Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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Master of Hebrew Diction
On the whole it may be said that
Tarshish,
containing more
than a thousand poems of two or three verses ending in homo-
nyms, and written on a variety of subjects in different metrical
forms patterned after the Arabic, is an excellent example of Ibn
Ezra’s mastery of Hebrew diction. It demonstrates his ingenuity
and resourcefulness in ideas and expression, and his ability to
soar to heights of genuine poetry. In his nature poems, despite
the limitations and exigencies of Arabic meter, he effectively
blends picturesque imagery with elegance of diction. Thus he de-
picts nature’s reawakening in the spring
{ibid.,
p. 45):
The garden dons a coat of many hues,
The mead a broidered carpet hath unrolled;
The woods are brave in chequered mantles—now
A wondrous scene may every eye behold.
The newborn flowers acclaim the newborn spring,
And forth to meet his coming gaily throng;
High, at their head, on sovereign throne is borne
The rose, the flowrets’ queen, queen of my song.
In his liturgical poems, Ibn Ezra stresses the transitoriness of
this life; he reminds man of the coming of divine judgment and
of the need for repentance. In retrospect he realizes that his
youth was spent in frivolity and vain pursuits; and in a confes-
sional mood he underscores the redeeming qualities of penitence
(ibid.,
p. 149) :
In folly all my youthful days were spent,
In vanity the years of manhood went;
Therefore am I ashamed and penitent—
Tears are my meat and drink, by day and night!
Pure soul, imprisoned in a form of clay,
Reflect! This world is but a transient way.
Awake! Awake in the still watch and pray;
Rise, call upon thy Maker in the night!
In other poems he sings of the glory of creation and of the
beneficent and merciful providence of the Creator. His love for
his people and his commiseration with their bitter lot are elo-
quently expressed in several poems. We quote from one
(ibid.,
p. 116):
Bitterly do I grieve
For Israel —fruitful vine
Tha t by wild beasts is trampled and devoured;
For Judah —ship that drives to dreadful wreck,
Upon the sea of exile tempest-tossed,
Rudderless, anchorless, and the captain lost!
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