Who were you, Saint Jerome?
Were you as Bloemaert depicted you:
A Santa Claus-like figure
Cozy in your well-lit study,
Pince-nez perched on your nose,
Your wrinkled but strong, clean, healthy hands
Holding your translation of the Bible?
Or were you as depicted by the Italian:
A gaunt, half-naked hermit
In a filthy cave,
The dirty nails of one atrophied, arthritic hand
Lightly resting upon a skull
O’er which your book is laid,
Your eyes, without spectacles to aid them,
Gazing specter-like toward heaven,
Your clean red robe a contrast
To your Cardinal’s cap crumpled in a crevice,
Your other hand clutching a rock
With which to beat your bony breast,
A bruise spreading across your sternum?
You knew only too well, scholar and saint,
What may be lost in a translation
And what biases the translator might introduce.
Did you seek divine inspiration for your great task
or divine forgiveness for daring to translate
The Word of God?
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Dr. Steven Wittenberg Gordon is the editor-in-Chief of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review (www.SongsOfEretz.com) and divides his time between editing, writing, and a private addiction medicine practice in Kansas.
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