Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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SILBERSCHLAG----HEBREW LITERATURE IN AMERICA
31
the influence of Anglo-American literature became a pervasive
factor in Hebrew prose and poetry. The structure and the imagery
of th a t poem were permeated with reminiscences of English roman-
tic poetry. And the lines from Byron, preceding the poem, indicate
a direct source of inspiration and a love for the interplay of nature
and ethics which is a distinguishing mark of English poetry:
. . . The sun makes
Sweet skies ju s t when he rises, or is set . . .
The subject-matter of the poem was also a bold innovation in
Hebrew literature. For the first time a Hebrew poet built his poem
out of native material — out of intertribal quarrels in early Amer-
ica, out of fights of Indians and Spaniards. Against a background
of iron and blood he revived the defunct civilization of the Red
Man: the cruel custom of human sacrifices to the Great Spirit, the
tender cult of the God of Peace and Purity, the Soul-God, the
wisdom and wiles of chiefs and priests, and the ancient splendors
of the American landscape.
The contemporaries of Silkiner and younger Hebrew writers
eagerly seized upon the new and native ores of poetry. The pre-
occupation with the Indian and the Negro in the poetry of Lisitzky,
Efros, Ginzburg, and Bavli opened up a new folk-world of imagery
and ideas to Hebrew literature. And the potent resources of Eng-
lish and American classics invigorated Hebrew writers. In the
nineteenth century they had been nurtured by German and Slav
literatures. In the twentieth century, they not only translated
Shakespeare and Milton, Poe and Whitman; they wrote essays on
American and English literatures and reflected their extensive
studies of English and American authors in their writings. In the
future the literary historian will be able to cultivate an interesting
field of research in cultural fertilization. For a sensitive investi-
gation of the works of Silkiner and Schwartz, Lisitzky and Bavli,
Halkin and Regelson, Ginzburg and Feinstein, Friedland, Preil
and Grossman-Avinoam will disclose an indebtedness to Anglo-
American literature far beyond present premonitions or assump-
tions.
IV
Hebrew literature, in mid-century, radiates from the major
center in Israel and the minor center in the United States. In
other countries it is so insignificant as to be almost non-existent.
This dual center, recognized by the historian and given only grudg-
ing assent by current opinion in Israel, is a recent development.
Until the Russian Revolution in 1917 Hebrew literature was con­