The Renascence of Hebrew Literature (1743-1885)
by Nahum Slouschz
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"All, both young and old, gird on the sword, greedier for prey than the beasts of the forest; they all cry for liberty, the wise and the boors; the fury of the battle rages like the billows of the stormy sea....

"Not thus the servants of God, the valiant of His host. They do battle day and night with their evil inclinations. Patiently they bear the yoke of their Rock, and increase cometh to their strength. My Friend is like a hart, like a sportive gazelle.

"He will sound the great trumpet to summon the Deliverer; the righteous Sprout shall grow forth from the earth. Their Rock will soothe their pain, He will repair every breach. The Lord reigneth, and the earth rejoiceth aloud."

Rachel's finest poem is without a doubt the one named 'Emek 'Akor ("The Dark Valley") in which she affirms her steadfast faith in the truths and consolations of religion:

"O dark valley, covered with night and mist, how long wilt thou keep me bound with thy chains? Better to die and abide under the shadow of the Almighty, than sit desolate in the seething waters."

"I discern them from afar, the hills of eternity, their ever- enduring summits clothed with garlands of bloom. O that I might rise on wings like the eagle, fly upward with my eyes, and raise my countenance and gaze into the heart of the sun!

"O Heaven, how beautiful are thy paths, they lead to where liberty reigneth ever. How gentle the zephyrs wafted over thy heights, who hath words to tell?"

The same mystic note struck by Rachel Morpurgo recurs in the works of other Italian writers of the time. It distinguishes them strikingly from their contemporaries in Galicia and Russia, who proclaim themselves almost without exception the followers of a relentless rationalism.

* * * * *

Unquestionably the most original of all these writers, and the one who occupied the most prominent and influential place, is Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-1865). He was born at Triest, the son of a carpenter, a poor man, but none the less educated and respected. The childhood years of Luzzatto were passed in poverty and study. He emerged a conqueror from the struggle for life and knowledge. As early as 1829 he was appointed rector of the Rabbinical Seminary at Padua. Thereafter he could devote himself without hindrance to science and the education of disciples, many of whom became celebrated.

Luzzatto's learning was vast in extent and as thorough. Besides, he possessed literary taste and modern culture. In his southern temperament, feeling had the upper hand of reason. He was an indefatigable worker, his mind was always actively alert. Versed alike in philology, archaeology, poetry, and philosophy, he was productive in each of these departments, without ever laying himself open to the charge of mediocrity. He was the creator of the Science of Judaism in the Italian language, but above all he was a Hebrew writer.

He published excellent editions of the Hebrew masters of the Middle Ages, for the first time bringing to the doors of readers, scholarly readers as well as others, the works of such poets as Jehudah Halevi (Prague, 1840). The notes in these editions of his are ingenious and scientific. His own verses and poems are wholly devoid of inspiration and fancy, but in form and style they are irreproachable. [Footnote: Kinnor Na'im ("The Sweet Lyre"), Vienna, 1835, and others.] His prose is vigorous and precise, at the same time preserving some of the Oriental charm native to the Hebrew.

His chief distinction is that he was a romantic Jew. His patriotic heart was chilled by the attacks upon the Jewish religion and upon Jewish nationalism by the German and Galician humanists. He was hostile to rationalism, and opposed it all his life. In his sight, science, the importance of which he in no degree denied, was yet not equal in value to religious feeling. This alone, he held, is able to establish morality in a position of supremacy.

S. Bernfeld, in his sketch of Rapoport, considers it a surprising anachronism that this romanticist, this Jewish Chateaubriand, should have appeared on the scene at the very moment of the triumph of rationalism in Hebrew letters everywhere. [Footnote: Warsaw and Berlin, 1899] Luzzatto was the first among Hebrew humanists to claim the right of existence not only for Jewish nationality, but also for the Jewish religion in its integrity.

"A people in possession of a land of its own can maintain itself, even without a religion of its own. But the Jewish people, dispersed in all four corners of the earth, can maintain itself only by virtue, of its attachment to its faith. And if, heaven forbid, it should cease to believe in revelation, it must inevitably be assimilated with the other peoples.... The science of Judaism, with which some scholars are at present occupying themselves in Germany, cannot preserve Judaism. [1] It is not an object in itself to them. When all is said, Goethe and Schiller are more important to these gentlemen, and much dearer to them, than all the prophets and all the Rabbis of the Talmud. They pursue the Science of Judaism pretty much as others study Egyptology or Assyriology, or the lore of Persia. They are inspired by a love of science, by the desire for personal renown, or, at best, by the intention to attach glory to the name of Israel, and they extol certain old works for the purpose of hastening the first redemption, that is, the political emancipation of the Jews. But this Science of Judaism has no stability. It cannot survive the emancipation of the Jews, or the death of those who studied the Torah and believed in God and Moses before they took lessons of Eichhorn and his disciples."

"The true Science of Judaism, the science which will last as long as time itself, is that which is founded on the faith; which endeavors to understand the Bible as a Divine work, and the history of a peculiar people whose lot has been peculiar; which, finally, dwells upon those moments in the various epochs of Jewish history when the innate genius of Judaism wages a conflict with the genius of humanity in general, as it lies in wait without, and how the Divine spirit of Judaism mastered the spirit of humanity throughout all the centuries. For the day on which the positions shall be reversed, and the spirit of humanity shall remain in possession of the field, that day will be the last in the life of the people of Israel."

[Footnote 1: Jost, in his "History of the Jewish People", etc.]

This conception of the providential role assigned to Israel is the point at which the Italian romanticist meets Krochmal, wide apart though their starting-places are. At bottom both do but interpret the ancient notion of the Divine selection of Israel and of a "chosen people". But while Krochmal regards religion as a fleeting phase in the existence of the nation, for Luzzatto religion is an essential element in Judaism, a view not unlike Bossuet's. However, it does not lead him astray. He still tries to harmonize faith with the demands of the modern spirit. The Jewish religion is in his opinion the moral doctrine par excellence. Like Heine he takes the world to be dominated by two opposite forces, Hellenism and Hebraism. Justice, truth, the good, and self-abnegation, whatever appertains to these is Jewish. The beautiful, the rational, the sensuous, is Attic. Luzzatto does not hesitate to criticise the masters of the Middle Ages rather sharply, chief among them Maimonides, who attempted the impossible when he endeavored to harmonize science and faith, reason and feeling, Moses and Aristotle. These are the irreconcilable oppositions in human life.

"Science does not make us happy; the highest morality alone is capable of conferring true happiness upon us, and spiritual peace. And this morality is to be found not with Aristotle, but only with the prophets of Israel.

"The happiness of the Jewish people, the people of morality, does not depend upon its political emancipation, but upon its faith and its morality. The French and German Rabbis of the Middle Ages, simple-minded and uncultured, but pious and sincere, are preferable to the speculative minds of Spain, whose arguing and rhetoric warped their judgment."

Such ideas as these involved Luzzatto in discussions and polemics with the greater number of his friends, the German Jewish scholars, whose views were far removed from his. He defied his contemporaries, as he attacked the masters of the Middle Ages. In one of his letters he goes to the length of asserting, that while Jost and his colleagues were engaged in what they believed to be the useful work of defending Judaism against its enemies, they were in reality doing it more harm than these same enemies. The latter tended to preserve the Jewish people as a nation apart, while the rationalistic criticism of the former, directed against the Jewish religion, burst the bonds that hold the nation together, and hasten its dissolution.

"When, my dear German scholars", he cries out vehemently, "when will the Lord open your eyes? How long will you fail to understand that, carried away by the general current, you are permitting national feeling to become extinct and the language of our ancestors to fall into desuetude, and are thus preparing the way for the triumphant invasion of Atticism.... So long as you do not teach that the Good is not that which is visible to the eyes, but that which is felt within the heart, and that the prosperity of our people is not dependent upon civil emancipation, but upon the love of a man for his neighbor, ... their hearts will not be possessed with zeal for God." [Footnote: Letters, I, No. 267, p. 660.]

Luzzatto has no fondness for dry dogmatism, nor for detailed prohibitions and Rabbinic controversies. He is too modern for that, too much of a poet. What he loves is the poetry of religion. He is attracted by its moral elevation. Like Jehudah Halevi, the sentimental philosopher whose successor he is, Luzzatto feels and thinks in the peculiar fashion that distinguishes the intuitive minds among the Jews. He loves his native country, and this love appears clearly in his writings, yet, at the same time, they all, whether in prose, as in his Letters, or in verse, as in the Kinnor Na'im, sound a Zionistic note.

* * * * *

Luzzatto became the founder of a school. Writers of our own day, like Vittorio Castiglioni, Eude Lolli, and others, draw upon the works of the master as a source, and they acknowledge it openly. His philological and linguistic works, the Bet ha-Ozar among others, have inestimable value, and his Letters, published by Graber in five volumes, the edition from which most of the passages cited have been taken, abundantly prove his influence on his contemporaries.

He was a master and a prophet, a gracious and brilliant exponent of the Renascence of Hebrew literature, which had been inaugurated by one of his ancestors, another Luzzatto.

A century of efforts and uninterrupted labor had wrought the resurrection of the Hebrew language. After it had been transformed into a modern tongue, in touch with all departments of thought, the sole remaining task was to make it acceptable to the masses of the orthodox Jews, and use it as an effective instrument of social and religious emancipation. This task became easy of accomplishment because Luzzatto knew how to direct the mind of his contemporaries. He found the key to the heart of the masses.

A message in verse addressed to him by a young Lithuanian poet, in 1857, gives an eloquent interpretation of the sentiment felt for the Italian maestro by the devotees of a budding school of literature:

"From the icy north country, where the flowers and the sun endure but a few short moons, these halting lines speed with their greeting away from the hoar frost, to the eloquent sage in the southland, enthroned among the wise and extolled by the pious—to the gentle guide whose heart burns, like the sun of his own fair land, with love for the people whence he was hewn, and for the tongue of the Jews." [Footnote: Poems, by J. L. Gordon, St. Petersburg, 1884, I, p. 125.]

The "icy north country" was Lithuania, in which the literary movement had just effected a triumphal entry, bringing with it the light of science, and the young poet was Judah Leon Gordon, destined to become the greatest Jewish poet of the nineteenth century.

* * * * *

Here we arrive at the end of the first part of our essay, devoted in particular to Hebrew literature in Western Europe. For its future we must look to the East.

* * * * *




We are in the Jewish country, perhaps the only Jewish country in the world. [Footnote: See Slouschz, Massa' be-Lita ("Journey through Lithuania"), Jerusalem, 1899.]

The last to participate in the intellectual movement of European Judaism, the Lithuanian Jews start into view, in the second half of the seventeenth century, as a peculiar social organism, clearly marked as such from its first appearance. The Rabbis and scholars of Lithuania acquired fame without a struggle, and its Rabbinical schools quickly became the busy centres of Talmudic research.

The destinies of the Jewish population of Lithuania, so different in character from that of Poland proper, were ruled absolutely by the "Synod of the Four Countries", with Brest, and afterwards Wilna, as headquarters.

The revolutions and upheavals to which is due the social and religious decadence of the Polish Jews during the eighteenth century, barely touched this forsaken corner of the earth. Even the Cossack invasion dealt leniently with Lithuania, if the city of Wilna is excepted, and its early annexation by Russia saved the province from the anarchy and excitement which agitated Poland during its latter days.

Left to their fate, neglected by the authorities, and forming almost the whole of the urban population, the Jews of Lithuania, in the full glare of the eighteenth century, were in all essentials an autonomous community with Jewish national and theocratic features. The Talmud did service as their civil and religious code. The court of final appeal was a Rabbinical expert, supported by the central synod and the local Kahal, and exercising absolute authority over the moral and material interests of those subordinated to his jurisdiction. The study of the Law was carried to the extreme of devotion. To have an illiterate, an 'Am ha-Arez, a "rustic", in one's family, was considered a pitiable fate.

Lithuania, in fine, was the promised land of Rabbinism, in which everything favored the development of a national Jewish centre.

The natural poverty of the country, its barren soil, dense forests, and lack of populous centres of civilization, all tended to keep the Polish lords aloof. Poland offered them a more inviting sojourn. There was nothing to hinder the pious scholars who had escaped from religious persecution in the countries of Europe, especially France and Germany, from devoting themselves, with all their heart and energy, to the study of the Talmud and the ceremonials of their religion. No infusion of aliens disturbed them. The inhospitable skies, the absence of diversions, little troubled the refugees of the ghetto, for whom the Book and the dead letter were all-sufficing. They were not affected, their dignity was hardly wounded, by the haughty and arbitrary treatment which the nobleman accorded to the Jewish "factor" and steward, and by the many humiliations which were the price paid in return for the right to live, for without the protection of the lords they would not have been able to hold out against the wretched orthodox peasants. In morality and in race, however, they considered themselves the superior of the "Poriz", the Polish nobleman, with his extravagance and folly.

In the villages, the Jews had the upper hand, either as the actual owners of the estates, or as the overseers, and in the rude cities with their wooden buildings, they constituted the bulk of the merchants, the middlemen, the artisans, even the workmen. They all led a sordid life. Mere existence required a bitter struggle. Destitute of all pleasures save the intimate joys of family life, fostering no ambition except such as was connected with the study of the Law, disciplined by religious authority, and chastened by austere and rigid principles of morality, the Jewish masses had a peculiar stamp impressed upon their character by their life of subjection and misery. The mind was constantly kept alert by the dialectics of the Talmud and the ingenious efforts needed to secure one's daily bread. Even the Messianic dreams, inspired by a belief in Divine justice and in the moral and religious superiority of Israel, rather than by a mystic conception of life, gave but a faint touch of beauty and glamour to an existence so mournful, so abjectly sad.

Such was, and such in part is still, the manner in which they live—a sober, energetic, melancholy, and subtle people, the mass of the two millions of Jews who reside in Lithuania and White Russia, and send forth, to the great capitals of Europe and to the countries beyond seas, a stream of industrious immigrants, resourceful intellectually and morally.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, thanks to the peace with which Lithuania was blessed after its subjection by Russia, Rabbinical studies reached their zenith. The high schools, the Yeshibot, became the centres of attraction for the best of the young men. The number of writers and scholars increased considerably, and the Hebrew printing presses were kept in full blast. The ideal of every Lithuanian Jew was, if not to marry his daughter to a scholar, at least to have a Bahur at his table, a student of the Talmud, a prospective Rabbi. "The Torah is the best Sehorah" ("merchandise"), every Lithuanian mother croons at the cradle of her child.

In those days a Rabbinic authority arose like unto whom none had been known among Jews in the later centuries, and his earnest, independent genius, as well as his moral grandeur, conferred a consecration upon the peculiar spiritual tendencies prevailing in Lithuanian Judaism, which he personified at its loftiest. Elijah of Wilna, surnamed "the Gaon", "his Excellency", succeeded in resisting the assaults of Hasidism, which threatened to overwhelm, if not the learned among them, certainly the Lithuanian masses. To parry the dangers of mysticism, which exercised so powerful an attraction that the dry and subtle casuistry of Rabbinic learning could not damp its ardor, he broke with scholastic methods, and took up a comparatively rational interpretation of texts and the laws. He went to the extreme of asserting the value of profane and practical knowledge, the pursuit of which could not but bring advantage to the study of the Law—a position unheard of at his day, and excusable only in so popular a man as he was. He himself wrote a treatise on mathematics, and philologic research was a favorite occupation with him. His pupils followed his example; they translated several scientific works into Hebrew, and founded schools and centres of puritanism, not only in Lithuania, but also as far away as Palestine. From this time on the Yeshibah of Wolosin became the chief seat of traditional Talmud study and Rabbinic rationalism.

One of the contemporaries of "the Gaon" was the physician Judah Hurwitz, of Wilna, who opposed Hasidism in his pamphlet Megillat Sedarim ("A Book of Essays"), and in his ethical work Ammude Bet-Yehudah ("The Pillars of the House of Judah ", Prague, 1793), he pleads the cause of internationalism and the equality of men and races!

It would be rash to suppose that an echo of the studies of the Encyclopedists had reached a province double-barred and double-locked by politics and religion. The European languages were unknown in the Lithuanian Jewries of the Gaon's day, and his pupils sought their mental pabulum in the writings of the Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages, Maimonides, and Albo, and their compeers. The result was an odd, whimsical science. False, antiquated notions and theories were introduced through the medium of the Hebrew, and they attained no slight vogue. At the end of the eighteenth century, a certain Elias, a Rabbi, also of Wilna, undertook to gather all the facts of science into one collection. He compiled a curious encyclopedia, the Sefer ha- Berit ("The Book of the Covenant"). By the side of geographic details of the most fantastic sort, he set down chemical discoveries and physical laws in the form of magical formulas. This book, by no means the only one of its kind, was reprinted many a time, and in our own day it still affords delight to orthodox readers.

A long time passed before the Russian government took note of the intellectual condition of its Jewish subjects, who, in turn, asked nothing better than to be left undisturbed. Nevertheless, the treatment accorded them by the government was not calculated to inspire them with great confidence in it. As for a Russification of the Jewish masses, there could be no question of that, at a time when Russian civilization and language were themselves in an embryonic state.

It was only when the first Alexander came to the throne that the reforms planned by the government began to make an impression upon the distant ghetto. A special commission was instituted for the purpose of studying the conditions under which the Jews were living, and how to ameliorate them materially and intellectually. The first close contact between Jews and Russians took place in the little town of Shklow, inhabited almost entirely by Jews. It was an important station on the route from the capital to Western Europe, and the Jews were afforded an opportunity of entering into relations with men of mark, both Russians and strangers, who passed through on their way to St. Petersburg. [Footnote: As early as 1780 a Hebrew ode was published on the occasion of Empress Catherine II's passing through Shklow. A printing press was set up there about 1777, and it was at Shklow that a litterateur, N. H. Schulmann, made the first attempt to found a weekly political journal in Hebrew, announcing it in his edition of the Zeker Rab.] A circle of literary men under the influence of the Meassefim was founded there, and a curious literary document issued thence testifies to the hopes aroused by the reform projects planned in the reign of Alexander I for the improvement of the condition of the Jews. It is a pamphlet bearing the title Kol Shaw'at Bat-Yehudah, or Sinat ha-Dat ("The Loud Voice of the Daughter of Judah", or "Religious Hatred"), and published, in Shklow in 1803, in Hebrew and Russian. The author, whose name was Lob Nevakhovich, protests energetically, in behalf of truth and humanity, against the contemptuous treatment accorded the Jews. [Footnote: Grandfather of the well-known scholar E. Metchnikoff, of the Pasteur Institute.]

"Ah, ye Christians, men of the newer faith, who vaunt your mercy and lovingkindness! Exercise your mercy upon us, turn your loving hearts toward us. Why do you scorn the Jew? If he forsakes his faith, how doth it profit you? Have you not heard the voice of Moses Mendelssohn, the celebrated writer of our people, who asked your co-religionists, 'Of what avail that you should continue to attach men lacking faith and religion to yourselves'? Can you not understand that the Jew, too, loves righteousness and justice like unto yourselves? Why do you constantly scrutinize the man to find the Jew in him? Seek but the man in the Jew, and you will surely find him!"

Like so many that have followed, this first appeal awakened no answering echo in Russian hearts. A century has passed since then, and Russia still fails to find the man in the unconverted Jew!

The hopes aroused in the Jews of Lithuania by the Napoleonic wars were disappointed. An iron hand held them down, and they continued to vegetate miserably in their gloomy, abandoned corner.

* * * * *

The story goes that when Napoleon at the head of the grande armee entered Wilna, the exclamation was forced from him, "Why, this is the Jerusalem of Lithuania!" Whether the story is true or not, it is a fact that no other city was more deserving of the epithet. The residence of the Gaon was a Jewish metropolis as early as the eighteenth century, and during the whole of the nineteenth century Wilna was the Jewish city par excellence, a distinction to which it was helped by several facts—by the systematic and intentional elimination of the Polish element, especially since the insurrection of 1831, by the prohibition of the Polish language, the closing of the university, and the absence of a Lithuanian population. The dethroned capital of a people betrayed by its nobility became, after its abandonment by the native inhabitants, the centre of a Jewry independent of its surroundings and undisturbed in its internal development. Without in the least deviating from Rabbinic traditions, its constitutional platform, Jewish society in Wilna was gradually penetrated by modern ideas.

The humanism of the German Jews, the Haskalah, met with no effective resistance in a comparatively enlightened world, prepared for it by the school of the Gaon. The Rabbinical students themselves were the first representatives of humanism in Lithuania. They became as ambitious in cultivating the Hebrew language and studying the secular sciences presented in it, as in searching out and examining the Talmud. Sprung from the people, living its life and sharing in its miseries, separated from Christian society by a barrier of prescriptions that seemed insuperable to them, the earliest of the Lithuanian litterateurs vitalized their young love for science and Hebrew letters with the disinterested devotion that characterizes the idealists of the ghetto in general.

A literary circle, known as the "Berliners", was formed in Wilna, about 1830. It was the pattern after which a large number were modelled a little later, all of them pursuing Hebrew literature with zeal and ardor.

Two writers of worth, both from Wilna, the one a poet, the other a prose writer, headed the literary procession in Lithuania.

Abraham Bar Lebensohn (Adam ha-Kohen, 1794-1880), surnamed the "father of poetry", was born at Wilna. He spent a sad childhood. Left motherless early, he was deprived of the love and the care that are the only consolations known to a child of the ghetto. At the age of three, he was sent to the Heder, at seven he was a student of the Talmud, then casuistry occupied his mind, and, finally, the Kabbalah. The last had but feeble attractions for the future poet. His mental mould was determined by his thorough study of the Bible and Hebrew grammar, which was good form in Wilna as early as his day, and the works of Wessely, for whom he always professed warm admiration, had a decided influence upon his poetic bias.

In his first attempts at poetry, Lebensohn did not depart greatly from the achievements of the many Rabbinical students whose favorite pastime was to discuss the events of the day in Hebrew verse. An elegy to the memory of a Rabbi, an ode celebrating the equivocal glory of a Polish nobleman, and similar subjects, were the natural choice of the muse of the era, and the early flights of our author were not different. There was nothing in them to betray the future poet of merit. A little later he took up the study of German, but his knowledge of the language was never more than superficial. Haunted by the fame of Schiller, he devoted himself to poetry, and imitated the German poets, or tried to imitate them, for he never succeeded in grasping the true meaning of German poetry, nor in understanding erotic literature. To the Rabbinical student, with his puritanic spirit and austere manners, it was a collocation of poetic figures of speech and symbolic expressions.

His life differed in no wise from that of the poor Jews of the ghetto. Given in marriage early by his father, he suddenly found himself deep in the bitter struggle for existence, before he had known the transport of living, or youth, or the passions, or love, or the inner doubts and beliefs that contend with one another in the heart of man. Feeling for nature, aesthetic delights, were strange provinces to this son of the ghetto. A conception of art that is destitute of a moral aim would have passed his understanding and his puritanic horizon. Too much of a free- thinker to follow the Rabbinical profession, he taught Hebrew to children—an unremunerative occupation, and little respected in a society in which the most ignorant are not uninstructed, and in which, the choice of vocations being restricted, the unsuccessful and the unskilled naturally drop into teaching. Ten years of it, daily from eight in the morning until nine at night, undermined his health. He fell sick, and was compelled to give up his hap-hazard calling, to the great gain of Hebrew poetry. He went into the brokerage business, and his small leisure he devoted to his muse. Harassed by petty, sordid cares, this broker was yet a genuine idealist, though it cannot be maintained that Lebensohn was of the stuff of which dreamers are made and great poets. But in his mind, rationalistic and logical to the point of dryness, there was a secluded recess pervaded with melancholy and real feeling. The Hebrew language he cherished with ardent and exalted love. Is it not a beautiful language and admirable? Is it not the last relic saved from the shipwreck in which all the national possessions of our people were lost? And is not he, Lebensohn himself, the heir to the prophets, the poet laureate and high priest to the holy language? With what pride he unveils the state of his soul to us:

"I am seated at the table of God, and with my hand I guide His pen; and my hand writes the language holy unto Him, the language of His Law, the language of His people, Selah! O God, arouse, awake my spirit, for is it not Thy holy language wherein I sing unto Thee?" [Footnote: Shire Sefat Kodesh, II, i.]

A creature of his surroundings, and a disciple of the Rabbis, as he was, the dialectics of a logician were in him joined to native simplicity of spirit, yet he never reached the point of understanding the inner world of struggles and passions that agitate the individual lives of men. For a love song or a poem in praise of nature, he thought it necessary only to copy the German authors and link together a series of pointed verses. The poem "David and Bath-sheba" is a failure. His descriptions of nature are dry and artificial. He was never able to account for what was happening under his eyes and around him. Events produced an effect upon him out of all proportion to their importance. The military and civic reforms of Nicholas I, he celebrated in an ode, in which he applied the enthusiastic praise "Henceforth Israel will see only good!" to regulations that were wholly prejudicial to Jewish interests. When some Jewish banker or other was appointed consul-general in the Orient, he welcomed the occurrence in dithyrambic verses, dedicated to the poor fellow in the name of the Jews of Lithuania and White Russia. But whenever the heart of our poet beats in unison with the sentiments of his Jewish brethren, whenever he surrenders himself to the sadness, the peculiar melancholy, that pervades Jewish relations, then he attains to moral heights and lyric vigor unsurpassed. In his three volumes of poetry, by the side of numerous worthless pieces, we meet many gems of style and thought. The distressed cry of humanity against the wretchedness under which it staggers, the sorrowful protest man makes against the lack of compassion he encounters in his fellow, his obstinate refusal to understand the implacable cruelty of nature when she snatches his dearest from him, and his impotence in the presence of death—these are the subjects that have inspired Lebensohn's best efforts. He insists constantly, Is not pity the daughter of heaven? Do we not find her among beasts even, and among reptiles? Man alone is a stranger to her, and he makes himself the tyrant of his neighbor.

But it is not man alone who refuses to know this daughter of heaven, Nature denies pity, too, and shows herself relentless:

"O world! House of mourning, valley of weeping! Thy rivers are tears, and thy soil ashes. Upon thy surface thou bearest men that mourn, and in thy bowels the corpses of the dead.... From out of the mountains covered with snow and ice comes forth a chariot with none to guide. Within sits man and the wife of his bosom, beautiful as a flower, and at their knees play sweet children. Alas! a caravan of the dead simulating life! They journey on, and they go astray, and perish on the icy fields."

Distress round about, and all hopes collapsed, death hovers apart, yet near, remorseless, threatening, and in the end victorious.

In another poem, entitled "The Weeping Woman", his subject is pity again. He cries out:

"Thy enemy [cruelty] is stronger than thou. If thou art a burning fire, she is a current of icy water!... Alas for thee, O pity! Where is he that will have pity upon thee?"

With a few vigorous strokes, the Hebrew poet describes the nothingness of man in the face of the vast world. The lot of the Hamlets and of the Renes is more enviable than that of the "Mourner" of the ghetto. They at least taste of life before becoming a prey to melancholy and delivering themselves up to pessimism. They know the charms of living and its vexations. The disappointed son of the ghetto lays no stress on gratifications and pleasures. In the name of the supreme moral law he sets himself up for a pessimistic philosopher.

"Our life is a breath, light as a floating bark. The grave is at the very threshold of life, it awaits us not far from the womb of our mother....

"Since the beginnings of the earth, we have been here, and she changes us like the grass of her soil. She stands firm, unshaken. We alone are changeable, and help there is none for us, no refuge, nor may we decline to come hither. Like an angler of fish, the world brings us up on a hook. Before it has finished devouring one generation, the next is ready for its fate. One is swallowed up, the other snatched away. Whence cometh our help?"

To this general destruction, this wildness of the elements, which the "Mourner" fails to comprehend, permeated as he is with belief in Divine justice, is superadded the malice of man.

"And thou also, thou becomest a scourge unto thy brother! The heavenly host is joined by thy fellow-man. From the wrath of man, O man, thou wilt never escape. His jealousy of thee will last for aye, until thou art no more!"

And with all this, does life offer aught substantial, aught that is lasting?

"Where are they, the forgotten generations? Their very name and memory have disappeared. And in the generation to come, we, too, shall be forgotten. And who escapes his lot? Not a single one of us all. None is secure from death. Wealth, wisdom, strength, beauty, all are nothing, nothing...."

In a burst of revolt, our poet exclaims:

"If I knew that my voice with its reverberations sufficed to destroy the earth and the fulness thereof, and all the hosts of heaven, I would cry with a thundering noise: Cease! Myself I would return to nothing with the rest of mankind. Know not the living that the grave will swallow them up after a life of sadness and cruel misery? See they not that the whole of human life is like the flash that goes before the fatal thunderbolt?"

The same train of thought is not met with again until we come down to our own time, and Maupassant himself does not present it with greater vigor in Sur l'eau.

And the end of the matter is that "man has nothing but the consciousness of sorrow; he is naked and starved, feeble and without energy. His soul desires all that he has not, and so he longs and languishes day and night."

The uncertainty caused by the certainty of death, the terror inspired by the fatal end, the aching regrets over the parting with dear ones, these feelings, which possess even the devoutest Jew, are expressed in one of Lebensohn's most beautiful poems, "The Death Agony", and in "Knowledge and Death" the skepticism of the Maskil prevails over the optimism of the Jew.

Sometimes he permits himself to sing of the misery of his people as such. In "The Wail of the Daughter of Judah" (Naakat Bat- Yehudah), it would not be too much to say that there is an echo of the best of the Psalms. The weakest of his verses are, nevertheless, those in which he expresses longing for Jerusalem.

A great misfortune befell Lebensohn. The premature death of his son, the young poet Micah Joseph, the centre of many and legitimate hopes, extorted cries of distress and despair from him.

"Who, alas! hath driven my bird from my nest? Who is it that hath banished my lyre from my abode? Who hath shattered my heart, and brought me lamentation?... Who hath with one blow blasted my hopes?"

There is enough in his writings to make the fortune of a great poet, in spite of their ballast of mediocre and tiresome verses, which the reader should disregard as he goes along. Between him and his contemporary, the haughty recluse Alfred de Vigny, there is not a little resemblance. Needless to say that Lebensohn had no acquaintance whatsoever with the works of the French poet.

Lebensohn's poems, published at Wilna, in 1852, under the title "Poems in the Holy Language" (Shire Sefat Kodesh), were greeted with enthusiasm. The author was hailed as the "father of poetry". Besides, he published several works treating of grammar and exegesis.

When the celebrated philanthropist Montefiore went to Russia, in 1848, to induce the Czar's government to ameliorate the civil condition of the Jews and grant reforms in the conduct of the schools, Lebensohn ranged himself publicly on the side of the reformers. According to him, the degradation of the Jews was due to three main causes:

1. Absence of Haskalah, that is, a rational education, founded upon instruction in the language of the land, the ordinary branches of knowledge, and a handicraft.

2. The ignorance of the Rabbis and preachers on all subjects outside of religion.

3. Indulgence in luxuries, especially of the table and of dress.

If the first two causes are more or less just, the third displays a ludicrously naive conception of life. Lebensohn was speaking of a famished people, the majority of whom ate meat only once a week, on the Sabbath, and he reproaches them with gastronomic excesses and extravagance in dress. We shall see that his simple outlook was shared by most of the Russian Maskilim.

In 1867, at the time when the struggle for the emancipation of the Jews and internal reforms in general was at its highest point, Lebensohn published his drama "Truth and Faith" (Emet we-Emunah, Wilna), which he had written all of twenty years earlier. It is a purely didactic work, blameless of any trace of poetic ardor. It must be conceded that the style is clear and fluent, and the ethical problem is stated with precision. But it lacks every attempt at analysis of character, and is destitute of all psychologic motivation. These being of the very essence of dramatic composition, his drama reduces itself to a moral treatise, wearisome at once and worthless. The plan is simple enough. Sheker (Falsehood) seeks to seduce and win over Hamon (the Crowd). He offers to give him his daughter Emunah (Faith) in marriage, but she is wooed by two lovers, Emet (Truth) and Sekel (Reason).

The influence of Moses Hayyim Luzzatto is direct and manifest. Like the older author, Lebensohn, skeptic though he is, does not go to the length of casting doubt upon faith. He rises up against falsehood, hypocrisy, and mock piety, the piety that persecutes others, and steeps its votaries in ignorance. "Pure reason is not opposed to a pure religion", was the device adopted by the Wilna school.

Belief in God being set aside as a basic principle, the reason invoked by the dramatist is positive reason, the reason of science, of justice, of rational logic. In verbose monologues, he combats the superstitions and fanaticism of the orthodox. The whole force of the Maskil's hatred against obscurantism is expressed through the character named Zibeon, Jewish hypocrite and chief adjutant in the camp of Sheker (Falsehood). This Jewish Tartufe is very different in his complexity from the character created by Moliere. Zibeon is a wonderworking Rabbi, a subtle sophist, a crafty dialectician. The waves of the Talmud, the casuistry of more than a millennium of scholasticism, have left their traces in his mind and personality. In his hatred of the adversaries of the Haskalah, Lebensohn depicts him, besides, as a hypocrite, a lover of the good things of this world, and given to lewdness, which are not the usual traits of these Rabbis. The alleged Tartufe of the ghetto cannot be called a hypocrite. He is a believer, and hence sincere. What leads him to commit the worst excesses, is his fanaticism, his blind piety.

On the other hand, the dramatist is full of admiration for Sekel (Reason), Hokmah (Knowledge), Emet (Truth), and even Emunah (Faith).

On the background of the prosiness of this work by Lebensohn, there stands out one passage of remarkable beauty, the prayer of Sekel beseeching God to liberate Emet. The triumph of Truth closes the drama.

One characteristic feature should be pointed out: Neither Regesh (Sentiment), a prominent Jewish quality, nor Taawah (Passion), appears in this gallery of allegorical characters personifying the moral attributes. For Lebensohn, as for the whole school of the humanists of his time, the only thing that mattered was reason, and reason had to be shown all-sufficing to ensure the triumph of truth.

In its day Lebensohn's drama excited the wrath of the orthodox. A Rabbi with literary pretensions, Malbim (Meir Lob ben Jehiel Michael), considered it his duty to intervene, and to the accusations launched by Lebensohn he replied in another drama, called Mashal u-Melizah ("Allegory and Interpretation"), wherein he undertakes the defense of the orthodox against the charges of ill-disposed Maskilim.

* * * * *

If Abraham Bar Lebensohn is considered the father of poetry, his no less celebrated contemporary and compatriot, Mordecai Aaron Ginzburg, has an equally good claim to be called the foremost master of modern Hebrew prose. Ginzburg is the creator of a realistic Hebrew prose style, though he was permeated to the end with the style and the spirit of the Bible. Whenever the Biblical style can render modern thoughts only by torturing and twisting it, or by resorting to cumbersome circumlocutions, Ginzburg does not hesitate to levy contributions from Talmudic literature and even the modern languages. These linguistic additions made by him are always excellent, and in no way prejudicial to the elegance of Hebrew style. For it should be reiterated, in season and out of season, that it is a mistake to believe the neo-Hebrew to be essentially different from the language of the Bible, analogous to the difference between the modern and the classic Greek. The modern Hebrew is nothing more than an adaptation of the ancient Hebrew, conformable to the modern spirit and new ideas. The extreme innovators, who at best are few in number, cannot but confirm this statement of the case.

Ginzburg was a fertile writer; he has left us fifteen volumes, and more, on various subjects. Endowed with good common sense, and equipped with a more solid modern education than the majority of the writers of the time, he exercised a very great influence upon his readers and upon the development of Hebrew literature. His "Abiezer", a sort of autobiography, very realistic, presents a striking picture of the defective education and backward ways of the ghetto, which the critic denounces, with remarkable subtlety, in the name of civilization and progress. Besides, he published two volumes on the Napoleonic wars; one volume, under the title Hamat Damesek (1840), on the ritual murder accusation at Damascus; a history of Russia; a translation of the Alexandrian Philo's account of his mission to Rome; and a treatise on style (Debir). He was very successful with his works, and all of them were published during his lifetime, at Wilna, Prague, and Leipsic, and have been republished since. One of his achievements is that he helped to create a public of Hebrew readers. It must be admitted that the great mass of the people were at first somewhat repelled by his realism and by his terse and accurate way of writing. Their taste was not sufficiently refined to appreciate these qualities, and their primitive sensibilities could not derive pleasure from a description of things as they actually are. This is the difficulty which the second generation of Lithuanian writers took account of, and overcame, when they introduced romanticism into Hebrew literature.

Though it was the first, Wilna was not the only centre of Hebrew literature in Russia. In the south, and quite independent of the Wilna school, literary circles were formed under the influence of the Galician writers and workers.

At Odessa, a European window opening on the Empire of the Czar, we see the first enlightened Jewish community come into existence. The educated flocked thither from all parts, especially from Galicia. Simhah Pinsker and B. Stern are the representatives of the Science of Judaism in Russia, and the contributions of the Karaite Abraham Firkovich in the same field were most valuable, while Eichenbaum, Gottlober, and others distinguished themselves as poets and writers.

Isaac Eichenbaum (1796-1861) was a graceful poet. Besides his prose writings and his remarkable treatise on the game of chess, we have a collection in verse by him, entitled Kol Zimrah ("The Voice of Song", Leipsic, 1836). His sweetness and tenderness, his elegant and clear style, often recall Heine. The following quotation is from his poem "The Four Seasons".

"Winter has passed, the cold has fled, the ice melts under the fiery darts of the sun. A stream of melted snow sends its limpid waters flowing down the declivity of the rock. My beloved alone is unmoved, and all the fires of my love cannot melt her icy heart.

"The hills are clothed with festive mirth, the face of the valleys smiles joyously. The cedar beams, the vine is jubilant, and the pine tree finds a nest in the recesses of the jagged mountain. But in me sighs increase, they bring me low—my friend will not yet hearken unto me.

"All sings that lives in the woodland. The beasts of the earth rejoice, and in the branches of the trees the winged creatures warble, each to his mate. My well-beloved alone turns her steps away from me, and under the shadow of my roof I am left in solitude.

"The plants spring from the soil, the grass glitters in the splendor of the sun, and the earth is covered with verdure. Upon the meadows, the lilies and the roses bloom. Thus my hopes blossom, too, and I am filled with joyous expectation—my friend will come back and in her arms enfold me."

The acknowledged master of the humanists in southern Russia was Isaac Bar Levinsohn, of Kremenetz, in Wolhynia (1788-1860). His proper place is in a history of the emancipation of the Russian Jews, rather than in a history of literature. Levinsohn was born in the country of Hasidism. A happy chance carried him to Brody when he was very young. He attached himself there to the humanist circle, and made the acquaintance of the Galician masters. On his return to his own country, he was actuated by the desire to work for the emancipation and promote the culture of the Russian Jews.

Like Wessely, Levinsohn remained on strictly orthodox ground in his writings, and in the name of traditional religion itself he attacks superstition, and urges the obligatory study of the Hebrew language, the pursuit of the various branches of knowledge, and the learning of trades. His profound scholarship, the gentleness and sincerity of his writings, earned for him the respect of even the most orthodox. His Bet-Yehudah ("The House of Judah") and Te'udah be-Yisrael ("Testimony in Israel") are pleas in favor of modern schooling. In "Zerubbabel" he treats of questions of Hebrew philology, and with the help of documents he annihilates the legend of the ritual murder in his Efes-Dammim ("No Blood!"). Ahijah ha-Shiloni is a defense of Talmudic Judaism against its Christian detractors. Besides, Levinsohn wrote a number of other things, epigrams, articles, and essays. [Footnote: We owe a new edition of all his works to Nathansohn, Warsaw, 1880-1900.]

The contemporaries of Levinsohn exaggerated the importance of the literary part of his work. Not much of it, outside of his philologic studies, deserves to be called literary, and even they often fall below the mark on account of the simplicity of his views, and especially on account of his prolixity and his awkward diction and style. Also the direct influence which he has exerted upon Jews is less considerable than once was thought. Upon Hasidism he made no impression whatsoever. In Lithuania, to be sure, his works were widely read by the Jews, but in that home of the Hebrew language the subject-matter and arguments of an author play but little part in giving vogue to what is written in the Biblical language.

By his self-abnegation and his wretched fortunes, his isolated life in a remote town, weak in body yet working for the elevation of his co- religionists, he won the admiration of his contemporaries without exception.

The fame of the solitary idealist of Kremenetz spread until it reached government circles. Levinsohn was the first of the Jewish humanists who maintained direct relations with the Russian authorities. Czar Nicholas I gave him a personal audience, and several times sought his advice on problems connected with the endeavor to ameliorate the social condition of the Jews. The founding of Jewish elementary schools, the opening of two Rabbinical seminaries, one at Wilna and one at Zhitomir, the establishment of numerous agricultural colonies, the improvements effected in the political condition of the Jews and in the censorship of Hebrew books—all these progressive measures are in great part, if not entirely, due to the influence of Levinsohn. And the educated men of his time paid the tribute of veneration to a compeer who enjoyed the esteem of the governing classes to so high a degree.

* * * * *




The political reaction following upon the Polish revolution of 1831 made itself felt in Lithuania particularly. The hand of the government weighed heavy upon the people of this province. The University of Wilna was closed, and all traces of civilization were effaced.

From the arbitrariness of the Polish nobles, the Jews were rescued only to fall into the tender mercies of unscrupulous officials. As it was, since 1823 the most rigorous measures had been devised against them. They were exposed to expulsions from the villages, and their commercial and other privileges had been considerably curtailed. Besides, a new scourge was inflicted upon them, compulsory service in the army, unknown until then, a frightful service, with an active period of twenty-five years. Children were torn from their families and their faith, and the whole life of a man was swallowed up. They struggled against this new incubus with all the weapons at the disposal of a feeble population. Bribery, premature marriage, wholesale evasion, voluntary or forced substitution, were the means employed by the well-to-do to save their progeny from military service.

In order to ensure the regular recruiting of soldiers among the Jews, Czar Nicholas I, while abolishing the central synod organization, maintained the local Kahal everywhere, and made it responsible for the military conscription. The wealthy, the learned, the heads of the communities profited greatly by this official recognition of the Kahal. It enabled them to free the members of their families from enrollment in the army. In their hands, it became an instrument for the oppression and exploitation of the poor. "The devil take the hindmost!" expresses the state of mind of the Russian Jews in the middle of the nineteenth century, during the whole of the period called the Behalah ("Terror").

The reforms projected by Alexander I for the benefit of the Jews, the hopes cherished by the Lithuanian humanists, proved abortive. Reactionary tendencies made themselves felt everywhere cruelly, but chiefly they injured the Jews, forever persecuted, downtrodden, and humiliated. The profound pessimism of Lebensohn's poetry is eloquent testimony to the feelings of educated Jews. And yet, these votaries of knowledge, of civilization, the daughter of heaven, clung to their illusions. They continued to insist that only thoroughgoing reforms can solve the Jewish question. The people at large did not side with them, and even among the educated their view of the situation was not shared by the younger men. In this moral disorder, the masses of the people permitted themselves to be carried along unresistingly by the current of Hasidic views, which had long been waiting to capture the last fortress of rational Judaism. The Rabbis stood by alarmed, unable to do anything to arrest the growing encroachments of the mystic movement. Yet there was an adversary ready and equipped. In the young neo-Hebrew literature, mysticism found a foeman far more powerful than ever logic and rationalism had been.

The Hebrew language was cultivated with zeal by the educated classes, and even by the young Rabbis. It was the epoch of the Melizah, and the Melizah was to supplement the jejuneness of Rabbinism and oppose the Hasidim with good results. Hebrew was in the ascendant, not only for poetry, but for general purposes as well. In the sunshine of the nineteenth century, it became the language of commerce, of jurisprudence, of friendly intercourse. Folklore itself, in the very teeth of the now despised jargon, knew no other tongue. The period produced a large quantity of popular poems, which to this day are sung by the Jews of Lithuania. The dominant note is the national plaint of the Jewish people, its dreams, and its Messianic hopes. They are essentially Zionistic.

In polished and tender Hebrew, with lofty expressions and despairful cries worthy of Byron, a poet of the people mourns the misfortunes of Zion:

"Zion, Zion, city of our God! How awful is thy breach! Who will heal thee!... Every nation, every country, sees its splendor grow from day to day. Thou alone and thy people, ye fall from depth to awful depth....

"Holy land, O Zion and Jerusalem! How dare the stranger trample on thy soil with haughty foot? How, O Heaven, can the son of the stranger stand upon the spot whence Thy command banishes him?"

But hope is not entirely blasted:

"In the name of all thy people, in all their dwelling-places, have we sworn unto thee, O Zion, with scorching tears, that thou shalt always rest upon our hearts as a seal. Not by night and not by day shalt thou be forgotten by us."

Another popular poem, anonymous like the last, entitled "The Rose", is still more dolorous and despairful in tone. Stepped upon by every passerby, the rose supplicates incessantly, "O man, have pity on me, restore me to my home!"

Besides these and others with the same underlying ideas, the lyrics of Lebensohn and "The Mourning Dove" by Letteris constituted the repertory of the people. But soon romanticism on the part of the litterateurs began to respond to the romanticism of the masses, asserting itself as a national Jewish need.

A translation of Les Mysteres de Paris, published in Wilna in 1847-8, introduced the romantic movement among the Jews, and at the same time the novel into the Hebrew language. This translation, or, rather, adaptation, of Sue's work, executed in a stilted Biblical style, won great renown for its young author, Kalman Schulman of Wilna (1826-1900).

From the literary point of view, Schulman's achievement is interesting because of the kind of literature it was the first to offer to readers of Hebrew—pastime literature, fiction in place of the serious writings of the humanists. The enormous success obtained by this first work of the translator, the repeated editions which it underwent, testify to the existence of a public that craved light literature. Thenceforth, romanticism was to occupy the first place, and the Melizah style was appropriated for the purposes of fiction, to the delight of the friends of the Bible language.

In spite of his small originality, it happened that Kalman Schulman contributed more than any other writer to the achievement of securing a place for Hebrew in the hearts of the people. For the length of a half- century, he was regarded popularly as the master of Hebrew style. Romantic and conservative in religion, enthusiastic for whatsoever the Jewish genius produced, naive in his conception of life, he let his activity play upon all the fields of literature. He published a History of the World in ten volumes; a geography, likewise in ten volumes; four volumes of biographical and literary essays on the Jewish writers of the Middle Ages; a national romance dealing with the time of Bar Kokbah (a composite made up of a number of translations); and curious Biblical and Talmudic essays. [Footnote: These works, first published at Wilna, have been republished again and again.]

His language is the Hebrew of Isaiah. The artificialities and the undue emphasis of his style, his childlike views, his romantic sentimentality in all that touches Jews and Judaism, which appealed directly to the hearts of the simple, ignorant readers who constituted his public, explain the success of this writer, well merited even though he lacked originality. His books were spread broadcast, by the millions of copies, and they fostered love of Hebrew, of science, and knowledge in general among the people. By this token, Schulman was a civilizing agent of the first rank. His work is the portal through which the Maskil had to pass, and sometimes passes to this day, on the path of development toward modern civilization.

Schulman became the head of a school. His poetic and inflated style long imposed itself upon all subjects, and hindered the natural development of Hebrew prose, inaugurated by Mordecai A. Ginzburg.

More creative writers were not long in making their appearance. Among the poets of the romantic school, a prominent place belongs to Micah Joseph Lebensohn, briefly called Mikal (1828-1852), the son of Abraham Bar Lebensohn.

Gentle and gracious in the same measure in which his father was hard and unyielding, Micah Joseph Lebensohn was the only writer of the time to enjoy the advantage of a complete modern education, and the only one of his generation to escape cruel want and the struggle for personal freedom. He knew German literature thoroughly, and he had taken a course in philosophy at Berlin, under Schelling. Along with these attainments, he was master of Hebrew as a living language. It was the vehicle for his most intimate thoughts and the subtlest shades of feeling.

His rich poetic imagination, his harmonious style, warm figures of speech, consummate lyric quality, unmarred by the blatant, crude exaggerations of his predecessors, constitute Mikal the first artist of his day in Hebrew poetry.

He made his appearance in the world of letters, in 1851, with a translation of Schiller's "Destruction of Troy", finished in style and in poetic polish. He was the first to apply the rules of modern prosody strictly to Hebrew poetry. His collection of poems, Shire Bat- Ziyyon ("The Songs of the Daughter of Zion"), is a masterpiece. It contains six historical poems, admirable in thought, form, and inspiration. In "Solomon and Kohelet", his most ambitious poem, he brings the youth of King Solomon before our eyes. [Footnote: Wilna, 1852. German translation by J. Steinberg, Wilna, 1859.] It was the first time the love of Solomon for the Shulammite was celebrated—a sublime, exalted love sung in marvellous fashion. The joy of life trembles in all the fibres of the poet's heart.... Then, the old age of Ecclesiastes is contrasted strikingly with the youth of Solomon—the king disillusioned, skeptical, convinced of the vanity of love, beauty, and knowledge. All is dross, vanity of vanities! And the young romantic poet ends his work with the conclusion that wisdom cannot exist without faith—that faith alone is capable of giving man supreme satisfaction.

"Jael and Sisera", a noble production, treats of the silent struggle, in the heart of the valiant woman extolled by Deborah, between the duty of hospitality on the one side, and love of country on the other. The latter triumphs in the end:

"With this people I dwell, and in its land I am sheltered! Should I not desire its prosperity and its happiness?"

"Moses on Mount Abarim" is full of admiration for the great legislator. The poet says regarding his death:

"The light of the world is obscured and dun, Of what avail the light of the sun?"

His elegy on Jehudah Halevi is instinct with the pathos of patriotic love for the Holy Land:

"That land, where every stone is an altar to the living God, and every rock a seat for a prophet of the supreme Lord".

Or, as he exclaims in another poem, "Land of the muses, perfection of beauty, wherein every stone is a book, every rock a graven tablet!"

Another collection of poems by Mikal, Kinnor Bat-Ziyyon ("The Harp of the Daughter of Zion"), published at Wilna, posthumously, contains, besides a number of pieces translated from the German, also lyric poems, in which the poet breathes forth his soul and his suffering. He loves life passionately, but he divines that he will not be granted the opportunity of enjoying it long, and, in an access of despair, he cries out: "Accursed be death, accursed also life!" His nature changes, his muse grows sad, and, like his father, he discerns only injustice and misfortune in the world. In a poem addressed to "The Stars", he fairly storms high heaven to wrest from it the secret of the worlds:

"Answer me, I pray, answer me, ye who are denizens on high! O, stop the march of the eternal laws a single instant! Alas, my heart is full of disgust over this earth. Here man is born unto pain and misery!... Here reigns religious Hatred! On her lips she bears the name of the God of mercy, and in her hands the blood-dripping sword. She prays, she throws herself upon her knees, yet without cease, and in the name of God, she slaughters her victims. This world, when the Lord created it in a fit of anger, He cast it far away from Him in wrath. Then Death threw herself upon it, scattering terror everywhere. She holds this world in her talons. Misery also precipitates herself upon it, gnashing her teeth in beast-like rage. She clutches man like a beast of prey, she torments him without reprieve...."

This posthumous collection of poems contains also love poems and Zionist lamentations, all bearing the impress of the deep melancholy and the sadness that characterized the last years of the poet's short life. A cruel malady carried him off at the age of twenty-four, and the friends of Hebrew poetry were left mourning in despair.

Romantic fiction in Hebrew, which the strait-laced life and the austerity of the educated had rendered impossible up to this time, now made its first appearance in the form of translations of modern romances. They were received with acclaim by a well-disposed public greedy for novelties. The creators of original romances were not long in coming. The first master in the department, the father of Hebrew romance, was Abraham Mapu (1808-1867).

Mapu was born at Slobodka, a suburb of Kowno, a sad town inhabited almost entirely by Jews. The whole of the population vegetates there amid the most deplorable conditions, economic and sanitary. The father of Mapu was a poor, melancholy Melammed, a teacher of Hebrew and the Talmud, simple in his outlook upon life, yet not without a certain degree of education. He loved and cultivated knowledge as taught by the Hebrew masters of the Middle Ages. Mapu's mother was gentle and sweet. With resignation and fortitude she endured the physical suffering that hampered her all her life. His brother Mattathias, a Rabbinical student, was a man of parts.

In brief, it was misery itself, the life he knew, but the misery once surmounted, and vain desires eliminated, it was a life that tended to bind closer the ties of family love. Being a sickly child, Mapu did not begin to study the elementary branches until he was five years old, an advanced age among people whose children were usually sent to the Heder at four, to spend years upon years there that brought no joy to the student as he sat all day long bent over the great folios of the Talmud, except the joy that comes from success in study. Rational instruction in the Bible and in Hebrew grammar, scorned by the Talmudic dialecticians as superficial studies, was banished from the Heder. Happily for the future writer, his father taught him the Bible, and awakened love in his sensitive heart for the Hebrew language and for the glorious past of his people. At the same time, his Talmudic education went on admirably. At the age of twelve, he had the reputation of being a scholar, at the age of thirteen, an 'Illui, a "phenomenon", and from that time on he was at liberty to devote himself to his studies at his own free will, without submitting himself to the discipline of a master.

Like all young Talmudists, he was soon sought after as a desirable son- in-law, and it was not long before his father affianced him to the daughter of a well-to-do burgher. At the age of seventeen, he was married. Marriage, however, did not change his life. As before, he pursued his studies, while his father-in-law provided for his wants. But soon his studies took a new direction. His pensive mind, stifled by Rabbinic scholasticism, turned to the Kabbalah. Mystical exaltation more and more took possession of him, and the day came when he all but declared himself a follower of Hasidism. It was his mother who saved him. He yielded to her prayers, and was held back from committing a perilous act of heresy.

These internal conflicts between feeling and reason, the perplexities with which his spirit wrestled, did not affect our author to an excessive degree. They produced no radical change in his personality. All his life Mapu remained the humble scholar of the ghetto, a successor of the Ebyonim, of the psalmists and the prophets. Timorous, melancholy, lacking all desire for the things connected with practical life, often degraded by their own material wretchedness and by the intellectual wretchedness of their surroundings, these dreamers of the ghetto, more numerous than the outsider knows, hide a moral exaltation in the depths of their hearts, a supreme idealism, always ready to do battle, never conquered. In their persons we are offered the only explanation there is for the activity and persistence of the Messianic people.

Mapu was on the point of succumbing, like so many others, the darkness of mysticism was about to drop like a pall upon his mind, when something happened, insignificant in itself, but important through its consequences, and he was snatched out of danger. A Latin psalter fell into his hands by chance; it gave a fresh turn to his studies, and his mind took its bearings anew.

Was it curiosity, or was it desire for knowledge, that impelled him to decipher the sacred text in an unknown language at what cost soever? It is certain that no difficulty affrighted him. Word by word he translated the Latin text by dint of comparing it with the Hebrew original, and he succeeded in acquiring a large number of Latin words. He is not alone in this achievement. Solomon Maimon learned the alphabet of the German, the language in which he later wrote his best philosophic essays, from the German names of the treatises of the Talmud prefixed to an edition printed in Berlin. And many other such cases among the educated Jews of Lithuania might be cited.

These mental gymnastics, the necessity of rendering account to himself as to the precise value of each word, helped Mapu to a better understanding of the Bible text and a closer identification with its spirit.

Good fortune and material well-being are not stable possessions with people like the Russian Jews, obliged to earn their livelihood in the face of rabid competition, and exposed to the caprices of a hostile legislation. One day Mapu's father-in-law found himself ruined. The young man was obliged to interrupt his studies and accept a place as tutor in the family of a well-situated Jewish farmer.

His prolonged stay in the country exerted an excellent influence upon the impressionable soul of the young man. His close communion with nature, which quickly captivated his mind, rent asunder forever the mystic veil that had enshrouded it. Still more important was his association with the enlightened Polish curate of the village, who interested himself in the young scholar and devoted much time to his instruction. Mapu threw himself with ardor into the study of the Latin classics. He is the first instance of a Hebrew poet having had the opportunity of forming his mind upon the ample models of classic antiquity. Continuing under the tuition of the curate, he studied French, the language of his preference, then German, and, only in the last instance, Russian. The Russian language was not held in high esteem by the Maskilim of Mapu's day. In Kowno, whither he returned after some time, he was compelled to hide his new acquisitions, for fear of arousing the hatred of the fanatics and suffering injury in his profession as teacher of Hebrew.

Infatuated with the works of the romanticists, especially the novels of Eugene Sue, his favorite author, he began to think out the first part of his historical romance Ahabat Ziyyon ("The Love of Zion") as early as 1830. Twenty-three years were to pass before it saw the light of day. During that interval he led a life of never-ceasing privation and toil, laboring by day, dreaming by night. The Haskalah had created humanist centres in the little towns of Lithuania. In some of these, in Zhagor and in Rossieny, "the city of the educated, of the friends of their people and of the sacred tongue", Mapu finally found the opportunity to display his talents. But his material condition, bad enough to begin with, grew worse and worse. After oft-repeated applications, he received the appointment as teacher at a Jewish government school in Kowno, in 1848. This, together with the pecuniary assistance granted him by his more fortunate brother, put an end permanently to his embarrassment. Occupying an independent position, he could devote himself to his romance. Finally, the success obtained by the Hebrew translation of "The Mysteries of Paris" emboldened him to publish his "Love of Zion", and the timid author was overwhelmed, stupefied almost, when he realized the enthusiasm with which the public had greeted his first literary product.

Into the ascetic and puritanic environment in which the world of sentiment and the life of the spirit were unknown, Mapu's romance descended like a flash of lightning, rending the cloud that enveloped all hearts. A century after Rousseau, there was still a corner in Europe in which pleasure, the joy of living, the good things of this life, and nature, were considered futilities, in which love was condemned as a crime, and the passions as the ruin of the soul. Such were the surroundings amid which "The Love of Zion", a Jewish Nouvelle Heloise, appeared as the first plea for nature and love.

"The Love of Zion" is an historical romance. It re-tells a chapter in the life of the Jewish people at the time of the prophet Isaiah. The poet could not exercise any choice as to his subject—it was forced upon him inevitably. In order to be sure of touching a responsive chord in his people, it was necessary to carry the action twenty-five centuries back. A Jewish novel based on contemporaneous life would have been incongruous both with truth and with the spirit of the ghetto.

The time of his novel was the golden age of ancient Judea. It was the epoch of a great literary and prophetic outburst. Also it was an agitated time, presenting striking contrasts. At Jerusalem, an enlightened king was making a firm stand against the limitation of his power from within and against an almost invincible enemy from without. On the one side, society was decadent, on the other side arose the greatest moralists the world has ever seen, the prophets, the intrepid assailants of corruption. It was, finally, the period in which the noblest dreams of a better, an ideal humanity were dreamed. That is the time in which the author lets his story take place.

In the reign of King Ahaz, two friends lived at Jerusalem. The one named Joram was an officer in the army and the owner of rich domains; the other, Jedidiah, belonged to the royal family. Joram had married two wives, Haggith and Naamah. The latter was his favorite, but at the end of many years she had borne him no children. Obliged to go forth to war against the Philistines, Joram entrusted his family to the care of his friend Jedidiah. At the moment of his departure, his wife Naamah, and also Tirzah, the wife of Jedidiah, discovered, each, that she was with child. The two friends agreed, that if the one bore a son and the other a daughter, the two children should in time marry each other.

Things turned out according to the hopes of the fathers. The wife of Jedidiah was the first to be confined, and she gave birth to a daughter, who was named Tamar.

Joram was taken captive by the enemy, and did not return. At the same time a great misfortune overtook his family. His steward Achan permitted himself to be tempted to evil by a judge, Matthan by name, a personal enemy of Joram. He set fire to the house of his master, first having despoiled it of all there was in it. His booty he carried to the house of Matthan, and Haggith and her children perished in the flames. Achan laid the blame for the fire upon Naamah, who, he said, desired to avenge herself upon her rival Haggith. He substituted his own son Nabal for Azrikam, the son of Haggith, the only one of Joram's family, he pretended, to escape with his life. Poor Naamah, about to be delivered, was compelled to flee and take refuge with a shepherd in the neighborhood of Bethlehem. There she bore twins, a son named Amnon, and a daughter, Peninnah.

Jedidiah, shocked by the calamity that had overwhelmed the house of his friend, took the supposed Azrikam, the son of Joram, home with him, and raised him with his own children. In order to keep the spirit of his word to his friend, he considered Azrikam the future husband of his daughter, seeing that Naamah had disappeared, and was, besides, under the suspicion of being a murderess. Achan's triumph was complete. His son was to take the place of Azrikam, inherit the house of Joram, and marry the beautiful Tamar.

In the meanwhile happened the fall of the kingdom of Samaria. The Assyrians carried off the inhabitants captive, among them Hananel, the father-in-law of Jedidiah. One of the captives, the Samaritan priest Zimri, succeeded in making his escape, and he fled to Jerusalem. The name of his fellow-prisoner Hananel, which he used as a recommendation, opened the house and the trustful heart of Jedidiah to him.

Tamar and Azrikam grew up side by side in the house of Jedidiah. They differed from each other radically. Beautiful as Tamar was, and good and generous, so ugly and perverse was Azrikam. The maiden despised him with all her heart. One day Tamar, while walking in the country near Bethlehem, was attacked by a lion. A shepherd hastened to her rescue and saved her life. This shepherd was none but Amnon, the son of the unfortunate Naamah.

Teman, the brother of Tamar, by chance happened upon Peninnah, the sister of Amnon, who pretended she was an alien, and he was seized with violent love for her. Thus the son and the daughter of Jedidiah were infatuated, the one with the daughter of Naamah, the other with her son, without suspecting who they were.

Amnon, who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, was received with joy, by Jedidiah and his wife, as the savior of their daughter. He was made at home in their house, and won general favor by reason of his excellent character. The young shepherd felt attracted to the study of sacred subjects. He frequented the school of the prophets, and he was particularly entranced with the eloquence of the great Isaiah.

The pretended Azrikam did not view the friendship established between Tamar and Amnon with a favorable eye. He took the priest Zimri into his confidence, and made him his accomplice and aid in disposing of his rival. Jedidiah, meanwhile, remained faithful to his promise, and persisted in his intention of giving his daughter in marriage to Azrikam, in spite of her own wishes in the matter. When the tender feeling between Tamar and Amnon became evident, Jedidiah dismissed the latter from his house.

The period treated of is the most turbulent in the history of Judea. The conflict of passions and intrigues is going on that preceded the downfall of the kingdom of Judah and the great Assyrian invasion. Moral disorder reigns everywhere, iniquity and lies rule in place of justice. The upright tremble and hope, encouraged by the prophets. The wicked are defiant, and give themselves up shamelessly to their debauches.

"Let us drink, let us sing!" exclaimed the crowd of the impious. "Who knows whether to-morrow finds us alive!"

Zimri meditates a master stroke. Every evening Amnon betook himself to a little hut on the outskirts of the town, where his mother and his sister lived. Zimri surprises him. He takes Tamar and Teman there, and they watch Amnon embrace his sister. Now all is over. A dreadful blow is dealt the love of brother and sister, who are ignorant of the bonds of kinship uniting Amnon and Peninnah. Repulsed by Tamar, for he knows not what reason, Amnon leaves Jerusalem, despair in his heart.

All is not lost yet. Maltreated by his own son and plagued by remorse, Achan confesses his misdeeds to the alleged Azrikam, and reveals his real origin to him. Furious, Azrikam thinks of nothing but to get rid of his father. He sets his father's house afire, but, before his death, Achan makes a confession to the court. Everything is disclosed, and everything is cleared up. Tamar, now made aware of the error she has committed, is inconsolable at having separated from Amnon.

Meantime the political events take their course. The brave king Hezekiah carries on the struggle against his minister Shebnah, who desires to surrender the capital to the Assyrians. The miraculous defeat of the enemy at the gates of Jerusalem assures the triumph of Hezekiah. Peace and justice are established once more.

During this time, Amnon, taken prisoner in war and sold as slave to a master living on one of the Ionian isles, has found his father Jorara there. Both together succeed in making good their escape, and they return to Jerusalem.

The joy of the Holy City delivered from the invader coincides with the joy of the two reunited families, whose cherished wishes are realized. The loves of Tamar and Amnon, and Teman and Peninnah, triumph.

This is the frame of the novel, which recalls the wonder-tales of the eighteenth century. From the point of view of romantic intrigue, study of character, and development of plot, it is a puerile work. The interest does not reside in the romantic story. Borrowed from modern works, the fiction rather injures Mapu's novel, which is primarily a poem and an historical reconstruction. "The Love of Zion" is more than an historical romance, more than a narrative invented by an imaginative romancer—it is ancient Judea herself, the Judea of the prophets and the kings, brought to life again in the dreams of the poet. The reconstruction of Jewish society of long ago, the appreciation of the prophetic life, the local color, the majesty of the descriptions of nature, the vivid and striking figures of speech, the elevated and vigorous style, everything is so instinct with the spirit of the Bible that, without the romantic story, one would believe himself to be perusing a long-lost and now recovered book of poetry of ancient Judea.

Dreamy, guileless, ignorant of the actual and complicated phenomena of modern life, Mapu was able to identify himself with the times of the prophets so well that he confounded them with modern times. He committed the anachronism of transporting the humanist ideas of the Lithuanian Maskil to the period of Isaiah. But by reason of wishing to show himself modern, he became ancient. He was not even aware of the fact that he was restoring the past with its peculiar civilization, its manners, and ideas.

None the less his aim as a reformer was attained. Guided by prophetic intuition, Mapu accomplished a task making for morality and culture. To men given over to a degenerate asceticism, or to a mystic attitude hostile to the present, he revealed a glorious past as it really had been, not as their brains, weighed down by misery and befogged by ignorance, pictured it to have been. He showed them, not the Judea of the Rabbis, of the pious, and the ascetics, but the land blessed by nature, the land where men took joy in living, the land of life, flowing with gaiety and love, the land of the Song of Songs and of Ruth. He drew Isaiah for them, not as a saintly Rabbi or a teller of mystical dreams, but a poetic Isaiah, patriot, sublime moralist, the prophet of a free Judea, the preacher of earthly prosperity, of goodness, and justice, opposing the narrow doctrines and minute and senseless ceremonialism inculcated by the priests, who were the predecessors of the Rabbis.

The lesson of the novel is an exhortation to return to a natural life. It presents a world of pleasure, of feeling, of joyous living, justified and idealized in the name of the past. It sets forth the charms of rural life in a succession of poetic pictures. Judea, the pastoral land, passes under the eyes of the reader. The blithe humor of the vine- dressers, the light-heartedness of the shepherds, the popular festivals with their outbursts of joy and high spirits, are reproduced with masterly skill. The moral grandeur of Judea appears in the magnificent description of a whole people assembled to celebrate the Feast in the Holy City, and in the impassioned discourses of the prophets, who openly criticise the great and the priests in the name of justice and truth. But especially it is love that pervades the work, love, chaste and ingenuous, apotheosized in the relation of Amnon and Tamar.

The impression that was made by the book is inconceivable. It can be compared with nothing less than the effect produced by the publication of the Nouvelle Heloise.

At last the Hebrew language had found the master who could make the appeal to popular taste, who understood the art of speaking to the multitude and touching them deeply. The success of the book was impressive. In spite of the fanatical intriguers, who looked with horror upon this profanation of the holy language, the novel made its way everywhere, into the academies for Rabbinical students, into the very synagogues. The young were amazed and entranced by the poetic flights and by the sentimentalism of the book. A whole people seemed to be reborn unto life, to emerge from its millennial lethargy. Upon all minds the comparison between ancient grandeur and actually existing misery obtruded itself.

The Lithuanian woods witnessed a startling spectacle. Rabbinical students, playing truant, resorted thither to read Mapu's novel in secret. Luxuriously they lived the ancient days over again. The elevated love celebrated in the book touched all hearts, and many an artless romance was sketched in outline.

But the greatest beneficiary of the new movement ushered into being by the appearance of "The Love of Zion" was the Hebrew language, revived in all its splendor.

"I have searched out the ancient Latin in its majestic vigor, the German with its depth of meaning, the French full of charm and ravishing expressions, the Russian in the flower of its youth. Each has qualities of its own, each is crowned with beauty. But in the face of all of them, whose voice appeals unto me? Is it not thy voice, my dove? How pellucid is thy word, though its music issues from the land of destruction!... The melody of thy words sings in my ear like a heavenly harp." [Footnote: See Brainin, "Abraham Mapu", p. 107.]

This idealization of a language of the past, and of that past itself, produced an enormous effect upon all minds, and it prepared the soil for an abundant harvest. The success won by "The Love of Zion" encouraged Mapu to publish his other historical romance, the action of which is placed in the same period as the first work. Ashmat Shomeron ("The Transgression of Samaria"), also published at Wilna, is an epic in the true sense. It reproduces the conflicts set afoot by the rivalry between Jerusalem and Samaria. The underlying idea in this novel is not unlike that of "The Love of Zion". But the author allows himself to run riot in the use of antitheses and contrasts. He arraigns the poor inhabitants of Samaria with pitiless severity. Whatever is good, just, beautiful, lofty, and chaste in love, proceeds from Jerusalem; whatever savors of hypocrisy, crookedness, dogmatism, absurdity, sensuality, proceeds from Samaria. The author is particularly implacable toward the hypocrites, and toward the blind fanatics with their narrow-mindedness. The personification of certain types of ghetto fanatics is a transparent ruse. The book excited the anger of the obscurantists, and, in their wrath, they persecuted all who read the works of Mapu.

"The Transgression of Samaria" shares a number of faults of technique with the first novel, but also it is equally with the other a product of rich imaginativeness and epic vigor. In reproducing local color and the Biblical life, the author's touch is even surer than in "The Love of Zion".

If one were inclined to apply to Mapu's novels the standards of art criticism, a radical fault would reveal itself. Mapu is not a psychologist. He does not know how to create heroes of flesh and blood. His men and women are blurred, artificial. The moral aim dominates. The plot is puerile, and the succession of events tiresome. But these shortcomings were not noticed by his simple, uncultivated readers, for the reason that they shared the artless naivete of the author.

Besides these two, we have some poetic fragments of a third historical romance by Mapu, which was destroyed by the Russian censor. There is also an excellent manual of the Hebrew language, Amon Padgug ("The Master Pedagogue"), very much valued by teachers of Hebrew, and, finally, a method of the French language In Hebrew.

We shall revert elsewhere to his last novel, 'Ayit Zabua' ("The Hypocrite"), which is very different in style and character from his first two romances.

In his last years he was afflicted with a severe disease. Unable to work, he was supported by his brother, who had settled in Paris, and who invited Mapu to join him there. On the way, death overtook him, and he never saw the capital of the country for which he had expressed the greatest admiration all his life.

In southern Russia, especially at Odessa, literary activity continued to be carried on with success. Abraham Bar Gottlober (1811-1900), writing under the pseudonym Mahalalel, was the most productive of the poets, if not the best endowed of the whole school.

A disciple of Isaac Bar Levinsohn, and visibly affected by the influence of Wessely and Abraham Bar Lebensohn, he devoted himself to poetry. The first volume of his poems appeared at Wilna in 1851. Toward the end of his days, he published his complete works in three volumes, Kol Shire Mahalalel ("Collected Poems", Warsaw, 1890). His earliest productions go back to the middle of the last century. He is a remarkable stylist, and, in some of his works, his language is both simple and polished. "Cain", or the Vagabond, is a marvel in style and thought.

In the poem entitled "The Bird in the Cage", he writes as a Zionist, and he weeps over the trials of his people in exile. In another poem, Nezah Yisrael ("The Eternity of Israel"), perhaps the best that issued from his pen, he puts forward a dignified claim to his title as Jew, of which he is proud.

"Judah has neither bow nor warring hosts, nor avenging dart, nor sharpened sword. But he has a suit in the name of justice with the nations that contend with him....

"I take good heed not to recount to you our glory. Why should I extol the eternal people, for you detest its virtues, you desire not to hear of them.... But remember, ye peoples, if I commit a transgression, not in me lies the wrong—through your sin I have stumbled....

"I ask not for pity, I ask but for justice."

On the whole, Gottlober lacks poetic warmth. In the majority of his poems, his style errs on the side of prolixity and wordiness. He has made a number of translations into Hebrew, and his prose is excellent. His satires frequently display wit. His versified history of Hebrew poetry, contained in the third volume of his works, is inferior to the Melizat Yeshurun by Solomon Levinsohn referred to above. Later he published a monthly review in Hebrew, under the title Ha-Boker Or ("The Clear Morning"). His reminiscences of the Hasidim, whom he opposed all his life, are the best of his prose writings, and put him in a class with the realists. He also wrote a history of the Kabbalah and Hasidism (Toledot ha-Kabbalah weha-Hasidut). [Footnote: In the monthly Ha-Boker Or, and Orot me-Ofel ("Gleams in the Darkness"), Warsaw, 1881.]

Gottlober was the Mehabber personified, the type of the vagabond author, who is obliged to go about in person and force his works upon patrons in easy circumstances.

The number of writers belonging to the romantic school, by reason of the form of their works, or by reason of their content, is too large for us to give them all by name. Only a few can be mentioned and characterized briefly.

Elias Mordecai Werbel (1805-1880) was the official poet of the literary circle at Odessa. A collection of his poems, which appeared at Odessa, is distinguished by its polished execution. Besides odes and occasional poems, they contain several historical pieces, the most remarkable of them "Huldah and Bor", Wilna, 1848, based on a Talmudic legend. [Footnote: In Keneset Yisrael, Warsaw, 1888.]

He was excelled by Israel Roll (1830-1893), a Galician by birth, but living in Odessa. His Shire Romi ("Roman Poems"), all translated from the works of the great Latin poets, give evidence of considerable poetic endowment. His style is classic, copious, and precise, and his volume of poems will always maintain a place in a library of Hebrew literature by the side of Mikal's version of Ovid and the admirable translation of the Sibylline books made by the eminent philologist Joshua Steinberg.

In prose, first place belongs to Benjamin Mandelstamm (died 1886). Among his works is a history of Russia, but his most important production, Hazon la-Mo'ed, is a narrative of his travels and the impressions he received in the "Jewish zone", chiefly Lithuania. In certain respects, he must be classified with Mordecai A. Ginzburg, with whom he shares clarity of thought and wit. But his sentimentality, and his excessive indulgence in certain affectations of style, range him with the romantic poets.

The distinguished poet Judah Leon Gordon in his beginnings also belonged to the romantic school. His earliest poems, especially "David and Michal", treat of Bible times. But Gordon did not remain long in sympathy with the endeavors of the romanticists, and the mature stage of his literary activity belongs to a later epoch.

The characteristic trait of Hebrew romanticism, which distinguishes it from most analogous movements in Europe, is that it remained in the path of orderly progress and emancipation. It showed no sign of turning aside toward reactionary measures in religion or in other concerns. Neither the retrograde policy adopted by the government against the Jews, nor the uncompromising fanaticism of certain parties among the Jews themselves, could arrest the development of the humanitarian ideas disseminated by the Austrian and the Italian school.

Since the origin of the German Meassefim movement, the evolution of Hebrew literature has not been stopped for a single instant in its striving for knowledge and light. The romantic movement is one of its most characteristic stages, and at the same time one most productive of good results. The sombre present held out no promises for the future, and the dark clouds on the political horizon eclipsed every hope of better fortunes. At such a time the champions of the Haskalah opposed ignorance and prejudice in the name of the past, and in the name of morality and idealism they sought to win the hearts of the populace for the "Divine Haskalah".

The influence of Hebrew romanticism was many-sided. The blending of the rationalism of the first humanists with the patriotic sentiments of Luzzatto fortified the bonds that united the writers to the mass of the faithful believers. A sentimentalism that was called forth by a poetic revival of the times of the prophets did more for the diffusion of sane and natural ideas than exhortations and arguments without end, and the declaration, repeated again and again by the school of Wilna, that science and faith stand in no sort of opposition to each other, was an equally powerful means of bringing together the educated with the moderate among the religious.

Soon the times were to become more favorable to a renewal of the combat with the obscurants, and then the antagonism between the educated classes and the orthodox would be resumed with fresh vigor. When that time arrived, a whole school of ardent realistic writers set themselves the task of counteracting the misery of Jewish life, and they executed it without sparing the susceptibilities and the self-love of the religious masses. They rose up in judgment against orthodox and traditional Judaism; they chastised it and traduced it. With acerbity they promulgated the gospel of modern humanism and the surrender of outward beliefs. By their side, however, we shall see a more moderate school claim its own, and one not less efficient. It will proclaim words of charity, faith, and hope. To the negations and destructive aphorisms of the realistic school it will oppose firm confidence in the early regeneration of the Jewish people, called to fulfil its destiny upon its national soil. The Zionist appeal will unite the orthodox masses and the emancipated youth in a single transport of action and hope.

* * * * *




The accession of Alexander II to the throne marks a decisive moment in the history of the Russian empire. The fresh impetus that proceeded from the generous and liberal ideas encouraged by the Czar himself reached the ghetto. Substantial improvements in the political situation of the Jews the empire and the easier access to the liberal professions granted them, the abolition of the old order of military service and the suppression of the Kahal—these, joined to the expectation of an early civil emancipation, stirred the Jewish humanists profoundly. Startled out of their age-long dreams, the Jews with a modern education found themselves suddenly face to face with reality, and engaged in a struggle with the exigencies of modern life. In justice to them it must be said that they realized at once where their duty lay, and they were not found wanting.

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