Page 112 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
giving recognition to the conspicuous contribution of American
Hebrew poetry to Hebrew literature.
Efros3 Quest for Beauty
Efros began his career in Hebrew poetry as a lyricist and his
early poems are characterized by a quest for beauty in all its
manifestations. He was a member of the group of poets who
gravitated around Benjamin Nahum Silkiner and who sought
inspiration in the Anglo-Saxon literary tradition and in the natu-
ral beauties of America. Among the most musical of American
Hebrew poets, Efros sang of the joys of nature and of love in a
romantic vein. His early poetry is essentially an affirmation of life
and its goodness. He is grateful to the Creator for making his heart
like a sponge to soak up nature’s wonders, and for permitting his
soul to imbibe the colors, smells and sounds of the world’s loveli-
ness. At times, however, shadows of doubt and sadness becloud his
Efros compared his life in one lyric to a brook twisting down
a mountain slope. Its course is strewn with rocks, bu t the poet
reflects that without these obstacles the brook can give forth no
sound. Thus, his early lyricism contains the seed of his later philo-
sophical speculation and doubting. He is painfully conscious of
the artist's ubiquitous struggle with his material and of the pangs
of creativity. In his “The Artist’s Dream,” he dramatically depicts
the toll which the creative process exacts from the artist. A marble
block addresses the sleeping sculptor, exhausted by his creative
effort: “Your strength and blood, your very marrow and life I
demand . . . I am the creature, you the creator—tremble before
your creature.”
From lyric expression and experimentation with the ballad,
Efros turned to the epic form which he used to good advantage
in treating broad American themes. The first volume of his col-
lected works,
From the New W o r l d
contains his two American
epics, “Silent Wigwams” and “Gold,” both representing a unique
contribution in form and content to the corpus of Hebrew litera׳■
ture. Efros acknowledged his debt to American poets like Edgar
Lee Masters in exploring the American past for inspiration.
In his foreword to “Silent Wigwams,” which depicts the tragic
fate of the Red Man and his conflict with Western culture, Efros
writes: “Cultural primitivism does not necessarily imply spiritual
primitivism, and the lyric folk songs of the American Indian tribes
bear this out.” He sought more than romantic escape in this epic
of Indian life. As a Hebrew poet ever conscious of his people’s
suffering, he identifies naturally with the Red Man. The ill-fated