Page 42 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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“secular” lost its forb idd ing conno ta t ion in Heb rew l i tera tu re .
A new a t t i tude was born, tha t of embrac ing and reveal ing life
fully in its various aspects: the da rk and gruesome as well as the
luminous and sublime, the physical and sp i r i tua l alike.
Shemuel H anag id has the qua l i ty of appea r ing cold and
detached in his poetry. His lines are ponderous , so of ten un-
musical. I t seems as though the poet is in the distance. Yet he is
in essence a poet bo th in t ima te and delicate. His poetry contains
a record, descriptive and emot ional , of the inn e r forces tha t
moved the po e t ’s life.
We get a word-picture of H anag id as a struggl ing you th exiled
from his home by war and persecution, wande r ing f rom place
to place, an ima ted by a consuming amb i t ion and an inne r
resolve no t to rest till he realize the very highest in life, t ill he
“rise and m oun t up to a he igh t th a t shall forever be known .”
Conscious of his powers, H anag id extols the s treng th and
boldness of his spirit, the greatness of his deeds and , above all,
he proclaims in many a verse the vir i l i ty and majesty of his song,
“Sweet as the song of David, the words hewn ou t of rub ies .” T h i s
self-adulation was, as various critics have po in ted out , in con-
formity w i th the prevai l ing style of Arabic poetry. Still, for all
the ir manner ism, these verses do give a clue to the egocentric
tendency of the poet.
T h e sweetest poems of Hanag id are those which reveal his
relations to his family. T h e ones to his gifted two sons, the oldest
of whom, Yehoseph, was to be his successor as G rand Vizier,
show w i th many details the cares of a loving fa the r who watches
over the growth of his ch i ldren w i th a discerning eye. T h e
ailments and indispositions of the chi ldren, the i r sp i r i tua l and
moral well-being, are the themes of these poems. Most of the
poems are in the form of epistles w r i t ten on the battlefield,
“while a sharpened spear of slaughter was in the hand w i th the
sword d rawn .” They are simple verses, playful at times, direct
and moving. Incidentally, the two lads, at the command of the i r
father, copied and ed i ted the manusc r ip t of his two works,
Ben-
Teh i l l im
and
Ben-Mishle.
Par t icu lar ly s t i rr ing are H a n a g id ’s nume rous elegies on the
dea th of his bro ther . Shed of all rhetoric, they read like prayers.
T h e i r po ignan t grief is still alive.
A more colorful side of H anag id is revealed in his poems of
friendship, love and n a tu re and in his wine songs. These
categories, in fact, go together. A poem of f r iendsh ip or a wine
song is generally embellished by a descr ip t ion of n a tu r e or by
erotic me taphors and vice versa.
Hanag id generously throws bouque ts of praise at his friends,
at the subject of his love. “My hea r t w i th in me ,” the poet declares!
“ is a city shu t up where in the love of my friends is g u a rd ed .”
His friends are invar iably monarchs of though t , unexce l led in
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