Page 162 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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154
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
drive it from its home. The constant killings that take place
in the woods empty the poet o f any positive emotions in the
midst o f nature. The death-cry o f the rabbit who is victimized
by the wolf,27 as well as the hunters’ cruel behavior,28 lead the
poet to transform what was to be a hymn to nature into a poem
full o f apprehension and the negation o f life. The sense o f fore­
boding, to which Grade referred in his introduction to his
Farvoksene Vegn,
is here directly expressed in poetic lines:
And I grasp something, and understand it:
Every forest creature is a sacrifice,
And every hillock
an altar.
In his “Balade” and “Shpurn oyfn Shney,” the hunter symbol­
izes not only disregard for life and an urge to annihilate the
weak, but also the murderer as a non-Jew. In both poems the
hunter seeks his prey, and in “Balade” the prey is Grade’s moth­
er:
A street lamp. I meet someone at the gate:
My mother
. . .
She is freezing
. . .
The yard is being searched . . .
Like the streets, the yard is filled with dread
I flee here from the horrible visions.29
H U N T E R S A N D V ICT IM S
By 1936 Grade had introduced into his poetry the simile o f
the city = woods (the hunters’jungle); by 1937 he reversed the
simile to the woods = city. The first simile was openly stated.
The second was merely implied in the last few lines o f his poem
in which his desire to be part o f Temp le o f Nature gives way
to the experience o f light. The sun shines down like an urban
street lamp upon the poet’s head, in the same place where his
solitude is disturbed by the appearance o f the hunter-man. No
place on earth is left void o f murder by humans and o f per­
secution o f the physically weak.30
A full treatment o f Grade’s post-war Holocaust poetry and
27. “Shpurn in Shney,”
Farvoksene Veqn,
p. 114.
28. Idem, p. 113.
29. “Balade,”
Yo,
p. 26;
Dojrois,
p. 29.
30. Grade’s existential “angst” is amply corroborated by his correspondence
with Yiddish writers at that time. We hope to publish these letters, with
due permission, in the near future.