Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

Basic HTML Version

SlLBERSCHLAG — B lALIK AT THE CENTENARY
8 1
tudes to nature and love were distinctly idiosyncratic: both wore
holiday garbs in his work. In spite of rare touches of sensuality
in “The Scroll of Fire,” Bialik’s desire for woman is a tepid thing.
In one of his best-known love lyrics, “Shelter Me Beneath Your
Pinion,”7 the poet implores his sweetheart to be mother and
sister to him. And he asks the disarming question: what is love?
Since the deeper roots of Bialik’s inspiration lie in his early life,
it can be said that his work is a poetic endeavor to recapture
that lost paradise.
At the end of his life Bialik reverted to his childhood and
early boyhood in a series of poems that were to form an auto­
biography in verse. But the ambitious project was only partly con­
summated. Even some of Bialik’s stories were phantasies on the
first decade of his life. It was only a step from his own childhood
to childhood in general. In a volume of stories and in a
maqama
for children—in
And It Came To Pass
and in
Knight of Onions and
Knight of Garlic*—
partly paraphrased from old legends and partly
invented by his fertile imagination, he adapted mythical motifs
to the exigencies of the infantile mind. From the inexhaustible
sources of children’s delights—Andersen and the Grimm brothers—
he drew his
Ten Talks for Children
.9
He even published a whole
volume of poems—seventy-nine to be exact—expressly for children.
Bialik’s popular edition of rabbinic legends bore a deep relation­
ship to his educative work for children. It accomplished for young
men and women even more than his books for children: it intro­
duced them to the resources of rabbinic language in Hebrew
paraphrase, it enriched and invigorated the style of the younger
Hebrew writers. And it made just and perceptive claims for Jewish
creativity. For Bialik was the first to distinguish between the epic
quality of the rabbinic legend and the lyric thrust of the biblical
legend. He made the right distinction between law and lore,
Halakhah
and
Aggadah,
in a pithy metaphor: law is wrath, lore
is laughter. Yet he annihilated the dichotomy of law and lore
with a sovereign statement:
The dream wants interpretation, the will—action, the thought—
expression, the flower—fruit, the law—lo re . . . In their
beginning and in their end the two are one.10
7
Hebrew title: Haknisini Tahat Kenafek.
8
The respective Hebrew titles: Wa-Yehi ha-Yom
and A lluf Bazlut we-Alluf
Shutn.
Both were beautifully rendered into English by Herbert Danby, the
late Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford.
9
Hebrew title: Eser Sihot li-Yeladim
(Berlin 1922/3).
10
The original text in Bialik’s essay “Halakhah we-Aggadah”
in the one
volume Dvir edition of Bialik’s works, Kol Kitbe H. N. Bialik
(Tel Aviv,
1952), p. 207.