Whatever I have to say of Herzl, the unforgettable, I have tried to put into the several portraits which I have made of the physical man. I know that my attempts have fallen short, for our leader was a man of super-human beauty. And I confess freely that it was this divine gift of beauty which left the deepest and most enduring impress on my mind. The towering figure, informed by a marvelous harmoniousness which poured itself into all his movements, represented an ideal type. But I cannot believe that such amazing beauty was purely physical. The princes before whom Herzl appeared paid him involuntary homage, for they knew instinctively that here was an uncrowned King. If there is such a thing a kingliness of mien and bearing, Herzl possessed it - and in a higher degree I think, than Wilhelm II, or Edward VII, or Alphonso of Spain. The indescribable nobility of bearing, which was accompanied by that gentle condescension which is the mark of princes, cast a spell over those who came within range of his voice. Until this day I am genuinely sorry for those who have not known him personally.
The forces which had made him supremely beautiful had also woven into the texture of his being a conscious regard for all beauty. He had the artist's sensitiveness to appearance, and aesthetic consideration played a foremost role in all his preparations.
Before the opening of a Congress the members of the Actions Committee were literally passed in review. Herzl insisted that in the matter of dress too they should express their sense of the dignity of the occasion. And the entrance of the leaders into the hall was timed perfectly, so that the maximum of effect might be produced. Yet it would be wrong to attribute this extreme care to a demagogic instinct; it was the detailed expression of a high regard for appearances. The platform manner of Herzl was at the opposite pole from that of the demagogue. He was no popular orator; every sentence was carefully balanced; there was a rhythm in the thought as well as in the word. The audience was made to feel that not shallow enthusiasm moved him, but rigid logic, inexorable energy and an unshakable will to action based on sincerest conviction. Such elements, again, could express themselves only in the simplest and most exact - and therefore the most convincing phrases and words.
The years passed over that proud, unbending head; cares and disappointments, the strains of an intolerably heavy responsibility, the pain of hoe deferred and deferred again left on his face deep and expressive lines. But time, which entrenched itself on his face, had no power over his eyes. The face had become the face of a man of sorrows: his eyes had become the eyes of a seer.

Theodor Herzl's portrait by Hermann Struck

 
 

 

 

 

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05 Nov 2007 / 24 Heshvan 5768 0