Page 43 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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I possess only the beauty of pious prayers,
I have naught but the loveliness of martyrdom.
And i f I have no lightning flashes that blind one
Or flaming sun-like words that perform miracles,
I do have the sparkle of starry legends,
The precious moonlight of the spirit.
From Worms, from Mainz, from Speyer,
From Prague and Lublin to Odessa,
One fire continued to burn,
One miracle continued to glow.
Wherever mortal enemies lay waiting
And death was ready nearby
There, alone and in sorrow,
I accompanied your parents.
For hundreds of years together
We faced every danger.
I absorbed all the anger
And I took in all the pain.
I forged through the generations
The wonder of will power and woe:
To live for sacred teachings
And die for them with strength.
I f pure holiness
Be reflected in suffering,
Then, my child, I am yours,
I am your most sacred one.
(“Yidish”)
A lthough he was already well known in Europe , it was a f te r his
a rr iv a l in th e U n i ted States in 1908 th a t A b raham Reisen
(1876-1953) came to be acknowledged as one o f the leading Yid­
dish poets and sho rt story writers. Reisen, whose writing went
th rough several fascinating metamorphoses, made Jewish pov­
erty a symbol o f the universal condition, and made Yiddish
poetry the reco rde r o f the full gamu t o f Jewish and hum an expe ­
rience.
In our noisy land,
On roads without end,
We go about silently,
Pensive and longing.
Some suppress their woe
GOLDSMITH / YIDDISH POETRY AND AMERICAN JEWISH IDENTITY
35