Page 145 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ABRAMSON / POET OF THE DARK GATE
137
membrance of his father or rather the father of his lyric “I ,”
does not preclude the unrestricted path he has elected to tread.
In his later poetry where the father-image is almost wholly
absent, Vogel’s world view remains unaltered, indicating that
even if he had been referring to his forfeiture of traditional
certainties this contributed only partially to his melancholy. His
laments in early poetry for the passage of youth and his de­
parture from home, have greater metaphorical than realistic
weight. The pervasive mood of modernism, and more inten­
sively, of German Expressionism, demonstrated a general de­
spair at the knowledge that an ordered world had been over­
whelmed by breakdown and change. The art of the nineteenth
century had rested on an unquestioning belief in authority, pa­
rental or otherwise, which the modernists could now no longer
accept. Expressionist writers such as von Hoddis, Heym, Benn,
Trakl, Kaiser, Toller and Sternberg, in common with the sec­
ularizing Hebrew writers of the time, almost reveled in their
spiritual insecurity and the absence of metaphysical consolation.
Only Vogel, however, referred to the figure of the father as
a symbol of existential loss.
Although Vogel’s poetic language is predominantly biblical
his poetry has no other indication of tradition, neither the bib­
lical and liturgical allusions which so much distinguish norma­
tive Hebrew literature, nor dialectical or defiant Jewish literary
theology. He corresponds to the modernist aesthetic regarding
a “vaguely perceived religion.” Once or twice he refers directly
to biblical phraseology, such as
timrot avak
(“pillars of dust”)24
and he inverts the sense of supplication from the Yom Kippur
liturgy, in the mood of his ironizing Israeli successors: “Take
from me the spirit of your holiness.”25 Both the untitled poem
in which this line appears, and the one following it in Komem’s
collection,26 are cast in the form of a prayer with an existential
content that has no relation at all to Judaism. In a later poem
(1937) Vogel apostrophizes God in accordance with his own
spiritual development: he sees God as his comrade in pain and
pleasure along life’s way. He describes a companionship of
24. Vogel,
op. cit.,
110.
25. Reference to the biblical text is not unusual in Expressionist verse. For
example, Trakl’s poetry is a melange o f Old and New Testament and myth­
ological references.
26. Vogel,
op. cit.,
142-145.