Page 21 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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F ISCH / POETRY OF SH IN SHALOM
13
TH E W A TCH TOW E R AS SYMBOL
Here is the first break in the poet’s hard, narrow existence. T he
next major symbol he introduces is the watch tower on which
the narrator stands guard. On it is a searchlight looking out at
a land at war. I t is the time when the British Mandate was
drawing towards an end. The tower brings to life, in his imagina­
tion, the watchman of the biblical prophecy who waits for morn­
ing and whose soul yearns for God. And contemporary history
cannot be excluded either, for the watehtower gazes far out to
the sea over which the new immigrants come sailing to join their
brothers, the living and the dead. There is an insistent note of
interrogation:
Why does the heart yearn so for their path,
A nd why does that whisper reach back to me?
“We are your brothers, outcasts of Israel,
Despised by man, pursued by God A lm igh ty.”
T he tower is, as in the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, a
symbol of the poet’s loneliness, bu t it also signifies for Shin
Shalom the possibility of communication from the prison of the
self. Through its beam of light he reaches out to the great con­
gregation of Israel and, at the same time, the whisper of the
God-hunted, God-driven host reaches up to him in his lonely
pinnacle until, finally, the tower becomes the symbol of that
watcher in the skies under whose unwearied eye the long story
of Israel proceeds to its climax of wonder:
In the country of T im e is an unseen tower,
In a land not of earth, in the city of wonder.
When the stars in the dark night are all pu t out
An unknown one stands fast there shining his light,
H is eyes are aflame, and a heart like my own
Beats like a clock in the world’s hidden places,
Counting the sorrows and bringing salvation
To all who sleep in their dark abode.
Standing on the tower, he feels himself marvelously joined to
the Lord of history, “the lightbearer to the camp . . . the In ­
gatherer.” And having achieved that sense of communion with
the male deity, he is enabled to catch the enigmatic, and yet