Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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AHN / ANOTHER BIALIK
75
eaps between the lines within the stanzas”) with which Nevo has,
n the whole, dispensed; and in one case, Riibner comments tha t
the import o f some o f the simple words is all but impossible to
arry over into English” (p. 28) — as when
Ha-zohar ha-nora
(“the
errib le brightness” o f a sunset) carries associations also o f reli­
ious awe implied by the mystical
Zohar,
the bible o f Kabbalah.
ince, as the saying goes,
all
translation is impossible, R iibner’s
all bu t” indicates the margin o f risk to which any translator of
ialik exposes himself.
T h e re are fou r elements o f special difficulty in translating
ialik: meter (and rhythm), rhyme, diction, and levels o f mean­
ng. T he last two may seem the most im po rtan t — since they relate
o substance, content, subject-matter; the first two one may tend
o dismiss as “merely” formal — and the re fo re relatively superfi­
ial. But as Shlomo Zemach kept on insisting over the years, it was
recisely a sense o f beauty (and Zemach himself was the pioneer
f aesthetic thinking in Israel, with his 1939 book
AI Ha-yafeh
, “On
eauty”) that Bialik b rough t into m odern Hebrew poetry; and
his was inseparable, especially for his early readers, from his
killful handling o f me ter and rhyme.
It would simplify ou r considerations if it were only the medio­
re poet-translators who stuck to the me ter and rhymes o f Bialik’s
riginals. But, for the most part, this was also the strategy in the
nowman and Efros volumes, where the poetic level was
mproving, though still uneven; the be tter poems in the latter
ere by Helena Frank, Grace Goldin, A.M. Klein, I.M. Lask, and
aurice Samuel. In the 1966 collaborative
Anthology of Modern
ebrew Poetry
(Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press), such fine
oets as Robert Friend and Dom Moraes also strove to imitate
ialik’s forms and meters. Paradoxically — since its avowed p u r ­
ose was to bring the reader closer to the original poetic texts — it
ay have been
The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself
(1965) tha t fostered
he notion that me ter and rhyme could be dispensed with. While
ot following Bialik’s meters “literally” (in any case, the m odern
eade r o f Hebrew usually loses that element anyway, because o f
ialik’s Ashkenazi pronunciation), Nevo claims to have tried “to
evise a form which would suggest, wherever possible in English,
e cadences and
style
o f the original” (my italics). “Rhyme I have
tally eschewed,” she continues. “To rhyme in translation is to
ight a losing battle . .