Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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GOLDSMITH/LEVICK’S QUEST
8 5
Somewhere far, somewhere fa r
Lies the forbidden land.
The hills there are silvery-blue,
No one has yet trodden them.
Somewhere deep, somewhere deep
Kneaded into the earth
Treasures await us,
Buried treasures wait.
Somewhere far, somewhere fa r
A prisoner lies alone.
O’er his head dies the light
Of the setting sun.
Someone wanders about
Deep in the blanketing snow
Unable to find the path
To the forbidden land.
(Ergets Vayt)
The appreciation of beauty and the awareness of mystery, which
came to the fore in Leivick’s later writings, are already evident in
this poem. Here, too, are the sensitivity to suffering and disap­
pointment, to hopelessness and pain, which are at once pro­
foundly Jewish and deeply human and universal.
Although many readers and critics were at first repelled by
Leivick’s obsession with suffering, they knew that it was very
much in keeping with Jewish religious tradition. By poetically
objectifying his flogged body and trampled soul, and by subli­
mating his guilt feelings into a symbol of human conscience,
Leivick corroborated the Jewish concept of martyrdom. In Juda ­
ism martyrdom is more than a compensation for powerlessness.
It is an affirmative and optimistic approach to life because it
encourages both a reconciliation with reality and hope in the
development of a higher, more sensitive and more courageous
type of human being.6
Kiddush hashem
or martyrdom took on a
new meaning during the persecutions of modern times which
culminated in the Holocaust. Such motifs, which dominated
many of Leivick’s poems of the 1920s, appeared prophetic when
viewed from the perspective of the 1930s and 40s.
6
cf.
S. Bickel,
Detain un Sakhaklen,
New York, 1943, p. 93.