Three Picture Poems

Solomon de Oliveyra

17th Century


The turning wheel runs round and round.
   It opens and closes the exit of my gate.
Noisily it turns for ruin and destruction.
   My head is split, my entrails spilled.
It chases and it catches what it chases,
   Despoils my wealth and strength; it eats my skin.
Whatever beauty pleased my eyes it ruins—
   Precious gems and all the wealth I owned.
Wicked its behavior, criminal.
   Yet though it tramples on my neck, I do not fear.
Let all men see and take a lesson,
   Let them put their trust in God my rock.


My heart within me conceives
   Something good that God has chosen for good.
His land, big as a handbreadth,
   Has turned white as white wool.
Sin washed away, and he raised on high
   Ready this day for tomorrow.
Wide of step to do good, before
   The sun sets on the degrees of dawn.


My love went down to his garden, wandering there to pick the fruit.
He plucked the mandrakes that emit the scent of merit.
Mandrakes of a name as good as precious oil he measures out in splendor.
David is a verdant olive tree who captures light.

Translated by
Raymond P.


Solomon de Oliveyra, “Three Picture Poems” (Poem, Amsterdam, 17th Century). Published in: Dan Pagis, Ha-Shir Davur ʻal Ofanav (Poetry Aptly Explained), ed. E. (Ezra) Fleischer (Jerusalem: Hotsa’at sefarim ʻal shem Y. L. Magnes, ha-Universitah ha-ʻIvrit, 1993), 96–98.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 5.

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