Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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36
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
But it is sensed anyway.
In his heart each
Has brought his home along.
In the chase and the noise,
In the tumult and confusion,
Each sees above himself
His own bit of sky.
(“In U ndze r L and ”)
REBEL SPIRIT
Homesickness and longing fo r the old coun try were also ex ­
p ressed in the work o f Moyshe Leyb H a lpe rn (1886-1932), the
greatest rebel o f American Yiddish poetry.
Joy blessed by God reigned at home and in the street.
Children played with their father’s long beards.
Over ancient tomes, singing and always in deep thought,
Sat gentle young people day and night.
Young girls sewed phylactery-bags of gold and silk
And all the girls looked as pure as stars.
(“In d e r F rem d ”)
H a lp e rn ’s s ta tu re has con tinued to grow since his untimely dea th
at the age o f forty-six. His influence on Yiddish poets everywhere
has been eno rm ous because he b ro u g h t a new, libera ted diction
and style to Yiddish poetry. This, toge the r with his strong ind i­
viduality and his powerful, ea rthy Jew ishness, m ade him one o f
the leading Yiddish poets o f all time.
H a lpe rn could also be devastatingly critical o f the old coun try
and the old way o f life — and this too is highly characteristic o f
American Yiddish poetry and o f the American Jew ish comm u ­
nity as a whole.
0 Zlotshev, you, my home, my city
With your church steeple, synagogue and bath-house.
When I recall longingly
Your magnate Rapoport and the way he walks
To the synagogue with his big belly,
And Shaya Hillels, the fanatic,
Who would as soon sell the sun and its shine
As a pig in a sack