Page 86 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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Nevo: All night seas o f flame raged and tongues o f fire
dar ted above the Temp le Mount.
O u r two ladies (both South African in origin, by the way) are most
restra ined , and closest to the original.
Nevo is unabashedly British in many idioms: God “smashes his
crown to sm ithereens” (Irish), and so forth . She strives for brevity
and directness: “bring the Lord a fierce fire dance”— bu t “havu
l’Adonai” is an echo o f Psalms 29:1, which Snowman preserved:
“Ascribe to the Lord . . . flame-dance and fire.” Snowman’s
“wrath o f the universe” and Beinkinstadt’s pedantically literal
“wrath o f all worlds” becomes a “cosmic rage .” God’s “looking into
the h ea r t” and “perceiving the hea r t” becomes a simple (and
prosy?) “understood .”
Some touches o f John Milton are in Nevo’s language —
appropriately , since I have long though t Milton was the English
poet who might best have understood Bialik and Englished him
— if e ither one had lived in the righ t century! She uses Latin
words: eviscerate, annihilation, prevarication, lambent laugh ter,
a grassy covert, and the like. (In “T he Dead o f the Desert,”we find
a clear echo o f
Paradise Lost
: “Enormous ru in ,” p. 114.) Con­
sciously or not, Nevo has Christianized Bialik, and on the whole
this works well — except for one aspect o f her in terp re ta tion ,
which seems to me wrong.
As Ratosh, among others, has pointed out, Bialik rang the
changes on imagery o f fire and light in the poem — the la tter
linked to ideas o f “en ligh tenm en t,” as well as Kabbalistic themes.
Now, in the famous Section 6, the longest and most personal par t
o f “T he Scroll,” the youth is telling the story o f his life, pou ring
ou t his heart, to the “lonely sad-eyed g i r l . . . the constant angel o f
my h ea r t” (pp. 152-162). H ere “I shall create thee a new heaven”
(Snowman) becomes a New Testamen t “I will make you a new
and a new earth
” (my italics), with no w arran t for the add i­
tional phrase in the original. And then:
T he youth opened his eyes to a blaze o f light. He lifted his
eyes in yearning to where the girl stood, his whole body
bu rn ing and shaking.