Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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Often, tired of winging skyward,
He reposes, all alone,
Over rushing, rolling waters,
On a lofty cliff of stone,
He surveys the vale below him,
Shakes his head with cold disdain,
Only oft, by hunger driven,
He descends with gnawing pain.
o senfeld
—tr. E.A.-T.
Where gigantic clouds are roaming,
Where the thunder wildly roars,
There the king of all the feathered,
The majestic eagle, soars.
With his mighty wings a-flutter,
All alone, he flies above;
Has no comrades, knows no friendship,
God's free sky—his only love.
The Eagle,
which I chanced upon in a Yiddish daily forty
years ago, was my first introduction to Morris Rosenfeld’s poetry.
T en years later I met him in person, only to discover that the
eagle of the poem was a symbol of its creator. An undisputed
Master of Song to his readers, the East-Side editorial offices knew
him as a rather lonely, al though by no means humble, individual
in quest of a living.
It was in February,
1 9 1 3
, that Rosenfeld’s poem
Sweet Moment s
captivated me with its truly oriental charm and exotic beauty.
I translated it and sent him my English version. A correspondence
ensued, and a few months later he invited me to his home.
I was struck by the bluntness and directness of Rosenfeld’s
speech. He did not believe in mincing words.
“Just listen to this," he said to me that evening, reading from
an article by a well-known Yiddish literary critic: “ ‘Morris
Rosenfeld hardly deserves any credit as a Labor poet, because
he himself worked in a sweatshop.’
“Just think of it,” Rosenfeld exclaimed, “ this scribbler tries
to minimize my services to Yiddish Literature because I experi-
enced what I write about. By the same token, the best love poems
would not be worth much because the poet may have been in
love himself!”
In spite of his strong language, I have never seen a man who
had more respect than Rosenfeld for genuine culture, refinement
and beauty. Wi th what warmth and enthusiasm he mentioned
the few persons in his circle endowed with these gifts, and how
his soul was kindled with understanding and appreciation.
Rosenfeld was an exemplary family man. He always spoke of
his wife as his true helpmeet. He never recovered from the shock
he suffered at the untimely death of his only son. Whenever I
called, he would point to the boy’s picture on the wall, tears
welling up in his eyes.
I recall what happiness breathed from his letter about the
engagement and subsequent marriage of his youngest daughter,
Rose. He loved children—it was a joy to watch him fondle and
pet them. A number of his later poems were written about his
wife, children and grandchildren.
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