Lodging: Graveyard and Desert

One of the very few endnotes to Open Closed Open, the English translation of Yehuda Amichai’s Patuach Sagur Patuach, is provided for “My Parents’ Lodging Place.” It reads

[Moses] Ibn Ezra (c. 1055-1135): one of the leading poets of the Golden Age of Hebrew Poetry in Spain. The phrase “lodging place” in Ibn Ezra’s poem “My Thoughts Awoke Me” alludes to Jeremiah’s yearned-for refuge, a “lodging place in the wilderness” (Jeremiah 9:2)** — p.177 Open Closed Open (citation)

**For more on verse numbering, see below.

Moses Ibn Ezra: Graveyard Lodging

The poem Amichai’s translators mention — “Hekitzuni S’iphei” — is included in the bilingual volume, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, edited and translated by T. Carmi. (NY: Penguin, 1981).

In the Graveyard

My thoughts roused me to stop by the
resting-place of my parents [m’lon horai] and my
friends. I asked them, though none
could listen or reply: have you all
betrayed me, even my father and my
mother? Mouthlessly they summoned
me to them, and showed me my place
at their side. — p.327

In the Penguin volume, this short poem is called, “In the Graveyard.” However, Carmi translates the first words — which are identical to the title — as “My thoughts roused me.” Milon offers several translations close to “hekitzuni.” Two — “radical, extreme” and “end farthest, extremist” — seem unrelated. One — “(literary) to awaken, to wake up” — seems closer to the meaning here, although Carmi’s “rouse” seems to work better with the rest of Ibn Ezra’s verse.

Carmi explains his translation style as “prose,” but “not word for word,” adding: “I have tried to render the poems idiomatically and to capture something of their tone and movement, without ‘betraying’ their literal level.” (preface, p.11)

–More on Moses Ibn Ezra
and his poetry

Jeremiah: Desert Lodging

The phrase Ibn Ezra’s poem shares with Amichai’s is “m’lon horai,” (rendered “resting-place of my parents” by Carmi.) “M’lon” appears also, as Amichai’s translators note above, in Jeremiah Chapter 9:

Oh, to be in the desert
at an encampment [m’lon] for wayfarers!
Oh, to leave my people,
To go away from them —
For they are all adulterers,
A band of rogues.

They bend their tongues like bows;
They are valorous in the land
For treachery, not for honesty;
They advance from evil to evil.
And they do not heed Me
–declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 9:1-2, JPS Translation**)

The word “m’lon,” according to my Concordance , appears only eight times in Tanach, scattered from Breishit/Genesis and Shemot/Exodus to Isaiah and Jeremiah. It is generally translated as “lodging” or “encampment.” In the Jeremiah reference, the lodging is specifically for “hospitality” or “wayfarers.”

None of the Tanach references involves a grave or cemetery — all are temporary lodgings for travelers. In contemporary Hebrew, “malon” is a “hotel.”

**Learn Something New Every Day!

English/Christian bibles, such as the New International Version, do not have a 23rd verse in Jeremiah Chapter 8. This creates a difference — between Christian and Hebrew bibles — in verse numbering throughout Jeremiah Chapter 9. I stumbled on this information by seeking the verse referenced in the endnote to the English translation of Amichai’s poem.

As odd as this difference in numbering is, odder still is the source that confirmed and clarified the difference for me: LOLcat Bible! (now only in print and archives)

FYI, here are the last verses of Jeremiah Chapter 8 in the Hebrew bible:

(8:21) Because my people is shattered I am shattered
I am dejected, seized by desolation.
(22) Is there no balm in Gilead?
Can no physician be found?
Why has healing not yet
Come to my poor people?
(23) Oh, that my head were water,
My eyes a fount of tears!
Then would I weep day and night
For the slain of my poor people.

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Virginia blogs on general stuff a vspatz.net and more Jewish topics at "A Song Every Day. Manages WeLuvBooks.org. CommunitythruCovid.com is on hiatus.

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