Page 141 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ABRAMSON / POET OF THE DARK GATE
133
very infrequently, does he relate to [Jewish] tradition.” Even
in his poetry on his village he “swallows almost every Jewish
reference . . . . His poetry is much less ‘Jewish’ than, for exam­
ple, the German poetry of Elsa Lasker-Schiiler, who stresses
her relationship with her sources.”13
Vogel’s poety is suffused with a sense of devastation, unspe­
cified and undescribed, only intuited, in keeping with much
of the Expressionist verse of his time. His last poem,
Shaatot
tzevaot
(The trampling of armies), written in 1941, is about the
Second World War and often thought to allude to the Holo­
caust. If it can be said of Vogel’s contemporary, Georg Heym,
that in his poetry he anticipated the war, Vogel could as well
be attributed with forseeing the Holocaust of which he was a
direct victim. However, to ascribe visionary prophecy to either
is a fanciful prolepsis: both poets were astute barometers of
the time, reading the signs and responding to their contempo­
rary situation. It was not difficult for Vogel, in 1938, to speak
of the city’s “humming evil,” a girl screaming at the vanishing
of loved ones and an early morning doorbell that tolls the sud­
den disappearance of one’s neighbor. Yet his famous “Black
flags”
(Degalim shehorim)
from
Lifnei ha-shaar ha-afel
(Before the
Dark Gate) had been published in 1923 and is not essentially
different from later poetry in its sense of foreboding.
Black flags wave
In the wind
Like the wings o f forbidden birds.
During days and nights
We will all walk downcast
And secretly
Until we reach
the great dark gate.
Like burnt children
There we’ll stand in fear
And we’ll watch
The opening
O f the great dark gate.14
13. Pagis,
op. cit.,
214.
14. Originally published in
Lifnei ha-shaar ha-afel
in Vienna in 1923. Also in
Shirim liriyim,
ed. Matti Meged, Massada, 1970, 63-64.