Thursday, July 19, 2018

The man from the valley - האיש מן הבקעה

In dreams I’ll always remember-
כבחלום תמיד אזכורה -
The man passing like a passerby,
האיש עובר כעובר אורח,
Biting an apple, in the midst of dust and wind,
נוגס תפוח, בין אבק ורוח,
On the back of a truck to the valley.
על גב המשאית אל הבקעה.

The fairy tales are pretty,
האגדות יפות הן,
Until they suddenly fly away
עד שפתאום עפות הן
Only G-d knows where.
רק אלוהים ידע לאן.
I erected my castle,
אני מגדל הקמתי,
There I dreamed alone,
בו לבדי חלמתי,
My prince charming in a white horse.
נסיך שלי על סוס לבן.

The journey is hot and long,
חמה הדרך, ארוכה היא,
He’s there between the thorny bushes,
ושם הוא בין קוצי הקיץ,
Running wildly to find me a flower.
רץ כמו פרא לחפש לי פרח.
He returns-
חוזר הוא -
Carrying reeds for me from the valley.
נושא קנה סוף אלי מן הבקעה.

The fairy tales are pretty…
האגדות יפות הן...

The birds flew away,
הציפורים פרחו ועפו,
On the riverbank reeds floated,
על שפת ירדן קני סוף הוצפו,
In open laughter, without giving a reason,
בצחוק פתוח, בלי לומר מדוע,
He goes,
הולך הוא,
He goes far away, the man from the valley.
הולך רחוק האיש מן הבקעה.

The rainbow hangs in the clouds
בעננים תלויה הקשת
But still the radio is whispering
אך עוד לוחש מכשיר הקשר
A word or two, like the rustling of leaves
מילה או שתיים כמו משק כנפיים
Answer me,
ענה לי,
Over and out says the man from the valley.
רות סוף אומר האיש מן הבקעה

The fairy tales are pretty…
האגדות יפות הן...

This song again is very pretty, I tried to use more poetic language in the translation, but it was hard for me to find words or sayings that fit the pretty Hebrew. It's worth noting that "I erected my castle" from the chorus is more literally translated to "I erected my tower"—think Jenga towers, to erect a tower in Hebrew is a saying that means that you conjured up something with an unstable foundation. The fact that it's a tower/castle in the saying fits in with the prince charming, so I needed to keep the translation somewhat literal.

Something interesting about this song is how much it tries to hide the war, and the fact that the man in this song is a soldier. Listeners are able to deduce that he's a soldier from his stereotypical description (biting an apple on the back of a truck), but other than that, there is no clear indication from the song. That's why this song is sad—the girl singing is describing the man leaving as though she is innocent, oblivious to what has really happened (the man died).

In case you're sitting there confused as to how I'm assuming that there's a war and that this guy is a soldier, I'll let you know that the description is a bit clearer in Hebrew, and that it would be clear to anyone listening in that time period. In case you still don't buy it, this song was written about the six-day war (like some of the previously analyzed songs), and yes, the writer himself says that the man was killed in war.

Anyway, this song is unique in how innocent the girl narrator is, and therefore also our point of view. Knowing that the man is a soldier and died, we see this song through a different lens:

The girl meets a boy (soldier) near the Jordan river. The word for 'truck' used there in Hebrew, is the same word used for army transports, so it can be assumed that his whole unit is there with him. There he meets this girl, and he runs crazy through thorns just to get her a gift, and makes her feel like a princess. Then the birds fly away, and for some unknown reason, while he was laughing with her, he suddenly leaves (probably a bomb went off that scared the birds, exploded the reeds all over the riverbank, and indicated to the soldier that he has to go). However, he still whispers to her each once in a while (he probably wants to stay quiet when on the battlefield), and she is definitely listening intently to every sound he makes. Presumably after some event, maybe a grenade exploding or some loud noise, the girl gets worried and asks him to answer her, and his last words to her are that he's done. The girl then sings the chorus again, saying fairy tales fly away, only G-d knows where. Now that we understand that the man is dead, it's painfully clear why only G-d knows where the 'fairy tale' (the man) went.

The girl obviously knows exactly what happened, but throughout the whole song she hides it as much as possible, and forces us to think about it until we realize the sad truth. I urge you now to reread the song, and see how she shares this sad war song without directly stating anything related to war.

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