By Nathan Zach
Translated by Tsipi keller
Look, as we promised each other,
we changed nothing and the world
is as wonderful as it was, the rain
tarries this year, but it will come:
it will come as long as we're still here.
Look, as we agreed,
I am in one place, you in another.
We didn't become one, which is also natural,
and in your weakness and in mine
there looms a promise, too:
after memory forgetfulness is all.
And if the road already may incline downward
in the famed sloping print of life's curve,
it does, in some sense, aspire upward,
and aspiration is a great thing in life,
on this, too, we agreed, you surely remember.
And if now I'm alone and aching and ailing more than ever,
this, too, was a choice,
if not always conscious. And if you too are alone,
it makes my loneliness less just
and this should sustain you as well.
How fortunate that we've agreed on so little:
on parting, on loneliness and fear, the basic certainties,
and there's always something to return to,
you will see how young we will be in the end,
and the end, when it comes, will be almost just.
And everything, you will see, will be almost welcome.
Natan Zach is one of Israel's most celebrated and influential contemporary writers. Along with the works of Yehuda Amichai and Dan Pagis, Zach's poetry is a defining fixture in the landscape of postwar modernism and Hebrew-language poetry and poetics. He passed away on Nov 6, 2020.
Nathan Zach’s poetry is both complex and astringent, a poetry that bears witness to the existential dilemmas of the human condition. His modes are those of pervasive irony and wit. Zach's is not an art of elegance, but one of rigorous perspective and distinction.
This romantic poem is tinged with cynicism. The theme is about parting of lovers on certain conditions agreed upon previously. Its narration is utterly devoid of sentimentality.
Painting: Jewish Bride by Rembrandt