Page 84 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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A n d a ll my love, dependent on you r hair,
we'll both deaden with a kiss.
I do
not
present this as a particularly good translation; I see now
that I made mistakes o f interpretation; but I wanted very much to
end with, and rhyme on, that “kiss”! It is, emphatically, Bialik’s
last word in the poem.
P R O S E
P O E T R Y
Luckily, Bialik himself early outgrew the “tyranny” o f rhyme,
“the jingling sound o f like endings” (Milton), so that in about one-
third o f Nevo’s originals this was not part o f the challenge. I find
her version o f “The Pool” a triumphant success; and her “The
Dead o f the Desert” is fair competition for Maurice Samuel’s clas­
sic “The Dead o f the Wilderness”— though I still prefer the lat-
ter’s hexameters: “Stillness returns as o f old. Desolate stretches
the desert.”
I should like to concentrate, however, on that great “prose”-
epic work, “The Scroll o f Fire: From Legends o f the Destruction,”
Bialik’s “song o f himself’ (so to speak), his most profound, most
ambitious, and most puzzling poem. I have three other versions
before me, by L.V. Snowman (1924), Bertha Beinkinstadt (1930),
and Ben Aronin (1945) — and Nevo seems to have profited from
the “mistakes” (of style) o f all her predecessors; hers is now the
most readable version I know. I shall try to understand why.
In such prose-poetry, cadence and style are all-important, as
well o f course as interpretation (levels o f meaning). A basic ele­
ment o f style is diction; in fact, so important is the choice o f words
that on its basis we can often tell the nationality o f a poet (here:
translator) and the period in which he wrote. There would seem
to be an affinity between British writers and Bialik’s prose;
outstanding, in my memory, are two artists, I.M. Lask and
Herbert Danby. A British poet who settled in Tel-Aviv, Lask pro­
duced
A ftergrow th and other stories
(Jewish Publication Society,
1939), which contained three o f Bialik’s best stories and an excel­
lent critical introduction; to these he added a fourth tale, “Aryeh
the Brawny,” in
Israel Argosy No .
7 (1960). And in 1938, the
Hebrew Publishing Company (New York) published one o f the
most beautiful (in every sense, including typography,
illustrations, and binding) o f all Bialik books in English:
A n d I t
78
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL