Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

Basic HTML Version

ABRAMSON / TWO HOMELANDS
57
play o f creative ideas. The Holy Land that they conjured in
this way had little to do with the real 18th-century Palestine,
for their view o f the Holy Land was initially fashioned almost
exclusively from biblical descriptions. Yet, finding themselves
somewhat restricted by the Bible’s lack o f detailed information
about Eretz Yisrael, and lacking a convincing methodology o f
na tu re description, they explored the formality o f the Pastoral.
This genre to a certain exten t alleviated the problem o f describ­
ing a land none o f the writers had ever seen and at the same
time it aided them in expressing their sense o f “unfulfillment”
and their utopian aspirations.
PASTORAL ELEMENTS
Th e intertextuality o f 16th and 17th century European pas­
toral literature was maintained in Haskalah writing as a
combined
intertextuality, that o f the Bible and 17th century Arcadian lit­
era tu re , making the valid recreation o f the landscape therefore
dependen t upon the writers’ knowledge o f
texts
ra th e r than o f
the
place.
Consequently the ultra-literary landscapes o f this po­
etry are emblazoned with cedars and olive trees and populated
with doves and flocks o f sheep. The pastoral inspiration was
drawn not from the reality o f the Arab shepherd population
o f the country, but from the rad ian t landscapes o f both the
Bible and o f classical Greece, the backdrop for the exotic pas­
toral fantasies o f neoclassical European poetry. The maskilim
simply app rop ria ted this backdrop to complement their nostal­
gic biblical vision o f Zion. In their case the idyllic past was also
the fu ture , the utopian fiction o f Zion.
The transmutation o f the Holy Land by the Haskalah poets
was couched in classical form and convention, bounded by texts
and revelation. Even the poetry from the 1880s associated with
the Hibbat Tziyyon movement preserved this hopeful pastoralism,
albeit perceiving Judea in somewhat diluted Arcadian terms. The
Pastoral was reduced almost to absurdity by the representative
poets o f the movement such as M.Z. Mane, M.M. Dolitzky and
the composer o f the text o f
Hatikvah,
Naftali Herz Imber. They
expressed the lofty ideals o f Hibbat Tziyyon in sentimental lyrics
that did no more than parody the grace and elegance o f pastoral
verse. In fact, almost to the end o f the nineteenth century Hebrew