Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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8 2
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
It has been overlooked that a romanic love—hate relationship
colors Bialik’s involvement in the diaspora. He regarded it as
“the cause of causes” of national degradation. Yet he overflowed
with love for its creative, perennial spirituality. If he was less
kind to the American diaspora it was because, in his view, redeem­
ing spirituality failed to illumine its darkness. Two honorary
doctorates, adulatory meetings and sumptuous banquets did not
mar or corrupt his judgment. In his only poem written in America11
during his five-month visit in 1926, he envisages the fate of
Carthage and Palmyra, Ramses and Pithom for New York. A tree
will remain, nature will renew itself. But the city, “Satan’s nest,”
is destined to doom. A Baudelaire could glory in urban evil and
draw inspiration from its perversities; a Bialik had to conquer it
with rural escapism, with romantic overtones from his childhood
environment.
A Scholar of No Mean Abilities
Like most Hebrew poets of the preceding generation, Bialik
was a scholar of no mean abilities. His editions of medieval poetry
which were designed to guide Hebrew readers in apprehension of
difficult texts—through commentary and evaluation—were part of
a major plan:
Kinnus
or critical ingathering of Jewish classics;
it was to parallel the physical ingathering of the people. Though
never pursued systematically, it was and still is carried on by the
Dvir Publishing Company
which he founded and by
Mosad Bialik
—the national publishing house that bears his name.
It is remarkable that, in spite of Bialik’s lingual mastery, his
original works, his translation of Schiller’s
Wilhelm Tell,
and
his paraphrase of Cervantes’
Don Quixote
are comparatively free
from neologisms. But conservatism in literary expression did not
prevent him from evolving original phrases and phrase combina­
tions in his works and in his conversations. Had Bialik been blessed
with an Eckermann or Boswell, he would have delighted the world
with his lingual improvisations and philosophical aper^us. For
besides being a poet he was a master of soliloquy.
The Bialik cult continued with undiminished vigor after his
death. For ten years—from 1936 to 1946—a Bialik Year Book was
published by the name of
Keneset;
and one volume of a new series,
under the editorship of the critic and poet Abraham Kariv, ap­
peared in 1960. These annuals contain contributions from scholars
11
The poem—Yenasser Lo ki-Levavo—was published in 1926, first in
Hashiloah and three months later, July 23, 1926, in Hadoar. A fragment—
more than half of the poem in an earlier version—is in the manuscript
division of The Jewish National and University Library at Jerusalem.