Page 124 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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J
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B
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and American intellectuals.
Kayin VaHevel
is a case in point:
Cain
(Kayin)
is portrayed as a violent figure, an embodiment of
the desire to conquer; Abel (.
Hevel)
represents tranquillity of
spirit, the conquest of desire, a type of nirvana. Cain kills Abel;
he is cursed, but marries
Be’er
(Well), daughter of Abel, in
order to escape his curse. The pendulum of the dialectic swings
back and forth, but comes to a rest as Be’er kills her husband
to avenge her father. The poem’s end on a suggestion of new
and better life is hardly convincing, coming after the previous
episodes of blood and revenge without any real sense of purga-
tion. Taken as a whole the poem is a modern
midrash,
of less
importance for its philosophical implications than for its many
passages of exquisite poetry. Regelson is a “philosophical poet”
only in the sense that certain powerful philosophic ideas evoke
in him a poetic response; these ideas are by no means capable
of sustaining the urban intellectual in the loneliness of his
existence.
Regelson’s version of creation and the world’s early years
substitutes the gigantic power of a primeval nature for the
Biblical God of creation. Significantly, his volume
El HaAyin
Venivka
is taken from chapter 9 of Ibn Gabirol’s
Keter Malchut
(The Royal Crown) with the revealing omission of the preceding
word
vekara
(and God called...). Ultimately, Regelson’s “philos-
ophy” compromised his creative imagination. His language is
charged with Biblical and Kabbalistic overtones, but his world
is emancipated from the God which gave his language a specific
substance; he is therefore forced to draw upon a melange of ideas
which neither blend with nor fill in the semantic gap.
Regelson’s philosophical bent repeatedly leads him into al-
legorical modes which weaken his lively poetic imagination.
We notice this even in the lengthy narrative poem
Akedat She-
lemyahu
(The Binding of Shelemyahu). In 85 pages of discursive
yet often moving verse, the poet tells the story of a family which
settled in Tel-Aviv in the 1930’s, but returned to America after
the tragic death of the son Shelemyahu. The situation of sin
and remorse is not novel in world literature. Or and Nuva raise
their darling son Shelemyahu in Tel-Aviv; Shelemyahu becomes
ill and dies in the hospital while his father lies in the arms of his
mistress Havatzelet; the father feels remorse for the death of his
son; by his infidelity, he reasons, he has “bound” his son,
sacrificing him on a meaningless altar; in atonement for his
sin Or exiles himself and his family to America. The poem
captivates the reader partly because of the realistic authenticity
of many of the sequences and partly because of the driving, free,
narrative cadence—Whitmanesque, to be sure. Its weakness de-
rives from Regelson’s predilection for philosophical structures,
for allegorizing; the “meaning” of the poem is too transparent.