Page 160 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
might have a very different significance in a different context.
Even if we can, for example, point to a frequent use o f words
related to “fire” in both Bialik and Greenberg, we do not thereby
necessarily establish links, let alone similarity or sympathy, be­
tween the poets. An image takes its “particular” sense from its
source in the poem, from the way in which it is handled, from the
context in which it recurs, its resonance and its treatment.
Kurzweil looks at this in the works of such writers as Agnon,
Bialik, Tschernichovsky and Greenberg. In Greenberg’s work, he
has found unity of theme and a central inspiration which provides
a call, a vocation, a yearning, a self-identification and the terms of
an appeal for restoration. This is the thematic nature o f
Greenberg’s work over its long course.
ACCUSED OF NIHILISM
From this description of the poet’s work it would scarcely seem
possible to charge Greenberg with “nihilism.” Underlying all his
poetry (and prose) is a powerful conviction: sometimes a negative
conviction, sometimes a peculiar conviction, one that drives him
sometimes to revile, but always to act in the name of that convic­
tion. But he has been charged with nihilism. David Canaani, after
first describing Greenberg’s poetry as “having remained intellec­
tual in all its metamorphoses, pursuing abstraction and moral,
seeking to learn a lesson and teach a lesson,”7then categorizes it as
the very “incarnation of nihilism.” For Canaani, this is no sur­
prise: “Anyone staying within the capitalist framework, who sees
its laws and phenomena as eternal laws of society . . . must even­
tually come to the fiftieth gate, to Nihilism.” The “fiftieth gate” is
an image taken from midrashic texts, and already used by Bialik
in his poem
Heziz va-Met
(He Peeped and Died), being the one
gate out of the reach of Moses. It thus acquires the meaning of
that mystical realm, constantly unattainable, but always desired.
For the Marxist critic of society, mysticism is otiose, as things are
potentially capable of change; thus all man’s basic needs and
desires can be achieved. I f this materialistic critique is not ac­
7 See his book
Le-Nogah Ez. Rakav,
Tel Aviv, 1950, and the passage from that
quoted in
U.Z. Greenberg - Mivhar Maamarim Al Yezirato,
ed. Yehudah Friedlan-
der, Tel Aviv, 1974.