Solomon Ibn Gabirol: Before My Being

The tenderness and surrender of this poem are remarkable; for more about this mystical Jewish poet from the era of Muslim Spain, see this earlier post.

I’m clay cupped in your hands, it’s true

Before My Being

Before my being your mercy came through me,
bringing existence to nothing to shape me.
Who is it conceived of my form—and who
cast it then in a kiln to create me?
Who breathed soul inside me—and who
opened the belly of hell and withdrew me?
Who through youth brought me this far?
Who with wisdom and wonder endowed me?
I’m clay cupped in your hands, it’s true;
it’s you, I know, not I who made me.
I’ll confess my sins and will not say
the serpent’s ways or evil seduced me.
How could I hide my error from you when
before my being your mercy came through me?

from “The Dream of the Poem”
Tr. & ed. Peter Cole

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.