Page 140 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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A decade later, in the introduction to the lyrics of
A t the Foot
of the M oun ta in
(Beim Fuss fun Barg,
1957), Leyeles restates
his opposition both to pure abstract poetry stripped of emotional
content and to poetry as the expression of untamed feeling
utterly devoid of ideas. He continues to insist that poetry is
always concrete, the direct or indirect expression of a real experi-
ence in which thought and feeling, feeling and thought, rise
together at the same time like two leaves from a single root. He
holds that the best Jewish poets have always sung of the meaning
and purpose of life, the omnipresence and splendor of God, the
destiny of the Jewish people, and, above all, man’s submission
to a higher entity. Non-Jews might content themselves with songs
of unbridled emotions and unfettered instincts. Jews believe in
the taming of emotions and in the fettering of instincts by reason.
Experiments in Poetic Drama
Of Leyeles’ experiments in poetic drama, only
Shlomo Molcho
(1926) aroused considerable interest. This drama centers around
a Portuguese Marrano of the early sixteenth century who re■
turned to Judaism and who was regarded by many as the Messiah.
The drama is overrich in ideas. It moves from the royal palace
at Lisbon and the synagogue of Joseph Caro in Safed to the
ghetto of Rome, the chambers of the Pope, and the Emperor’s
court at Regensburg. The basic conflict of ideas rages between
the two messianic aspirants David Reubeni and Shlomo Molcho.
Reubeni wants to redeem the Jewish people by the power of the
sword and to restore them to a normal existence on their ancient
soil. Molcho, a disciple of kabbalistic lore, wants the Jews to
remain in the Diaspora and to become the self-sacrificing re-
deemers of all mankind. In this ideological conflict Molcho
triumphs over Reubeni, his teacher who becomes his follower.
But other dramatic conflicts also come to the fore in which
Molcho becomes the victim. In one scene the extreme demands
of young Molcho for absolute sincerity and holiness in word
and deed are opposed by a wise, aged Marrano who has become
a Prince of the Church and the king’s confessor and who uses
his influence to mitigate Jewish suffering and to ward off threat-
ening, more stringent anti-Jewish decrees. In another scene
Molcho’s efforts to convince Jews and non-Jews of an impending
messianic salvation are opposed by the Jewish leaders along the
Tiber who bear responsibility for the survival of the endangered,
oppressed community and who fear that the arousal of unjus-
tified and unrealizable Jewish hopes might lead to an irreparable
catastrophe. In still another scene the intense otherworldly faith
of the Jewish visionary is juxtaposed with the lack of faith of