Last year, shortly before Pesach, a close family friend turned to my brother and myself to enlist our aid:
I'm preparing something for Pesach and I would like to find the Bloch (as in Ariel and Chana) English translation of Shir Hashirim 2, 10-13. Is it available on line? Or do you happen to have a copy of it? (Ours is packed away in our majsan in Oakland.)Being in this way pleasantly distracted from more pressing tasks, I happily joined the search. For me, at least, few activities can be more satisfying than a semi-mindless trek with a clearly defined pot of gold at the end. I don't even claim to be a multi-tasker - I simply love distractions. Though I don't remember precisely what was occupying my time before setting out on this adventure, it was clear that whatever it was, joining the search was going to be more enjoyable. And of course even more enjoyable than getting to the finish line is being diverted into the side streets, the alleys, even the dead ends, that call to you along the way.
the voice of the turtle is heard in our landYes, we understood that "turtle" was a shortening of "turtledove", but even if that made the meter fit, it still didn't make much sense. Another poetically logical question was raised by our requestee. As she later explained:
And, most importantly, how could you have a poem about spring without any birds? And of course they were always there: the nightingale and the turtle doveSo it was clear why a better translation was desired, but how to find it was still a problem. A few rather simple approaches presented themselves, though the fact that I was called in to give it a try suggested that the obvious searches had already been tried, and failed. And of course - if we knew what we were looking for, we wouldn't have to search for it. In other words, the easiest approach would have been to type a line of the text into my search engine of choice (almost always Google) and click on <ENTER>. But if I had a line of the desired text, I wouldn't have to be searching for it.
I wasn't overly hopeful, but there was definitely a possibility....
And it turned out that my "possibility" hit the jackpot.
And sometimes jackpots are even richer than we expect. What I got to was a Word document with the entirety of the Bloch translation. Their book is, of course, much more than "simply" the translation, but the verses we wanted were there, as part of the entire wonderful translation. My attempts, however, to backtrack from that document to precisely where it was housed were only partially successful. The file was on the website of the English Department of National Central University ... of Taiwan.
After the fact, it's interesting to try and find other instances of the text on additional websites. In this particular case, working backwards proved to be less productive than I might have hoped. Once I had the desired translation, checking to see on how many other sites it shows up is very easy. But it turns out that the answer is apparently very few. Within Google Book Search, in addition to the online excerpts of the Bloch translation itself, only two other books seem to quote the text. Beyond these, I only found four other pages where the Bloch translation seems to be used.
These "reverse search" examples were found well after I'd successfully found what I had originally set out to find. Having found the text on that Taiwanese university site there wasn't much reason to continue searching. The goal had been reached. Still, there was the inevitable lingering question: Why there? Was it being used in a course, was a guest lecturer perhaps going to use it? I really don't know. It was simply there. And frankly, to my mind that's a happy ending - we found the verse we were looking for, but the mystery remains.
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