Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
MODERN DIRGES
Despite his conviction that what the victims of unspeakable
terror experienced during their last moments could never be told
and that poets could only leave marks on unknown graves,
Leivick produced a number of significant poems on the Holo­
caust.
The heart of a seven year-old Jewish lad
Lies gasping on a golden violin,
And the heart of a seven year-old girl
Dies on the violin case,
And hordes of people go past
And never even notice.
(A Zibn-Yorik Yidele)
When Leivick proclaimed in a poem that he personally preferred
the martyrdom of the Ten Rabbis of the Hadrianic era to the
Maccabees, his voice reverberated with Jewish pride and authen­
ticity. But his poems of the Holocaust, while identifying with the
victims and expressing his guilt for not having shared the fate of
the martyrs, also sounded notes of defiance and revenge.
Arise, Jews, don’t succumb to despair!
Thus proclaimed the Jews of Warsaw
In their transcendent revolt.
They proclaimed,
They inscribed the words,
They hung the placard
In homes, in courtyards,
In houses of study
To the Ten Commandments an Eleventh they added:
Arise, Jews, don’t succumb to despair!
What does the word “arise” signify here?
The word “arise” here stands for
forever.
Not once forever
But seven times seven forever.
They also had rifles
These Jews of Warsaw,
And bullets, grenades,
These Jews of Warsaw.
They fired
And struck their target,