Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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41
L
ip t z in
— T
h e
Y
id d i sh
L
yric
aftermath of doubt will before long assail him. And yet he
wants love’s dying moments to be no less intensely sweet and no
less tearlessly joyous than was its birth.
Yehoash revivifies biblical and post-biblical legends beginning
with the days of creation and with the experiences of Adam.
He retells rare legends from Talmudic sources, medieval chroni-
cles and Hassidic lore, imbuing many of them with his own
pantheistic philosophy. The influence of Peretz and of Heine
is especially noticeable in his poetic romances peopled with
ghosts and apparitions. Yehoash enriched Yiddish with versifica-
tions of fables from Aesop, Lafontaine, Lessing and the Talmud,
but he also constructed many original fables. His greatest achieve-
ment, however, was his translation of the Bible, a holy task upon
which he labored until the end of his life.
In the wake of Yehoash came two poets, H. Rosenblatt (1878-
1956) and Joseph Rolnick (1879-1955). They also emancipated
themselves from the didactic social poetry of the closing nine-
teenth century and paved the way for the poetry of impression-
ism and symbolism which was to become dominant after 1905.
Rosenblatt is said to have tried fifteen different callings without
success in a single one because his mind was preoccupied with
rhythmic thoughts and his imagination constantly soared to
distant lands, times and figures. His early lyrics stood under the
influence of Reisen, Yehoash, and English poets. He matured
very slowly; not until his seventies did he write his finest poems,
those dealing with his California home and the Pacific landscape.
Rolnick never emerged from poverty and loneliness, but he
gradually learned to resign himself to both and to convert his
resignation into beautiful simple lyrics. The typical Rolnick
poem consists of a few quatrains that fixate with maximum
clarity, fidelity and simplicity a single thought or a single mood.
When the thought or mood is in any way complex, he resolves
it into ever simpler components, into a cycle of successive lyrics
that illumine it from different approaches, into a string of
lustrous pearls which add luminescence and beauty to the whole.
Art for Art’s Sake
Yehoash, Rosenblatt and Rolnick helped to wean a few sensi-
tive readers from the dominant raucous, bombastic social poetry.
But it was the revolt of
Die Yunge
in the decade after 1907 that
effectively turned the tide from Naturalism and an emphasis on
social protest to Impressionism and individualism. These writers
saw in the poetic art primarily an expression of the poet’s
moods and unique sensitivity. They embraced art for art’s sake.