Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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JEW IS H BOOK ANNUA L
the sanctity of toil and invoked the grandeur of Mt. Gilboa
and the Valley of Jezreel. He expressed his devotion to the
soil and landscape of Palestine in strongly erotic terms.
L ike a caravan of nursing camels with humps in the sky—
God made the hills of Gilboa kneel,
And the fields of Jezrael like the young she-camels
Cling to the nipples of those breasts.
Flow, flow milk of rivers, flowing over the banks,
And the earth (one black pregnant mare!)
Here stretches out her neck, flares her nostrils, snuffs,
For she has smelled water.
Water! Water!
Oh, milk the holiness from your breasts, God!
Translated by R u th Finer M in tz
If Lamdan saw the homeland as the last Massadah of the
Jewish people and Greenberg viewed it as the culmination of
apocalyptic vision, Shlonsky depicted the lonely strivings of
the halutzim who were torn between a world of yesterday and
a new vision. While secular and socialist in orientation, he
marshalled a host of traditional symbols from the Bible and
Jewish literature and he used them in a new way. In one of
his early poems, significantly entitled “Revelation,” the poet
described the Divine call which came to Samuel at Shiloh.
In so doing, he obviously identified his own poetic mission
with that of the biblical figure.
In his oft-quoted poem “To il,” Shlonsky refers to himself as
“Your son Abraham, poet road-builder in Israel,” renewing his
bond with Father Abraham, his namesake. In the same poem
he employed a series of religious concepts which he mixed with
unorthodox metaphors and new forms. He asked to be garbed
in a “coat of many colors” and compared the intense light of
the homeland to a tallit. He spoke of houses in the shape of
phylacteries and described the sloping highways as leather thongs.
All these images express a prayerful attitude to labor and in­
spire a reverence for the pioneering spirit.
While under the spell of the land, Shlonsky sought also to
relate to world events. His first volume, in which he experi-