“I Have Seen”

Rosa Nevadovska, translated by Merle Bachman, published on May 22, 2017.

“I Have Seen” reflects an important aspect of Rosa Nevadovska’s work, in which the speaker presents herself as alone in nature and privy to a kind of mystical experience.

Rosa Nevadovska (1890–1971), a poet from Białystok, immigrated to the United States in 1928. She was married briefly and gave birth to a daughter, who died at the age of two during a winter in Moscow, where the poet lived from 1914 until the end of World War I. In the United States, Nevadovska was a writer and journalist, traveling, lecturing, and residing in various cities, from New York to Venice, California. She published one volume of poems in her lifetime: Azoy vi ikh bin (As I Am; 1936). After her death, her family discovered scores of unpublished poems, which were published as Lider mayne (My Poetry; 1974). “I Have Seen” appears in this volume.

                   I Have Seen (איך האָב געזען)

I have seen the radiant dazzle

Of the hour before the stars ascend.

I have seen, at the height of day, its end—

And thought of beginnings and vanishings.

I have stood astonished: around me

Heavenly bodies shimmered and dimmed,

And a wind, with a light touch

Spoke to the world in a gesture of silence.

איך האָב געזען דעם שטראַליקן געבלענד 

אין דער שעה פֿאַרן אױפֿשטײַג שטערן;

איך האָב געזען פֿון הױכן טאָג דעם ענד –

איך האָב געטראַכט פֿון אױפֿקום און ניט־װערן.

איך בין געשטאַנען אין פֿאַרגאַף: אַרום מיר

האָבן ליכטער זיך געמיניעט און געלאָשן, 

און אַ װינט האָט מיט לײַכטן באַריר

צו דער װעלט גערעדט מיט שטום־לשון.

MERLE L. BACHMAN is a poet and associate professor of English at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, where she also directs the BFA in creative writing. Bachman’s efforts as a Yiddish translator began with her critical volume Recovering Yiddishland: Threshold Moments in American Literature (Syracuse UP, 2008). She was a translation fellow at the Yiddish Book Center in 2015–16, where she translated Rosa Nevadovska’s poetry.