The first major poet of the Hebrew literary renaissance of Moslem Spain, Shmuel Ben Yosef Ha-Levi HaNagid (993-1056 c.e.) was also the Prime Minister of the Muslim state of Granada, battlefield commander of the non-Jewish Granadan army, and one of the leading religious figures in a medieval Jewish world that stretched from Andalusia to Baghdad. Peter Cole's groundbreaking versions of HaNagid's poems capture the poet's combination of secular and religious passion, as well as his inspired linking of Hebrew and Arabic poetic practice. This annotated Selected Poems is the most comprehensive collection of HaNagid's work published to date in English.
"The Multiple Troubles of Man"
The multiple troubles of man,
my brother, like slander and pain,
amaze you? Consider the heart
which holds them all
in strangeness, and doesn't break.
"I'd Suck Bitter Poison from the Viper's Mouth"
I'd suck bitter poison from the viper's mouth
and live by the basilisk's hole forever,
rather than suffer through evenings with boors,
fighting for crumbs from their table.
". . .a wonder of poetic alchemy. [Cole's] deftly cadenced translations embody, as Pound demanded, 'trace of that power which implies the man'. They are delicately poised between fidelity to the Hebrew and an ear finely-tuned to the possibilities of a modern, poetic idiom in English . . . At last HaNagid's gift resonates for the English reader."--Poetry Nation Review (England)
"Cole's vigorous inventive translation is equal to the task of rendering the work of a poet whose range encompassed commerce and God, war and wine. HaNagid emerges as a man of identifiably modern--even enlightened--breadth, even as the rest of Europe languished in its Dark Ages."--Publishers Weekly
"Thanks to [Cole's] Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid and Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol, those of us who don't know Hebrew can, for the first time, hear why HaNagid and Ibn Gabirol have been revered for centuries."--Eliot Weinberger, Lingua Franca
"Taut, light-footed translations . . . remarkable in the degree to which they carry over the distinct poetic complexities of the original while retaining a crisp, contemporary sense of American poetics . . . the quality of motion and emotion comes through directly."--Village Voice Literary Supplement
". . . magnificent . . . offers a comprehensive and rich selection of HaNagid's poems . . . Cole has paid close attention to the rhythm and syntax of the Hebrew distich, and he reconstructs them with exemplary grace in his English lines. In the quatrains and shorter poems he incorporates a scattering of full rhyme, though always with a light touch, and in some poems he introduces surprising ruptures and daring enjambments into the syntactic flow, imparting a resilience and tension to the text that were missing in the work of his predecessors."--Ha'aretz (Israel)
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