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Eliyahu Meitus: A Grandniece's Book About a Hebrew Poet

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  Eliyahu Meitus
  The grandnieces book about a Hebrew Poet
  By Ella Romm
  with Michael Romm
  and Sheli Fain
  San Diego, California, 2015
  Copyright No 2015 by Ella Romm and Michael Romm
  Edited by Michael Romm and Sheli Fain
  Translation of sonnets and Nathan Bistritzki's article by Sheli Fain
  Translation of poems from Russian to English by Michael Romm  
  Preface about the Author 5
  Who is Eliyahu Meitus 5
  A Word on My Data Sources 7
  Eliyahu's Family and Bio Summary 8
  Eliyahu's Life in Literature 30
  Poems from the Book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge' 36
  (Page 7) On a swinging bridge 38
  (Page 8) On the other end of the bridge 39
  (Page 9) This is the fragrance of sunrise 40
  (Page 10) My Boat 41
  (Page 11) The ghastly lake 42
  (Page 12) ...And the circle is closing again 43
  (Page 13) In the river of my life I see my image 44
  (Page 14) Spirals of smoke 45
  (Page 15) I said: - In my goblet... 46
  (Page 16) You, Whom Suddenly I Met 47
  'The Evening Lights' by Nathan Bistritzki 48
  Poems from 'Jewish anthology - a collection of young Jewish poets' 55
  At Night 56
  From the Songs of the Fall 57
  Preface about the Author
  Dear readers,
  My name is Ella Romm. I was born in 1966, in a southern Russian town of Sholokhovskiy of the Rostov-on-Don region. My paternal grandmother Anna Vaysman, whose maiden name was Meites, immigrated to the United States from Chisinau, Moldova. Our family joined her in 1993. I had been living in New York for 15 years and then moved to San Diego, California in 2007. I am a medical doctor, a poet, a researcher. I and my husband, also a poet, published a number of poetry books in Russian. At some point I grew a major interest in my heritage and eventually published two volumes of the family genealogy. Eliyahu Meitus was one of the brightest stars in the family constellation. He became the subject of my next research.
  Who is Eliyahu Meitus
  My granduncle, Eliyahu Meitus (אליהו מייטוס), lived through the first three quarters of the XX century, the turbulent times in the history of the European Jews. His live began in Bessarabia, a distant province of the Russian Empire, and ended in the state of Israel 85 years later. He was a poet and writer, a teacher and translator, a polyglot and Zionist. My interest in Eliyahu Meitus was sparked when I found his poetry book in the family library. The book was written in Hebrew a language I do not know. Translations into English or Russian were not available either, with one exception of thee short poems in a Jewish writers' anthology book. In any case, this was the starting point of my journey into the poet's biography, mind and passions.
  Eliyahu Meitus (photo from the Internet)
  A Word on My Data Sources
  I used both the oral and written sources of information on Meitus while working on this book. The oral stories were passed to me by my father (Eliyahu's nephew) and my grandmother (Eliyahu's sister). The written sources included those I found on the Internet in the Russian, English and Hebrew languages (with the Hebrew sources, I used Google translation and help of the Hebrew-speaking friends). In some cases my sources contradicted each other. Over time, I was able to recover bits and pieces of Eliyahu's live but there are still white spots in the story, while some facts need confirmation.
  It is appropriate in this introduction to pay my respect and gratitude to the late Mable E. Meites (1913 - 2013), the wife of Dr. Joseph Meites (1913 - 2005), Elyahu's cousin once removed. Mable was 97 years old when we met online. She shared information and family photos with me, and we communicated regularly until her death.
  I also appreciate some help received from Eliyahu's grandchildren Oren, Liora and especially Yoram. My special gratitude extends to Sheli Fain who translated the sonnets and closing article of the book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge' from Hebrew to English, as well as to my husband Michael Romm for his help in writing this book and translating Eliyahu's poems from Russian to English.
  Eliyahu's Family and Bio Summary
  Eliyahu Meitus was born in Chisinau (Kishinev), Bessarabia on the September 27, 1892 (Hebrew year 5653) in a large and prosperous family of Yoil Meites and Tseytl Averbuch. Our family is not sure about the exact year of his birth, but all Internet sources give 1892. I also found an alternative year, 1893, in his handwritten note "My Chronicles" sold by Kedem Public Auction House in 2011 in Tel-Aviv along with other personal documents collection of Eliyahu. Additionally, the collection had:
  - his high school graduation diploma from Odessa, 1910;
  - a handwritten Ketubah celebrating Meytus's union with his wife Lea (Aliza's Hebrew name) (Ungheni, Moldova), 1921;
  - a student certificate from the St. Petersburg University, 1917;
  - 5 documents related to his educational endeavors in Romania;
  - a photograph of the Meytus family;
  - Tree Certificate of Donation to Jewish National Fund (certificate of planting a tree in Israel to recognize or memorialize friends, family or loved ones);
  - a photograph from the Eschweg Displaced Persons camp (a former German air force base in the Frankfurt district of the American-occupied zone that became a displaced persons camp in January 1946.);
  There were 12 items total, varying sizes and condition.
  "My Chronicles" and photo from above mentioned auction
  We do not believe that this photo depicted the Meites family, nobody could recognize any relatives on it. Who owned the items before the sale and who was the buyer, we do not know.
  Interestingly, the vital records of Eliyahu's siblings and other family members available online use various spellings of the last name, changing between Meites, Meitis and Meitus. Here is the data from the birth certificate of Eliyahu's younger brother Kelman:
  NAME: Kelman Meitis
  GENDER: Male
  BIRTH DATE: 1894
  BIRTH TOWN: Chisinau
  FILM: 2292603 / 2
  ARCHIVE: NARM/211/11/371
  I could not locate a birth certificate of Eliyahu himself.
  Meites is a metronymic surname based on the Yiddish female name Meita, meaning a girl. So Meites means son of Meita.
  Eliyahu's grandparents Baruch and Ester Meites lived in the town of Balta, Bessarabia (now Ukraine) and had many children, among them Yoil, Eliyahu's father. According to some sources, Baruch could have been a rabbi or came from a family of rabbis.
  Yoil Meites was born in Balta in about 1870 but moved to Chisinau (Bessarabia) later in his life. He belonged to a middle-class ('petty bourgeois') group of the city population and had a family business of buying and selling recycled goods to the factories. Based on the Russian Duma Voters List (1907) below, he also was a property owner.
  At the age of 21, Yoil married Tseytl Averbuch, daughter of Geyhikh Averbuch and Rukhl Tepper. Tseytl came from a family of rabbis and was a descendant of the famous rabbi Ben Sarah who was born in 1791 in Poland.
  Yoil and Tseytl Meites (photo from author's archive)
  Yoil died in Chisinau at the age of 55 of heart attack. Yoil Meites and Tseytl Averbuch had six children: Eliyahu, Kelman, Avrum (who died in infancy), Khaya, Genya and Yakov.
  Let us now turn to the memoirs of my father, Yuliy Vaysman, Eliyahu's nephew:
  Yuliy Vaysman (photo by Alexander Gofayzen, from author's archive)
  The earliest memories about my family are linked to the pre-war years, when my parents, Genya Meites and Lev Vaysman, and I lived in Chisinau, in my grandmother Tseytl's house. It was several years after my grandfather Yoil's death.
  The city of Chisinau was first mentioned as the capital of Moldavia in 1436. After the war with Napoleon, Chisinau (Bessarabia) became a part of the Russian Empire until 1918, and then, after the First World War, it became a part of Romania. In 1940, due to the rearrangement of European territories between Germany and the USSR, Moldavia became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic that moved to independence (as Moldova) in 1991.
  Yoil Meites(Eliyahu's father) was born in the town of Balta (near Odessa) that in the beginning was a small outpost on the northern border of the Ottoman Empire (in Turkish "Balta" means "axe"). From XVIII to XX century most of the townspeople were Jews. The city survived two pogroms, a plague and a major flooding during this time. The Meites family moved from Balta to Chisinau in the late XIX century.
  Grandfather Yoil had a family business, mainly to collect and utilize secondary materials that were then sold to factories. After his death (around 1925) his wife Tseytl and children (mostly his son Kolman) were running the business. I remember the piles of worn cloths in the backyard and the workers who loaded them into numerous bags using primitive machinery. I also remember how animal bones were processed into bone coal and sold to the sugar factory as adsorbent.
  Grandfather Yoil ran his business together with his brother Yos (Yosil). While on a business trip in Warsaw, Yos was accidentally killed in crossfire of bandits and police. Yos had five children. His wife died young from cancer. After these tragic deaths, the care of Yos' family was placed on Yoil's shoulders who by then already had three sons: Eliyahu, Kolman (or Kelman as in his birth certificate), Yankel, and two daughters: Khaya (Кlara) and Genya (Anna). Successful business allowed Yoil to provide not only for the large family but also to educate all the children. Even one of his nieces, who had shown interest in education, completed four grades of the elementary school, although formal schooling for girls was not popular in those days.
  Meites' house was located on the outskirts of Chisinau, on Pavlovskaya Street, next to the railway station Visternicheny, on the small river Bik. Memories of the river and the bridge across will inspire one of the most vivid metaphors in his poetry. Presumably, his book of sonnets, 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge', was named after it.
  There was prosperity in the house. I remember large rooms filled with heavy wood furniture. Each summer Yoil sent his family to the countryside. In 1903 this saved Meites from the infamous Chisinau pogrom, known as the pogrom on Asian Street, triggered by the murder of a 14-year-old boy. The newspaper "Bessarabetz" blamed the Jews. (As Wikipedia suggests, 49 people were killed, 586 were wounded or injured and over 1500 houses that made up one third of households in Chisinau were destroyed.) The Chisinau pogrom received great public outcry in Europe and Russia in the beginning of the XX century. Writer L. Tolstoy and professors at Moscow University V. Vernadsky and S. Troubetzkoy accused the Russian rulers of acquiescence of the murderers.
  Living in USA, my daughter Ella Romm met Mable Meites, the widow of Professor Joseph Meites, my second cousin. Thanks to her memoirs, I learned that my grandfather Yoil had three brothers: Solomon, Jacob and Joseph. In 1920, Baruch Meites, the son of Solomon, immigrated to the United States along with his family. One of his sons, Joseph Meites (Mable's husband and great-nephew of Eliyahu), later became a major American neurophysiologist who studied the processes of aging.
  Dr. Joseph Meites and Mable Emily Meites (Rumburg) (photo from the Mable Meites' archive)
  As Wikipedia suggests, his studies served as the basis for his disciples (Guillemin, Schally, and Yalow) who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1977. His brother, Samuel Meites, became an American biochemist, a historian of medicine and a specialist in laboratory diagnostics.
  But let us go back to Meites family. Eliyahu's younger brother Kolman, who was also involved in the family business, was a bulky man with big smile. I remember his petit wife Pesya wearing her colorful housecoat.
  On the 28 of Jul, in 1940, after Soviet troops entered Chisinau, Kolman Meites and his wife were arrested and sent into exile, where Kolman died of typhus in the town of Samarkand (Uzbekistan).
  Kolman Meites gravestone (photo from the Internet)
  Grandmother Tseytl escaped such a fate. Luckily, she was not home at the time the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs during the era of Joseph Stalin) visit and her son's arrest.
  My grandmother Tseytl, Eliyahu's mother, came from the family of Averbuch, well-known in Chisinau. She had four siblings. Tseytl perished in Holocaust. She died of starvation trying to flee from Chisinau and was buried in a village of Tibitkinerovo of the Volgograd region in Russia. She was 68 years old.
  The oldest son of Yoil Meites, Eliyahu (or, as he was often called, Ilyusha), at the age of two, trying to wash his cloves, fell into a wooden water keg and almost drowned. Thanks God, the ordeal ended safely.
  At the age of thirteen Ilyusha began to write poetry. In 1911 he was sent to study at the Sorbonne University in France. He left it before completing due to the outbreak of the First World War.
  Eliyahu Meitus (photo from the Internet)
  Continuing his education in the Petrograd University, where he received his master's degree in humanities, Ilyusha joined the other Jewish poets of the Southern Russia region, led by Khaim Bialik, a poet who wrote in Hebrew and Yiddish.
  During the February Revolution, Ilyusha was on the Interim Government's side, but grandfather Yoil saved his son from the revolutionary fire by transferring him to the Odessa University in 1917. After the Brest Peace Accord between Soviet Russia and Germany, Bessarabia (Moldova) was ceded to Romania and Ilyusha was called to return to Chisinau immediately and stay with his family. By that time he was married, but his wife Betty did not want to follow her husband and stayed on the other side of the border. Eliyahu met Betty in Brussel (Belgium) where he briefly stayed and studied philosophy. In 1921 Eliyahu Meites became a principal of the Jewish school in Soroki. He also worked in the Romanian cities of Iaşi and Buzău. In 1935 he went to Palestine with his second wife Lisa. There he published his own poems and translations while working as a teacher.
  One time uncle Ilyusha visited us in Chisinau. He
  brought a colorful oriental dress for my mother and a whole book of postage stamps for me. This became my first stamp collection that, unfortunately, was lost in the mayhem of the Second World War. In 1946, I began collecting again. Now my collection includes thousands of stamps and is waiting to be continued by my descendants.
  Eliyahu Meitus (photo from the Internet)
  During the war and especially in the difficult post-war years, we repeatedly received parcels from the Red Cross with clothing and food, and it seemed to me that they were coming from my uncle in Palestine. But that was not the case. My uncle Ilyusha explained that, while working as a teacher and financing and publishing his own books, he was not able to help us. I also remember how before the war my father sent some packages with paper for the publishing purposes to Palestine.
  Eliyahu Meitus (photo I found inserted into the Meitus' book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge')
  Eliyahu Meites died in 1978, one year before my father. (Coincidently, his son Darrel died on the same day with my brother in 1992.) The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Eliyahu Meites still live in Tel Aviv.
  Eliyahu Meitus' gravestone (photo was emailed to me by a volunteer from
  Not only his poetry and translation works remind us today about Eliyahu Meitus. One of the streets in Tel Aviv was named after him.
  Eliyahu Meitus street in Tel Aviv
  Eliyahu's sister Klara died in childbirth, leaving a baby girl Ester in the care of her father. In 1939, Ester was visiting us in Chisinau, and I experienced my first romantic feelings towards her. By that time my father already rented a 4-bedroom apartment on Prunkulovskaya Street (that continued as General Inzov Street). General Inzov was the Governor of Bessarabia during Pushkin's exile in Chisinau. Ester had visited us at the time when my father bought a wagon of apples in Romania for resale, and the entire apartment was soaked in a fragrant odor and filled with numerous boxes. Later, our family had learned the tragic story of Ester's death. At age 16, she had married a Romanian engineer. In 1940 the fascist regime of General Antonesku came to power in Romania. In 1941 Ester and her husband tried to flee from the regime but their ship was sunk in the Black Sea. Perhaps it was the Bulgarian ship "Struma" that was hired to evacuate the Jewish refugees to Palestine but was hit by a torpedo from a Soviet submarine on February 24, 1942.
  The youngest brother of Eliyahu Yankel died at the age of 20 from complications following his bike accident.
  My story of the Meites family ends with my mother Genya (jet another sister of Eliyahu) who was called Anna most of the time. My father affectionately called her Kutzala, from the Romanian name Anikutza. The exact date of my mother's birth is unknown. Although her passport pointed to the year of 1906, I think that she was born closer to the dawn of the century because she remembered some episodes related to the 1903 pogrom in Chisinau.
  Anna Meites, Eliyahu's sister (photo from the author's archive)
  The Meites and Vaysman (my father's last name) families lived side by side, and after my parent's marriage, they stayed in the grandmother Tseytl's house, where I was born in 1928. I was named Yuliy after my grandfather Yoil. When I was 3, we moved from the Meites' house to the two-bedroom apartment on Prunkulovskaya Street in the yard of Mr. Katz. In this apartment, my brother Yefim (Khaim) was born in 1934.
  In the memoirs above, my father mostly covered the Eliyahu's biography. I will just briefly review the milestones now.
  Eliyahu (Eliya, Ilyusha, Ilya) Meitus was born on September 27, 1892 in Chisinau to Yoil Meites and Tseytl Averbuch. In 1906, his father sent him to Odessa where he graduated from the high school in 1910. In the same year, with Bialik's support, an eighteen-years-old poet published his first poem in Hebrew. After graduation, he went to the Sorbonne University in Paris but, because of the beginning of the World War One, returned to Bessarabia and went to the Petrograd University that he graduated in 1917 (with his major in history and philology). He also studied in Brussels, Belgium (the years unknown). Sometime during his education years, he married his first wife Betty (last name unknown) but they parted soon in the confusion of the Russian revolution (Betty stayed in Russia while Eliyahu went to Bessarabia). In his early life, he was a member of Tze'irei Zion (Youth of Zion) party, also active in Romania among Yosef Sprinzak, Haim Grinberg, Yosef Baratz, who were the 'Zionist emissaries'. From 1921 to 1923, he was a Principal of the Jewish school in the town of Soroki. In 1921 (or 1920), he married his second wife Lisa (Aliza) (1890-1964, her last name is unknown). From 1923, he worked as a teacher of Hebrew in Yassi and Buzău, Romania. In 1935, he went to Palestine where, after his wife's death (sometime after 1964), he married Batya (her last name is also unknown). Living in Tel Aviv, he continued to teach Hebrew literature and grammar in the Montefiore and Ge'ula high schools, translated and published his books. He died in Tel Aviv on June 19, 1977 at the age of 85, and was buried in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.
  Eliyahu Meitus and Lisa had two children: Doriel (Eliyahu's adopted son by marriage) and Yiel (Fifi). His grand- and great-grandchildren still live in Israel. I was in contact with some of them and received this beautiful photo of Eliyahu and one of his grandsons.
  Eliyahu Meitus with his grandson Yoram. (Photo from Yoram Tamari's archive)
  Eliyahu's Life in Literature
  Eliyahu began writing at a young age. I remember my grandmother repeating lines from his lyric: "You're so tender, you're so gentle, as if you were woven from the moonlight rays...'
  He started his literary career in 1910 when the first poem in Hebrew ("Lilith") was published in the magazine "haShiloah" with the support of Hayim Bialik. Hayim Bialik (חיים נחמן ביאליק; 1873 -1934) was a Jewish poet who wrote primarily in Hebrew but also in Yiddish. Bialik was one of the pioneers of the modern Hebrew poetry and came to be recognized as Israel's national poet.
  Hayim Bialik (photo from the Internet)
  Later in his life Eliyahu Meitus wrote a book 'In the Circle of Writers: Memoirs of Youth' (1977, Tel Aviv) where he talked about his meetings with Biyalik and the other contemporaries such as Mendel Mocher Sfarim, Shaul Tchernikovsky, Yosef Klauzner, Eliezer Shteinman, Alter Droyanov, Yehudah Karni, David Shimoni, Yitzhak Katzenelson, Mordechai Goldberg.
  The cover page of the book 'In the Cirle of Writers'
  According to several Internet sources, from 1921, Eliyahu constantly contributed to Jewish periodicals in New York and Tel Aviv. In Palestine, where he moved in 1935, and then in Israel, he published several poetry books. Some of the Eliyahu's famous works include a poem "The Shulamite" published in 1928 and 'Anthology of Modern Jewish Poetry' (1938). He has become widely known as a translator, mainly from Yiddish (D.Bergelson, Peretz Markish, Froim Oierbah), French (Racine, Balzac, Verlen, A.Zhid, Maupassant) and Russian (A.S.Pushkin, Lev Tolstoy) languages. Meitus has completely translated 'Fleurs du Mal' ('Flowers of Evil') by Charles Pierre Baudelaire to Hebrew for the first time in history and, in 1959, two volumes of military memoirs of Charles de Gaulle.
  On the day of receiving the Fikhman's Award given by International Besarabian Jews Federation. On the photo - the first recipients of the Award : Froim Euerbach (right) and Eliyahu Meitus (left), 1964 , Tel - Aviv, Israel
  He mostly wrote in Hebrew and Yiddish. I was not able to find any of his poetry in Russian, except for the three translated songs in 'Jewish anthology - a collection of young Jewish poets' (compiled by famous Jewish poets Vladislav Khodasevich and Leyb Jaffe).
  Eliyahu Meitus in his library in Tel Aviv (photo from Mable Meites' archive)
  Being poets, I and my husband Michael Romm have grown interested in Eliyahu's poetry. We do not speak Hebrew but desperately wanted to know what he was writing about. With the help of our Hebrew-speaking friends (Irina Yavchunovskiy, Rachel Kulesskiy and David Chacham) we began translating his sonnets to Russian. The sonnets came from the book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge" found in the family collection. Then, online, we met and befriended Mrs. Sheli Fain who translated the first 10 sonnets to English.
  M. Gershenzon, who wrote the introduction to the 'Jewish anthology - a collection of young Jewish poetry', said: "This book contains the works of the modern Jewish lyrics; but poetry translation is a sad thing. In the original, each poem pours a rainbow, plays with the countless colorful rays; translation inevitably smothers most of those rays and substitutes them with the others. So, it makes no sense to speak here about the artistic content of the collection. What survived in the retelling of the lively muse of the original, will be welcomed into the reader's soul. I will only add that even a translation conveys to the reader totally, though not as brightly, the psychological content of the text".
  What is said by Gershenzon very much applies to our translation experience.
  Experiencing more and more of Eliyahu's poetry, we became fascinated with his work. His poetry is very romantic, metaphorical and passionate. There are numerous hidden references to the Jewish history and scripture. We would like to present some samples of Eliyahu Meitus' poetry to our readers with the hope you will be touched by his pen like we were.
  Poems from the Book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge'
  The book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge' is a collection of 53 sonnets in Hebrew by Eliyahu Meitus.
  It was dedicated to his wife Aliza. The book was published in 1967 in Tel Aviv. This chapter has ten sonnets translated into English by Sheli Fain from Canada. These translations are completed in the form of the free verses with no rhyming. It is important to note that Eliyahu used the classical sonnet versification with repeated rhyming and many other features of the genre.
  'On the Edge of the Second Bridge' with Eliyahu Meitus autograph (photo from Internet)
  (Page 7) On a swinging bridge
  On Nile's swinging bridge my days have passed
  But sunrises and sunsets paint the waters
  With fire and gold colours; my blood then yells
  Will passion ever come, how longer can I wait?
  Although the midnight stars sometimes have hinted,
  To build strong yearnings, my dreams became all blue
  But when the fireflies affectionately winked
  They sent a string of glowing moments to my soul
  The shattered image swept by river water
  What's left for me? Some sort of glimmer
  But clouds will tell me that not all was lost
  Friendship sparks will shape themselves in halo,
  The floating shadow from my face erased:
  The very last caress of a love which disappeared
  (Page 8) On the other end of the bridge
  On the other end of the bridge with trembling gaze
  My eyes are staring in the space far-off:
  What is hidden by the flooded river shores?
  What secrets does the ashy desert hold?
  I look behind into a wall of darkness
  Black clothed figures shed their tears on me
  The sparks are gone and vanished in the fog
  And chimes won't cheer my days once more
  The rose doves flew away and won't return
  To coop ... but, Lord, my foot steps
  Toward this abrupt bank will head again
  From distances my ghosts will smile at me
  And they will peal the evening hour bells
  My journey has not ended, the game is not done.
  (Page 9) This is the fragrance of sunrise
  This is the fragrance of the sunrise, warm
  Like woman's bosom, a summer night, breathtaking
  Dreamy in the moonlight, the sea tide breaking
  The silence... and from its hiding it emerges
  The vision plummets in the pool of days
  The heart is yearning for a simple world
  Where a rare icon shines on background
  Where the first buds of love will blossom
  Even if my tapestry of life is spurned
  On steps of sin I dazedly climbed to him
  From the abyss I grabbed the cliff above
  From over the river, stripped of the fog
  Vision of magical youth will reach me soon
  And it will rock in aspirations for glory
  (Page 10) My Boat
  My boat sailed on green, rough waters
  A drunkard wobbling at the helm
  The captain slumbered, sleep overcomes him
  And rats were gnawing at its sails
  More than once it hit the dreadful rocks
  The sun already to the evening left
  Through all its cracks a ghastly wind blows
  And deadly shadows spread across the deck
  The isle of its dreams is far from paradise
  Under domed bridges the boat sailed many times
  Its sailors buried in the deepest waves
  The isle of its dreams is far from paradise
  And maybe it will not get there at all
  It might have crushed on empty endless shores
  (Page 11) The ghastly lake
  My destiny was tossed into a ghastly lake
  Of stale green waters, my soul is frightened
  Will I be able to endure the rise toward the sky
  Would a redeeming hand be sent to help me
  How can I bear this silent loneliness?
  When in my soul the drips of life still trickle?
  But any moment the bubble could explode
  As long as it's enveloped by traces of desire
  But not! Salvation bells will toll, soon
  I will escape this murky labyrinth
  And my strong feet will step onto the bridge
  The man and bridge will finally connect
  And in the skies the stars abundantly will shine
  Like the white eagle, my song will soar up high
  (Page 12) ...And the circle is closing again
  And the circle is closing again, don't look back
  In anger, or false regrets or even sadness
  Those were the days, you held the sceptre high
  Those were the days, the storm cut off the flowers
  Did you ever dream that from every corner?
  Love will shine on you, and at each door
  A carpet made of comet dust will welcome (you)
  And your desire like a horse will race
  You crossed the river on a narrow bridge
  Gasping for air, you reached the end
  For small jugs with God you wrestled (1)
  Your days are stretched, but they get shorter
  Yet from your flesh his miracles you watched
  Yes, with God you lived, in sadness and in joy
  (1) Reference to Jacob and the small jugs - Parashat Vayishlach
  (Page 13) In the river of my life I see my image
  In the river of my life I see my image (1)
  Twirled by storms and fogged by sorrows
  God carried me on his back at a gallop
  I stretched to Him my hand to hold on
  You see, on all the winding roads
  Entangled by the magical moon net
  My drifting spirit still guided to the gate
  Of the castle where I will live in peace
  There, avoiding the eyes of lover
  The embers of my heart glow a ray of light
  In the silent forest among wild flowers
  Even if the image is blurry in the river of my life
  A new dawn will always come for the tormented soul
  And purification will be found in its spring
  (1) Psalm 39
  (Page 14) Spirals of smoke
  Spirals of smoke from my pipe, with pleasure
  Weaving dreamy gossamer in front of me!
  The heart is peaceful, only the mind imagined
  Pale pink fantasies that vanished in smoke
  For hours the visions delighted me with love,
  And gave comfort to my bewildered mind.
  Could it be their fire, like candles, burned out?
  Or maybe their magic will never be forgotten?
  Ethereal Sylphids born from pipe smoke!
  Your scent still lingers, like an opium ecstasy,
  Like the distant song of the divine voice. (1)
  My soul is getting old, but I still have a wish
  My nightly Sylphids, your gift of love
  And bitter melodies, to keep until I die.
  (Page 15) I said: - In my goblet...
  I said: In my goblet - could the wine run out,
  Man will not touch it with his lips, and he'll get drunk?
  Or, it may be that I'll be offered gifts
  Of its delightful treasures and adventures
  My grapes hung, no one had picked them yet,
  They tremble, beaten by the coldest wind.
  Then you came, my dryness was forgotten,
  When you offered me your precious must to drink.
  Even if I know that your goblet is strong,
  Its elixir spills over the rim, bubbly and bitter
  No one can tell what wonders it conceals;
  May be I'll taste a bitter drop of your liquor,
  Perhaps, until decided when I could reach the cup
  I'll sip your nectar, before it's getting bad.
  (Page 16) You, Whom Suddenly I Met
  You, whom suddenly I met at harvest time
  Your womanly dew blessing spilled on me
  When touching me each fiber got delighted
  And night and day my soul is searching you
  For you my sky rejoices in the moon light
   My body's glad, enveloped by your spirit
  Again I'm tall and strong and longing for
  The passion of your soul to breathe on me
  No wonder when a heart burns up with fire
  Returns to blossoms like the legendary bird
  With thunders grows the forest of desire
  Scorching storms by force on him will hold
  He'll spend his day in poppy fields elated
  And his intoxicated being will arise and glow
  'The Evening Lights' by Nathan Bistritzki
  (Notes on the margins of the book 'On the Edge of the Second Bridge' written by Nathan Bistritzki in Hebrew, 1967)
  Eliahu Meitus, an author-artist or an author-philosopher, not in vain has he selected for this collection of sonnets the epigraph taken from the poem by A. Fet, the remarkable Russian lyricist from the XIX century. There is a hint here to the origins of common values and sometimes of a common destiny.
  (English translation of the epigraph from the Hebrew translation of Nathan Bistritzky):
  And I, innocent as then,
  Forgotten, hunched under a cloud of dark
  Go down on my knees,
  And thrilled by splendor
  Kindle the evening lights.
  These verses were inscribed by the poet, who is known for the purity of lyricism, on his latest book, 'The Evening Lights.' Pure lyricism was not easily accepted by the new generation, the transition generation, which, like all 'transition' generations and even the 'crisis' generations, did not write poetry for poetry's sake. After all the screams of the debates calling for a new truth, and the sound of trumpets calling to fight, what followed was a loss of the sense of hearing, of the ability to hear 'every soft whisper' - the voice of the soul expressing its own feelings - which is the essence of poetry!
  Essence of poetry, how?
  The human being is special among the animals, he has feelings. He is also alone and his virtues immediately feed on his great loneliness. Second, the virtues: the number one virtue is mother and the number two is sister: the philosophy, as a view of the world is the mother, poetry (art in general and poetry especially) is the sister; and the understanding here is that philosophy is the love of wisdom and poetry is the wisdom of love.
  Here, in the realm of poetry we have someone who sings, mainly because he has what to say: he sings because he interprets what he sees, and he sings because he has music to play. It is important to also emphasize, that what counts for the poet is the lyrical purity, the basic lyricism which is the melody.
  This melody, by virtue of 'trilled by splendor' is sustaining the poet in his great test of loneliness in the twilight of his existence, forgotten and hunched under the 'dark cloud.' It helps him to recover from his loneliness in order to have the courage to light the evening candle and to say his evening prayer!
  Eliahu Meitus is the master of melody!
  Always inspired from the experiences which come from his life, he discovers in his life not only the melody, but an entire universe which becomes the topic for his songs. We can say that the melody as topic couldn't have existed without the support of the poet's personality.
  He calls himself a 'talking soul' and sometimes even a 'muttering' soul. He is a talking soul on a joyful path, talking happily and innocently. Naivety is not just innocence here. The foundation of his work comes from the difference that exists between the naivety that is inspired by innocence and the inspiration that comes from the force of naivety.
  A poet with a joyful soul who embraces the human being with limitless sensual pleasure: the pleasure of life that comes mainly from the Universe being itself a source of pleasure, an enjoyable pleasure, the greatest of pleasures.
  This feeling and the sensuality that comes from instinct, based on roots of divine inspiration, deviate from the narrow field of instinctive sensuality concentrated and also dispersed, and explicitly and effortless, stretched from limit to limit into the sphere of refinement.
  This refinement does not mean a style like 'I sing happily like that bird which nests in the branches.' The refinement is based on the Observation Philosophy. And I repeat: the Observation Philosophy does not entirely impair the innocence of the melody. It is actually the cause of a strong vitality, the vitality of the artist's belief with all his might in the human being who inhabits his poems from the dawn of his writing in all stages and with all the complications and the many obstacles that were on the way.
  The experiential Observation Philosophy claims to be the craft of thought - in art, the poetry of the experience is built as a complex poetical axiom, and the musical forms needed by this poetry should always adhere faithfully and in the strict dedication even if this sometimes means mincing words or even being a little flirtatious. The musicality here is not the music for music's sake, in the style of Verlaine, but there is also a hint of Baudelaire, drunk and sober at the same time, an idiomatic combination of romantic experience shaped by classical methods.
  Here we see the poet's devotion to the most developed form of poetry that he rejuvenated and enriched in the Hebrew language, second only to Saul Tchernikhovski and as a loyal partner to him. This form is the sonnet and it will be a second nature to the musical nature of Meitus' poetry.
  Helped by the sonnet, the poet comes out to 'kindle a light for the evening prayer.' In this style, his second nature (nature that comes from his cultural upbringing), Meitus publishes his most courageous achievement yet, crossing from the 'other side of the bridge,' to the summit, the 'seventy steps of my summit' as he calls it.
  Alert reader, we have an evening prayer here:
  Yes, there is a prayer, the evening prayer of the human being! The prayer that renews daily for the poet the miracle of the Creation and it is a talisman against all devils of the night; devils that change life into death. This night which opens as far as the 'other side of the bridge' extends as a bow on the human life, stretching between the void of before 'in the beginning was a man' to the void of 'there was a man and he is no longer here.'
  This state of mind makes up the plot of the sonnets: the night devils flying under cover in a drunk pleasure: the dialog between the man and the secret of the 'self' and the 'mystical dialog' between the reflection in the mirror and the shadow of the actual body and also with the 'self' as it utters 'I am just a man with a strange name, Meitus, and I got this name by chance.'
  This could come as an avalanche on each human soul, but especially on a soul that at its base has the joy of sensuality and it's also meant to sing. Here the Observation Philosophy that was forged on the anvils of heart's instincts is clarified in the melody. This is the same melody which is said to have inspired the belief of the artist, a trained belief in the human being, embracing it as a musical instrument.
  It is also clear that, it is the Observation Philosophy that is forced to courageously face the horrors of the 'other side of the bridge' to the extent of meeting eye to eye the 'I am just a man,' an imaginary man, a stranger to the real man, not my being, but my universe. Here there is the single being's 'soul searching,' the being that is at the centre of the universe. We can say that pure and reliable lyricism expresses the belief in the single human being, as if this being represented the entire universe.
  The Observation Philosophy, assisted here by the evening prayer, strengthens the limits given to this poet, who always had the courage in his believe not to deviate from his ethics. The smart reader, the one who loves lyrical poetry and who understands it, will discover that each sonnet is unique, but when taken together, they form a whole; they are not just a collection of songs, but a lyrical drama.
  And finally, it is surprising to see in these pages an explosion of love. An example is the night, this night which is also known to the human being as the eternal night; this is not the night, (the night as the real time), but the halt of time, the no-time. In fact, he founds the inspiration of the hour in this no-time; during this blessed hour when 'love swings on a line like white laundry.' And there is no better expression to describe love than this surprising and spontaneous picture 'Laundry on a line,' the flag of love, an explosion like fireworks!
  These fireworks represent the renewal of youth, the youth beyond the old age and this is the real youth of the human being, not the one ruled by the laws of nature, but by spirituality.
  This collection of sonnets is the spiritual portal to Meitus' poetry. This poetry belongs to the gems of classical Hebrew poetry and represents a traffic marker on the road from simple rhyming to real poetry!
  Translated from Hebrew by Sheli Fain
  About Nathan Bistritzky
  Nathan (Agmon) Bistritzky (1896-1980), a writer, dramatist and official of the Jewish National Fund for 30 years, was born in Russia and came to Palestine in 1920 as a member of the third-aliya. He was a member of the senior staff of the JNF from 1922 until his retirement in 1952, specializing in its youth and information activities. He was best known for his dramatic works, many of which dealt with Jewish history and such controversial personalities as Judas Iscariot and Shabtai Tzvi. He also published books on South American Jewry and Zionism. His latest book, dealing with the struggle of the third aliya, was about to be published at the time of his death. He was named academician by the Royal Academy of Fine Letters in Spain for the first complete translation of Don Quixote into Hebrew in 1958.
  Nathan (Agmon) Bistritzky (photo from Internet)
  Poems from 'Jewish anthology - a collection of young Jewish poets'
  The Jewish Anthology: A Collection of New Jewish Poetry, coedited by Leyb Jaffe and Vladislav Khodasevich. The anthology consists of translations of Hebrew poetry by fifteen authors: Peretz, Frishman, Bialik, Tshernichovski, Kagan, Fichman, Schneur, Simonovic, Steinberg, Katznelson, Avraham Ben-Yitzhak, Carney, Meytus, Faershteyn and Shoul.
  The first two additions of the anthology were published in Moscow in 'Safrut' publishing house in 1917-1918 and then, after Khodasevich's immigration, in Berlin in 1922. Introduction to the book was written by literary critic and translator M.O. Gershenzon. Eliyahu's songs were translated by Yuriy Verkhovskiy and O. Rumer.
  The poems below were translated from Russian to English by my husband Michael Romm.
  At Night
  Skies have stretched the wings of night;
  Quiet stars have brought the light;
  Their rays have intertwined
   In the glim of dreaming
  World has set on t' breast of dark;
  Ghosts have put up a kissing spark;
  God, on 'night watch to embark,
   Blessed the earthly stillness.
  Here it comes, the secret spell:
  'Oh, your lover's sleeping well,
  In her sleep she might excel
   To the land of marvels.
  Shoulders, glossy and exposed,
  Cheeks are burning, like a rose,
  Quiet whispering arose:
   Oh, your bride is waiting!
  Come, embrace and feel her breast,
  Bend, so lips on lips take rest,
  Stay as her invited guest
   Look, she's now smiling'.
  Quiet moment... Peace n' calm,
  Stars are pouring t' golden balm,
  Nature feels the Godly palm
   Stealthy n' Almighty.
  From the Songs of the Fall
  Oh, sadness of dying, so simple and quiet,
  The coolness of autumn!
  Deciduous bed in the chamber of silence,
  Disguised to the bottom,
  The summer is ending.
  It's facing the flow, quite soft and depressing,
  A gleam of the lightmug;
  For glory of tunes that are sounds of passing,
  The Sorrow of timing,
  The summer is fading.
  And sun with the final yet radiant glimmers
  Is illuminating;
  And skies, although azure but dimmer and dimmer,
  Are watching and fading.
  The summer has died.
  A flock of the leaves, they are whispering and rustling,
  Is gentle but hustling,
  The flow of silence.
  To glaze that is paling, the gold is converted,
  The orchard's deserted.
  The breath travels quickly from branch to another,
  And falls to the ground -
  The weakening whimpers,
  The branches are sliding with t' fortunate kisses
  By leaves, like by misses.
  The purple is glowing, it floats through copses,
  And turns into corpses,
  But lights in the alleys.
  Yet, emptiness. Only, so blueish and distant,
  A murmur persistent.
  I would like to close this book in hope that it evoked the reader's interest towards works and life of Eliyahu Meitus. I will be grateful for any feedback and additional material that could be sent to
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