Three Songs of
for high voice and piano
The complete Hebrew texts of these songs are not
represented here. The Hebrew transliterations in English characters are
set as the lyrics in the scores. The original Hebrew is available in
Hebrew Verse, ed. and trans. by T. Carmi, Penguin Books, 1981. The
following translations are the composer's.
echezeh Chana (
When I see Hannah in brilliant light,
when I recall Naomi, splendidly perfect,
my soul is afire for Hannah
while my spirit is alight for Naomi.
So there I am, in a dilemma,
Hannah is my lady of this day,
but Naomi rules over me since yesterday.
Love, how do I flee from you?
Oh, as iron sharpens iron,
so has desire doubly sharpened desire.
For this I am worried.
Love, I implore with outstretched hands:
Either give me both hearts at the same time,
or else split my heart between the two!
ii. Einei Tz'viah (
The eyes of a girl are the heavens of love,
a robe of light and beauty which clothe her.
Even when hiding behind tear-filled clouds,
lovers, be not afraid to draw near.
Do not fear clouds or torrents,
because there is already a rainbow over them.
iii. Ei Socharim (
Where are the merchants who pursued me
to purchase my favors?
O horrid time!
These days, they avoid my company;
when I invite them, they do not respond.
How have my wares been so devalued?
How can I sell, when there is no client?
Once they would have paid richly for my attentions.
Now I would be lucky if they wanted me for no money.
Immanuel Frances was an Italian poet and rabbinical
scholar; born in Mantua in 1618 and died at Leghorn sometime after 1703.
He received his instruction from his elder brother Jacob and from Joseph
Firmo of Ancona. In 1674 he was chosen by some Italian communities to
represent them in a case against the heirs of R. Zachariah Porto. A
responsum by him in this matter is found in She'elot u-Teshubot Mayim
Rabbim. Both he and his brother Jacob were determined
opponents of the followers of Shabbethai Zebi, against whom they argued
in a volume of poems. Frances also opposed the cabalists, creating so
strong a feeling among the cabalistic rabbis of Mantua that they
destroyed his brother's published poems and forced him to flee the city.
He wandered from place to place, as far as to Algiers, settling finally
in Leghorn. In addition to many occasional poems, Frances'
best-known work written in Algiers is a treatise on Hebrew prosody, in
which he makes use of a number of his own verses.
The "old whore's lament" is set in contradistinction to
the youthful passion for two women simultaneously. With the middle song
calling for love to arise, these three make an arch of time, from youth
to age and from youthful, stupid exuberance to ironic and bittersweet
sadness in looking back at better days.
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any
major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited
without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below
for this piano-vocal score.
Three Songs of Immanuel Frances