Judæo-German poet and Hebrew writer; born at Wilna Nov. 4, 1823; died at Kiev Dec. 26, 1890. While at the bet ha-midrash he wrote his first poetry and prose. Gordon was a personal friend of Michael Lebensohn, Wolf Kaplan, and Hirsch Katzenellenbogen. He married a sister of the poet Leon Gordon, and exerted considerable influence upon the latter. In 1846 his first poem appeared in "Ḳol Bokim," a collection published by Kalman Schulmann upon the death of Mordecai Aaron Günzburg (Wilna, 1846). After the Crimean war Gordon removed to Poltava, and from there to Krementchug, where he found employment in the office of Joseph Günzburg. In 1868 he was engaged as teacher by Brodski at Shpola, and until 1881 he remained in the employment of the Brodski family at Smyela. In 1869 Gordon published a history of Russia in Yiddish. About that time an anonymous collection of his poems was issued. In 1881 he published at St. Petersburg, under the title of "Tif'eret Banim," a dissertation in Hebrew on the moral obligations and responsibilities of Jewish youth. In 1886 his "Sheber Ga'on" appeared. Gordon was a contributor to "Ha-Shaḥar," "Ha-Boḳer Or," and, "Ha-Karmel."

His reputation, however, is based mainly upon his poetry, which appealed strongly to the popular imagination. Many of his songs, set to music, are known throughout Russia. To quote Leo Wiener, the author of "The History of Yiddish Literature"; "Gordon's poems are of a militant order: he is not satisfied with indicating the right road to culture, he also sounds the battle-cry of advance. The key-note is struck in his famous 'Arise, My People!' . . . In this poem he preaches to his race that they should assimilate themselves in manners and culture to the ruling people; that they should abandon their old-fashioned garments and distinguishing characteristics of long beard and forelock" (pp. 83-84). In pursuance of his purpose of arousing his people to the necessity of adapting themselves to modern conditions, he assails the Ḥasidim, bewailing their fanaticism and ridiculing their Asiatic manners and customs, their ignorance and superstition. His ridicule is sharp and cutting.

For a time Gordon dared not disclose his identity, and published his songs anonymously. A collection of these with his name appended was first published at Warsaw in 1889 under the title of "Yiddishe Lieder," comprising "Die Bord," "Der Borsht," "Die Mashke," "Mein Vida," "Die Bildung," "Steh Oif, Mein Folk," and many others. Their language and style are plain, popular, and idiomatic, occasionally bordering on the profane, as in the concluding stanza of "Mein Vida," or in the ninth and twelfth stanzas of "Ikh Ken Nit Ferstein."

  • B. Volodierski, A Kurze Biographie fun Michel Gordon, in Hausfreind, ii. 147-148, iii. 315;
  • Leo Wiener, The History of Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 82-85, New York, 1899;
  • M. D. Gordon, Mebaḳḳer Tif'eret Banim, in Voskhod, 1881, No. 4, pp. 43-44.
H. R. M. Z.
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