Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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GOLDSMITH / YIDDISH POETRY AND AMERICAN JEWISH IDENTITY
37
That is enough to extinguish
Like a candle my longing for you
My home, my Zlotshev.
(“Zlotshev, Mayn Heym ”)
H a lpe rn was one o f the
Yunge,
the young rebels who a f te r 1905
b rough t a new sophistication and re finem en t to Yiddish poetry
in America. “T h e Yunge ,” writes A. Tabachnik , “were no t so
much exponen ts o f a new ideology as a new psychology. Some­
th ing took place in Jewish life at tha t time, something m a tu red
socially and culturally which made the rise o f poets like the
Yunge
inevitable. They felt d ifferently , saw d ifferently , hea rd d iffe r­
ently.”4
In th e p o e t r y o f th e s e n s i t iv e a n d ly r ic a l M an i L e ib
(1883-1953), a new type o f person emerges in Jewish life. T h e
individualism o f Mani Leib and o f the
Yunge
generally was based
on a very intensive, more acute way o f feeling; on a highly re ­
fined sensibility and openness to experience.
In poor houses there is so much beauty;
Faith ennobles hungry lips.
In its abject smallness the hand that is beaten
Keeps all doors open for a poor neighbor.
Beside the cold fire of the dying coals,
Around the tables, heads leaning on elbows,
Ears perked and old greybeards speaking
Words of wisdom, sorrow and imagined miracles.
And above all heads
the silent one, the liberator.
He emerges from the talk and sits in their midst.
The thin coals flicker with new fire
And redden all the heads and beards carved out of the fire.
(“In Hayzer O rem e”)
Mani Leib’s en d u r in g historical accomplishm ent fo r Yiddish
poetry was “the purification o f the dialect o f his tribe .” He estab­
lished boundaries fo r Yiddish poetry which helped lift it to new
leve ls o f a e s th e t ic a c c om p l is hm e n t a n d r e f i n e m e n t . In
T a b a c h n ik ’s fo rm u la t io n , “he p u r i f ie d Y idd ish p o e try o f
prosaisms, ja rg o n , and poo r taste.”5
4 A. Tabachnik,
Dikhter un Dikhtung,
New York, 1965, p. 162.
5 Ibid., p. 161.