Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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W A XM A N ---- SOME OUTSTANDING JEWISH BOOKS
41
ness, but by way of the Crimean steppes — where he grew up —
and the large city. This is reflected in his poetry, as he is the most
secular of Hebrew poets, though he does not lack Jewishness
and sang songs of hope and wrath. In his soul there is no conflict
between man and Jew as is the case with most of the Hebrew
poets, but both dwell in harmony. He introduced a new note in
Hebrew poetry unheard of before. Like all other poets he sang
of nature, life and love, the age-old themes, but his songs are
different than those of all others. Bialik may at times surpass
him in his description of nature, but he lacks the peculiar tone of
Tschernichowski, of unity with it. To the latter, nature is not
an object to be admired on occasions, but something to be lived
with every moment of man’s life, for man is an inseparable part
of the great world. I t is only his culture which separates him
occasionally from his original source and the original fountain
of life. His poems, therefore, voice the yearning to unite once
more with nature and share the life of its numerous children.
From that yearning for nature there stems the poet’s thirst for a
life, which is not mere existence but full of activity, the very one
which he sees everywhere in the cosmos and in history. Tscherni-
chowski is a veritable hylozoist; he sees activity in the awakening
of a blade of grass, in the rumbling of the thunder, in the lapping
of the shore by the waves of the sea. He demands that man,
too, should borrow the strength and power of conquest demon-
strated in the world around him and make them elements in his
own life. Hence his poems which breathe of striving for power,
struggle, and conquest. That beauty is to a poet of this type the
high ideal in life goes without saying. He sang of it in numerous
poems. In two of these,
Sheloshet Ketorim
(Three Crowns) and
Sholosh Amitayot
(Three Truths) he places beauty as the highest
crown, above strength and law, and similarly as the highest truth,
above that of the individual — might, and that of society — law.
His love poems are distinguished by naturalness and simplicity.
There is no eroticism in them or powerful passion, but is spoken
of as a noble emotion and as part of the poet’s very being.
Some of these characteristics are not in accord with Jewish
tradition, but more with a pagan view of life, and hence his
glorification in a number of poems of the pagan tendency in early
Jewish history which aroused much opposition in Jewish circles.
In reality, though, the yearning for paganism is more apparent
than real. The poet is not insensible to the social ills in life and
its tragedies and sings of them with vigor and deep pathos tinged
here and there with an ideal philosophy.