Page 162 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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A primary area of debate over YaLaG within the Hebrew
literary establishment was the question as to whether he was
a “genuine” poet or not. Shortly after Gordon’s death, Reuven
Brainin7 charged that the great Gordon had been nothing but
a political rhymester lacking true esthetic sensibilities. The most
telling rebuttal to this assault was the superb article by Yosef
Haim Brenner, “Azkarah le-YalaG” (1913). When a bell chimes,
Brenner averred, one kind of poet may rhapsodize over the
sounds of the bell while another (a socially involved poet like
YaLaG) might rather expand upon the person who pulls the
bell cord. Moreover, “if the outpouring of such deep, fervent
human-Jewish feeling [as in YaLaG’s verse] . . . is not poetry,
then — then even [Bialik’s “City of Slaughter”] is not poetry,
and then — to hell with poetry!”8
If it is impossible today to replicate the engaged polemics
over Gordon as a model for life and literature, we can never­
theless point to some exciting academic developments in the
study of Gordon’s life and works during the past decade.
Shmuel Werses wrote a most useful and comprehensive survey
of critical reactions to YaLaG.9 The next year, 1983, was a bo­
nanza year for Gordon scholarship with the publication of three
major articles in
Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature.
again, developed a study of Gordon’s feuilletons, an area whose
style and subject matter had been largely neglected by earlier
scholars. Werses suggested that some of Gordon’s most intimate
and complex feelings were expressed under the guise of light
satire in his feuilletons.10 The significance of this finding was
subsequently exemplified by Stanislawski in his lucid exposition
7. Brainin, “Yehudah Leib Gordon (Zikhronot u-Mahashavot),”
I (1896), pp. 62-68, 332-339, 421-433.
. Brenner, “Azkarah le-YaLaG ,”
Kol Kitve,
vol. I ll (Tel-Aviv: Ha-Kibbutz
ha-Meuhad, 1967), p. 26.
9. “Shirat YaLaG be-Mivhan ha-Dorot,”
Bikkoret ha-Bikkoret
(Tel-Aviv: Yahdav,
1982), pp. 11-33.
10. “Tselohit shel Polyaton’ ve-Sammemaneha,”
Mehkere Yerushalayim Be-Sifrut
II (1983), pp. 105-125; reprinted in S. Werses,
Megammot ve-Tsurot
be-Sifrut ha-Haskatah
(Jerusalem 1990).