Known to millions simply as Rahel the Poet, Rahel Bluwstein (1890-1931) was a Russian teenager when she left her well-educated family and went to the middle of nowhere — the Land of Israel. Like many other young people of her era, she was curious about Zionism. In then-Palestine, she worked the land, painted, wrote and became the muse to a revolution, and a lover to the first leaders of the soon-to-be state, A.D. Gordon, Berl Katznelson, Zalman Shazar and others… . A love affair with a Russian intellectual, World War I, tuberculosis, betrayal by her comrades — nothing in her drama-filled life deterred her from continuing to believe. The tension between idealism and disenchantment is at the core of her extraordinarily intimate and universal poems.
“In a time of an emerging national movement, a young woman became the icon of great conviction, romance and art, ” says Adi Ezroni, producer of a soon-to-be shot film about Rahel. Anna Thomas, nominated for an Oscar for “Frida,” is writing the screenplay about this pioneering and alluring woman, the first female poet in modern Hebrew.
She turns and calls him by name
with the voices of every day.
How can I trust my voice
not to give me away?
In the streets, in the full light of day
she walks by his side.
I in the dark of night
Bright and serene on her hand
is her ring of gold.
The iron fetters I wear
are stronger, seven fold.
“Was it only a dream… ”
Was it only a dream? Was it I?
Was it I who long ago
rose with the dawn to fill the fields
by the sweat of my brow?
Was it I who on long, sultry days
on a high wagon loaded with sheaves
Was it I who bathed in the innocent blue
— under a peaceful sky —
Of my Galilee, my own Galilee?
Was it all a dream? Was it I?
“I have planted you in my garden… ”
I have planted you in my garden,
in my heart that cannot sleep.
Your boughs grow entangled in it
and in it your roots strike deep.
There is no rest and no quiet
in my garden all day long.
It is you in it, you in it singing
amidst flutter of wing and song.
Reprinted with permission from Ra’hel, Flowers of Perhaps: A Bilingual Edition of Selected Poems translated by Robert Friend with Shomon Sandbank, published by Toby Press, 2008.