Page 112 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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Thu s we see Rosenfeld represented by a trip le image: sweat-
shop poet, national poet and resonant lyricist. T h e Greek legend
avers tha t everything King Midas touched tu rned to gold. Like-
wise, everything Rosenfeld touched became poetry. Of course,
no t everything he wrote was poetic gold. Some of it was melo-
dramatic, critical and carelessly constructed, b u t it is poetry. Even
his satiric poems have wonderful lines and profound Jewish
thoughts. They also m irror Jewish suffering. I t pained him to
see Jews ask forgiveness for their sins, and commit the same sins
on the morrow. He was troubled by the lack of interest among
Jews in the profound meaning of the Jewish holidays, and their
great relish for the holiday dishes. I t is no t the Passover, bu t the
kneydlakh,
no t Shavuot bu t the
blintzes
tha t appeal to them.
He satirized the cantor who had no voice and was no t overly
versed in the prayerbook. He lampooned certain newly appo in ted
rabbis who had been laymen in the old country, bu t misrepre-
sented themselves as rabbis in America. He satirized the false
enlightener and the leader who misleads. His satire was sharp
and spear-like. Ju s t as S. Frug once satirized the
shtetl,
so Rosen-
feld created satiric verse about Hester Street. In his “Der L a tu tis”
(one who patches clothes), he wrote:
I 'm a tailor. I cut rougher
Deeper every year.
Woe to him who has to suffer
From my sharpened shears.
As we commemorate the centennial of Rosenfeld’s birth , we
should summarize his achievements. He was one of ou r very
great Yiddish poets who exerted a profound influence on the
development of Yiddish poetry. He brought strength and warmth
of feeling into it. He made a deep impact on the Yiddish Ian-
guage by creating a rich poetic imagery. He gave expression to
the hardships of the immigrant generation and to the suffering
of the Jewish people. He added symbolism and mystery to Yid-
dish poetry, despite the realism in his sweatshop poems. He was
a poet who composed on many motifs. He decried the sweatshop,
bu t he also bemoaned the Jewish fate. In one of his poems, he
describes a presser ironing a garment whose tear falls on the ho t
iron and sizzles ceaselessly. Such is the poetic tear of Morris
Rosenfeld.