Nordisk Judaistic - Scandinavian Jewish Studies
Vol. 18, No. 1-2, 130-158
TRADITION AND REVOLUTION
IN SEARCH FOR ROOTS: URI ZVI GRINBERG’S ALBATROS
See, Judith Winther: Uri Zvi Grinberg: The Politics of Avant-Garde, The Hebrew Zionist Revolution - 1924-1929 in Nordisk Judaistik, vol. 17, no. 1-2, 1996, 24-60.
If not otherwise mentioned the translations of the Yiddish texts are mine.
* All concepts marked with an asterisk are discussed fully in the main body of the thesis.
* Notes omitted.
Although Uri Zvi Grinberg had published poetry in both Hebrew and Yiddish from 1912 onward, it was with the appearance of the Yiddish volume Mefisto in 1921 and his Albatros in 1922-1923 that the new idiom - Expresssionism was introduced.
In seeking to explain the transformation of Uri Zvi Grinberg from a minor romantic lyric poet in Yiddish and Hebrew into an Expressionist bard who emerged in the 1921 Mefisto, critics have advanced a number of elaborate and sometimes contradictory theories.
Critics and scholars were apparently strangely mystified about Grinberg's complete breaking away from his earlier work and adapting a new poetic.
Unable to reconcile Expressionist notions with Grinberg's early writings, baffled by the apparent split between a conventional, conservative poet who hardly stood out from his literary contemporaries and his radical new poetic creeds, critics emphasized mainly psycho-biographical dimensions and sources. Stressing mainly Grinberg's exposure to the horrors of First World War the so called “War Shock-impact” hypotesis, or as H. N. Bialik coined it “Koshmar” (nightmare) in forming of Grinberg's poetical genius and genesis of his radical poetics. Terrifying images and expanded horrifying tension surely caused the displacement of Uri Zvi Grinberg's traditional normative centers, and undermined his traditional notions, but he never claimed that it offered a clue to his emergence as a major avant-garde poet. The radical aesthetic patterns and new dynamics emerged first when in conjunction with new codes.
A tendency to refute or reevaluate the war impact hypotesis as a viable explanation of Grinberg's growth as one of the leading Jewish modernists or avant-gardists has emerged recently though on different grounds and differnt approaches. However, I believe that works of art have a particular history that is not merely biographical but social and political in the broader sense of the terms as well, for as Walter Benjamin has thaught us, “the uniqueness of a work of art is inseperable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition. This tradition itself is thorughly alive and extremely changeable.... “ Indeed, what makes Uri Zvi Grinberg unique as an arist, and perhaps also most interesting and valuable , is his embeddedness in his time rather than his transcedence of it. To say this, however, is not to limit the significance of Uri Zvi Grinberg's work to a mirror reflection of his times. On the contrary, it is by reading Uri Zvi Grinberg in the context of the twentieth-century revolutionary Avant-Garde and Jewish historical experience that we discover him at his most revolutionary.
An analysis and an evaluation of Grinberg's work which is governed by a split between the private and the public, the personal and the political, the poet and history is deficient. To discuss Uri Zvi Grinberg not in relation to the revolutionary movements and political battles which surrounded him and his confreres (political-artistic) reflects a lack of sensibility to the importance of movements and concepts in the formation of the artist. Considered in the political-socio-cultural context of his time, Uri Zvi Grinberg's emergence as a radical Expressionist poet seems obvious.
Uri Zvi Grinberg's Expressionist-[Futurist] aesthetics emerged in the highly charged atmosphere and intensive experimentation which swept Yiddish literature and art in the 1910s mainly Post first World War Eastern Europe, labeled Yiddish Modernism or Yiddish Avant-Garde.
Uri Zvi Grinberg's own special “creative force” in interplay with the highly eclectic, dynamic of Yiddish modernism, spurred a turning point, which witnessed the return of his artistic attention, as of his confreres to the realities of the phenomenal world, in confrontation with symbolist (aesthetic romanticist) and impressionist art.
In Quest of Secular Jewish National Culture
It was mainly in Poland that a modern secular Jewish culture flourished most strongly during the years 1919-1925.
The first postwar attempt in Poland for a Jewish cultural renaissance took place in Lodz. The Jewish poets and artists who were engaged in the effort of a Jewish cultural rebirth were in fact, native Lodgers or from nearby. They sought to assimilate divers fibres of modernism, especially Expressionism and Futurism, and they hoped to amalgamate them with Judaic content. in order to serve Jewish cultural needs. However, the first postwar Yiddish modernist movement came into existence only with the arrival of Moshe Broderzon from Moscow. It took the name Yung-yidish and was the first conscious effort in postwar Poland to form a literary artistic coterie. It received its initial impetus from the Russian Futurist or more precisely the Cubo-Futurists through Broderzon.
Futurism offered Broderzon a new freedom of language and expression, new rhythms, new themes and teached him how to modify Jewish folkloric matter with modernist techniques, though less experimental than the Russian Futurists. Shmuel Niger, the Yiddish critic, remembers the poet in the Moscow days “caught up in half-refined, half-wild Russian 'Futurism', and describes his new Yiddish verse as a "mix of old. folkloric Jewishness with the latest word from the Moscow poetic Bohemia." Yung-yidish was an attempt to implement what Broderzon learned in Moscow but adapted to Jewish national culture. It viewed itself as the vanguard of a modern evolving Yiddish culture. The Yung-yidish journal of Lodz founded by Moshe Broderzon and the artists Yankl Adler (1859-1949) an Marek Schwartz (1892-1962), lasted for one year,1919-1920, (six issues), and was both a literay and artistic journal. It subscribed to the rejecting of the useless past and its art forms, to make art a meaningful part of life, to hasten “etishe sheynkayt” (ethical beauty) and "briderlikhkayt“ (brotherhood), - ideas derived from Mayakovsky and the Russian Futurists. But at the same time it fully accepted the aesthetic and moral validity of the Bible - "the eternal speech of the prophets," and other Jewish texts. The second manifeso offers an obvious adherence to European avant-garde: “In our leaning to Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, we shall combine all the perspectives with the name Futurism”.
Among the partakers who joined the journal were the Galicianer group: Melekh Ravitch, Uri Zvi Grinberg and Israel Stern (1894-1942), as well as various artists who were directly influenced by the Pathetiker and the Berlin Sturm with its Expressionist perspectives, themes and techniques. A development which pushed the fourth-sixth numbers of the journal towards a mainly Expressionist orientation: “di naye menshhayt lernt mit der neshome tzu filn di kunst" (The new mankind learns to feel with its soul the new art) (Yung yidish, 4).
Yung-yidish divergent perspectives and multidirectional lines undermined its stamina, and was followed by the Ringen (Links) journal group of Mikhel Vaykhert (1890-1962) and Alter Katsizne (1885-1941). It appeared in January 1921 in Warsaw, lasted for two years and included altogether ten issues. Many of the Yung-yidish artists and writers, namely the Galicianer Expressionists who now were gathered i Warsaw, collaborated. As indicated by its title Ringen, it sought to link cultural and religious traditions of Judaism with modernity, to combine Jewish neo-romanticism with full-blown Expressionism. Nevertheless Ringen remained ideologically strongly committed to a national cultural expression inherited from Yitzkhok Leyb Peretz.
The so called “poetic triumvirate” Uri Zvi Grinberg, Melekh Ravitch and Peretz Markish who at this time, no longer regarded the shtetl as home but the cosmos reflected in the poet´s mind, turned down Peretz's Yiddishkayt aestheics. Their intense drive to rebuild a secular Jewish life in Yiddish in a secular world, drew them together, and they broke off the Ringen in the mid-1922.
Jointly and separately Markish, Ravitch and Grinberg were impressive, exciting and revolutionary. They succeeded in outraging public opinion and were thus branded as the Khalyastre or “Gang”. Accepting this designation as a badge of honor they termed their literary group and their first literary journal which appeared in Warsaw in 1922 and edited by Peretz Markish and Joshua Singer (1893-1944) Di Khalyastre. It was not only a journal but a new movement.
In august 1922 it was followed by the first issue of Melekh Ravitch Di Vog (Scales). And subsequently in september 1922 by the first issue of Uri Zvi Grinberg Albatros. Each of them published in his own as well as the other's journal.
The intense lines, chosen by Peretz Markish in 1922 for the introit of his Di Khalyastre, were already published in Yung -yidish in Lodz in 1919 by Moshe Broderzon, and read:
We are young ones, a happy song-filled gang (Khalyastre)
we take an unmarked path
In these deeply fearful days
In nights of fright
Per aspera ad astra!
In Introductionto to Modern Yiddish Verse the editors describe the nature of Di Khalyastre in terms of national implications and universalist perspective, rejecting past styles, embracing new aesthetic theories and artistic techniques:
Di Khaliastre was aggressive, impudent, playful, a Jewish version of the Expressionist
temper sweeping European literature after the First World War. These young poets delighted
in affronting conventional Jewish sensibilities, whether religous or secular, conservative or
radical, bourgeois or proletarian. Employing disjointed syntax, ejaculatory phrases, free
rhythms, surrealistic images, erotic allusions, and, sometimes, leftist war cries, Di Khaliastre
(actually Peretz Markish) proclaimed, “Our standard is not the beautiful, but the horrible.
And Seth Wolitz states:
The Khlyastre is cenrifugal whereas Yung-yidish is centripetal. It is not a movement toward
a new socialist culture but a movement away from a nightmarish world, in which Jewish
elements are so much flotsam and jetsam. Yiddish language and culture are not at stake but
the poetic vision of the poet and his cosmos. Its delight was shock, blasphemy, and
stripping the tradition. Yiddish was to serve as an adjuvant just like Russian, French, or
English. The originality of the Khalyastre journal resides not in its violent imagery,
blasphemy, or daring, but its fully modernist use of Yiddish turned into a purely aesthtic
The common ground of Di Khaliastre aesthetic is Expressionism, although not one of the journals calls itself an Expressionist organ. Max Erik was the first critic to identify the common language of Grinberg, Markish and Rawitch as di shprakh funem yidishn expresionizm (The Language of Jewish-Yiddish Expressionism (Albatros 2, November1922, 17):
Take, for instance, Uri Zvi Grinberg's works
and you shall easily find the language of
In tsaytns roysh (In the Rush of Time) does not give anything. Also almost nothing as
regards to language.
Perhaps only drawbacks (Germanism) .
Farnakhtengold (Evening Gold) still gives more new poetic
material than lingual ...........
But the language of Mefiste (Mefisto) is the language of Jewish-Yiddish Expressionism.
Farnakhtengold is not yet an Expressionist book, even though, or rather, because:
it has sea- melody, reverberating, rounded, flowing
tones, plunging together, plunging side by side,
chasing each other, scattering and chuckling
-a sea full with melody and harmony.
Roundedness, musicality, melodiousness
are not Expressionist outlines ...
These are meanwhile the outlines of Jewish-Yiddish
1. Hatred of the rounded, musical word, of the
2. Deep sympathy for the “bony”, heavy, weighty word.
Therefore the great use of pure Hebrew words.
They are "weighty". But they are not admitted unintenional,
careless. It is easy to see how Markish and Grinberg
bend them, lengthen them, attach them to
3. The rhythm of the poem is identical with the voltage of the poem
- This is the outburst of the forces, that inspirits the poem
and holds it bent as a bow.
These are the outlines of suffocated beings. Of embroiled poets ---- “
Max Erik stresses predominatly wellknown and conventional character- istica of Expressionist style which is a hallmark of Expressionist works - intensity of expression and concentrated energy. Expression precedes form, and free rhythm precedes harmony- missing rhyme and abscence of stanza. Additive word-formations. A profusion of hebrew words and Hebrew -derived words, - heavy, hoarse, tense and guttural, as a strategy for revitalizing Yiddish language.
Albatros, jurnal far dem nayem - dikhter un kinstler - oysdruk
Albatros1, Warsaw, September, 1922. Albatros 2, Warsaw, November, 1922. Albatros 3-4, Berlin, July (?) 1923. In line with Di Khalyastre and Di Vog, Albatros espouses an Expressionist aestheics - bringing forth with irrepresible force tenets and values of Expressionism. Yet the Albatros gravitates along, some basic concerns of Futurism, and Neo-Primitivist energy. The Futurist vein can be detected in Uri Zvi Grinberg's Albatros as in a whole series of avant-garde works per se.
Albatros delineates a pivotal juncture in Uri Zvi Grinberg's formation as a revolutionary poet. It includes a reappraisal of his own and other Yiddishist artistic past and present and projections about the future.
In his efforts to cross old boundaries, to find new expression, Uri Zvi Grinberg's manifestoes articles and poems in the Albatros cover the spectrum of avant-garde confrontation with traditional frames. The journal is characterised by discursive analyses and comments, ruminations on metaphysical absolutes common, mainly, in Expressionist periodicals and publications. Here in Albatros Uri Zvi Grinberg sought to voice the pain of human existence and gradually the pain of Jewish existence as directly as possible, to break through the facade of established reality, to capture the essence of things rather than their external appearance. Here he sounds the cry of revolt of man, of Jewish man against modernity as a condition of servitude from which humanity must break free. And is of primal significant and essentiality in understanding Uri Zvi Grinberg's “vision” - his philosophical - political orientation and aesthetics, as expressed in his Eretz Israeli works in the 1920's.
Uri Zvi Grinberg named his journal Albatros, elucidating and emphasizing directly the organ's symbolic and aesthetic character.
In his account of the history of Di Khalyastre, Melekh Ravitch offers an amusing anecdote about Grinberg's emotive attraction to the suggestive image of the albatross and about his choice of the periodical's name.
According to Ravitch, Uri Zvi Grinberg “became almost crazy, infatuated, and full of enthusiam “ when he heard Esther Shumiatcher-Hirshbayn's reciting her poem Albatros at a gathering in Warsaw. Accordingly, Uri Zvi Grinberg draw an immediate analogy between the Albatros and the airplane:
The Albatross is gigantic as an airplane and with wings, which enables the bird to keep it
self extently in the air over floating ships. ... Consequently: Uri Zvi decided to publish a periodical caring the name Albatros.
If anything the airplane with its forceful design, together with the racing car, the speeding train, radio, telegraph embody the the Futurist cult of dynamism , speed , energy, creative spirit, work of genius, vitality. Uri Zvi Grinberg's Albatros(s)=airplane to all intents and purposes is both symbol and organ of his new dawning vision of the future.
Interessting, in our context is, that in the aircraft battle at the Marne the German airplanes were known as Albatros BI, BII etc. and are to be found in Carlo Carrà's collage La notte del 20 Gennaio 1915 sognai questo quadro, 1915 (On the Night of 20 January 1915, I dreamed this Picture).
But Grinberg's choice of the Albatros is open to more than one interpretation. Generally and usually the journal's title is connected to Charles Baudelaire's poem Albatros with which Uri Zvi Grinberg was acquainted. Charles Baudelaire, the painter of modern life, gathered the most disgusting aspects of reality, the refuse of the modern city. In order to justify his flight into the domain of intellect and fantasy, he uses those aspects of reality which to his mind reveal the true nature of contemporary civilization. Baudelaire who felt empathy for the rejected and the disadvantaged, who, like him, were scorned and abused by a primarily materialistic society, was at the same time quite conscious of his isolation, partly unavoidable, partly desired, from the unwashed and ignorant masses who would never read his poems. Walter Benjamin notes: “Of all the experiances which made his life what it was, Baudelaire singled out his having been jostled by the crowd as the decisive, unique experience.”
Baudelaire depicted himself as an albatross in a poem by the same name. Deprived of its natural element, exiled on earth amid the shouting crowds/sailors he cannot walk. And the poet like the albatross becomes the victim of scorn and neglect. But when in his natural element, the realm of the spiritual and mental, he is graceful, majestic, prophetic. The poet is soaring in the world of fantasy opposite to the prison of physical reality.
Baudelaire's presence is explicitly strong in Proklamirung (Proclamation) and serves as a model for Uri Zvi Grinberg's Grinberg's description of the albatrosses of young Yiddish poetry in contrast to the crowds of graphomaniacs whom Grinberg liquiditates vitriolically.
ALBATROS 1, Warsaw, September, 1922.
The first issue of Albatros exhibits the pathos , intensity, violent emotion, boldness, grandiosity typical of Expressionism. Like the German Expressionists Uri Zvi Grinberg pursued with a vengeance areas of thought and feeling skirted and shunned until their time: paradoxes, contradic- tions, incongruities, illogicality, insanity, distorted perspectives.
The first issue included works by Peretz Markish, Peretz Hirshbayn, Esther Shumiatcher, Melekh Ravitch's famous manifesto Zibn tezn fun der nayer, naketer dikhtung (Seven theses for the new naked poetry), Henrik Berlewi's essay Veiking Egegling in zayn abstrakt-dinamicher film (Veiking Egegling and His Abstract-Dynamic Film), Ze'ev Weintraub Mayne oysblikn in der kunst (My Outlook on Art), and Uri Zvi Grinberg's well-know manifesto Proklamirung (Proclamation), and Manifest tsu di kegner fun der nayer dikhtung (Manifesto to the Opponents of the New Poetry), and the epic poem Velt-barg-arop (A World on the Slope).
The cover of Albatros 1 is designed by Ze'ev Weintraub accompanied by a linoleum-cut by Marek Schwartz.
Grinberg's two first manifestos Proklamirung and Tsu di kegner fun der nayer dikhtung display two conjuncted texts, a respond to the immediacy of the political and cultural crisis, and a setting forth of the journal's ideological framework. While Proklamirung's context is basically bound to and relates to a fallen devastated world, and a rebirth of a new expression, is Tsu di kegner fun der nayer dikhtung essentially and particular bound to, and associated with Jewishscape - elaborating on Jewish historical-political experience. Both manifestos offers though the same commanding orientation.
1. Proklamirung (pp. 3-4)
The manifesto is endowed with an acute sense of horizon in the focus on the Now, it includes a passionate claim that the aesthetic of the past were confining, and a posture of the new poets includig himself as a collective of heretics withstanding the jeers of established tastes.
The extremism of the manifest's aesthetic, its tortured energies and obsession lead us to Expressionist emphasis on the intensity of perception secured by infusing the world with violent emotion, and profoundly affected by its conception of man and humanity who might be regenerated, negation og bourgeois individualism, the dawn of the New Man. All bound up with multiple German manifesto and works.
The most illustrative manifesto which can provide a starting-point is clearly Kasimir Edschmids, Expressionismus in der Dichtung:
Es kamen die Künstler der neuen Bewegung.
Sie gaben nicht mehr die leichte Erregung. Sie gaben nicht mehr die nackte Tatsache. Ihnen
war der Moment, die Sekunde der impressionistischen Schöpfung mur ein taubes Korn in
der mahlenden Zeit. Sie waren nicht unterworfen den Ideen, Nöten und persönlichen
Tragödien bürgerlichen und kapitalistischen Denkens.
Ihnen entfatlete das Gefühl sich maßlos.
Sie sahen nicht.
Sie photographierten nicht.
Sie hatten Gesichte. ...
In ihm stand die Erde, das Dasein als eine große Vision. Es gab Gefühle darin und Menschen. Sie sollten erfaßt werden im Kern und im Ursprünglichen. Die große Musik eines Dichter sind seine Menschen. Sie werden ihm nur groß, wenn ihre Umgebung groß ist. Nicht das heroische Format, das führte nur zum Dekorativen, nein groß in dem Sinne, daß ihr Dasein, ihr Erleben teil hat an dem großen Dasein des Himmels und des Bodens,
daß ihr Herz, verschwistert allem Geschehen, schlägt im gleichen Rhytmus wie die Welt.
So wird der ganze Raum des expressionistischen Künstlers Vision. Er siht nicht, er schaut. Er schildert nict, er erlebt. Er gibt nicht wieder, er gestaltet. Er nimmt nicht, er sucht. Nungibt es nicht mehr die Kette der Tatsachen: Fabriken, Häuser, Krankheit, Huren, Geschrei und Hunger. Nun gibt es die Vision davon. ...
Er sieht das Menschliche in den Huren, das Göttliche in den Fabriken. Er wirkt die einzelne Erscheinung in das Große ein, das die Welt ausmacht.
Die Welt ist da. Es wäre sinnlos, sie zu wiederholen. Sie im letzten Zucken, im eigentlichen
Kern aufzusuchen und neu zu schaffen, das ist die größte Aufgabe der Kunst.
Jeder Mensch ist nicht mehr Individuum, gebunden an Pflicht, Moral, Gesselschaft, Familie. Er wird in dieser Kunst nichts als das erhebendste und kläglichste: Er wird Mensch.
Doch sind diese Menschen nicht töricht. Ihr Denkprozeß verläuft nur in andere Natur. Sie sind unverbildet. Sie reflektieren nicht. Sie erleben nicht in Kreisen, nicht durch Echos. Sie erleben direkt.
Proklamirung consists of three parts indicated by the sign *.
A. In the introductory part Grinberg presents a commanding and passionate portrayal of the new creative poets. Although attention is drawn to the Jewish albatrosses, the picture offered reflects popular accepted Expressionist ideas.
Uri Zvi Grinberg was highly critically of the Yiddish poets commitment to private literary experiments. He felt incensed and mauled these smug and callow poets passionately and violently, discrediting their competance.
The poets role accordingly had to be revolutionary in the cultural sphere, removing comletely the focus from the reductive bourgeois individal I to the who, which is an uttering channel of “man/human-being-you exist in the millions”- :
Floor, four walls and a roof for the homeless sole-poets, in their roaming in strangeness in
the different centres of the Jewish People's ex-territoriality. Literary diffusion.
I do not mean: talents. Poets-in-future. And not their "publishable" things. It is not the time for literary experiments. A whole generation is bleeding profusely from the throat. Galling bile from the mood. A whole generation is standing with a wounded body, running or lying in convulsions (birth-pangs or: death-throes). A shock in the depths. Pillars of smoke on the level surfaces. And talents are sparks.Invisible - in time of conflagration. They are individuals of narrow confines. They are not those individuals who have matured spiritually in the Sturm und Drang and who have grown ideational unto the universal: man/human being-you-exist-in-the-millions ---
Herewith proclaims the millions-of-heads-and-hearts individualism: the heroic man of wounds, who stands with his 248-organs, huge as the world, with torn-eyes-and ears-and- lips, infuses infusing into the flowing life, the blood-pulse of his three-hundred-sixty-five veins deeper, deeper - -
Only when conscience is disturbed, and being is shaken loose by the deformed civilization, and by tremors of inescapable catastrophe,- the creative-authentic poets,who are droven by internal necessity, become man/human beings. Their concept of an atomized bourgeois individuality and of the primacy of the ego and the importance of the self is dissolved and denied. Thus when liberated from individuality, and of the self, these poets are transformed to full-blown universalists, embodying concepts as “total-humanity”, “total-world”.
As authentic poets they are in search for absolute emotional truth - “pure awareness” which only subjective experience can guarantee. Their vision is transferred without being filtered through the intellect. And their expression,derived from internal necessity, is keyed in by emotional or spiritual states rooted deep in the physical body:
Individuals of this kind are the outstanding expression of the convulsion. Their bodies convulse, bearing on their naked backs the pain of the dark globe. Glowing worldview. Idea-cluster: man, world - in all the centuries'
revelations - -
And there are surely such among us. Complete poets, perfect ones with heavy flaming heads, their spirits- shocked expanses. Poets human beings, who out of their own bones carved a rocky expression for the treasures piled deep-deep in the inside of days and nights' experiences, on all the roads of the world.
- - Doors and gates are opened to the Four Winds, where the eternal pilgrims are nomadic, sons of unrest, of pure awareness of total-world - total-man. Albatrosses of the Young Yiddish poetry. Spiritual food: their own flesh; veins; nerves. The drink bone-goblets of their own: pulsating blood. And black Sabbath bread - our shew-bread: suffering. - - What else is missing in the kingdom of sacred poverty? We, the singing caravan of God's poor people.
Albatrosses. Poets - -
B. In the second part of Proklamirung Uri Zvi Grinberg alludes to some decisive moments in the general historical frame work of the so-called modern experience - or modernization, as “the confining aesthetics of the past”, “technology”, “crowd”, "masses", “the speeded up tempo of life” - the radically altered quality of life. But the new human environments and new age constitute neither progress nor fascination :
Renewal. Breakthrough. Revolution of the spirit. Exaltation - and more. Sure. So it goes With them, with us. All the literatures have been already shocked in their classical backwardness. Into the idyllic daydreams and the poet´s elegiac poetic-tranquility entered a whirlwind: Bra! The gaping-mouthed Colossus: man with a million-heads roars (according
to Grosz : like a machine. Technological age!). The fate of the old books is as the fate of the Gothic churches and Roman towers: fossilized antiquity. Terrifying to look at. The roads pass them by in a run. World and red century are standing on the slope. Optimists fix spectacles over their eyes trying to bewitch intuitively (for the time being) a glowing piece of new moon somewhere at the edge of horizon. Meanwhile, setting, and the world drags the red creaking chariot and the bleeding century to its decline Downhill with the rotting bundles: generations'- remains.
The means of existing artistic expression handed down by culture are obsolete and no longer capable of interpreting the emotions which come to us from a world that has been comletely transformed by the horros of war, and doomed to an inescapable catastrophe, to its final end.
So it is. Whether we want it, or not. We are standing as we are: with splitted wounds, with exposed veins and unscrewed bones, after canon bombardment and "hurras", after gas- attacks; after bowls of gall, opium and daily water: Disgusting. And foam of degeneration on the lips.
Hence the cruel in the poem.
Hence the chaotic in the image.
Hence the outcry of the blood.
Cruel. Chaotic. Bleeding. Meanwhile it is twilight. In our worldly towers the table is set with spiritual food for the generation of the lost, and black-Sabbath-bread - is our showbread. Twilight, at the foot of Past-world a generation celebrates three red meals for the world's black Sabbath. Behind our backs - black columns of crosses. Such songs must be sung. Cruel. Chaotic. Bleeding - -
Perhaps the song following the birth of the new moon will be different and glories shall rest upon the the albatross - heads of the poets-biryonim (Roughnecks)* But meanwhile we are naked. Disheveled. Exposed. A horror-and -disgrace-gospel of a chaotic-restless-generation's veins and bones, that stands on the cross-roads Eldorado - Nirvana.
Uri Zvi Grinberg suggests apparently a reductive mimetic model of the relationship between art and reality, - a mimetic notion of modern chaos, - art responds to the scenario of our chaos, which seems to be a veiled allusion to Kurt Pinthus. In his seminal anthology of 1919, Menschheitsdämmerung, Kurt Pinthus states:
Muß sie (Dichtung) nicht chotisch sein wie die Zeit, aus deren zerrissenem, blutigem Boden sie erwuchs? ......... Und immer wieder muß gesagt werden, daß die Qualität dieser Dichtung in ihrer Intensität beruht. Niemals in der Weltdichtung scholl so laut, zerreißend und aufrüttelnd Schrei, Sturz und Sehnsucht einer Zeit, wie aus dem wilden Zuge dieser
Vorläufer und Märtyrer ....
But at the same time we experience in Uri Zvi Grinberg's works presented in the Albatros radical modes of subjective representation of reality; to the extent that outside reality comes to lose its habitual, mimetic reliability. Subverting thus social, moral and aesthetic categories. Uri Zvi Grinberg's conception of avantgardist or modernist paradigm vacillates as with a whole range of Expressionist artists, between mimetic notions of modern “chaos” reflected in one way or another in his or others works, and an understanding of avant-garde or modernism as a chaotic subversion of communicative and semiotic norms of society.
C. The final part. The Expressionist fashion took hold among groups of Yiddish poets. Uri Zvi Grinberg ridicules them, naming them “Pseudo-Expressionists”, pretenders, imitators taxed with mannerism. When exploited by these Pseudoexpressionist, Expressionist style degraded into a mere stammering and babbling. Poetic language was teetering on the brink of becoming a parody of itself. Rethoric and banalities were expressed "expressionistically:
Such creatures are tricky, sharp: "Writing in such a way is called: modern"? "Then we are also writing modern": Climb the walls! Down with the roof! Forward on foot over the sea on spider's web-bridges! And why not? By all means! ............... And so on, and so forth. Imitation. Pseudo-Expressionism. Cheapest imitation, sacrilege to one of us.
Such a wantonness I want to stop. Against this desecration of Expressionism which has been conceived in seventy tongues with blood-and-marrow, I shall fight a battle with all the fibres of my limbs-edifice.
Against the trashy imitation: Pseudo-Expressionism. Against the concealed lie of talentlessness which covers itself under the sacred star-robe of modern poetry. ...
The concluding operative line of Proklamirung sounds
And: for the free, naked, blood-flowing human expression.
The poet's subjective vision can only be transferred when not being filterd through the intellect or socially conditioned perspectives, so that it is experienced as lived truth. Human expression must be unpremeditated, instinctual "blood-flowing, naked", and appeal to the pre-rational, primitive levels of the mind. The visceral side of life takes precedence over the intellectual: “the blood” needs to be made manifest through "primitive" imagery, cruel, dark, chaotic-like, naked,
The trope "naked" displays the avant-garde's/Expressionism's insistent on anti-intellectualism and its quest for the essential - the desire to strip away from reality its misleading surfaces and penetrate to true reality beneath the veil of matter; to reveal the “heart”, "essence,” or “core” of all things beneath their conventional definitions:
Everything has appearance and essence, shell and kernel, mask and truth. What does it say against the inward determination of things that we finger the shell without reaching the kernel, that we live with appearancen instead of perceiving the essence, that the mask of things so blind us that we cannot find the truth? By breaking through the facade of established reality (aesthetically, intellectually, socially) the Expressionist sought to discover the other realities that lay beyond, or a ruthless penetration to the roots of things, the return to man's “roots”, whether in the psyche or
2. Manifest tsu di kegner fun der nayer dikhtung (pp. 4-5)
According to A. Tilo Alt, the manifesto was "probably directed against the Galician neo-romantics in particular who attacked Yiddish expres- sionism in Moyshe Zilburg's journal Kritik."
The manifesto mirrors Uri Zvi Grinberg's deep-seated dissatisfaction with the current state of Yiddish conemporary literature. A literature which he meant, was equipped with untalented, anachronistic, conservati- ve and bookish writers, seeking to revive the romanticism of the past, yiddishkayt aesthetics. Uri Zvi Grinberg turned against the disdainful aloofness from contemporary reality, that characterized these writers, and whose works were thus an aberration of Jewish context, unable to incorporate the essence of Jewish existence. He points to the extraord- inary circumstances of Yiddish literature, the manifestation of a tortured -bleeding, dreaming, bargaining people, marked by homelessness.
There are in the new Yiddish poetry many noxious weeds, poison-herbs.
There are In the new Yiddish poetry banalities, absurdities, mimicry, incidental absorptions, indeed: talentless ones, who procure their existence only thanks to a winged form of new- tones of some
ism and the delusion of-eyes-and-ears through phraseology and foreign words.
There are In the new Yiddish poetry dragged-graphommaniacs, in the language of
extortioners. Exceptional individuals "sniff" from afar their dishonesty, see their
But more or less, other great literatures are also surely suffering of it, literatures of healthy
cultural nations who-have-one-home - If so, what's all the fuss about, precisely here, in a
flimsy literaure of
a people that is bleeding on one side, dreaming on the other and bargain-trade on the third?
If the above-mentioned, your sense of honesty, is that which alienates you - we can offer you our hand! It matters more to us. Strikes us deeper. Because ours is the poetry: Fruit of awareness and pain, which we are carrying with our two-hundred-and-fourty-eight boiling limbs in our Jewish-human homelessness. But if you are going to throw mud-clods unto
the new rocky-springs that have been-dug -with -toil-and-violence in the aridity of wilderness, and you will speak biblical-language: "and it was in the evening , and you came with your jars to draw water, and you noticed, that the water is poisoned - - " Then we shall deafen you with our un-biblical flotsam and jetsam language: Go away! You shall not come with your
earthenware-jars to the springs. Stop it!”
We do not want to carry the dark globe on our back yet six thousind years!
We are not guilty that the shtetl has spat us out with the blood of its throat, and hurled us, shaking , into a palate of unrest.- To the cities-of-electricity,-bridges,-storey-buildings,- coffe-houses,-fallacy,- disgrace, - and opium! It be so: Guilty is he, who turns the wheel of the world. Surely you believe! .., The rhythm is in our poems, in our pictures. Probably you
have blocked your ears with coton-wool and closed your eyes (till the storm blows over ... perhaps.) And when you don't know, you shudder - that things are different, different, different.
The Manifesto is fed from The maelstorm of modern life in general, synthetized with the specifity of Jewish existence that interacts or reacts to modernity. Uri Zvi Grinberg places the Jewish experience of catastrophe- pogroms,massacras,destruction,within the general historical framework of the so-called modern experience. He points out the connection between the immense demographic upheavals, severing millions of people from their ancestral habitats, hurtling them halfway across the world into new lives, rapid and often cataclysmic urban growth, infernal, modern city life, and the new aesthetics, new rhythms, new imagery, new expression.
The Jewish poets and writers displayed an uncommon ignorance as regard to Jewish existence and experience, failing to understand the interrelation between deformation of the man, the generation, the Jew, and aesthetic poetic renewal. The implications called forth are thus radical “old clothing must be shifted out with revolutionary clothing” in order to disrupt the catalogue of Jewish suffering. The radically altered quality of life and the universe as well as our place in it , obligates a change in artistic means. A tattered reality demands poetry in its unprocessed rawness, violence, cruelty, chaos, cry, blood.
And once again although roughly, the famous lines from the first manifesto, but alluding to exclusively Yiddish national expression:
Hence the cruel in the poem-
Hence the chaotic in the image -
Hence the painful outcry of the blood -
Those who do not understand us - for them we do not exist. Merely
our echos terrify them - -
Close your doors and windows: so you don't drop death
We go by your thresholds and leave you alone
The way is long, long.
To the threshold of the world.
Artistic convention must be broken not only to signal the defeat of Western civilization, its opression and restriction, but to undermine it. And Grinberg concludes:
But who is to be accused if the way leading up to the shrine is not more seen?
3. Velt-barg-arop (A World on the Slope) (pp. 12-14)
The epic poem Welt barg-arop, a harrowing nightmare, elaborates on a dark hatred of Western civilization still haunted by Christianity; by its brutal, destructive, repressive. force.
Man's ethical landscape is stripped of all signposts. All absolutes are annihilated. Nihilism and apocalypse are interlaced. An aversion from traditional humanism, as necessiated by a historical development, that called man and his values into question.
The poem's subject - a man, a Jewish man, captured in an estranged morbid universe, of spiritual sickness decay and lust, being in the process of losing grip on reality. Reinforced by the present tense of the poem.
In a collocation of brutal and bold images Uri Zvi Grinberg conveys the essentiality of Jewish existence and its constituent- suffering. We are offered a Jewish world sloping downward within a World of claustrophobia, violence and injustice.
Depravity lurks every wehere in the poem's universe, peopled as it is by beggars, prostitutes, murdereres and Christian priests. Uri Zvi Grinberg assimilated the Expressionists and Futurists negative view of sexuality, gender oppositions, fear of the "female principle", and polemics against the "feminine", whose erotic advance causes the breakdown of intellectual and social balance. Uri Zvi Grinberg exposes in the poem the negative power of woman's sexual desire threatening the "male". Woman is depicted with obsessive morbidity, being, "nothing but sexuality ... she is sexuality itself". And the prostitute who draws, attracts, fascinates the male-poet is attacked with venomous vindictiveness. Curse and damnation governs genealogy:
Unroll my limb-book limb-for-limb, sinew-for-sinew.
It is already perforce torn. It has no longer any binding
And tear the Gospel-of-disgrace out of my body,
The generation's Gospel-of disgrace, of the-dying-century!
And sniff with your nostrils my boiling blood:
into your lungs horror-perfume, the poison-wine,
The green-grass' smell of hatred, daily-water: disgust!
What can I tell you in language? The language has become
a lawless harlot:
Every one has already slept with her.
Today she is blind in the eyes and deaf in the ears
And the blood in her veins has turned green as leavened milk,
Rather: death ....
Hey, place me opposite a burning continent
Without a shirt on my body, with the glowing limbs exposed -
My hair will stand on the brim of an open brain.
And nights - smaragds of poison will green and flash
And bodies will dance in smoky reddish vapour.
And lampheads - flayed horseheads - thus will swing
Bleeding flames on petrified streets - -
Through me, streets with street cars' cross rails in the capitals,
Through me, throuhg the body limbs, black cross-gangs
In days of despairing floods-of gloom: Jews' funerals .. . .
Through me, from belly-shore, from the middle upward to my forehead,
A black rainy pillar with an iron of Jesus.
A woman uncovers her breast to a street urchin near the gas-lamp.
(The gasl-amp is burning as insanity: as the brain's flame ...)
Hanging. And a man turning blue. The sun -a bloodspot.
Trenches. Battlefields. Barbed-wire fence. A moon.
And soldiers' heads. One head as mine. Dishevelled and muddy.
A bloody slaughter-house. Glassily bull-eyes: Mercy!
A yellow, a lonely hand with a dark browning.
Trainbridges. Peddlers. With bells, bim-bam, flashing.
With heads- downward-bodies-are-sinking into water.
Frightened Jews with sidelocks and fringes blowing - -
And she sits in a corner, half-light half dim, my mother
with a taitsh khumesh (a Yiddish version of the Pentateuch, traditionally read mostly
by woman). The clock ticks at the head.
On the intestines sits a feetless beggar
And sings tunes about anguish-nights of mine, of all of us,
Coins are falling - -
Sick is the blood in the limbs of Europe's women.
They no longer emit infants from their wombs.
They are barren, not becoming fertile, not becoming pregnant.
Manliness: one blazing night in drunkenness.
Womanliness: one revelling night in lust.
And she, who bears her first born in a European poison-night,
Sees the rose of disgrace in the flesh of the first born
Who sucks her poisonmilk with animal desire
And squeezes with his gums the breast nipples
As a lustful adult, not as a sucking child - -
I do'nt want a matrimonial-wife, I shall take a prostitute
night after night, the naked streetground is my bed.
The dogs copulate when passing by. A bitch miscarries.
And it is impossible that I shall not procreate a creature -
In my image after my likeness: an homunculus. The fruit of agitation.
Oh, bald Christ-priests, womenless beings!
Until my ears in my deafen nights
comes such a weeping of alas and alack from you - - and I am vigil
at the foot of a world on the slope, I am Job without a roof,
And without a dream, without a spark, only green-mould in the blood.
I am holding with two frozen arms the globe -mine - bra!
My furious head, with rows of grinding teeth,
And I am tearing in my fantasy pieces of my flesh in rage - -
...No one has yet cut your veins from the hands.
And no one has stuck his nails in your throats.
No one has brought one of yours to Golgotha
And hung him naked on a blooming tree --
If all churches are mine - what does upset you?
If my brothers are hanging there with congealed blood
And with bare mourning-heads - - whose is then the lament?
Golden-shining halos are torn from the heads
We leave our brother-God without holiness on the pillar,
A naked body , wounded, with cold human-blood,
Let his apostles go to chew straw in the stable - -
Not your lament! Our woe, the Judêan-Christian-woe!
Not your torment! It is our wound and yours - in hypnosis.
And now - be vigil and regard: Mine is desecrated here:
The Judêan-Christian holiness - You have been slaves!
The panes are glowing red in cities and in villages - towards the evening of the world.
It is the evening of black Sabbath -- Regard: It is burning, falling are
the pillars of anguish with God's and the pillars of disgust
And we - no longer ring the bells: fire!
Because all the bells are in the dust as leadpots - -
The mood of degeneration and apocalypse in velt barg arop leads to feelings of despair and doom, but also to a sense of a new beginning. And it is through the primal,naked cry/scream, the shedding of cultural inhibition (second issue of Albatros) that Uri Zvi Grinberg moves toward a new phase of cultural-political insight.
ALBATROS 2, Warsaw, November 1922
So violent was Uri Zvi Grinberg's imagery against the West, and his blasphemies against Christ, in Albatros 2, that he was accused of blasphemy "got-lesterung" by the Polish government, for particularly his prose poem Royte epl fun veybeymer (Red Apples from the Trees of Pain). Albatros 2, was quicly banned by the Polish censors and Uri Zvi Grinberg fled to Berlin.
Uri Zvi Grinberg's own contributions to the second issue are: Der mentsh shrayt; Uri Zvi farn tseylem INRI, and Royte epl fun veybeymer.
Marek Shwartz' title page, a linoleum-cut, is a commanding portrayal of Expressionist textures.
1. Der mensh shrayt (p.2) -(The Man Screams/cries)
Der mensh shrayt has strong affinities to Neo-primitivistic Expressionism and is bound up with the Expressionist Cry:
We ourselves have to become barbarians to save the future of humanity from mankind as it now is. As primitive man, driven by fear of nature, sought refuge within himself, so er too have to adopt flight from a "civilization" which is out to devour our souls. The Savage discovered in himself the courage to become greater than the threat of nature, and in honour of this mysterious inner redeeming power of his, which, through all the alarms and terrors of storm and of ravening beasts and unknown dangers, never deserted him ............. . So, brought very near the edge of destruction by "civilization", we discover in ourselves powers which cannot be destroyed. .... Expressionism is the symbol of the unknown in us which we confide, hoping that it will save us. It is the token of the imprisoned spirit that endeavours to break out of the dungeon - ....
Hostility to modern society and the artistic forms that reflect its assumptions, links Expressionism to primitivism. And the avant-garde's/Expressionism's exalting of the unconscious, and emotional side of human nature, provides an antidote to a civilization that almost exclusively emphasizes the rational and intellectual.
The notion that the alienated subject is trapped in an intolerably uncertain universe represents one extreme of the Expressionist conception of man. It attains its most forceful expression in that notorious scream which condenses into a single, utterly emphatic utterance the full weight of Expressionist emotion.
Edward Munch's (1863-1944) famous and influential painting of this title Skriket (1893) (The Scream/ Cry/Shriek) is one of the key images of Expressionist art. It comes sharply into focus in the description of the art historian Peter Selz:
A writhing figure emerges from the picture plane, and its convulted form is repeated throughout the landscape in the sinous line of the shore and the equivalent rhythm of the clouds. This curved line is strongly emphasized by its contrast to the straight, rapid diagonal cutting through the imaginary space of the painting. The cry that the central figure seems to be uttering pervades the landscape like a stone creating centrifugal ripples in water ...these lines make the human figure merge with the landscape to express a total anxiety that evokes an immediate response from the observer.
Disorientation in der mensh shrayt is absolute. The subject can establish no foothold in a space which shifts and writhes about him. He is crowling in a dream state in a terror-stricken realm in which there is none to answer his chocked cry. Uri Zvi Grinberg attempts to expose, or "open" in the text, the gates to the forces of the irrational and to the darker regions of the mind, to the most primitive levels of human consciousness:
The days are screaming/shrieking in their bright madness unto hoarseness, finally choked in their bleeding sun..... In the dwellings fear is lurking, the terror of the nights. The space is vaporous with sleep and in the sleep bright moon's rings are turning round. Green snakes are coming from the ancient mountains' rock's clefts, crowds of snakes are crowling
through the sleep - - the nerves-system trembles. Nerves are becoming railway lines. From all distances locomotives are running. And the blood(s) flow(s) from all the veins: becoming rivers ....
Uri Zvi Grinberg uses quasi-nythical material, returning to the prehistoric "roots" of man-Adam, the uncivilized, together with present material - industrial urban civilization, materialistic, technological, repressive sexuality, nihil God:
Across the entire globe a roar is on the go, as in Adam's first day of pain. The man stands naked and sees himself: without fig-leaves. Not a heart, a little stream on the left, is the cave of longing, the cave of feeling. Only bones, all the bones. Longing, feeling, yearning. Veins scream through the body. Blood boils. It has learned the rhythm from the seas. In the brains rises the sunken primeval-world. He howls the Adam
of ancient, a slice of the chaos:
My wife by marriage has become a whore, wants that I shall empty the semen that procreates children on her belly, that her womb shall not be
To other males she says the same, the others obey her ..
A world of unborn babies weeps in my nights of anguish.
Foam on my lips, gnawn by sin; I am not touching the heaven with them. I'm not kissing
the parokhet (Curtain in front of Ark of Covenant, in synagogue).
With every bite of bread I devour God.
With every mouthful water I drink hatred.
With every breath of air revulsion comes into my palate.
where to, the gait in the days and where to, the going-to-sleep on beds in the nights?
And the head on the shoulders glows. By no means is it possible to remove it from the shoulders and throw it like a pot with brain on the stones of the street.
The Eyfal Tower dries up. It does not want to stand: frozen and stretched out. It wants to fall!
To become dust! And so are other towers desirous of.
The giant-Wheel in Wien groans. Wien sleeps in the night. Wien fornicates by night.
Every morning New York's chimneys hum, crying/screaming with smoke, and the clouds
demand: more. Thus the chimneys are crying every where.
And some cubits deeper in the earth of the entire globe are lying millions by millions corpses: Adam's sons, Eva's daughters; and the worms have food eternally, and the worms are creeping. Earth, and man is going,the naked man is going, foam on his lips, flames in his eyes. In front of him walks the heroic scream to the threshold of the world - -
Man believes, that the millions of bones in the earth are feeling the pain.
So underground is he.
So dark is he.
So infinite is the earth.
The man cries: What is happening to me here?!
Uri Zvi Grinberg did not share at this phase* the Futurist cult of the scientific and did not translate it into poetic myth, nor did he share the fascination of global possibilities of communication or Marinetti's, Appolinaire's, Mayakovsky's glorification and enthusiam of the city.
Although concerned with the Eiffel Tower the master-image of culture at that time and the great, turning Wheel that electrified many avant-gardistes Uri Zvi Grinberg avoided the Futurist vocabulary, in which the Eiffel Tower is figuring as the symbol of the new sensibility, as a powerful image of modernity, a prophet of the future. For Uri Zvi Grinberg the Eiffel Tower is a condenser of anxiety doomed to collapse.
The very world had become poisoned and deformed in terms of malaise, neurosis, nihilism. Reality was, so to speak, mutilated, and it needed a fresh vision to redeem it. The barbarism of Western civilization and the suffering of the Jewish people could not longer be ignored:
“We do not want to carry the dark globe on our back yet six thousind years!”
2. Uri Zvi farn tseylem INRI (pp.3-4) - (Uri Zvi in Front the Cross INRI)
The physical arrangement of the printed page is striking by the graphic scansion of the words printed in the form of a cross Actually a manipulation of traditional iconography of the cross as symbolic of the suffering of Christ. The cross-motif, rendered concrete by the poem's cross shape, expresses Grinberg's dawning soidarity with Jesus, the martyred Jew.
At the beginning of the century the figure of Christ beame an object of sympathetic contemplation as a new relationship emerged, conditioned by historical insight and enlightment;artists dealt in a secular way with ideas hitherto repressed or forbidden. Christ is adressed as a brother who will in the future return to his people, wrapped in the traditional prayer shawl.The church and cross motifs that were prominent among Yiddish Expressionists, manifesting a kind of oblique solidarity with Jesus, the symbol of Jewish suffering.
In his book Against the Apocalypse David G. Roskies points out that the “neglected realm of Christianity” becomes for Yiddish artists “as valid a source of inspiration as hasidic folklore and haiku”. And states:
For all their radicalism, Yiddish writers culd not have broken the Jesus taboo had it not been for prior developments in Christian Europe: the various attempts to modernize and dechristianize Jesus that had been gathering momentum since the Enlightment, and the strict separation of the Man from the Church. ..... The separation of the Man from the Church
allowed Jewish writers to disentangle the historical and human Jesus from the horrors later perpetrated in his name. The hope for universal redemption could be linked to the suffering man on the cross only if he was dissociated from the Crusades, blood libels, ghettos, and auto-da-fés.
The relationship to Chrisianity, and challenging Christianity and the West for the ownership of Christ on the cross begins with Uri Zvi farn tseylem to surpass the importance of every other theme. Uri Zvi Grinberg's apocalyptic imagery is now fused with the cross-motif "that has become established as a modern expression of the traditional Jewish apocalyptic symbolism of destruction and exile as the emblem of the cyclical course of Jewish history.
In death, Jesus was of limited use to Uri Zvi Grinberg as a Jewish symbol. So long as he remained nailed to the cross, Jesus was deaf and blind to the call of Jewish history. To make him unswerable to the call, Grinberg challenged him outright in an outrageous gesture.
Adressing himself to brother Jesus he speaks thus:
- - How come I am one of the pained caravan,
who is not hanging next to you on a village-like pole
by a cross-road, sun is drying me, night is bending over me? |
Your brother, behold, my body's bones. My spiral chord: In the world's- light- at-sunrise I'm transparent. Suffering purify. | Day is bronze. Night is ink. Dumb like you I'm in the daytime. (I can't carry the burden of bronze on my head and eyes). But at night the deep water's allusion is pulling me: to sink, ah - - to over the head . Around are walls. A three-storied building and dead streets of a church-town. I twist, brother Jesus, a twist of Jewish skin and bones (two thousand years after you. Ancient!) And my lips are cracking: Red wound in the darkness - - My voice is going like a snake, flashing: Alas! From the blood - - | You want to sever from the pole when singing rain falls, trees drop leaves. You
are wailing loudly. Forests are crying. The world hangs it self for you - and you - on everyones woe-nights - are crying, crying, a cry- of-Jewish-calamity - - Do you remember, brother, the holy village Bet-Lehem? Do you remember your meeting with Miriam (Mary) on a Galilean field-way: A pitcher with anointing oil. Her curls on your feet. A white Hebrew mantle on your body and a sky-blur girdle on your loins. Damn it. It is possible: You don't remember longer. So many thousands of bells-bells are ringing. So many mad prayer-voices and a bloody Latin INRI above the brain. - - But why does your look turn to heaven waiting to moan: My God my god why have you forsaken me? But sometimes I stand during a rosecoloured Minhah-time (afternoon), sunset. Damn it, my father trembles in the robe, trembles with holiness and draws with his thirsty eyes the grief of a declining-day-world. But my father waits for the rise of the stars. For Sanctification of
New Moon. I - - not. I'm standing: A cloud, (sun)set in my body, and I'm thinking (sun)setting-wise unto my weeping blood, while it is flowing thus: You have become inanimate. Brother Jesus. You have two thousand years of tranquility on the cross. All around you the world expires. Damn it, you have forgotten everything. Your petrified brain can't think: a Star of David at your head, over the star - hands in priestly blesing. Under them date-palm-olive and ethrog gardens. - Petrified eyes don't see: at your feet: a heap of hewn Jewish-heads. Torn Talliths. Pierced parchments. White linen with blood-stains.
And above all that - a he-drunkard with a she-drunkard. They have putrid gums. Slavering mouths - disgusting and detesting. Snow. Frost. Petrified Hebrew-sorrow. Primeval-Jewish-pain. Golgotha, brother, you don't see. Golgotha is here: Around-around. Pilatus is alive. And in Rome they are saying Psalms in the churches - -
I would've brought you glowing embers on a fire-pan: in an emptied skull of a Jewish-head. In order to warm your feet, the frozen - . But a thought occurs in my mind: I've slaughtered brothers. I've broders in the Red Biryonim*-army. And I've young brothers who are planting eucalyptus(es) in Haderah's swamps. Malaria devours them. Jackals'-wail.
But they have a sea. They have mountains and the Kinneret is certainly - Kinneret. Not (the) Vistula - - Damn it. I've brothers at the Vistula ... What shall I tell about them? A moon on the Vistula. Boats anchor alongside the coast. Ships sail. Not my ships - - all over the world's waters ships are carrying my brothers - -
Snow. Frost. Freezing. Petrified Hebrew-sorrow. Primeval-Jewish-pain. You have become
inanimate, you have tranquility on the cross.
I - not. Not I - -
How come I am one of these pained recluses,who is not hanging next to you on a village- like pole by a cross-road?
Why is there no solar-eclipse? - - Jesus is blind to the signs of his Jewishness and inanimated to the screaming agonies of
Golgotha is here - all around, (Pilatus is alive.)
But Jesus Hangs indifferent , unmoved on the cross.
Against the nightmare world of the Church and the theological Christ, Uri Zvi Grinberg sets Jesus - the Jewish -historical-religious-national, as emblem of possible renewal and hope.
(TO BE CONTINUED ln Vol.19)