Page 164 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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JEWI SH BOOK ANNUAL
158
the town and the muezzin wastes his musical voice upon an un-
heeding flock; Jericho in the mysterious haze of night when the
gardens dip the luxuriant branches of their trees in the lakelike
sky and the bedouin’s campfire licks the hem of darkness; Jeru-
salem under the clouds of a gathering storm which recalls Toledo
in El Greco’s sombre picture.
Among the longer poems of Fichman “The Mourning of D av id”
is one of his most deeply felt dramatic monologues. I t poses the
problem of protracted barrenness which every creative mind ex-
periences with distress. The atrophy of imagination which is
greater in proportion to previous abundance is symbolized in
Fichman’s poem by David, the traditional au thor of the Psalms
who, according to
Tanna de-Be Eliyahu Rabba
, was deserted by
the Holy Spirit for twenty-two years. Fichman traces the curse of
David’s barrenness to the sharp rebuke of Na than . At th a t time
the king was too happy in his love to know the depth of his sin
and welcomed the prophet’s words because he wanted intense
pain to equal his intense happiness. Pain came, however, in
ampler measure than he expected: his own offspring turned against
him; his friends became traitors. Bu t the hard experiences did
not break his heart. The most terrible ordeal settled upon him in
the guise of a windless calm when the foes were vanquished and
the world lay motionless as a stone. With a tragic effort he blessed,
a t last, his yearning for creative efforts and identified it with the
Holy Spirit which deserted him. Thus the imaginative mind
turned its deepest calamity, barrenness, into a point of new
departures.
“The Mourning of David” may have been inspired by the
protracted unproductivity of Hayyim Nahman Bialik who wrote
only a few poems in the last two decades of his life. I t was not
difficult to identify the acknowledged poet of the century with
the famous singer of biblical times. In spite of his many poems
of considerable length, Fichman remained the master of the land-
scape lyric. The words of Maupassant which he prefaced to his
“Sea Idylls” are really the summation of his entire poetical career:
“ 7 W
vu de reau, du soleil
,
des nuages
,
je ne puis raconter autre
chose”
Fichman is not only a poet, bu t also one of the most prolific
critics in modern Hebrew literature and one of its consummate
essayists. To numberless yearbooks, jubilee volumes, periodicals
and newspapers he has contributed hundreds of literary evalua-
ations. Usually he chooses a foreign or Hebrew writer, sometimes
a book, seldom a literary problem as a subject for his essays.
Within th a t limited field, however, his interests range from the
Bible and Homer to the ultramoderns. His poetic sensitivity is