A(braham) M(oses) Klein Sidney J. Stephen - Essay

Sidney J. Stephen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Portrait of the Poet as Landscape,"] coming as it does after nearly twenty years of writing and publishing poetry, appears to present a view on what a poet's role might be in the society in which he finds himself. For this reason alone, if for no other, the poem might be accorded a close reading, an exploration of the idea of the "poet-as-Adam" which seems to have been a personal reflection of the poet. (p. 553)

An attempt at a reconciliation [between belief and disbelief] is dominant in "Portrait of the Poet", and this is done by way of drawing on the Jewish concept of Adam as he appears in both the Old Testament and in the Book of Zohar, a tract which is central to the doctrines of the Jewish Kabbalah. Klein was quite at home with the Kabbalah…. (pp. 553-54)

[For] the modern Jewish Kabbalist, each of Adam's successors is … responsible for the redemption of man. In effect, all men are Adam, possible Messiahs, in exile but capable of redeeming mankind.

It is this exile which is described in the first section of "Portrait of the Poet as Landscape". The poet does not even have the solace of death, since while "It is possible that he is dead", it is equally "also possible that he is alive". Worse than that: he is an exile…. (p. 554)

In the second section, we see the exiled poet living among other men but clearly not one of them, set apart as it were by virtue of his profession as poet.

As was the case with the original Adam, the poet has been "exiled" because of a sin. His was a sin of pride, of trusting his "quintuplet senses" rather than God his creator. Like the original Adam, who knew that the fruit was forbidden but ate in spite of that at Eve's insistence, the poet knew that...

(The entire section is 733 words.)