Quote of the Week

Mr. E (jackechs@EROLS.COM)
Fri, 9 Feb 1996 22:43:45 -0500

I found this in the January issue of Poet magazine and thought I'd share ...


I quatered the troops for the night in a fortress
which soldiers destroyed long ago,
and they fell asleep at its walls and foundations
while beneath us its masters slept on.

And I wondered: what had become
of the people who dwelled here before us?
Where were the builders and soldiers, the wealthy
and poor, the slaves and their lords?

the bereaved and the women in labor; the sons
and their fathers; the mourners and grooms?
Great nations had come in succession
in the course of months and years.

and they settle across the back of the earth,
but rest in the heart of the ground--
their magnificent palaces turned into tombs,
their pleasant courts to dust.

and if they could lift their heads and emerge,
they'd take our lives and pleasure.
In truth, my soul, in truth and soon,
I'll be like them--and these sleepers.

Shmuel Ha Nagid* (993-1056) was the first major poet of the Hebrew literary
renaissance in Muslim Spain. He was also 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 Bahhdad.

* Peter Cole attended Williams and Hampshire Colleges. His translation of
The Selected Poems of Shmuel Ha Nagid will be published by Princeton
University Press this Spring.