Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
3 6
the symptom of poetic power described by Coleridge: the choice
of subjects “remote from the private interests and circumstances
of the writer himself.” There are, for example, dramatic poems
on “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba” and “In the Park,”
sequences of sonnets and quatrains (a la Rubaiyat), and most
recently a play treating of “Jonah” in a modern context. But
he excels also as a lyricist and has a style unmistakably his own;
he best represents in the main the tendencies towards ironic
detachment, craftsmanship, and lightness of touch already noted.
He has managed somehow to compress into words much of the
essential experiences of his generation in Israel. Witness the
following poem:
T
h e
T
w o
o f
Us
T
ogether
, E
a ch
o f
Us
A
lo n e
(“Jointly and severally”—from a lease contract)
Summer, my dearest, turns again to the dark,
And the lights are all out in the old Fun Park.
The see-saws still go up and down.
The two of us together, each of us alone.
Empty the sea where her ships used to go.
Hard to hold on to anything now.
The soldiers once waited behind the hill.
How much we need of mercy still.
The two of us together, each of us alone.
The moon is sawing the clouds in two.
Let us make love while the armies view.
Between the armed camps, our parleying
May still perhaps change everything.
The two of us together, each of us alone.
As the first sweet rain was once salt sea,
So, it seems, has my love changed me.
I fall to you slowly. Receive me, love.
No angel saves us from above.
For the two of us are together. Each of us is alone.
(Trans. Robert Friend,
Focus)
In an age of cold war and summit conferences, his “Half of the
People in the World” sums up the protest, not only of the average
Israeli, but also of all the small people and nations of the world:
Half of the people in the world
love the other half;
half of the people
hate the other half.
Must I, because of these and those,
forever change
like rain in all its seasons? Sleep among the rocks,
grow rough as olive bark
and listen to the moon howl over me?