The Eternal Jew comes back west

Our hero has turned back from Khorasan (now Afghanistan), and made his way to Volhynia, a region largely in the Ukraine now. He meets a fellow Jew…

Just before Rovno here come a Jew
ridin’ a horse like a noble man.
*‘Shalom Aleikhem’s’ and ‘Barukh HaShem’s’.*
A little chit and a little chat
as we try to assess the taste of this land.
*-* ‘Peace be upon you and
‘Bless the Name’ (that is, God)

With a flick of his reins the horse turns aside
into a dark and narrow trail,
and the Jew beckons, “Follow me...”
Batkol yanks my sleeve and frowns.
“...And I’ll tell you about this Volhynia.”

Wary, our steps get slow and short.
“Worry not. This shorter way
“is cooler; nor wolf nor thief hide here.”
And he lifts the bag slung on my back
and loops it onto his saddle bag.
Batkol and me on high alert.
“I once was a poor man, just like you.
“Poverty wrapped herself just like a noose
“around my neck. I could hardly breath.
“Or like burrs that twist up in a boy’s hair
“so you can’t pull ‘em out, so she clung to me.
“Indentured myself to a local knight
“who was granted a fief, rewardin’ his sword.
“All gnarled and pocked his face and his heart,
“and he turned his eye on my darling child.
“Ever and again, with leer and with sneer
“he come to my cottage burnin’ for the girl.
“O, her tremblin’ and, o, her tears
“and o, the appall that blanched her face.
“She who could buy us an honorable life,
“but I, I preferred my poverty
“than to sell my child to that viperous knight.
“And so I endured indignities
“rakin’ his pigsty and makin’ cakes
“of cow dung, while he cursed and spit.
“Nor did he spare the lash to my back,
“until my heart were cold as ice.”

Then he stared at us with glassy eyes,
as the copse grew thicker and the way obscure.
And suddenly I’m chilled. Is it his stare
or the damp and sulphurous air of the wood.

“An indentured man is owned like a mule…

The Eternal Jew comes to Genoa

In recent posts I’ve translated my epic about the Eternal Jew back to standard English prose. Here’s an example of the real stuff, which is to say, poetry in New English (metaEnglish).

The setting: the Eternal Jew and his wife have tired of Prague, and have decided to return to Spain. They keep a careful journal of the route, a journal they hope to sell to traders who want to take advantage of the new markets developing in the interior of Europe….

Me, I keepen fule akkounts
A the way, with skechez, noets, an maps
A streets, bildenz, lanmarks, plants,
Ennee notabbel toppollujjeez,
An arroez showen the sunz path.
No dowt Ittalyen traderz wil fien
Theze sheets a rezors an werth sum trade.

Kum owten the Alps tu San Meeshel*             * San Michele, Italy
Like leevz blowen in a ottem skwal
Rite pas Vennes an thru the hilz
An almoes intu the brinee dreenk
Down on Zhennovahz* bussellee doks,            * Genoa
Them pielz with ferz an barrelz a sawlt
An pitteyes weepenz a slaevz a-chaend.
Wun a theze galleez, fer the rite prise,
Wil shorlee take us tu Mulluggah*.                    * Malaga

I set abbow tryen a hawk my maps,
But I kwik-like seen my mists a chans:
     "I sale boet; I doen drive kart."
     or "If I kant sale thaer, I doen go."
     or "Thats the kien a trubbellee werk
     "Venneeshenz like, not Zhennovese,
     "A duket a werk an a denar a pay."
     or "Prog? Iz that sum kien a fish?"
     or "I aen got no yuse fer Ju."

Fienlee sumwun taeks a peek
In my foleyo a skechen maps.
     "Kum with me. I knoez a man...."

Fleeing the Caucasus

Here’s another translation back to old English (you know, the English you speak) from my poetic epic, The Atternen Juez Talen. It’s an amusing little vignette.

Here’s the setting: the Eternal Jew and his wife, Batkol decide to leave Georgia (in the Caucasus) after a disastrous earthquake. They are probably suffering from what we’d now call PTSD....

Eyes to Baghdad. Expectin' to find just lone and level sands stretched out after the Mongols had harrowed that field. But first we stumbled into Tabriz. What is this? Muezzin* calls; a market place with busy stalls; some bushy palms; and bright glazed tiles on the face of a musjid's** dome and walls. Even churches and synagogues back in the warren of market streets.
* him who chants the call to prayer
** mosque

As we gawk along, some guy rushes up, squawkin' about our travels beyond and our Master already restin' at home and come along we mustn't be late.
"Our Master? Us on the road beyond?"
Troubled times and madmen abound. And tender and soft we decline his help.

"Don't be afeard. I mean you no harm, but the Holy Father will join us soon, and many the delicate dainty prepared, and your Master be worried that you be lost."

How many Christians, and not a few Jews believin' these be the end-time days. This sorrowful mystic broke in his grief, imagines around the next corner we'll find the King Messiah who will save us all. Just then we’re at an open door and some haggard woman is shoutin' ‘hallelu’ and grabbin' our arms, obsequious -like, and draggin’ us into an opulent room, brocaded curtains and velvet chairs, and some foreign rake with a feather in his cap gapes at us as we gape at him.

He turns to the madman and asks of him,
"Hoyar aze twa? Iyar niy on gise."

Well, that's my scriptin' of what I heard. It sounded like some garbled Spanish or such, and my heart leapt, thinkin' of Spain.

It's been a few years since we been back there so my lingo were probably garbled as his, but all excited to know the news -- how goes Grenada and who is the King? I blurts out, "I'm a Spanish Jew." An amused smile curls his lips.

And there's Batkol, yankin' my arm,
"This place is creepy. Let's scram. Come on!"

And the haggardly woman tries to appease Batkol, cooin' and pattin' her hand; and now the Holy Father struts in but it's just some priest from a local church; and the madman jabbers at this one and that; and here come some pastries, and now some tea; so it takes quite a while to sort things out.

Reader, the first thing you probably should know: this weren't Messiah, nor even the Pope. But he spoke Italian and he actually said,
"Who are these two? They ain't our guides."

And if I recall he said his home was Venice, but he's on a quest out east, and his servant mistook us for his guides, and his name is Margo Folo, or such.

Batkol's still yankin' my arm to go, as I accept an offer to join them for meat.
"Incorrigible man," she mutters, annoyed.

Notes from the Caucasus

I am translating a section of The Atternen Juez Talen back into ‘normal’ English. In this scene, set in around 1270 CE, the Eternal Jew (Atternen Ju) finds himself living among unknown Jewish communities in the Caucasus region. The town he’s currently living in is Mtskheta, Georgia. It’s about 20 klicks north of modern Tbilisi. Having set up his scribal shop in a han (caravanserai) on the edge of town, he has decided to record some of the notable events that are happening down in the courtyard of the han while he is working up in the balcony. These little vignettes are subtitled “Sketches Set in a Georgian Han

Here are 2 short ones you may find curious, even interesting.

4.

Spit and strut. Spit and strut.
Surly and burly, them comin’ on.
Spittin’ and pissin’, fart and belch;
Handlers whistle, then a hook to the neck.
Down they kneel, bellow and groan.
The camel’s tale of Kohelet’s* first words.
* aka Ecclesiastes

6.

There’s a box made of stained and knotty slats
That a finger will just about fit between.
Some kind of cage that houses beasts.
I seen a guy stickin’ his pinky in
And the demons inside nearly tore it off.
Squawkin’ a racket like Beelzebub’s jinns,
And rustle and fussin’ like a room full of kids.
But I seen their owner slip in his hand
After hushin’ and shushin’ with soft coos,
And there on his finger a bright green bird
Big as a crow and as like to be mean.
His beak a wide leer, his eyes like veneer.
And just like a salesman, incessant he squawks.

“Ya hear that,” the trader suddenly blurts.
“This girly just said ‘Alhamdulilah*’”
* Arabic: praise be to God

Mystical musings by the Atternen Ju (Eternal Jew)

The following short excerpt is from a scene in The Atternen Juez Talen. Our hero has recently migrated to Poland (around 1320 CE) to start a new life, yet again. He is reflecting on a line from the daily prayers, that the Master of the Universe daily renews the act of creation (often interpreted to mean that the world, and each individual in it, is created anew each day, or even each moment). Reflecting on his own renewal, he goes off on a riff.

Here is a prose translation into standard English (what I call 'old English'), and then the original text as it was composed...

I, the Eternal Jew am a voice in the streaming world a-coil in you -- a recurring face, a recurring place, unknown, familiar, a recurring embrace. Hate me and I will choke you with hate. Fear me and I will hound you with fear. Love me and I will ignite a desire that consumes but can’t be satisfied ...

Blink and look into your mirror. I am behind you. Blink again. I am you. Was it always so? Blink. I’m gone. Was I ever there? Blink. You stand in a room well known. Blink. You are lost, and no way home. Blink. I am with you leading the way. Blink. A stranger has led you astray. Blink. You walk with your father instead. Blink. You awake. Your father is dead....

Each moment the world is created anew. And I, sub-atom, an orbit in you. Where I am, and where I will be... you cannot determine the point of me. Whoever I was and who I can be, you can’t compute that continuity. Accept me. Is this how you mean to be free?

The original text:

I, the Atternen Ju ar a vois
In the streemen werl a-koyellen yu -- 
A rekkerren fase, a rekkerren plase,
Unknoen, fammilyer, a rekkerren embrase.
Hate me an I wil choke yu with hate.
Feer me an I wil hownd yu with feer.
Luv me an I wil ignite a deziyer
That kunsuemz but woen be a sattisfy.
Studdee my bouks an yu may untwist
The okkulten thredz that taengel yur seel
In the annammah grip uv this Addom shel.
Louk tu me az the Proffetten God
An I wil kumpoze divvine skaelz
That reverben myuzeks owt uv the speerz
Koyellen yu in infinnitteez.

Bleenk an louk intu yur meerer,
An I am behien yu; bleenk aggen
An I am yu. Wuz it awl wayz so?
Bleenk. Iem gon. Wuz I evver thaer?
Bleenk. Yu stan in a rume wel knoen.
Bleenk. Yu ar los, an no way home.
Bleenk. Iem with yu leeden the way.
Bleenk. A straenjer iz led yu astray.
Bleenk. Yu wok with yur father insted.
Bleenk. Yu awwake. Yur fother iz ded....

Eech momen the werl iz kreyaten a-nu.
An I, sub-Addom, an orbitten yu.
Ware I am, an ware I wil be,
Yu kant determin the point uv me.
Hu evver I wuz an hu I kan be,
Yu kant kumpyute that kontinnuwittee.
Assep me. Iz this how yu meen tu be free?

Many notes, one Song

This is a short excerpt from The Atternen Juez Talen, or in normal English, The Eternal Jew's Tale, in which our hero has a visionary experience that he tries to describe:

We read in our prayers,* 
    “Renewing all; a perpetual day of God-Creation.
And I seen for myself that this be true. I was carried along on my rivery thoughts, every heart beat and every breath, every flickering blink of my eye, a new “me” in a new world come to the surface and then sank down; distinct worlds that bubbled and burst, and bubbled again, new and the same -- consciousness pulsing into my mind, and every mind, notes of one song: I to I, me to you, we to all, all to one; mere slivers of a slivery world that rushes thru us, seamless it seems. But slow it down and note by note it comes apart in fractallin’ thoughts.

For a short time my world slowed down and I seen its notes, one by one floating apart, each from each, and felt the Divine Song of it rejoining the slivers. River. It flows. Wonder and dismay as my eyes seen what my mind fails to understand.

For those who praise war...

The Eternal Jew hears a noise one morning. At first he thinks its thunder; then an earthquake. Then he realizes, an army is attacking. This scene in The Atternen Juez Talen takes place in approximately 1100CE. First a translation into standard English, and then the original in MetaEnglish.

And behind the forward shock of noise
The walls of dust that choke your breath
And cloak your face in a deathly mask
So dragoon and drayman, commando and corpse
All look like statues in a Roman tomb.

And this the song them dragoons sung:

We are the hollow men born for war.
We are the arrogant caked in hate.
We are the sons of pagan gods.
And we are the fruit of polluted clods.

March on, march on, man of dust.
Do what you will; do what you must.

Look on us, your conquerors,
Sharp our tongue and sharp our darts.
Look at us, above all law.
Bloody hands and bloodless hearts.

March on march on, hollow men.
Your road is long; who knows its end?

We are the wallowers, slogging in scorn.
We wallow in impotence, loving a sword.
We hide our envy in a bigot’s abuse,
And express ourselves best with a mob and a noose.

March on march on, man of chalk.
Your road is short; no time for talk.

Look on us who scorn the just. 
Past? We’ll have no piece of that.
Look on us, who mock your trust.
Future? We’ll have no peace in that.

March on, march on, hollow men.
March on, to find your punishment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s the original metaEnglish version, with its more overtly vibrating language:

We arren hawlo menz bornen wor.
We ar the araggenz kaekt in haets.
We ar the sunz uv pagen godz.
An we ar the frute a poluten klodz.

March on march on, man a dus.
Du wut yu wil; du wut yu mus.

Louk on us, yur konkerren.
Sharp ar tung an sharp ar darts.
Louk at us, abbuv awl  law.
Bludded hanz a bludles harts.

March on march on, hawlo menz.
Yur roed iz long; hu knoez it enz?

We ar the wawlowerz, sloggen a skorn.
We wawlo in impotens, luvven a sord.
We hiden ar enveez in a biggets abyuse,
An espres ar selz bes with a mobben a noos.

March on march on, man uv chok.
Yur roed iz short; no tiem fer tok.

Louk on us hu skorn the jus. 
Past? Weel hav no pees a that.
Louk on us, hu mok  yur trus.
Fewcher? We hav no pees a that.

March on, march on, hawlo men.
March on, an fien yur punnishen.