“My Biblical Period”: Dahlia Ravikovitch

Last Friday marked the tenth anniversary of the death of the great Israeli poet, Dahlia Ravikovitch 1936–2005. To celebrate her work I  post some of her poems in my translation: This is the 2nd installment:

Dahlia Ravikovitch was 23 year old in 1959 when her first  book The Love of An Orange came out:


Two fish raced,

and went down into the depths of the sea

to tell one another

how great was their love.


Two fish plunged

and remained in the depths of the sea

and the farther they went

the greater became their love.


And they did not come to shore any more

the lovers of the depths of the sea.

The mouth grows weary from telling

how great was their love


A Picture

The green-lamb woods skittered down the slopes

and the sea below splashed and turned blue from the sun.

In the sky clouds bloomed like river lilies.

and we were still girls.


And one girl among us had loving eyes

and we envied her until we forgot,

and another one among us was fair and tall

and knew the answers when asked in class.


And I would go out in the sun to the nearby field

and loved the clouds and muse stories over them

and I had a plenty of time to reflect sadly

from the beginning of the gray autumn till the end of the yellow summer.


The Mediterranean landscape in “A Picture” is familiar to the Israeli reader, the Carmel mountains and the sea below. The poem is bright with the sun but the childhood memories of the child/woman are not happy as we can see from the following lines:

“and I had a plenty of time to reflect sadly /from the beginning of the gray autumn till the end of the yellow summer.”

The language in the Hebrew original is archaic, elevated and stylized . At that stage the young Ravikovitch preferred expressions, motives, and quotations from the Bible. The two poems are highly structured and rhymed. In an 1970 interview Ravikovitch stated: “It was my biblical period….after my first book I knew that I had to break away from my biblical language”.

Tomorrow I shall demonstrate that change in language in Ravikovitch’s  later work.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.