Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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a h n
— Y
o f
embarrassment and without seeming to fake the emotion, such
lines as “Suddenly, into my eyes, exploded God.”6
P. Sadeh is as devoted as Hillel to intense encounters with
experience, but his canvas has been broader. Unlike Hillel, he
seems at times to yearn for the mantle of a veritable prophet in
Israel. In his
Burden of the Silence of Death
(1951), he ex-
pressed a mystic faith in immortality:
A fount-of-the-life-of-divinity is death—
and he who denies me is slave to the dread of death.
But he who believes will know neither shame nor fear,
for to him life is a dream
and death is his wreath
wherewith Deity will crown him
on the day of his heart’s rejoicing.
Then the dreaming, troubled heart will rise from sleep,
the eyes of the soul will be opened,
and the wells of the spirit revealed,
the candles of his night will be lit
and the bells of song awakened.
His path since then has been troubled; it is described in a
remarkable autobiography,
Life as a Parable
(Tel-Aviv, 1958),
which includes as one of its chapters a long “Poem of the New
Jerusalem.”7 He has been criticized by Kurzweil for an “anti-
social” excessive concern with his private world, which has led
him to reject with an irrational irritability that smacks of Jewish
“self-hatred” most of the new life in modern Israel. Mr. Howarth
detects in his criticism “the crabbed anger of the archetypal
prophet,” and one cannot help but respect the profound sin-
cerity of his aspirations. In his “New Jerusalem” poem, at least,
an earlier turbidity of style was metamorphosed into a crystal-
clear, passionate eloquence.
But the more typical young poet today seems to prefer, as
against either the Hillel or the Sadeh version of “prophecy,”
a more ironic treatment of religious themes—sometimes playful,
sometimes satiric (neither of which, of course, implies lack of
seriousness), and often indebted stylistically to the poetry of
Shlonsky and Alterman.8 We must be content here with a few
6 This is the opening of “At the Scorpions’ Ascent,” included in
Argosy: No. 6
(p. 84 ) , as the younger generation’s contribution to a brief
anthology of “Israel Landscape Poems.”
7 Described by Herbert Howarth in “Poet Out of Israel” (
August 1956, pp. 140-148); see also Mr. Howarth’s version of “Proverbs
of the Virgins” (
August 1950, pp. 150-151). Incidentally,
I may note that Mr. Howarth has translated the title of Sadeh’s 1951
volume as
The Saying of Silence.
8 For one example of the latter, see “The City Falls!”, from Alterman’s
Joy of the Poor
(1941) , which plays variations on a prayer from the eve
of the Day of Atonement (
Israel Argosy: No. 5,
pp. 170-173).