Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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Among shady bullrushes . . .
Leave me, scenes o f yesterday! Why do you plague me?
T he reference is to Moses bu t the river is in the Ukraine, the
river o f the poet’s childhood, the shady bullrushes, o r reeds
), a contrast to the lone bush that provides no shelter from
the Palestinian heat. The m e taphor for childhood, floating on
waters among cool bullrushes, is a variation on the pastoral
spring. Pastoralism is applied, bu t in reverse, that is, as a means
o f gazing from the Holy Land towards the diaspora.
I f the subtext o f the earlier maskilic poetry o f Zion is the
idyllic topos o f the biblical landscape, that o f Lamdan’s is sim­
ilarly a landscape o f the past, o f the country he has left behind,
which he now idealizes from a distance. Lamdan’s lines provide
an odd parody o f the glowing pastoralism o f Haskalah verse,
like a distortion o f the dream o f the maskilim. The intention
o f both generations o f poets, the maskilim and the halutzim,
is similar, an expression o f yearning for a distant land. The
natu re o f the land establishes the difference — for one gen­
eration, an elaborate fantasy, for the other, a sentimental mem­
ory, invoking what N o rth rop Frye terms “the constructive pow­
e r o f the m ind ,” with both calling upon received conventions
o f landscape description. Lamdan contrasts his new location
with the old land, while the maskilim do no more than imagine
an ideal place. The paradox o f Lamdan’s verse exists in his
negatively contrasting his present landscape, which is the locus
o f the maskilic dream , with his old landscape, from which the
dream was projected.
Despite its transposed subject in its implication o f the favored
18th- and 19th-century Hebrew pastoralism, Lamdan’s stanza
continues to fulfil the function o f sustaining myth, particularly
the myth o f place, seen through “the haze o f sentimentality that
is likely to b lur the retrospective glance.”8 He concludes his
“Hamsin” with a strange passage that is a clear testament to
his ambivalence towards his adopted land. He declares that de ­
spite his suffering “und e r the bu rden o f ano ther sun” he will
endu re , and forbear from indulging in nostalgic memories o f
his former home.
8. Levin, op. cit., p. 66.