Page 70 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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62
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
SHIMONI’S IDYLLS
T h e pastoral vision o f the Haskalah comes into its own in
David Shimoni’s ecstatic idylls which portray the acclimatization
o f the pioneer to the new land. Shimoni was born in Russia
in 1886 and became a scholar and writer, adm ired and encou r­
aged by Bialik. A fter having visited Palestine in 1906 he re ­
tu rn ed as an
oleh
in 1921 and worked as a teacher. His early
poetry expresses the ideals o f the Second Aliyah bu t transcends
the daily experience in o rd e r to dwell on the hum an condition.
Shimoni glorified the newly encoun tered Eretz Yisrael as few
others have done, in poetry which, in its rustic idealism, provides
a line o f continuity with the poetry o f the Haskalah. Yet with
all this he confessed, like Lamdan, that he had found his ori­
entation to his new country fraugh t with obstacles.9 It was p a r­
ticularly on his re tu rn to Palestine af te r some time spent in Ger­
many that he experienced the difficulty o f liberating himself
from the landscape and climate o f his childhood. In one o f
his idylls,
Yovel ha-Eglonim
(The Jubilee o f Coachmen), he puts
into the mouth o f a character, a young poet, sentiments shared
by many o f his contemporaries and successors. A fter re fe rr ing
to the sanctity o f memories o f childhood and o f the soil that
n u r tu re d the child, the “poet,” a pioneer, continues:
I absorbed the sight and sounds o f Russia’s landscape
In my early youth,
The shadows of dark forests, the pride of her mighty rivers,
The freedom of her green plains and the gold of her vast fields,
The storms o f her bright spring and her sad, gloomy autumn,
The silence o f her winter snows and the eternal sadness o f her vistas
Filled my heart to the brim, without my knowing,
Until here I understood that my soul was still in exile . . .
I saw the glorious palm but yearned fo r the mournful birch,
A blossoming winter tempted me, but I dreamed o f deserts o f snow,
I saw the beauty o f nature, I knew it to be nature,
Yet not in my being, not yet soul o f my soul.10
T he longed-for trees are not palms, certainly not cedars o r ol­
ives, bu t birches, and remembered snowscapes, forests and riv­
9. Halkin, Simon,
Modem Hebrew Literature.
New York: Schocken, 1970, pp.
123-124.
10. Shimoni, David, “Yovel ha-Eglonim,” in
M ivhar Ketavim,
Tel-Aviv: Dvir,
1962, pp. 29-30.