Allen Mandelbaum, one of the giants of American poetry and translation, died last month. One of his books of poetry was entitled Chelmaxioms: The Maxims, Axioms, Maxioms of Chelm, a book described by Robert Alter as “an important book . . . a rare attempt . . . to shape an instrument of expression out of Jewish tradition, in English verse."
Here is a brief excerpt, about Shabbat:
A port beyond our portulans,
a bay too brilliant for man,
where light alone can dwell:
from that elusive harbor
the Sabbath Queen sets sail
And reaches us – always as dusk
would touch the patient foothills –
some three days after she began
her journey out of speechlessness,
her pilgrimage to Chelm.
She stays a single day – until
another dusk has touched the foothills.
Would she might moor for all the week
to spare herself the long fatigue
of three days journey out
and three days journey in
and the uncertain seas
and so save us
the everlasting labor,
the mourning her departure,
the six days waiting for her.
[And todah rabah gadol to Mannie Sherberg, for the extraordinarily beautiful comment below].