Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
74
these distinguished talmudic teachers: ben Zakkai, Rabbi Meir,
Hillel and Shammai, Resh Lakish, Abbaya and Rabba, Akiva,
and Abba Saul. The spiritual rebirth of the Jewish people, its
awakening to a realization of its ancient and glorious destiny, the
ineluctable duty of the Jews to recapture the prophetic verities
and insights articulated by the literary prophets—these themes
are ignited into fiery challenges by the impassioned lyricism of
Klein’s poems.
Always, the fate of Israel tugs at the poet’s heart- and soul-
strings. In his “Reb Levi Yitschok Talks to God” from the syna-
gogue of Berditchev, the venerable rabbi complains,
“R e b o n o
shel O lam
/ Who helps You count our little sins?” In his “Job
Reviles,” he moans, albeit with a pinch of wit characteristic of
Klein:
G od is grown ancien t. H e no longer hears.
H e has been dea fened by H is p er fec t thunders .
W ith clouds fo r co tton H e has s to p p e d H is ears.
H ow long , O L o rd , w i l l Israel's heart be riven?
H ow long w i l l we cry to a d o ta rd G od
T o le t us keep the brea th tha t H e has given?
H ow long w i l l You s it on Your th rone , and nod?
Ludwig Lewisohn wrote in his Foreword, “Abraham Klein,
the most Jewish poet who has ever used the English tongue, is
the only Jew who has ever contributed a new note of style, of
expression, of creative enlargement to the poetry of that tongue.”
A reading of
H a th N o t A Jew
strongly confirms Lewisohn’s high
appraisal.
T h e H i t le r ia d
and
Poem s,
both published in 1944, represent
Klein’s second period, in which social protest and more critical
attitudes dominate his poems. They are interspersed with militant
blasts of denunciation and with Drydenian satire. He is no longer
the threnodist of
H a th N o t A J ew
; using the heroic couplet as
his verse form, he hurls devastating blasts against the foes of
humanity.
T h e H i t le r ia d
holds Hitler, Nazis and Nazism up to public
ridicule. Klein brands these nefarious evils as “the grim vulture
of the brood / Its talons dripping blood.” But they will not
prevail; “God will rise, will shine, will stretch forth His hand /