Peace on your return, delightful bird,
by my window from a warmer clime;
your voice is just as welcome as a word
of winter warmth recalling summertime.
Sing and tell me, bird I find so dear,
about the wildernest that’s full of wonders;
in its warmer clime do people fear
men’s evil and the blows caused by their blunders?
From my brothers now in Zion do
you bear me greetings, telling me of peace?
Happy they must be, unless they knew
about our pains which never seem to cease.
Do they know my adversaries here?
How many it appears they always are!
Sing of the wonders of the land so dear,
and I will know that springtime can’t be far.
Do you bear me greetings from the land,
from deepest valley and from mountain peak?
Has God shown mercy, does He understand
the graves in Zion of which Jews still speak?
Do incense hills beside the Sharon valley
produce the fragrance of the nard and myrrh?
In hoary forests do the ancients rally,
and are there signs that Lebanon will stir?
Does dew from Hermon fall like precious pearls,
or are the dewdrops more like bitter tears?
And does the Jordan, like the eyes of girls,
still shine, before the sunlight disappears?
Has the heavy cloud that has no glory
departed from them, leaving them a heap
of bones forgotten like a horror story,
in valleys where some say the dead still sleep?
Do blossoms planted by the waters wilt
as I myself have also sadly wilted,
in days as jumbled as a crazy quilt
which decorates a tower that has tilted?
Relate, dear bird, the secrets that men prattle
and tell me what they’re saying of their prey.
Do you hear words of comfort, or the battle
for which our enemies still daily pray?
My brothers who are working, are they sowing
with tears before they laugh when they start reaping?
If I had wings you’d surely see me going
to where the almond blooms though God is sleeping.
And as for me, what can I tell you, birdie?
From my mouth what do you hope to hear?
You will not see me play the hurdy-gurdy,
nor will my lamentations bring you cheer.
Shall I tell of the woes that have occurred
where those who should be living are consumed?
To count the number of our troubles is absurd,
the troubles of the dying and the doomed.
Wander, birdie, to your wildernest,
be happy that you’ve left my ancient tent.
If you had stayed with me while I’m distressed
you would have wept with me in your descent.
But tears and weeping are not good for me,
by them my wounds will never ever heal;
my eyes are dimmed by tears and cannot see,
and I am numb with pain you cannot feel.
My tears have stopped, but I can see no end
to further lamentations for my sorrows.
I greet you as you come back like a friend,
rejoicing with your voice for your tomorrows.
Freely translated from Chaim Nahman Bialik’s Ha-tsippor, “The Bird”.
© 2005 Gershon Hepner 11/1/05