Page 182 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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Where is the canvas, marble or the bronze
Which does not speak the language o f the ancients
The low-voiced stirring o f awakening matter,
That heartfelt something o f my treasured prophets
And the dreams and visions o f their light
. .
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Hebrew readers o f Shneour’s poetry responded to its blaring
contradictions and shocking inconsistencies as evidence o f its
authenticity. Like him, they too were attracted and repelled by
the Gentile world simultaneously. The poet’s untrammeled indi­
vidualism, hedonism and libertarianism fascinated them as they
sought to harmonize the monotheism and group-centeredness o f
the Jewish tradition with life in the twentieth century. Was a syn­
thesis o f eros and esthetics with responsibility and morality possi­
ble?, they asked. Could one be deeply Jewish and genuinely mod­
ern at one and the same time?
I f Shneour’s initial impact in Hebrew literature appeared to be
that o f a representative o f non-Jewish culture in the Jewish world,
his enduring contribution lay in his stance as the spokesman and
representative o f Judaism to the Gentiles. “In order to stand
before the Gentile world as a liberated Jew, Shneour donned
non-Jewish pride and trappings o f majesty, wrapped himself in
the purple cloak o f a successful Don Juan and girded the weap­
ons o f a conqueror who crowned himself king even though his
scepter was only a ray o f light shattered in a j a r o f water.”11
Shneour brought the modern ambiance with its extreme indi­
vidualism into Hebrew poetry. His hero is universal man scaling
the heights o f accomplishment while bound to selfish instincts
and sordid motives. His totally self-preoccupied hedonistic indi­
vidual is plagued by boredom, alienation and existential dread.
“Fear o f the annihilation o f the individual and the human which
Shneour expressed in his earliest work and which is part o f any
life based on the momentary, on pleasure and instinct, increased
during his sojourn in the large cities o f Europe during and after
10 “The Melodies o f Israel,” translated in Meyer Waxman,
A History o fJewish L it­
vol. 1, part 1 (New York, 1941), p. 296.
11 Yeshurun Keshet,
(Tel Aviv, 1962), p. 75.