ENG 330 – In Class comments to Bialik’s poem “To The Bird”

First the poem:

Haim Nahman Bialik

“To the Bird”

Hebrew, 1891

In the Hebrew original, the poem is rhymed abab.

Greetings on your return, lovely bird,

to my window from warmer climes—

how my soul longed to hear your voice,

in the winter when you left my dwelling.

Sing to me, tell me, dear bird

from far-off wondrous places,

there in that warm and beautiful land,

do evil events and calamities happen too?

Do you bring greetings from my fellows in Zion,

from my brothers near and far?

O happy ones!  Surely they must know

that I suffer, oh, how I suffer in pain.

Do they know how great are my enemies here,

how many rise up against me?

Sing to me, my bird, of the wonders of that land

where springtime ever dwells.

Do you bring me greetings from the land’s abundance,

from vale and from mountain top?

Does God have mercy on Zion,

though she is yet left with her graves?

And the Sharon Valley and the hills of myrrh—

do they give their spikenard and spice?

Does the ancient forest, the old Lebanon,

awake from its slumber?

Does the dew fall like pearls upon Mount Hermon,

or does it descend like tears?

And how fares the Jordan and its bright waters?

And each mountain and hill?

Has the heavy cloud withdrawn from them,

that had spread pitch black darkness –

o sing to me, my bird, of the land in which

my fathers found life and death!

Are the flowers I planted yet unwithered,

while I myself am withered?

They remind me of the days in which I bloomed,

but now I am grown old, my strength has gone.

Tell me, my bird, what each tree and shrub whisper,

what do their leaves murmur to you?

Do they tell tidings of comfort for which they wait so long,

as their foliage rustles like the forests of Lebanon?

And my brothers the workers, who sowed in tears—

do they harvest their sheaves in joy?

Who will give me wings that I may fly to the land

in which the almond and date-palm bloom?

And what can I tell you, lovely bird,

what do you hope to hear from me?

From this cold and distant land you will not hear songs,

only lamentations, only weeping and wailing.

Shall I tell of the hardships which are already

well known in the lands of the living –

o who can number the troubles past

and present and yet to come?

Migrate, my bird, to your mountain, your desert!

Be happy that you have left my house;

if you dwelt with me, then you too, winged creature,

would weep bitterly over my fate.

Yet weeping and tears are not the best remedy,

they will not heal my affliction;

my eyes have already darkened, I have filled a waterskin with tears,

my heart has already dried like grass;

The tears have already reached their end—

yet there is no end to my grief.

Greetings on your return, my dear bird,

let your song give me some happiness!

I think this poem refers to that wave of Aliyah to Zion (Israel), in which the narrator with a hopeful voice asks to the Bird for news upon his return. This poem is one of the early poems from Bialik, It was adopted by the Zionist movement.

The bird functions as the messenger… just like the dove coming back to Noahs ark iwth the olive.

The narrator is old or awaiting news, who can’t change his ways, but is anxious to hear good news.

There are some links to The story of my Dovecote and to the Dead Town because in this poem, although there is a lack of hope for the old town, is not focused on grieving the situation of the speaker.

The bird- possibly on of the people that left from the first wave of the Aliyah, who might have come back with words about how Zion is faring.

The narrator represents old Jewishness, and the bird represents the new Zionist movement. Bialik was on his 20s, and portrays and is the voice for the situation.

The bird doesn’t take part on the poem… there are only questions to the bird, but we don’t hear answers.

The narrator is lamenting the conditions in the old world, hoping to hear good news about this new world back home.

Comments about Zionism:

The zionist movement emerges in repond to the type of economic crisis we see in The Pale of Settlement as well as in Western Europe, in the nineteenth century.

The rise of antisemitism adds more pressure to the need to solve the nation problem of the Jewish nation. Zionism is the political movement, political liberation movement for Jews. Political existence should be lead and directed by Jews with in a soveign nation in the JEwish ancestral home of Israel. Initialy the territory itself was not as important to Theodor Herzl. Palestine was the obvious choice due to the emotional attachment of the Jewish people to Palestine.

Argentina was also proposed as a the location of Israel. The British government proposed in 1903 to moved the location to Eastern Africa too. Herzl was interested in the idea, but the idea to bring it back to the original location remained, especially since there was already a population living near Jerusalem and in Palestine in general. JErusalem was a pilgrim destination for many Jews.

Zionism created a secular political movement and  the migration starts in 1870 and 1880. This migration is not ultra-traditional. This migration was called ALIYAH, or the ascenssion or going up. This first wave of Aliyah of secular and political reasons started in those two deacades and doubled the population of the area. The second Aliyah takes place around 1903-1907 with the second wave of Pogroms in Russia. This next wave has new political ideologies and takes the to the land of Palestine, and brings a more Utopic idea of the state of Israel.

Israelis currently have problems accessing Bialik.. due to the acentuation of the word. In other words, they were speaking different pronunciations.

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