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Selected Religious Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol, tr. by Israel Zangwill, [1923], at


May it please Thee, O Lord my God,
To subdue my fierce desire.
O hide Thy face from my sins and trespasses,
Do not carry me off in the midst of my days,
Until I shall have prepared what is needful for my way
And provender for the day of my journeying,
For if I go out of my world as I came,
And return to my place, naked as I came forth,
Wherefore was I created
And called to see sorrow?
Better were it I had remained where I was
Than to have come hither to increase and multiply sin. p. 115
I beseech Thee, O God, judge me by Thine attribute of mercy,
And not by Thine anger lest Thou wither me.
For what is man that Thou shouldst judge him?
And how shalt Thou weigh a drifting vapour?
When Thou placest it in the balance,
It shall be neither heavy nor light,
And what shall it profit Thee to weigh the air?
From the day of his birth man is hard-pressed and harrowed,
"Stricken, smitten of God and afflicted."
His youth is chaff driven in the wind,
And his latter end is flying straw,
And his life withereth like a herb,
And God joineth in hunting him.
From the day he cometh forth from his mother’s womb
His night is sorrow and his day is sighing.
If to-day he is exalted,
To-morrow he shall crawl with worms.
A grain of chaff putteth him to flight,
And a thorn woundeth him.
If he is sated, he waxeth wicked,
And if he is hungry, he sinneth for a loaf of bread.
His steps are swift to pursue riches,
But he forgetteth Death, who is after him.
At the time he is straitened, he multiplieth his promises,
And scattereth his words,
And is profuse in vows,
But when he is enlarged, p. 116
He keepeth back his word and forgetteth his vows,
And strengtheneth the bars of his gates,
While Death is in his chambers,
And he increaseth guards in every quarter
While the foe lieth ambushed in his very apartment.
As for the wolf, the fence shall not restrain it
From coming to the flock.
Man entereth the world,
And knoweth not why,
And rejoiceth,
And knoweth not wherefore,
And liveth,
And knoweth not how long.
In his childhood he walketh in his own stubbornness,
And when the spirit of lust beginneth in its season
To stir him up to gather power and wealth,
Then he journeyeth from his place
To ride in ships
And to tread the deserts,
And to carry his life to dens of lions,
Adventuring it among wild beasts;
And when he imagineth that great is his glory
And that mighty is the spoil of his hand,
Quietly stealeth the spoiler upon him,
And his eyes are opened and there is naught.
At every moment he is destined to troubles,
That pass and return,
And at every hour evils,
And at every moment chances,
And on every day terrors. p. 117
If for an instant he stand in security,
Suddenly disaster will come upon him,
Either war shall come and the sword will smite him,
Or the bow of brass transpierce him;
Or sorrows will overpower him,
Or the presumptuous billows flow over him,
Or sickness and steadfast evils shall find him,
Till he becometh a burden on his own soul,
And shall find the gall of serpents in his honey.
And when his pain increaseth
His glory decreaseth,
And youths make mock of him,
And infants rule him,
And he becometh a burden to the issue of his loins,
And all who know him become estranged from him.
And when his hour hath come, he passeth from
the courts of his house to the court of Death,
And from the shadow of his chambers to the shadow of Death.
And he shall strip off his broidery and his scarlet
And shall put on corruption and the worm,
And lie down in the dust
And return to the foundation from which he came.
And man, whom these things befall,
When shall he find a time for repentance
To scour away the rust of his perversion?
For the day is short and the work manifold,
And the task-masters irate,
Hurrying and scurrying, p. 118
And Time laughs at him
And the Master of the House presses.
Therefore I beseech Thee, O my God,
Remember the distresses that come upon man,
And if I have done evil
Do Thou me good at my latter end,
Nor requite measure for measure
To man whose sins are measureless,
And whose death is a joyless departure.