Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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t a r k m a n
— A
e it l in
When we contemplate what the Bolshevik revolution did to
Liberty and how the revolutionary terrorists scarred its dedicated
devotees, we realize that the authentic poet possesses the spark of
prophecy, as is attested by Zeitlin’s “Ode to Liberty.” Just as
Zeitlin foretold poetically, the failure of the forces of revolution,
his verse also adumbrated the coming of the tragic catastrophe.
This is indicated in several poems written after the Nazis had come
into power in Germany.
In his subject matter and approach Zeitlin is modern as well
as traditional. He is modern in his tender yet eloquent articulation
of the feelings, hopes, longings and frustrations of the modern
Jew; traditional in his creative usage of traditional expressions,
idioms, metaphors, imagery, symbols, allegories and the like, to
convey in musical cadences die inner world of emotions, the
visionary mind and the creative spirit of a modern Jew whose
Jewishness is the key to his universalism. By thus fusing the tradi­
tional and modern, Zeitlin has enriched Yiddish and Hebrew
verse with a new vocabulary and a metric word music that echoes
the travailing cries of a world, the Western world in particular,
on the brink of spiritual bankruptcy.
Although leaning to the mystic, his vision is never blurred. In
his satiric moods he does not hesitate to employ in his verse the
style of the commonplace, the sentences of ordinary conversation.
This in no way debilitates the purely suggestive and profound
insights which are roots of all true poetry. A creator of meditative
verse, he manipulates his sublime poetic diction with remarkable
craftsmanship often bordering on the austere. In his dramatic
poems he weaves slender filaments of feeling, experience and
thought on the loom of individualistic imagery. Zeitlin does not
elevate intuition entirely above reason. He never permits emotion
to overpower him, believing like John Keats that poetry must work
out its own salvation in the individual. His deep religious spirit
comes through by virtue of his skilful artistry in expressing the
visionary and the meditative. He has a natural penchant for the
dramatic and the power to express it. This is, perhaps, a principal
reason that some of his poetry is written in the dramatic form and
that his contribution to our bilingual literature also includes his
creativity as a playwright.
Effect of Poet's Religious Belief
Zeitlin’s religious belief shows up strongly in most of his poetry.
While disappointment echoes from many of his verses, he should
not be considered a poet of despair, disillusion and doom. Nor
should Zeitlin be thought of as a morbid poet. In some of his
finest verses there are often tones and undertones of gentle satire,