Page 161 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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I rise up like a red moon,
And see: forests o f crosses stretched out.
At the cemetery sits the night
the widow . . .
A stab
and my blood renews its flow.
Yiddish literary critics often quote a few lines from Grade’s
poetry out o f context and point out without further elaboration
that Grade foretold the Holocaust.24 Some o f the quoted lines
are taken from the second part o f the poem “Balade,” where
the anticipated death o f the lyric persona is incorporated into
the prophecy o f the catastrophe awaiting the nation. In “Balade”
(written in 1936, or before then) Grade says:
At night I walk around in white shrouds,
And imbibe the fear o f my people’s catastrophe.
At dawn
loaded with dark tales,
I come here to the black hakofes.25
We may thus conclude that the prefiguration o f catastrophe
is one o f the keys to a better understanding o f Grade’s pre-war
poetry. This aspect o f his poetry deserves more detailed treat­
ment with special attention to the relationship between his na­
ture poems and the foreshadowing o f the Holocaust. An ex ­
ample o f this are the dreadful visions at the end o f the poem
“Balade.” The poet feels that the cities o f barbarous Europe
are like the forest that harbors human hunters who lie in wait
for their prey:
At night I leave my beloved’s bed
And run through the city like a wolf in the jungle,
The city is like a forest fu l l of hunters,
Who watch fo r a rebellious boy . . . 26
A year later, in 1937, in Grade’s nature poem “Shpurn in
Shney,” the wolf operates from ambush, but man also is pictured
as a human hunter who lies in wait for his prey in order to
24. For examples see Elias Schulman (note 7), p. 55; Nachman Meisel, “Chaim
Grade — Der Dikhter fun Vey un Payn,”
Yiddishe Kultur
(New York, August-
September 1945), p. 38; S. Niger,
Yiddish Writers o f the 20th Century,
2 (New York, Congress for Jewish Culture, 1973), pp. 98-99.
25. “Balade”,
p. 26;
p. 28.
26. Idem, p. 26; idem, p. 29.