Poet Out of Israel:
The Odyssey of Pinhas Sadeh
By birth certificate Pinhas Sadeh is twenty-seven. He was scarcely twenty when readers of Commentary saw the first poem of his to be translated into English, his “Proverbs of the Virgins” (August 1950). He combines in one person the childish innocence of the archetypal poet and the crabbed anger of the archetypal prophet.
The Middle East is the land of prophets. T. E. Lawrence has noted how, generation after generation, a prophet emerges from the desert landscape and calls backsliding humanity to the intolerable asceticism and purity that that landscape postulates. The Biblical story of Israel is a pageant of exultant scourgers of the people. In the Mandatory period of the return of Israel to the desert context, there was no room yet for the return of the prophets: poetry was welcome, but that important component of it, the act of self-criticism, was not; battle-cries and actual battle were the common destiny. But in a state which has passed beyond the period when it can blame an outside authority for its problems, which is responsible for itself, and which is establishing its structure and its character, the prophet may find his function again. Pinhas Sadeh has in the course of nearly ten years of composing and appearing in print developed from a writer of dramatic lyric, meditation, and parable to a preacher whose voice is ‘The voice of one man complaining to the One God.”
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