Accentual Rhythm in a Modern Hebrew Poem

Posted on by Brooke

John Hobbins wrote up a translation and some commentary on a Hebrew poem by Shimshon Meltzer. When I tried to comment, TypePad declined to accept my data. Presumably, I had too darned many tags in my comment, what with my endless italicizing of stressed syllables. So, I am posting my comment here and linking to it over at John’s.

John, thanks for including the notes on rhythm. The default 4-3 line is like half of a ballad stanza (“There are strange things done in the midnight sun / by the men who moil for gold”). Those first four lines use it consistently to “get things rolling.” The occasional 3-4 lines first create a sense of suspense by failing to deliver the fourth beat in a half-line (your translation preserves this well: “Adam and his wife, sinners—”) then compensate and close with the four-beat finale (“Nahash the deceiver, piercing curse”).

Wonderful that the poet first makes that rhythmic break at the narrative point where the young students (just freshened in their naivete by the exercise: line three) first read for themselves of Adam and Eve’s sin.

It would be fun to experiment in English accentual poetry using this scheme.