Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Amichai bore arms in two wars and lived most of his life on threatened ground. Yet his hatred of warfare permeates his writing. Descendants of the patriarch Abraham, both Arab and Jew, inhabit a broken land where every street sign, Amichai says, must be in three languages: “Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.” Yet he refuses to accept the spiritual and patriotic consolations so frequently offered. Do paltry monuments, with their promises of eternal rest and undying love, merely provide a brief emotional respite before the resumption of hostilities? Is the pain of loss assuaged by pretty children, military bands, new clothes, and garish parades? This “sweet world” seems fit only to be “soaked like bread/ in sweet milk for a terrible/ toothless God.” All that may be discerned of the divine presence is indifference or senility. No heavenly harmony is likely to emerge from this chaos; God seems incapable or unwilling to make straight the crooked path.
In other poems, such as “I Want to Die in My Bed,” Amichai emphasized his impatience with platitudinous sentiments about heroic death. His countrymen have been too often told, “‘May ye find consolation in the building/ of the homeland.’” Yet what good is a homeland filled only with corpses? Amichai rejects that lie written long ago by the Roman poet Horace: How noble and sweet it is to die for one’s country.
For more than two thousand years, Jews throughout the Diaspora have longed...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Seven Laments for the War-Dead Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!