Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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KAHN / ANOTHER BIALIK
73
and thin (as does so much o f Racine in translation). So with “A
Long Bough” (^T^T i*? n?S — in Carmi: “A Twig Alighted”), a deli­
cate example o f ‘“inve rted” lyricism — as Menachem Peri (and the
late Joseph H aefrati)3 term ed a characteristic strategy o f
“coun ter-statemen t,” which was one o f Bialik’s main legacies to
modern Hebrew poetry. In Nevo’s summary: “stock expressions,
conventional expectations, accepted sentiments are traversed in
re trospect by a cutting irony.” H er translation o f this poem is
strong and good (there are o the r versions by Dom Moraes, Tuvya
Riibner, T. Carmi, and others). However, only after we have read
a close formal analysis by Tuvya Riibner (“T he force o f the verb in
each case creates an initial impetus which gradually trails away
into the effect o f a ‘dying fall’ . . .”) do we fully realize why a cer­
tain grace and power in the Hebrew lines has somehow vanished
(or been transformed into a d ifferen t poetic effect). To para­
phrase Dr. Johnson on Pope’s
Homer
: This is good poetry — but
not quite Bialik.
What this example helps recall is how much o f Bialik’s impor­
tance for the Hebrew reader (like, say, Wordsworth and Frost
and Pushkin for students o f British and American and Russian
poetry) is subtly involved with issues o f history, literary and o th e r ­
wise — and with peculiar felicities o f verbal utterance. O f course,
the pleasure o f a fine poem should not require
too much
explaining; the only way to achieve intimacy with certain kinds o f
texts is by years o f experience; and Nevo has therefore sensibly
shied away from “the impossible” and sought Bialik’s more un i­
versal dimensions. As a result, hers is a somewhat “denational­
ized” p o e t— as Shakespeare would be, say, without the Histories.
I associate tha t neglected “prophetic” side o f the poet with the
early and middle generations o f in terpre ters, and especially with
Shlomo Zemach — a very fine critic who loved Bialik this side o f
idolatry. However,
Shlomo
Zemach is not listed by Nevo; only the
younger Adi Zemach, whose
The Hiding Lion
(1966) is the most
tho rough and widely read recent attem p t to expose the h idden
tensions and dep ths o f Bialik’s more private experiences that
found expression in his poems. And the best complement I know
3 The thesis of Menachem Peri’s book,
The Semantic Structure of Bialik’s Poetry
(Tel Aviv, 1976) was first formulated in a collaborative essay, “On Some Princi­
ples o f Bialik’s Lyric Art,”
Achshav
(1966), by Peri and Haefrati. Haefrati was a
casualty in one o f Israel’s wars.