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main index            © Jeff Matthews       entry Jan 2013               

Masada


—poem & photo by Giacomo Garzya ©2012

Garzya is a contemporary Neapolitan poet and has other poetry in these pages here and here. He recently returned from Israel, where he visited Masada, the mountaintop stronghold in the Judean desert and site of a Roman siege in 73 AD to oust Jewish rebels. The siege ended, famously, when the rebels committed mass suicide rather than surrender. Garzya was moved to write these lines. My English translation on the right is presented here with permission of the author.

Come dimenticare
quel vento sordo sulla rocca,
un'inespugnabile rocca,
sul deserto e il Mar Morto,
simbolo di lotta.

Un Impero contro una fede,
un secondo Tempio abbattuto
e mille zeloti scalzi soli
sulla rocca d'Erode,
nel vento sottile delle candele
della notte,
mentre tu decima invitta Legione
incalzi con la rampa
e sali sali fino alle cisterne
fin su ai colombari
fino a togliere il fiato
alle trombe,
fino a cogliere il sangue suicida
di mille a Masada.

Né vinti né vincitori,
ma il ricordo imperituro
di un'espugnata rocca.


How to forget
that deaf wind

of the fortress rock
on the desert and Dead Sea,
unbreachable symbol of struggle.

Empire against Faith,
a second Temple thrown down,
a thousand lone and barefoot zealots
on Herod 's rock,
in the thin flickering wisp
of candles in the night,
while you, peerless Tenth Legion,
set foot up the ramp,
up to the cistern and dovecotes,
where the trumpets cannot breathe,
into the self-spilt blood
of the Thousand of Masada.

Not victors nor vanquished,
but the deathless memory
of the fortress breached.


                                                                                      —Masada, 1 gennaio 2013

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