Page 173 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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love o f art for art’sown sake, with which the somber Hebrew
was in perpetual conflict. What could be the result o f
imprisoning two such antagonistic natures in a single body?
What but the contradictions, the struggles, the tears, the vio­
lences that actually ensued.50
Emma might as well have been writing about herself. Moreo­
ver, the epigraph to this essay is one o f her finest poems, “Venus
o f the Louvre.” This sonnet, like her earlier sonnet “The New
Colossus” is again addressed to a female statue; but this poem is
inspired by Heine as well. The Venus de Milo, furthermore,
stands enclosed at the end o f a long hall in a museum; the
“Mother o f Exiles” stands free in the open air:
Down the long hall she glistens like a star,
The foam-born mother o f Love, transfixed to stone,
Yet none the less immortal, breathing on.
Time’s brutal hand hath maimed but could not mar.
When first the enthralled enchantress from afar
Dazzled mine eyes, I saw not her alone,
Serenely poised on her world-worshipped throne,
As when she guided once her dove-drawn car,
But at her feet a pale, death-stricken Jew,
Her life adorer, sobbedfarewell to love.
wept! Here still he weeps anew,
Nor ever shall his shadow lift or move,
While mourns one ardent heart, one poet-brain,
For vanished Hellas and Hebraic pain.
“Venus o f the Louvre” was written in May o f 1884, and it is at
once, a statement o f amazement upon first seeing the glorious
Greek statue, the Venus de Milo. But the shift in the sonnet at the
ninth line presents a sudden vision o f another figure — the
“death-stricken” Jew, Heine. Though at this point, Emma Laza­
rus sees a great similarity between herself and the German poet
insofar as they both struggle with a powerful attraction to the
Hellenic and the Hebraic, she does not as yet know that by
August, she too would be “death-stricken.” But in 1887, in the
final months o f her illness, just before her journey home to
America, Emma makes a last visit to the statue o f Venus she so
50 Morris Schappes, p. 90.