Lyric of the Week: SOUL IN EXILE—a poem for the Nine Days
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Oh soul in exile They who don’t know you, find you easy to hate But they who know you cry with you And lament your fate You’ve been wandering through wastelands Among strangers who chastise and berate With few friends to sympathize When they see you in such a state Once a fine crystal vessel Now scattered to shards Of what you used to be Now led in blindness And oblivious to pain You walk through it in your bare feet Oh soul in exile How you trail your blood in the street Those broken glass memories cut so deep. Oh soul in exile They who despise you do so because you exist And some say they love you, but they are so few Who would go with you through this You’ve sojourned and settled, each time driven out By white-paper tigers and crossed iron fists They who take you in, do so for themselves And you don’t know peace or bliss Once a bright golden city Now barely a shadow Of what you used to be Now in darkness With your walls breached You grope in vain to get on your feet Oh soul in exile Where are the children That once played in your streets The grief and loss are so boundlessly deep.
Another year has gone by Another decade, another century Still fasting, mourning, abstaining And wandering shoeless like a refugee How many ninth days have befallen you Throughout your history How many more must you go through Till you see an end to misery When will the final chapter be written In your long agonizing story When will you see a final redemption So you can raise your head in glory When will you understand That this is more than mere allegory Oh what pressure you have succumbed to Now that the exile has become you Well you rhapsodize and rationalize How where you are is the real promised land You return the gifts given With outstretched arm and wide-open hand Two thousand years of bent spine And you’ve forgotten what it means to stand Afraid of your own shadow You feel you don’t deserve to demand Well all the self-imposed blindness It prevents you from seeing any light The light that’s been signifying The imminent end to this long cold night You can make that night end faster By standing up for what’s yours and what’s right With righteousness on your side With your solid faith as your guide From the faraway shores and strange continents Where you wander and roam Assyria and Egypt, Spain and Russia Babylon and Rome Oh soul in exile It’s time to come home …
© 2016 The Hesh Inc.
This is NOT the title track from my magnum opus, though it bears the same name.
Soul In Exile, as the title of my magnum opus, was inspired by a fragment of a liturgical poem by Rabbi Amitai ben Shephatiah of 9th-century Oria, Italy, paraphrased and enshrined in the first four lines of the lyrics above, translated from the Hebrew:
אי אכסניא אי גלות מי לא יכירך יעשה ממך הוללות ומי יכירך יקונן ביללות
The fragment is the only part of the poem that survived. The rest is lost to history. I took it upon myself to continue it, and so I did, filtering it through the song I did write for my album, and turning it into a lamentation about the Jewish exile encompassing the last two millennia.
Since it does share a few elements in common with the title track to my magnum opus, I thought it would be a good idea to record an alternate take of the song, since I had already tracked the musical instruments in the studio, and create a "Jewish version" of the song. I made several attempts to record an alternate vocal track with these lyrics, and every take fell flat. The words simply did not fit the music, and I could not make it work with my vocal style. So it remains in purely lyric form. I hope that my lyrics do justice to Rabbi Amitai, of blessed memory.
Here is the music, without the lyrics:
If you, the reader, are a vocalist who wants to take a crack at matching the lyrics to the music, please contact me and maybe we can make it happen.