Page 76 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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SHOLOM J. KAHN
Another Bialik
On the 50th Anniversary of the Poet’s Death
BIALIK’S POSITION
as Israel’s national poet is as firm as ever, bu t
ou r sense o f a grea t poet’s presence inevitably changes with the
times. Now that we have been favored with Ruth Nevo’s excellent
Bilingual Edition o f
Selected Poems,1
we are stirred to ou r dep ths
yet again by the experience o f his poetry and personality. T he
English-Hebrew reader , it seems, has been hungering for Bialik’s
spirit; and Professor Nevo’s selections, translations, and in tro ­
ductory essay have begun feeding tha t hunge r again. H er book is
a modest best-seller; it has been celebrated and discussed by her
colleagues at The Hebrew University; and we are grateful for the
opportun ity it provides to attemp t again to come to terms with
ou r best-loved and most difficult poet.
And now I must become more personal, since I want here to
deal chiefly with the problems o f p resen ting Bialik to the English
reader . Perhaps only one steeped in Hebrew-Yiddish (and Rus­
sian?) could fully know all his intimate qualities, so completely
expressed by his various poems, languages, witticisms, letters and
o the r prose — his unique “radiance” as it was known to the many
who loved him as an articulate man. I was a young studen t in the
States when he died in 1934, but I rem ember the deep m ou rn ing
tha t overtook us. This was more than literary; it was the sort o f
response a people feels fo r a hero who has defended it du r ing a
time o f crisis. He distilled ou r Jewishness, ou r Zionism, ou r
history, ou r humanity into words we could not forget. He seemed
beyond style — bu t with the years we have come to realize he was
all style
: not in the sense o f o rnam en t — the “fine words” (
melitsot)
we react against instinctively these days — bu t o f sustained
expression o f poetic tru th ,
1 Jerusalem: Dvir and The Jerusalem Post, 1981. 175 pp.
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