Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Fast and Furioso

From the February 2010 Print Edition

Orlando Furioso: A New Verse Translation by Ludovico Ariosto translated by David R. Slavitt Belknap, 688 pages, $39.95 Profane, urbane, jocose and headlong, Ariosto’s poem Orlando Furioso is the artistic and temperamental opposite of the other Tuscan epic, The Divine Comedy . In one hundred . . . . Continue Reading »

The Book of Splendor

From the November 2006 Print Edition

The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, Vol. 1 translated by Daniel C. Matt Stanford University Press, 584 pages, $49.95. DANIEL MATT’S LANDMARK translation of the Zohar from the original tongues into English is a tour de force of scholarship and linguistic imagination––in the service of heaven. It is . . . . Continue Reading »

Of State

From the October 1998 Print Edition

Listen, God, I needYou, hear me.Cheer meIn this darkness.Give me back(My soul is readyNow to leave me)Any answer.I don’t questionYou believe me.Teach me trustIn the returningPromise, shameMy enemiesIn public, enterMy heart in yourBook of . . . . Continue Reading »


From the June/July 1998 Print Edition

What the God of Jacob said through Joseph, we singIn a psalm, accompanied by tambourine and shepherd’s harp.New moon, full moon, blow the horn of IsraelAgain. About the law:When I sent Joseph down to Egypt(Strange tongues spoken there)I took his brothers off his shoulders,Saved him from the . . . . Continue Reading »


From the May 1998 Print Edition

Those with heaps of money, madeOr born to it, though they playWith bankers, senators, with generals,Like gods to mortals, while theyStroll in knots through crowded hallsWhere others bustle, they are judgedRejected by what they don’t know,And think because they can commandThey are beloved. Not . . . . Continue Reading »


From the May 1998 Print Edition

God once smiled on Israel,Returned them from captivity,Forgotten and forgiven.Now think of us, let us rememberMore than anger, more than childrenHeaped before their fathers.Speak us peace, and all who are notFools must listen. Blow one kissAnd dandelions, truthWill sprout through cracking sidewalks, . . . . Continue Reading »


From the May 1998 Print Edition

Listen, reader of the dreamsInterpreted by Joseph, who ledIsrael into Egypt, brought themUp again: return us to ourselves.However long it takes to mill,To knead the sorry flour, our breadCrumbles and the neighbors jeer.Return us to ourselves. Why plantThese terraced hills with vineyards,Cork trees, . . . . Continue Reading »

Psalm 144

From the March 1998 Print Edition

My fingers twang the bowstring. Arrows flying from the tower Land whole armies at my feet. What is one human, That God should know or care about him or his children? Steam clouds, shadows in the air. Lightning makes the mountains smoke; Broken sunlight, rainbows. Nock your shafts, Lord, fix Those . . . . Continue Reading »

Who Else?

From the January 1998 Print Edition

But the Lord rebuilds Jerusalem,Collects the scattered, castoff, brokenheartedSeed of Israel and knows how manyStars there are, and calls them allBy name, and hears the answer.We can’t describe how music worksOr know the time of clouds, rain, mountain grass.Cattle graze there, crows . . . . Continue Reading »