Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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8
JEW IS H BOOK ANNUAL
ecstasy on the one hand, as in some of the “halutzic” poems of
Avraham Shlonsky; there is also in the same period the “Break­
down and Bereavement” of Yosef Haim Brenner; for the zeal
of nation building cannot appease the spiritual restlessness of
these writers.
Sometimes the two extremes can find expression in the work
of the same poet. Thus, for Bialik the new land becomes a
setting for an idyll of young lovers at the well, the birds around
them and the flowers and trees transmuting the scene in to a
paradise. But the same Bialik feels the heart emptiness and
isolation of the modern alienated Jew. He never ceases to be the
lonely student whose friends had been “swept away by the wind
and the light.”
I t is significant tha t at the end of his life, when he had settled
in the Homeland and had seen its blessings at first hand, Bialik
returned to the subject of “Orphanhood,” reliving in a group of
passionate elegies the memory of his early childhood when his
father had died and his mother had been left widowed and alone.
METAPHYS ICAL LONELINESS
A metaphysical ache gnaws at the heart of the song of renewal
and joy. Even as he embraces the soil of the Homeland (which
often appears as a widowed mother or as the bride of his you th ) ,
the poet of the Return is stricken with pain. A more recent poet,
Yehuda Amichai, expressed it in a love-poem of beguiling sim­
plicity whose refrain runs:
Both of us together, and each of us alone,
For Daddy has not come to the fair.
This sense of bereavement clearly has theological overtones. I t
spells the loss of the male deity who had, throughout the genera­
tions, commanded, guided and punished. We are left with the
widowed
Shekhinah
or female deity (who appears as a mourning
mother in Bialik’s poem
“Levadi,”
and elsewhere as a bride). She
offers us love and comfort, especially that of the Homeland; to
her the Lovers of Zion tu rn in passionate desire. But she cannot
make up for the loss of the Father. His task had been to guide
us on the road of history—of Jewish history with all its perils and
terrors. Now it seems we must do it all ourselvesl