Page 181 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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GOLDSMITH/THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ZALMAN SHNEOUR
1 6 9
From, the harsh came forth sweetness,
From the rock o f hard sentence, now burst asunder,
Leaped out cascades o f plentitude,
And the mark of the stick still appears on the rock
. . .9
In numerous poems in which Jewish themes are purely coinci­
dental, Shneour’s fierce Jewish pride and concern for his people
intrude upon his landscapes, erotic liasons and intellectual
musings. In “Beneath the Sun” the poet links his own restlessness
and passionate nature to his biblical ancestors who lived in deserts
and sun-drenched terrains. In “Poppies,” the red flowers, in
which the poet sees a symbol o f sexual passion, are also reminders
o f drops o f blood on the garments o f ancientJewish zealots fight­
ing their oppressors. In “Melodies o f Israel” the mandolin o f his
Italian mistress appears to him as the head o f a Jewish martyr
slaughtered by her Roman ancestors. In “ In the Mountains” he
confesses that in the freedom and loftiness o f the Swiss Alps, he
seeks compensation for what was denied him in the confines o f
the ghetto. In “On the Bank o f the Seine,” a meditation on mod­
ern man’s loss o f faith, the sight o f the Cathedral o f Notre Dame
transports the poet to Jewish houses o f study in which the melo­
dies o f Talmud-study have long since ceased.
Shneour’smost memorable poems constitute his own personal
humanistic synthesis o f Judaism and universalism. They were o f
invaluable significance to his generation and secured his position
alongside Bialik and Tschernichowsky as amajor molder o f mod­
ern Jewish culture as well as an outstanding poet and novelist.
While the novelty o f Shneour’s poetry may be found in the con­
frontation o f two worlds, the Jewish and the modern, the power
o f his verse lies in theJewish perspective he brings to modern civ­
ilization. Shneour refuses to succumb to the blandishments o f an
alien world. Instead, he proclaims anew the universal import o f
his Jewish heritage.
Where is there a holy book in which you do not hear
The swish o fJordan’s waters and the rustle of the Lebanon?
Where is there a chapel or a shrine
Wherein you do not catch the echo
O f the son of Amram’s voice or Psalms of David’s praise ?
9 “Deuteronomy,” translated by Richard Flantz in
Anthology o f Modem Hebrew
Poetry
(Jerusalem, 1966), vol. 1, p. 171.