Page 161 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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Z E L D N E R ---- HAYYIM NAHMAN BIALIK
155
Bialik’s poems reflect his own inner life as well as the sufferings
and hopes of his people. In his poem
One by One and A ll Unseen
he writes a beautiful hymn of his own pristine, innocent childhood
and in his
Surely the People Is Grass
he admonishes his people
like Isaiah of old: “This is a people th a t moves not, a people th a t
stirs not nor trembles.”
Unlike most modern Hebrew writers, Bialik was little influenced
by European literature. His main inspiration he derived from the
vast Hebrew literary treasures— the Bible down to Mendele Mocher
Sefarim and Ahad Ha 'am . T h a t is why no other Jewish writer
has expressed the meaning and significance of the “Beth Hamid-
rash” as has Bialik in
On the Threshold of the House of Prayer
and
I f Thou Wouldst Know.
I t is Bialik who becomes the heart, the
conscience, the prophet of the Jewish people in
The City of Slaughter
and
Surely this Too is God's Chastisement
where he expresses his
anger and horror and protest and sorrow against persecution and
pogroms, disillusionment and weakness. In his masterpiece
The
Dead of the Wilderness
, the song of lethargy and awakening, in
this majestic apotheosis of the long Exile, the poet-prophet pro-
claims: “We are the mighty! The last generation of slaves and the
first generation of freemen.”
Bialik was a many-sided creative artist and both his poetry and
his prose reflect the varied facets of his glittering genius. Like the
bright-eyed lad in his allegorical and imaginative epic,
The Scroll
of Fire
, Bialik was a mixture of light and darkness. The same
poet who gave us the despondent and heart-rending
Summon the
Serpents
and
I Know that in the Darkness of Some Night
, has also
given us such cheerful and lighthearted songs as ’
Twixt Tigris and
Euphrates
and
A New Fashion.
He who wrote
The Last Word,
one of Bialik’s most powerful and despairing poems, had also
written such graceful and tender love songs as
Take Me Beneath
Thy Wing
and
Where Art Thou?
And then there is the Bialik of
the beautiful nature poems and graceful lyrics like
The Pool
,
Winter Songs
,
Stars Twinkle and Fade
,
Through Clouds of Fire.
The Poet Laureate was, furthermore, capable of writing such
serious, thoughtful and significant essays as
Halakah and Agadah
and
The Hebrew Book
as well as realistic and humorous stories like
Behind the Fence
,
Aryeh the Gross
, and
The Short Friday.
Writing
in colorful and rhythmical prose, he created tales and legends
full of spice and fantasy like
Duke Onion and Duke Garlic
,
A Stalled
Ox and A Dish of Herbs
and
The Legend of Three and of Four
which
is a hymn to love’s innocence and its power to overcome all
obstacles.
The establishment of the Hebrew publishing houses
Moriah
and
Dvir
, the founding of the institutions
Ohel Shem
and
Oneg