Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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l u m
F ALL the important medieval Hebrew poets, Moses ibn
Ezra is undoubtedly the poet whose biography and writings
have been most subjected to conjecture and misinterpretation and
whose literary reputation has had wide fluctuation. Thus, from
the outset, there is no general agreement among scholars as to
the year of his birth. Those who follow S. D. Luzzatto, Dukes
and Graetz, place it as late as 1070 A.C.E., while Heinrich Brody,
an eminent scholar who has devoted many years of painstaking
research to the field of medieval Hebrew poetry, puts it as early
as 1055-1060. Tha t the latter date is more accurate can be gath-
ered from the historical fact that Moses’ brothers were forced to
flee from their native city, Granada, shortly after 1090. By that
year, according to his correspondence, Moses’ wife had already
borne him several children. He therefore could hardly have been
a youngster of twenty when he fled Granada and entrusted his
children to the care of his brother Joseph.
If 1060 represents the accurate date, we are now commemorat-
ing the nine hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Spanish
Hebrew poet. This is an opportune occasion to correct some of
the misinformation about his personal life and briefly to re-
appraise his literary contribution and reputation.
For almost the past one hundred years, it has been generally
accepted that Moses ibn Ezra’s bitter disappointment at being
refused the hand of his niece with whom he was deeply in love,
had forced him to leave his native city and wander the rest of
his life throughout Spain. Not only did Dukes, Graetz and Zunz
accept this story and embellish it somewhat, but even Waxman
in our own generation unquestioningly records the same story
in his
History of Jewish Literature:
“He (Moses ibn Ezra) fell
madly in love with his niece, the daughter of his elder brother
Isaac. She requited his love, but her father interfered and
she was forced to marry his younger brother. This stinging dis-
appointment embittered him against his brothers and he left his
native town and wandered about the rest of his life in strange
countries. His wound was never healed and he attempted to
assuage it by pouring out his soul in burning love songs and in
complaints against the treachery of friends and brothers.” As
Brody has pointed out in his illuminating article on Moses ibn
Ezra (JQR [1934] 24, 4, 309-320), S. D. Luzzatto, the first to