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It Is Almost an axiom that of all forms of expression known to Man, Poetry is most difficult to render from one language into another. Only they who strive in music and in the graphic arts speak in tongues universally known. The translation of a book of science or of information in some other field offers no particular problem, but twelve different translations of an epic poem may differ as much one from the other as from their common source. Pope made Homer into Pope and certain German translators are said to have made Shakespeare’s blank verse even nobler than it is in the original.

Toward Andre Spire, the venerable French-Jewish vers librist, Stanley Burnshaw has acted in the triple role of biographer, eulogist and translator, in “Andre Spire and His Poetry,” published in a limited edition by the Centaur Press of Philadelphia. M. Spire has waited a long time for such a token of appreciation. His book comes to us some time after the American free versifiers have short their bolt and have returned to the old metres and rhymes. “If Andre Spire,” writes Alfred Kreymborg in a prefatory note, “is the solitary among modern French poets, he is also, it seems to me, the most universal in his touch, and the man most worthy of an international audience.” At any rate, there is passion, a racial passion and a personal passion, in the verses of Spire.

The life of Spire, during the earlier stages, reflects the influence of France so profoundly that it woul almost seem to exclude the possibility of a Jewish influence. It was the Dreyfus case that made Spi# conscious of his Jewishness, an# from that episode dates his general interest in his race and his specific interest in Zionism, interests reflected and sublimated in his poetry### And yet the profoundest influence was exerted by Israel Zangwil### through the publication of the translation, in 1904, of “Chad Gad###ya”, which, when Spire read it, re### awakened his whole Jewish hered### ity. “I burst into tears. And m###life was changed, upset, as in the wake of a religious conversion.”

He had already declared himself in favor of Zionism before he rea### “Chad Gadya”, but out of the conversion—a curious word to use fo### a Jew becoming a Jew—appeare### the “Poemes Juifs”, unpublishe### until 1908 because of a publisher ### last-minute unwillingness to issue verses of such nature and with su### a title.

Mr. Burnshaw, writing of t### poet as poet, resents the “Jewish###label affixed to Spire and spen### much time and space to prove t### Spire is above that, or any oth###label. Mr. Burnshaw is sound, ### an extent, in that a great Jewish### poet is still a poet who belongs ### poetry, and not exclusively ### Judaism, and his selections f### translation include Spire the ma### Spire the Frenchman, as well a### Spire the Jew.

One has but to read and refle### on such poems as The Ancient Law### Hear, O Israel!, Exodus and Pog###roms to realize the intensity wit### which Spire expresses his Jewish###ness. The Ancient Law is particularly poignant. Therein, a symboli### figure, “the vanquished one, he### eyes bandaged, her neck bent forward, her head hanging in defeat, ### appears as in a dream to the po### and tells him that, however much he may strive to belong to the world, he belongs to his people:

You will want to make songs of ### daring and power,

But you will love only the dreamers unarmed against life.

You will try to listen to the merry songs of peasants, to the brutal footsteps of soldiers, to the pretty roundelays of little girls….

—Your ears are made only to hear lamentations that rise from the four corners of the earth.

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