Page 59 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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CHAIM NACHMAN BIALIK, THE JEWISH
POET LAUREATE
ON THE OCCASION OF HIS SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY
By
Samuel M. Blumenfield
Had Bialik been spared the normal span of life, he would
now have completed his threescore and ten years. He died less
than ten years ago, yet there has already accumulated a vast and
rich literature, a veritable Bialikiana, on the life and work of
the “favorite son” of modern Jewry. The literature on Bialik is
as variegated as are the genius and personality of the poet. Scores
of books and monographs and hundreds of essays and articles
have been written on Bialik the scholar, the Hebrew philologist,
the editor, the publisher, the narrator, the friend and teacher.
But whatever his other contributions and distinctions, Bialik’s
place in Jewish history has been established and he will be for-
ever recognized as the poet laureate of his people.
To this day literary critics and historians of the Hebrew
renaissance are hard pu t to explain the phenomenon of Bialik
and the place he holds in the heart of Jewry. Of a galaxy of
titanic personalities of the golden age of modern Jewish history;
of the scores of inspired poets, brilliant scholars, profound
thinkers and great statesmen, Jewry has chosen Chaim Nachman
Bialik and placed him next to the legendary and Messianic
figure of Theodor Herzl.
There are many ways in which to ascertain the qualities that
enter into the making of a national poet. Critics thus far have
been unable to suggest objective criteria which would apply to
poets of all peoples and cultures. It seems that different peoples
and civilizations have different standards for their national poets
and in all likelihood will continue to have them in the future.
As far as Jewry is concerned, I believe that the following three
elements are indispensable for the making of its national poet:
(
1
) the capacity to sense deeply and sincerely the tragedy of
Jewry;
(2)
the ability to see the faults of the people and the
courage to point out their failings; (
3
) above all, a burning and
abiding faith in the people and its destiny.
In speaking of the capacity to sense the Jewish tragedy, I do
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