Page 66 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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Did Leah Goldberg feel there is a future for lyric poetry in our
modern society? She thinks that some non-poetic eras have borne
great poetry. During the war, for example, she was surprised by
the fact that so many people were interested in poetry and bought
poetry books. Very often people close to the technological develop-
ments suddenly begin to seek a road to religion, or to God. Such
a road also leads to poetry. It is not so much modern technology
that worries her; it is the intervention of the authorities and the
officials in matters of creativity that endanger the existence of the
poet and the public alike. In general, writing poetry is like a man
who puts a letter in a bottle and throws it into the sea. A day may
come when the letter will reach the shore. . . .
Was Leah Goldberg a traditionalist who felt more at home on
the prewar road of continental European lyric? Yes and no. There
are few poets in any literature who have made it their main
interest to study all forms and schools of poetry of all nations and
generations, as Leah Goldberg did. But she remained a devoted
adherent of form, rhyme and rhythm. After all, when she entered
the gates of European poetry as a youngster, expressionism and
free form were already passe, and she was never adherent of the
flamboyant, the shrill outcry or the cheap effect. To her, this was
neither poetry nor art.
Like the true lyricist that she was, her poetry is the message of
the individual, irrespective of circumstances; irrespective of the
audience if any. The true lyricist would, like a lonely bird, sing
his song in the wilderness, too. Any doubt in this regard is purely
rhetorical. And so one must also consider as rhetorical Leah Gold-
berg's question in her poem “The Hills of Jerusalem”:
How can a single bird,
Bear all the heavens
On soft wings
Above the wasteland?
At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem she was a guide and
teacher to many young students whom she taught comparative
literature. In the literary circles of Israel she was a guide and a
friend to many young poets whom she influenced by her wisdom,
knowledge and taste. When she died, her colleague and friend,
Prof. Gershom Scholem, said: “Her literary success was tremen-
dous. Only few poets had enjoyed such a wide echo as she. One
can say that in her sufferings (her life was sad and she died from
a malignant disease), she earned her place on the Parnassus. She
was a daughter of Lithuanian Jewry, but her childhood was spent
in Saratov, Russia, and later in Kovno, and her mother-tongue
was Russian. In Kovno she was raised on the Hebrew language in
the Hebrew gymnasium, headed by the late Prof. Moshe Schwabe.