Page 136 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
overwhelming odds. In fact Layton perceived the military vic­
tory o f the modern Israeli as a kind o f redress fo r the pow­
erlessness o f the historic Jew. In his “For My Two Sons, Max
and David” he jux taposes a lengthy catalogue description o f
Jewish victimization, beginning with:
The wandering Jew: the suffering Jew
The despoiled Jew: the beaten Jew
The Jew to bum: the Jew to gas
The Jew to humiliate
and continues with a list o f prosaic sentences each beginning
emphatically with “T h e Jew . . . ” and then specifying a trait
whereby the Jew ’s scapegoat role justified Christian d ep red a ­
tions. These include:
The Jew whose helplessness stirs the heart and conscience o f
the Christian like the beggars outside his churches.
The Jew who can justifiably be murdered because he is rich.
The Jew who can justifiably be murdered because he is poor.
The Jew no one can live with: he has seen too many conquerors
come and vanish, the destruction o f too many empires.
Against this account o f the Jews’ historic moral mission and
its consequences, which he appears to be recalling as an instruc­
tive lesson for his children, the final th ree lines o f the poem
charge them to alter the ir Jewish fate by replacing powerlessness
with power:
Be none of these my sons
My sons be none of these
Be gunners in the Israeli Air Force
T h e very bluntness o f the final assertion makes its own claim
for a reversal o f the traditional role o f the Jew which had ex­
posed a defenseless people to continual persecution. In a world
chagrined by the Jew ’s spiritual endowments which often in­
spired its enemies’ m u rderous rages, it is p ru d e n t to rely on
force, and break, once and for all, the mold o f pariah/scapegoat,
exchanging cringing weakness for virile sovereignty.
In a similar vein, “T h e New Sensibility” speaks to the need
o f poets to adap t to the new twentieth-century condition o f vi­
olence and moral hypocrisy. Formerly, the poets