowed with silence
In the light of the moon of the night,
When in dim-frosted light like a garment
Swoons the forest below the height;

וּבֵין הַצֶּאֱלִים בַּחֹרְשָׁה
כְּעֵין רֶשֶׁת כֶּסֶף מְזֹרָה,
יִרְעֲדוּ עַל־רֹךְ הָעֲשָׂבִים
עֲגִילִים וּגְלִילִים שֶׁל־אוֹרָה;
When appears in the shadowy forest
A network of silvery white,
While shimmering there on the grasses
Are circles and ringlets of light;

וּבְאוֹר רַךְ וָזַךְ כִּמְזֻקָּקִים
עַל־מוֹרַד הַגִּבְעָה מַזְהִירִים –
לֹא אַבְנֵי חֵן וְסַפִּירִים –
רִבֹּאוֹת רְסִיסִים בְּהִירִים…
And when, in the rays soft and filtered,
There gleam on the slope of the height
Not jewels nor sapphires but droplets —
Yes, myriads of droplets of light;

אָז תֵּרֵד מַקְהֵלַת גַּמָּדִים
בְּמוֹרַד הַגִּבְעָה בִּרְנָנָה,
שַׁאֲנַנָּה כַּחֲלוֹם יֶלֶד קָטָן,
עֲנֻגָּה כְּקֶרֶן הַלְּבָנָה;
’Tis then come the gnomes joyous trooping
Descending the slope of the height,
As gently they come as the moonbeams,
Like the dream of a child in the night.

וּצְנִיפִים עֲגֻלִּים וּשְׁחֹרִים
יִצְנְפוּ רָאשֵׁיהֶם הַקְּטַנִּים,
וּפְנֵיהֶם מוּעָדוֹת הַיַּעֲרָה,
שָׁם לַחְפֹּר מִכְמַנִּים, מִכְמַנִּים.
And the gnomes’ little heads are well-covered,
With round little black little hoods.
They march there to dig for vast treasures,
Their faces are turned towards the woods.

וּבְלֶכְתָּם יִנְעֲרוּ אֶת־נִטְפֵי
הַטַּל מִן־הַדְּשָׁאִים, וּנְפוֹצוֹת
הָרְסִיסִים הַזַּכִּים כִּבְדֹלַח
מַתִּיזִים נִיצוֹצוֹת, נִיצוֹצוֹת.
And as they march on they make tremble
The droplets of dew on the grass;
And bursting, these crystal-like droplets
Cast myriads of sparks as they pass.

כֹּה הָלֹךְ וְרַנֵּן יֵרֵדוּ,
עֲרוּכִים בַּטּוּר שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה,
עַד בֹּאָם בַּעֲבִי־צֵל הַחֹרְשָׁה,
הַנָּמָה בְּתַחְתִּית הַגִּבְעָה.
Thus walking and singing, descending
By sevens they march in the night,
Till they come to the shadowy forest
That sleeps at the foot of the height.

אָז כֻּלָּם יָפוּצוּ בְשָׁאוֹן
וּבָאוּ אֶל־בֵּין הָאַלּוֹנִים,
בִּמְקוֹם מֵעֵין רוֹאִים נִצְפָּנוּ
בַּקַּרְקַע מַטְמוֹנִים, מַטְמוֹנִים.
Then all of them scatter with tumult
’Neath bush and ’neath shadowy tree;
They come to a place where are hidden
The treasures that no eye may see.

הֵם בָּאִים – וּבְשִׁפְעַת הַצְּלָלִים
תִּתְאַחַד עֲדַת הַגַּמָּדִים,
יִתְלַכְּדוּ וִירַקְּדוּ כִּגְדָיִים,
וְצָהֲלוּ צָהֳלַת יְלָדִים.
They come there in deepening shadows,
Together the gnomes then deploy,
They dance like young goats and they frolic
As children exult in their joy.

וְכִתְמֵי הָאוֹרָה הַחִוְרִים
יְרַצְּדוּן עַל־שְׁחוֹר מְעִילֵיהֶם,
יַחֲלִיקוּ עַל־רוּם מִצְנְפוֹתָם,
יִקָּלְעוּ בִּקְוֻצּוֹת רָאשֵׁיהֶם.
Then flickers the light pale and golden
On the black of the garments they wear;
Now it leaps on their hoods bright and shining
And is cast on the locks of their hair.

וַעֲיֵפֵי מְשׁוּבָה יִפֹּלוּ,
יִשְׂתָּרְעוּ בְּצֵל הָאַלּוֹנִים,
וְחָפְרוּ מִשָּׁם וְהוֹצִיאוּ
מַטְמוֹנִים הֲמוֹנִים, הֲמוֹנִים.
Then wearied of frolic and falling
To rest themselves there ’neath the trees,
They gather and dig for the treasures.
What numberless treasures are these!

וּלְאוֹר הַיָּרֵח הַבָּהִיר
בִּצְחוֹק צָלוּל, צַח, צְחוֹק יְלָדִים
תְּשַׁעֲשַׁע עַל־מְאוּרַת הַזָּהָב
וּתְצַחֵק עֲדַת הַגַּמָּדִים.
And in the bright gleam of the moonlight
Their joy in their laughter is told.
With the pure ringing laughter of children
They dance near their mine-pit of gold.

וּצְלִיל דִּינְרֵי זָהָב וָכֶתֶם,
וּבְרַק אַבְנֵי־חֵן עִם אוֹר סַהַר
יִתְעָרְבוּ בִּצְחוֹק הַתַּעֲלוּלִים,
יַרְעִישׁוּ דּוּמִיַּת הַיָּעַר.
The tinkle of coins and the sparkle
Of gems that are strewn all around
Soon mingle their light with the laughter;
The forest is stirred at the sound.

וּצְחוֹק וַעֲלִיצוּת וְזָהָב –
אַךְ, הָהּ! לַכֹּל תִּכְלָה וְאַחֲרִית –
הֵחָפְזוּ, גַּמָּדִים! – הִגִּיעַ
זְמַן קְרִיאַת הַגֶּבֶר שֶׁל־שַׁחֲרִית.
Thus the gold and the joy and the laughter —
Alas, for this too must be gone!
Hurry, gnomes, for the morn is approaching!
The rooster soon summons the dawn.

אָז תֶּחֱרַד הָעֵדָה וְקָמָה,
וַעֲרוּכִים בַּטּוּר שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה
יָשׁוּבוּ מַחֲרִישִׁים וְנוּגִים,
יָשׁוּבוּ בְּמַעֲלֵה הַגִּבְעָה.
How quickly the gnome-troop arises,
By sevens arrayed for their flight;
And sadly they march and in silence,
Returning — ascending the height.

וּבְהָלֵט הַסַּהַר הַנִּכְלָם
אֶת־פָּנָיו הַחִוְרִים מִלְמָעְלָה,
יָבֹאוּ בַצֵּל הַגַּמָּדִים,
יִמּוֹגוּ כַּחֲלוֹם חֶזְיוֹן לָיְלָה.
And when the moon, shamed, hides its pallor
And wraps its pale face drained of light,
The gnomes march away to the shadows
And melt like a dream of the night.

The poem “Gamodei Layil” (Gnomes of the Night) was written by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik in 5655 (1894/5). This English translation was made by Ben Aronin and appears in the Complete Poetic Works of Hayyim Nahman Bialik: Translated from the Hebrew, volume I (ed. Israel Efros, New York: 1948, Histadruth Ivrith of America, Inc.), p. 60-62. Transcription of the Hebrew provided by contributors to Project Ben-Yehuda. (Thank you!)

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