Lord

By Yehudah Halevi

all my desire is here before you,
     whether or not I speak of it:
I’d seek your favor, for an instant, then die—
     if only you would grant my wish.
I’d place my spirit in your hand,
     then sleep—and in that sleep find sweetness.
 
I wander from you—and die alive;
     the closer I cling—I live to die.
How to approach I still don’t know,
     nor on what words I might rely.
Instruct me, Lord: advise and guide me.
     Free me from my prison of lies.
 
Teach me while I can bear the affliction—
     do not, Lord, despise my plea;
before I’ve become my own burden
     and the little I am weighs on me,
and against my will, I give in
     as worms eat bones that weary of me.
 
I’ll come to the place my forefathers reached,
     and by their place of rest find rest.
Earth’s back to me is foreign;
     my one true home is in its dust.
Till now my youth has done what it would:
     When will I provide for myself?
 
The world He placed in my heart has kept me
     from tending to my end and after.
How could I come to serve my Lord,
     when I am still desire’s prisoner?
How could I ask for a place on high,
     when I know the worm will be my sister?
 
How at that end could my heart be glad,
     when I do not know what death will bring?
     reduce the flesh upon me to nothing.
Into the winds they’ll scatter my spirit.
     To dust they’ll return the little remaining.
 
What can I say—with desire my enemy,
     from boyhood till now pursuing me:
What is Time to me but your Will?
     If you’re not with me, what will I be?
I stand bereft of any virtue:
     only your justice and mercy shield me.
 
But why should I speak, or even aspire?
     Lord, before you is all my desire.
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