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Leah Goldberg

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Leah Goldberg (1911-1970), a Hebrew poet and student of literature, who is considered one of Israel's classic poets. Born in Lithuania, Goldberg studied in Lithuania and Germany, specializing in philosophy and Semitic languages. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Bonn in 1933, before coming to the British mandate of Palestine in 1935.

In Israel, Goldberg worked first as a literary adviser to the famous Habimah theater, and as editor to Sifriyat Poalim ("Workmen's Library") books. In 1954, she became a lecturer in literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. From 1963, she headed the department of comparative literature in the Hebrew University.

Goldberg translated numerous foreign works trustfully into Hebrew, basing on her excellent knowledge of 7 languages. These include, in particular, works of modernist Russian poets and translations from Italian.

Goldberg's literary style was modernist, that may superficially looks uncomplicated (she writes in a poem about her own style that "lucid and transparent / are my images"). Although she sometimes chose to write poems that do not rhyme (especially in her later period), she always respected questions of rhytm; moreover, her "antique" works (e.g. the set of love poems "The Sonnets of Theresa di Mon", a false document about the love-longings of a married Italian noblewoman to a young tutor), Goldberg adopted complex rhyming schemes. A very elaborate style that she sometimes used was the 13-line sonnet.

Goldberg's poems often speak about loneliness and broken relationships, of which she speaks with a tragic intonation, originating as some may say in her own loneliness. Some of her subjects are well-entrenched into the Western culture (for instance, the Odyssey), and the Jewish one. She also writes about nature, with a longing that produced perhaps some of her best-known and loved poems. Many mistake some of her best-known poems -- the Songs of the land of my love -- for poems about the land of Israel. The first stanza of one of these poems is brought below, and suggests that the country in question, considering the described precipitation, is not Israel, but perhaps the poet's native land:

My homeland, a poor and fair land
The Queen has no home, the King has no crown
And there are seven days of spring-time a year
All the rest are rain and chill.



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