Page 159 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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of other figures whose work he admires, Kurzweil looks for the
unity behind the apparently disparate. He says of Greenberg’s
landscapes that they “are not, in principle, realistic landscapes,
but landscapes of the poetic vision.”3 He traces the way in which
the central preoccupations are interwoven in various contexts,
whilst still retaining their original significance and consistency.
These establish the visionary drive, a trait that has been vital in
Greenberg’s poetry, in one form or another, for over fifty years.
For Kurzweil, Greenberg’s essential message is a religious one.
With Greenberg “Sinai is not a metaphor but an eternal pres­
ence.”4 He contrasts him with such figures as Bialik who adopts a
prophetic guise only in order to negate the message and deny its
source. A poem such as Bialik’s
is nihilistic in suggestion,
because the efficacy o f the attempt to communicate with God is
doubted. There seems to be no voice to hear, no ultimate sanction
applying moral force and susceptible to human needs. But
Kurzweil says, for Greenberg “in contrast to Bialik, the self-
identification with the biblical situation, with that of the prophets,
of the reprover, is not merely an act of emotion . . . never can
Greenberg be separated from the meta-historical vision.”5And in
a discussion o f “History as a source of Greenberg’s poetry,” he
stresses that “the metaphors do not transmit just the words from
one place to another, to here; and for this reason, they are not
solely a cultural or aesthetic medium. They restore the historical
situation as a demanding presence.”6 Unlike Bialik’s poetry,
Greenberg’s work proceeds from the hypothesis that the events
described and the vision invoked are not just mythically, aestheti­
cally or potentially true, but are historically exact, and vibrant and
meaningful in the present.
Kurzweil’s contribution to criticism of Greenberg is distin­
guished in the way that it points to common links over a wide
range of separate surface features. Any major artist has a single
stock of truth, possibly a central metaphor or range of metaphors
which appears in all his creation, and from which all the work
stems. This is not just a question of words — an image in a context
3 Baruch Kurzweil,
Bein Hazon Le-Vein Ha-Absurdi,
Jerusalem, 1966, p. 75.
p. 55.
p. 59.
p. 92