Page 85 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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AHN / ANOTHER BIALIK
79
ame to Pass: Legends and Stories About King David and King Solomon,
anslated by H erber t Danby (Professor o f Hebrew at Oxford
niversity), famous also for his translation o f
the Mishnah.
These
re all classics o f Bialik’s
prose
in English.
In “The Scroll o f Fire” (written in Odessa du r ing 1905, Bialik’s
nnus mirabilis)
we have a short masterpiece summ ing up most o f
e poe t’s basic themes — and after this “m odern
Revelation
. . . a
owerful apocalypse” (Nevo), everything he did (or did
not
do: his
otorious “silence”) seemed anti-climatic. T he best discussion o f
e poem I have found is in an essay by the late poet Yonathan
atosh, “The Revealed and the H idden: On ‘The Scroll o f Fire’
nd ‘T he Legend o f T h ree Things and Four’” (the latter
ppearing in Danby’s volume as “The Way o f a Man With a Maid”
nd “T h e Princess o f A ram”) in the 1975
Meassef
(pp. 161-195)
lready mentioned. Obvious to any reade r is the fact tha t “The
croll o f Fire” is a bifurcated work: Beginning as a national leg­
nd o f the destruction o f T he Second Temp le — in Section 4 “the
nemy shipped o ff two hund red youths and two hund red maid­
ns from among the captives o f Jerusa lem ” to a “desert island”—
e rest o f the poem develops into an elaborate allegory o f love, in
hich a “fair pale-eyed youth” with golden hair has his heart
smelted in a triple furnace. . . . the fire o f God and the fire o f
atan, and, stronger than either, the fire o f love” (p. 170). What
nites the two parts is the imagery and symbolism o f fire.
This is not the occasion for an elaborate analysis; I want merely
make some observations about Nevo’s style and methods as
anslator o f “T he Scroll.” She seems to have felt a need to tone
own Bialik’s “p rophetic” rhetoric. Here is how the first sentence
rende red in the fou r versions:
Snowman: All night the seas o f flame raged and tongues o f
fire leapt scorching over the Temple Mount.
Beinkinstadt: All night seas o f flame seethed and tongues
o f fire poured down from the Temple
Mount.
Aronin: All night long the flaming seas had boiled
And tongues o f fire had spread themselves above
the Temp le Mount.
(Aronin had the idea o f breaking Bialik’s “prose” into
lines o f verse.)