Themes and Meanings

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As in all genuine poetry, it is impossible to separate meaning from the language that expresses it in “Wildpeace.” This poetry, whether in Hebrew or good English translations, is truly “realized content.” Amichai is not an ideological poet. Though he had affinities with the European postwar existentialists, especially with Albert Camus, he was a member of no philosophical school. He had no plan for saving the world through programs such as those propounded by Marxists, socialists, or social Democrats. Zionism and representative democracy have failed to bring peace. Neither do divine promises and biblical covenants provide relief from the cycle of destruction. Long ago Amichai rejected intellectually, if not fully in his heart, the God of the chosen people. If God exists, other poems by him have suggested, He is a toothless spirit, either too old to care or too young to understand, for whom Torah scrolls, phylacteries, and menorah candles are shining playthings.

“Wildpeace” is more a poem of gentle yearning and of wishful expectation than of affirmation. If peace eventually comes to a weary world it will not be from prophets, messiahs, diplomats, or statesmen. It will not even come from a divinity that has finally had its fill of the wickedness of humankind and decided to intervene. It will come without flourish, without premeditation, like “lazy white foam.” No image more fully suggests that which is commonplace, yet beautiful and beloved, than the wildflowers Amichai envisions suddenly blanketing a field.

While he is neither philosopher nor statesman, Amichai’s poetic voice speaks passionately and consistently. It also speaks with the authority of a man who knows war intimately and has always lived in communities on the brink. Against all evidence, and claiming no ready answers, he continued to hope for peace. This is a personal voice speaking from individual experience, but the response seems universal, as his readers in languages as diverse as Arabic and Catalan affirm.

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