The Wing-Beat

I have read lovely phrases recently; e.g., in Franz Rosenzweig’s writings on the “literary and human aspect of the Scriptures” and on translating the Scriptures (he collaborated with Martin Buber on a new OT translation in the 1920s); first, his reference to the painters’ depiction of St. Francis’ halo (Latin nimbus) as an “aureole of light”, second, his metaphor about the deep spirit of translation.  After noting the “history of translation” starting with the translator’s attempt to achieve the essential meaning of the text despite its spirit being lost in the process, he wrote,

 “Then, one day, a miracle happens and the spirits of the two languages mate.  This does not strike like a bolt out of the blue.  The time for such a hieros gamos, for such a Holy Wedding, is not ripe until a receptive people reaches out toward the wing-beat of an alien masterpiece with its own yearning and its own utterance, and when its receptiveness is not longer based on curiosity, interest, desire for education, or even aesthetic pleasure, but has become an integral part of the people’s historical development. . . .”

[Franz Rosenzweig, His Life and Thought, 3rd ed., presented by Nahum N. Glatzer (Indianapolis:  Hackett, 1998), 257, 259.]  Emphasis mine.

I do still need to compare the passage with the original German, when I find a copy.  I wonder, did you think “oriole” when you saw the word aureole as I did?  Yes, they are related (aureolus=golden).  The passage above suggests far more than words, including Rosenzweig’s reverence for the Jewish Scriptures, what he called the “Only Testament.”  When I reflect on his conviction the Scriptures used words-beyond-words to reveal the proper relationship between God, Man, and World, I find his passage and its translation into English to have been inspired.