Friday, April 12, 2013

`Some Weird Miracle'

The most important of the Anglo-Quebec Canadian modernist poets was Abraham Moses (A.M.) Klein, who was born in the Ukraine in 1909 and died in Montreal in 1972. He studied law in French at the Université de Montréal, became a successful lawyer and went to work as a speechwriter for Samuel Bronfman, the owner of Seagrams and a prominent philanthropist. Klein was an ardent Zionist, longtime editor of The Canadian Jewish Chronicle and in 1940 published Hath Not a Jew..., his first collection. As a young man he was associated with the “Montreal Group” of writers, including the future biographer of Henry James, Leon Edel. “Heirloom” was published in 1940: 

“My father bequeathed me no wide estates;
No keys and ledgers were my heritage;
Only some holy books with yahrzeit dates
Writ mournfully upon a blank front page — 

“Books of the Baal Shem Tov, and of his wonders;
Pamphlets upon the devil and his crew;
Prayers against road demons, witches, thunders;
And sundry other tomes for a good Jew. 

“Beautiful: though no pictures on them, save
The scorpion crawling on a printed track;
The Virgin floating on a scriptural wave,
Square letters twinkling in the Zodiac. 

“The snuff left on this page, now brown and old,
The tallow stains of midnight liturgy —
These are my coat of arms, and these unfold
My noble lineage, my proud ancestry! 

“And my tears, too, have stained this heirloomed ground,
When reading in these treatises some weird
Miracle, I turned a leaf and found
A white hair fallen from my father's beard.”

No comments: