Page 162 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Greenberg, who consciously sought to transcend the merely
aesthetic, this is perhaps a compliment. It is not the manner o f the
message but its truth that counts. Margoliouth continues: “In
Greenberg’s poetry, as has been said, there is no trace o f the
slightest of the many struggles of all the thinkers of that period.
Not because he ignored them, or did not notice them; but because
his soul is deeper in its roots and reaches the foundation.”9 For
Canaani, the poet is the epitome both of the struggle and the
surrender to the prevalent doctrine of that time and place —
Nihilism. For Margoliouth, the poet has not even been touched by
these passing fashions; he has ridden above and beyond them.
For both the objective truth in verifiable historical terms is the
criterion for evaluating the poetry.
This would presumably be the case for the poet as well. A
prophet does not seek, expect, need or want admiration for the
form of his prophecy. He wants a practical response, a change of
behavior, the achievement of an object lesson. Greenberg comes
to bring a message, to convey it to his audience and to make very
specific demands. But we, as readers o f the work, produce an­
other response: the “aesthetic” response. I f only the practical
message were involved, we could extract its content and attend to
the paraphrase. For the work of the poet, the specific building is
essential, the arrangement of the words within the poem. A poem
is also a complex structure, imposing a compound and varied
reaction. This reaction cannot be summarized by either simple
acceptance of the external message or outright rejection, by say­
ing whether we agree or not. A poem, unlike a series of manifes­
toes, evokes sympathy with the reader beyond the poet’s im­
mediate sphere of political relevance.
And this is the appropriate response. We have to listen to the
rhythms of the poetry, feel the sinuous images moving along the
lines deeply controlled by the consistent power of the poet. The
poet is in the poem, feeling and conveying his feelings, creating a
world that supports and illustrates his feelings. Sometimes, no
doubt, sympathy is lost. We disapprove of bombast and rhetoric
in poetry, because it is unauthentic, derivative, automatic, self-
conscious. There are occasions when Greenberg’s poetry does
suffer from precisely these qualities. But the poetry strikes home
9
Ibid, p. 5.