Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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Tschernichowski is also great in national-Jewish songs which
are numerous and strong. These can be divided into: a) historical;
b) songs of hope; c) songs of wrath; d) Idylls of Jewish life.
In the historical, he glorifies the heroes of old and the rebels
against the fate of the Jewish people. His favorite hero is Bar
Kokhbah who led the great rebellion against the Romans, but
the Macabees and others are not forgotten. His numerous poems
of hope sing of Zion and the Jewish renaissance in glowing lines.
They depict various moments in that striving of the nation.
He was deeply moved by the suffering of his people, and at times,
as in the poem,
(My Sword), he asks for a sword to avenge
the age-long suffering of his brethren, but the full tragedy dawns
upon him, and he bewails his impotent rage expressed only in
gnashing of teeth. The best of such poems and a jewel in the
entire modern Hebrew poetry is
Baruch mi-Magentza
(Baruch of
Mayence), a semi-epic based upon a legend which tells of a Jew
who, after slaughtering his two daughters during an attack upon
the Jews, to save them from outrage and conversion, is himself
converted by force, and in a moment of remorse he sets fire to the
city. The poem, in the form of a monologue by Baruch, is a
masterpiece of description of various scenes of horror and like-
wise, of the idyllic past life of the family. I t reverberates with a
cry for revenge for the outrages perpetrated against the Jews,
and the tragedy deepens when set against a background of idyllic
Jewish life when it was undisturbed. I t was the poet’s answer to
the Kishenev pogrom.
His idylls display a combination of poetic insight with a rare
power of description and intertwined with colorful scenes of
the beauty of nature. The simple Jewish life of simple people in
villages and towns of southern Russia in a former age is thus
glorified in the most vivid manner and all its beauty is brought
out in a striking way. This, in brief, too brief, is the contribution
of Tschernichowski to Hebrew poetry.
The two-volume work on the philosophy of Spinoza by Prof.
Harry A. Wolfson is not only outstanding but unique in this
type of literature. However, the limited space at our disposal
as well as the character of the book prevents us from giving even
the briefest survey of its content. Suffice it to say that it is the
only work in the multifarious Spinoza literature in all languages