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On the occasion of Israel’s celebration of its Independence Day, the Forverts devoted its “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” page to several selections of poetry on the theme of the Israeli state. One of these was by H. Leivick who lived in Israel at the time of the historic Israeli Declaration of Independence. What follows is a transliteration of Leivick’s poem by Goldie A.Gold followed by an English version by Gus Tyler.

Tsu a Shteyn Hob Ikh Tsugeleygt Mayn Ponem

Tsu a shteyn hob ikh tsugeleygt mayn ponem,

Tsu a shpitsik granitenem shteyn —

Kh’hob gevolt in im epes derkonen

Nor vos — iz nit klor mir aleyn.

A granit oyf di berg fun Yerusholaim.

Un arum hobn yidn geflantst

Gantse velder, di berg tsu banayen,

Un derbay hobn kinder getantst.

Der tants tsitert durkh mayne beyner,

Kh’bin mekane di kindershe trit.

Zey tantsn, un ikh — tsertl shteyner

Un ikh glet a kaltn granit.

Ikh leyg tsu tsum shteyn mayne lipn

Un kh’veys nit aleyn tsulib vos;

Tsi vert iz, es zol zikh farknipn

Tsvishn undz aza nes fun an os.

Fun di ershte tsebrokhene lukhes

Vos der midber aleyn hot faryit? —

Tsi gleyb ikh aleyn az ikh zukh es,

Ot do oyfn kaltn granit?

Ikh vart, yo, ikh vart tsu derhern

A kol oykh a flam, tsu derzen.

Ikh vart bizn oyfgang fun shtern

Ven afile s’tut gor nisht geshen.

Zey kumen, di shtern, zey kumen,

Un yeder fun zey laykht un hit

Dos tife farborgene shtumen

Fun hekhstn un klenstn granit.

Onto a Stone I Gently Laid My Face

Onto a stone I gently laid my face

I laid it on a piece of granite hard.

I sought some hidden meaning in that place

A meaning that with joy I would regard.

A granite from Jerusalem’s high hills

And Jewish people planted all around

A forest full of people with strong wills

And children dancing on the blessed ground.

Their dancing vibrates through my yearning bones.

I envy how their little feet do go.

They dance but I am left with prickly stones.

This granite pillow’s all that I do know.

I hug the stone and kiss it with my lips

I really do not know the reason why.

Perhaps I seek a miracle that drips

Upon my stone from heaven’s blessed sky.

Perhaps my stone’s a fragment well preserved

Of one great tablet that made history.

And through the years this holy tablet served

To make life meaningful to you and me.

I wait, oh yes, indeed, I wait and wait

I wait to hear a voice or see a flame.

I wait to see a miracle that’s great

Though nothing changes, all is just the same

The stars, they come and go and come again,

And all of them do shine as if they know

The secret of the stone but don’t say when

They’ll tell me as the years do come and go.

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