from Seven Laments for the War Dead

February 13, 2007 at 3:40 am 3 comments

Yehuda Amichai


Is all of this
sorrow? I don’t know.
I stood in the cemetery dressed in
the camouflage clothes of a living man: brown pants
and a shirt yellow as the sun.

Cemeteries are cheap; they don’t ask for much.
Even the wastebaskets are small, made for holding
tissue paper
that wrapped flowers from the store.
Cemeteries are a polite and disciplined thing.
“I Shall never forget you,” in French
on a little ceramic plaque.
I don’t know who it is that won’t ever forget:
he’s more anonymous than the one who died.

Is all of this sorrow? I guess so.
“May ye find consolation in the building
of the homeland.” But how long
can you go on building the homeland
and not fall behind in the terrible
three-sided race
between consolation and building and death?

Yes, all of this is sorrow. But leave
a little love burning always
like the small bulb in the room of a sleeping baby
that gives him a bit of security and quiet love
though he doesn’t know what the light is
or where it comes from.

[translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch]

What better way to end our series on War poetry than with Amichai? I could try summing up the theme, but I don’t need to. This poem says it all.


Coming up on Poi-tre: A Valentine’s Day Special and an Auden retrospective. Stay tuned.


Entry filed under: Chana Bloch, English, Falstaff, Hebrew, War Poetry, Yehuda Amichai.

In the Heart of the Beast Sonnet XVIII

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Revealed  |  February 15, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Ooooh Auden retro! *rubs hands together*

  • 2. chana bloch  |  August 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    thanks for posting one of my translations please check out my new website

  • 3. Adjustable Piano Stool  |  December 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

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