Page 160 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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HAYYIM NAHMAN BIALIK
(On the Occasion of his 80th B irthday)
By
M
a x
Z
e l d n e r
E
VEN to a greater extent than Yehudah Halevi during the
Golden Age in Spain, did Hayyim Nahman Bialik epitomize
all th a t was vital and significant in the life and letters of the Jewish
people of his time. Now, almost two decades after his death , his
greatness is appreciated even more and his influence felt deeply
in the soul-life of Israel.
Born eighty years ago in Radi, a small village in the Ukraine,
Hayyim Nahman was early influenced by the beauties of nature
around him and by the depressing poverty within his home. The
sensitive boy never forgot the charming scenes of his birthplace
and neither were the memories of his early miserable boyhood
ever obliterated from his mind. His early impressions we find
again and again in his nature poems and in his vivid autobiogra-
phical sketch
Aftergrowth.
The sadness and tears of his childhood
he poured out in such poems as
My Song
,
My Father
, and
Parting.
After his father’s death, the seven-year old orphan stayed with
his stern grandfather who tamed his mischievousness, bu t who,
nevertheless, inspired him with love and respect for learning.
Later he studied a t the renowned Yeshiva of Volozhin which
served as the inspiration for his famous poem
Hamathmid
, Bialik’s
eloquent parting song to the Yeshiva and to the eternal, diligent
Talmud student. Wandering to the city of secular culture, Odessa,
where, a t the age of eighteen, he published his first poem
To the
Bird
, in which he expressed his grief of exile and his love for Zion.
In Odessa he suffered disappointment and hunger. Before reaching
the age of twenty, Bialik was married and entered the lumber
business, later he taugh t Hebrew, and in 1904 he became the
editor of the belletristic section of the distinguished periodical
Hashiloah.
After visiting Palestine in 1909, Bialik returned to
Odessa, and in 1921 he went to Berlin where he published his
writings in four volumes. In 1924 he finally settled in Palestine
where he lived for the next ten years as the revered poet and as
the central spiritual figure around whom revolved all th a t was
creative in the cultural development of the Jewish s ta te in the
making.
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