Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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went to recuperate after the shock caused by his son’s death, was
paved with honor and glory. He was feted and lionized in every
large city and town in England, Austria, Hungary and Germany.
When he returned to America, his head was turned. Professor
Jaroslav Vechlicky, the Bohemian literateur and critic, had
written a sonnet to Rosenfeld in which he had termed him a
genius. Nothing less would do thereafter. There were no other
Yiddish poets—only scribblers and rhymsters—in Rosenfeld’s esti-
mation. He was the one and only. Curiously enough, he made
an exception of Yehoash (Solomon Bloomgarden) although the
relations between them were rather strained. But, then, Rosen-
feld had always regarded Yehoash as a poet of his own rank.
Naturally, this attitude of his created for him a great many
enemies who circulated all sorts of malicious stories about him.
In the summer of
1 9 1 4
, Rosenfeld invited me to spend my
vacation with him and his family on his newly acquired farm
in the foothills of the Berkshires. I gladly accepted, and, in the
afternoon of July Fourth, Rosenfeld met me at the railroad
station. He was bubbling over with enthusiasm, and practically
his first words to me were:
“Well, can you believe you are visiting a Yiddish writer? For
myself, I still can’t get used to the idea that I, Morris Rosen-
feld, a Yiddish poet, am the actual owner of a country home!
I often have nightmares in which I see myself back in the sweat-
shop. I wake up with a start and only when I hear the crickets
chirp or the birds warble at dawn, only then do I feel sure that
I am really living in intimate communion with God and Na ture .”
Apropos of Rosenfeld’s mention of God, he was not an
observant Jew, but was possessed of a deep religious feeling
which expressed itself in every line he penned, in every conversa-
tion about higher things. He was a well-informed, erudite man
who read a great deal and who was familiar with the classics
and contemporary authors in a number of languages. While the
worldwide fame he had achieved was that of a Bard of Labor
who sang of the sufferings of the Jewish immigrant, Rosenfeld,
the poet of love, the singer of Judaism and Zionism, was
neglected for a long time.
The Forward
had taken him out of
the sweatshop, and, in return, insisted on proletarian poetry
exclusively. And Rosenfeld wrote, of necessity, what was de-
manded of him. T o quote the late Alexander Harkavy, promi-
nent linguist and critic, Rosenfeld was “probably the most
unique phenomenon among the Jewish poets writing in our
mother-tongue. . . . Rosenfeld’s muse possesses no exclusive bent:
she is, in turn, revolutionary and conservative; religious and
agnostic; international and national—all in one.”
In the fall of
1 9 1 4
, Rosenfeld left
The Forward
and joined
the staff of the conservative
Tageblat t .
I t was there that he pub-