Hayim Nahman Bialik

Hayim Nahman Bialik in Yiddish Poetry

(Russian essay by Velvl Chernin)

Songs and Poems

(book, Russian translation by Vladimir Zhabotinsky)

The poet Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873–1934) is best known as a classic of modern Hebrew literature and its symbol, as much as Sholem Aleichem has become the symbol of Yiddish literature. However, besides Hebrew, Bialik also wrote in Yiddish (Sholem Aleichem, by the way, also occasionally wrote in Hebrew).

Bialik’s Yiddish works were an important stage in the general development of poetry in this language. His first Yiddish poem was Oyfn hoykhn barg (“On the High Mountain”), published in August 1899 (Elul 5659 according to the Jewish calendar) in the Krakow Zionist Yiddish weekly newspaper Der Yud.

After this early publication, his Yiddish poems regularly appeared in periodicals for about a decade, mainly in the same weekly Der Yud and in the popular St. Petersburg Yiddish newspaper Der Fraynd. Shortly before the Czernowitz Conference in 1908, at the time when the conflict between the Yiddishists and Hebraists was escalating, the editors of Der Fraynd took an unambiguously Yiddishist stance.

Four books of Bialik’s collected Yiddish poems appeared during his lifetime:

1. Fun tsar un tsorn (“On Sorrow and Anger”), published in 1906.

2. Poezye (“Poetry”), published in 1913.

3. Lider (“Poems”), published in 1918.

4. Shirim (“Poems”), published in 1922.