Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
write of an alleged love affair between the poet and his niece,
had himself admitted in a letter to Sachs (
Ozar Nehmad,
27) that it was not an established fact but merely a conjecture
based upon a certain interpretation of one of the poet’s verses.
And yet many authors, following Luzzatto, accepted the story’s
historicity, embellished it and even wrote that, as a result of his
disappointment, Ibn Ezra never married.
Actually, Moses ibn Ezra’s letters clearly indicate that his broth-
ers had left Granada with other notables shortly after 1090, in
consequence of the political confusion and revolution which
followed the defeat of Abdallah, ruler of Granada, at the hands
of the Almoravides under Yusuf ibn Teshufin. This defeat was
disastrous for the Jewish community in Granada. In reality, then,
it was not a conjectural love affair, but this sad turn in Moses’
fortune and the loss of his wealth and possessions that embittered
his life to the very end. There is no doubt that after he fled
Granada, he was very deeply grieved and disturbed about having
to leave his children behind. His genuine feelings are poignantly
expressed in the following lines
(Moses ibn Ezra's Poems,
lated by Solomon Solis-Cohen, JPS, 1934, p. 11):
Mourn little dove, mourn for the wanderer,
And for his children that are far away,
With none to bring them food.
Grieve for him, little dove, and bemoan his exile,
Display not before him gladness and song!
Three Ma jor Works
In any event, despite biographical errors, Ibn Ezra’s reputation
as a poet must solidly be based upon his three major works: (1)
his homonymous work
Sefer ha-Tarshish,
consisting of
1210 lines (the numerical value of the word Tarshish) with
or rhymed couplets; (2) his non-liturgical poems, which he
collected and arranged in a divan; (3) his liturgical poems
, chiefly of a penitential nature, which were to be found
later in the ritual of many congregations in Spain and southern
France, but were never gathered into a single volume.
Ibn Ezra was not so tender or impressionable as Ibn Gabirol,
nor did he rise to such lofty heights as did the poet of Malaga.
Nevertheless, Graetz’s adverse criticism that Ibn Ezra’s poetry
“was labored and stilted and his verses often hard without sweet-
ness or freshness and neither rhythmical nor harmonious,” must
be considered exaggerated and attributable to the lack of the
poet’s published works at the time Graetz wrote his
der Juden.
Unlike Graetz and Zunz, Ibn Ezra’s contemporaries, who were
quite familiar with his works, eulogized his poetic talents. Judah