Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
fervor o f the ir rejected diaspora homeland. T h e pioneers’ d if­
ficult orientation to the real Palestinian landscape has been
much discussed.6 It was clearly not the Arcadian vision o f olive
trees, doves, shepherdesses and burbling brooks, bu t a harsh
and largely unfriendly reality in which the newly-arrived intel­
lectual still felt himself an exile.
MASSADA POET
A n o th e r o f these p io n e e r -p o e ts was Y itzhak L am dan
(1900-1954). Born in Russia, he briefly suppo rted the Bolshe­
viks and enlisted in the Red Army. Later, disillusioned with
the revolution, he became a teacher and then imm igrated to
Palestine in 1920. For a while he worked as a laborer bu t later
devoted himself to writing and editing. Lamdan was dismayed
by the ordeals o f his new life and confessed to missing his Eu­
ropean home. While his hymn to pioneering,
Massada,
venerates
the Palestinian landscape it also contains a b rie f pro test at the
hardsh ip o f existing in it, especially in its extremes, for example
the fierce heat o f the
hamsin.
He describes his exhausted laborer
struggling back to his camp:
On the roads beyond the camp the
hamsin
struck me,
I came to shelter under a bush from the flaming east wind,
But there was no shelter in the shade.
I threw back my weary head without hope, knowing
Here even shade melts in the heat,
Here even God forgot to rest . . .
Like me, orphan of grace, the bush bent over my head
And I heard its complaint:
“How great my shame, oh God, how great my pain,
For you gave me shade
Yet no shelter fo r the weary
. . . ”7
This is a far cry from the sweet spring days and the sh eph e rd ’s
distant pipe. However, when Lamdan nostalgically recalls the
scenes o f his diaspora past, the lyric tone changes and , in its
biblical allusiveness, echoes the yearning Holy Land poetry o f
a generation earlier:
The distant rustling o f a pine forest caresses my ear.
The basket o f childhood floats on the cool waters o f the Ikvah
6. Patterson, op. cit.
7. Lamdan Yitzhak,
Massada.
Tel-Aviv: Dvir, pp. 52-54.