Friday, November 03, 2006

New verses for the Zohar

So here's something I'm working on. This is an excerpt from a long semi-narrative poem called The Pardaes Dokkumen. It is the first 2 of 4 stanzas, but I thought 22 lines was enough to begin with here.

Context: There is a story (midrash) in Talmud (~2nd-5th C. CE) of 4 sages who ascend to "pardaes." This word can be translated as "garden" or "paradise" in its most obvious interpretations, but the midrash itself is very enigmatic. Of the 4 sages who ascend, one comes back an apostate, one comes back apparently mad, one doesn't come back (suicide? dead?), and one comes back "whole." The Zohar (~13th C. CE) picks up on the Pardaes midrash, directly and indirectly in many of its passages - mostly tangential expansions on the story. Also, the Zohar occasionally cloaks a great sage in the appearance of a peasant or lowly worker. "The Pardaes Dokkumen" draws on both Talmud and Zohar, as it reframes the story. I hope that gives you enough references points to read this excerpt.

Plowmen with Taelz

A donkee driver sed,
"I met a plowman reterning frum feeldz,
"Hu sed, ‘This partikkuler vallee iz flud,
     ‘And the oxxen ar serlee and I hav plow
     ‘The muk and the klay intu thik slerree.
     ‘Up tu my waest I hav groen and drivven
     ‘The beests, foemen at nostrel and kikken;
     ‘The plow in my handz, a sord tu the erth.
     ‘That iz the Torrah ov my narro vale.
     ‘The ferro ar fludden and no wun kan dissern
     ‘The seed frum the staen in the lienz I skribe.'"

A wotter kareyer sed,
"I meet a plowman a reternen frum feelz.
"He will say, ‘For jennerratenz I am plow this expanz.
     ‘My lingz ar groen frum its oxxide dust.
     ‘In morning its salt iz kurst on my iyz.
     ‘My fout print rekorden on the dune and drift.
     ‘My skin a reenkel az my plow iz reenkel.
     ‘Wut I du tu the lan, it duz tu me.
     ‘That iz the Torrah ov this endless span.
     ‘The sun and the wind strip off owwer raen.
     ‘We kut owwer ferro; thay bekum owwer grave.'"

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