Page 152 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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Take thou thy soul, rend it in many a shred!
With impotent rage, thy heart deform!
Thy tear upon the barren boulders shed!
And send thy bitter cry into the storm!
(Translated by Abraham M. Klein)12
Bialik’s poem supplied Steinhardt with most o f the details of
his drawing: the action takes place in a court-yard, near a fence,
and the ground at the patriarch’s feet is littered with broken bod­
ies and a Torah scroll. Even the pig “snuffling at the blood” is
present in the drawing, standing beside the child who died calling
for his mother. The skeleton coming out o f the attic attains a new
meaning: it also represents the spirit o f the dead who come back
to question the living. Most o f all Bialik’s burning anger is ex­
pressed here by the patriarch, the poet’s “Son of Man,” who,
standing mourning amidst the dead, is suddenly overwhelmed by
the nightmare and screams out at the heavens, raising his fist
against God and demanding redress for this outrage — but his
cry is lost amidst the storm. This is a perfect description o f the
impotent fury o f Steinhardt’s patriarch, as are indeed the lines in
Bialik’s slightly earlier poem, “On the Slaughter”:
Pity me sky.
I f a god is within you
and a way to him
I have not found,
pray you fo r me.
My heart is dead.
My lips mouth no prayer.
Helpless. Hopeless.
How long, how long? how much more?. . .
A curse on the crier fo r revenge.
Even Satan created no quittance
For a small child's blood.
Let the blood cleave the void. . .
(Translated by Ruth Nevo)13
12 In
Selected Poems o f Hayyim Nahman Bialik,
ed. by Israel Efros. New York: Bloch
Publ. Co. and Histadruth Ivrith, 1965, pp. 114-128.
13 In
Chaim Nachman Bialik: Selected Poems,
tr. by Ruth Nevo. Jerusalem: Dvir &
the Jerusalem Post, 1981, pp. 34, 36.