Page 97 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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lum berg
— M
The Critical Acumen of Ibn Ezra
To appreciate Ibn Ezra’s mastery of the art of poetry and his
critical acumen in judging the poetry of others, one must delve
into his
Kitab al-Muhadarah wal-Mudhakara
(Book of Discus-
sion and Remembrance). It consists of eight chapters on poetic
forms and on the history of Spanish-Jewish poetry from the time
of Menahem and Dunash until his own day.
In this brief essay we can quote only two short passages illus-
trating his keen insight into what constitutes good poetry. Thus,
regarding Samuel ha-Nagid he penetratingly remarks
Halper’s Hebrew translation of the Kitab al-Muhadarah,
ch. 5): “His poems are like a flowing fountain, consisting of
felicitous expressions, colorful and powerful in content, beautiful
in structure, original in ideas, and lucid in diction. His poetic
Ben Tehillim
contains prayers and supplications, composed
of special melodies and meters, the like of which had not been
employed by any poet before him. He has introduced into this
work many an Arab and Persian parable and also the essence
of the philosophy of ancient peoples and the maxims of our
ancient sages.”
Of Ibn Gabirol he says: “He was the youngest of the poets of
his period, but he surpassed them all in the poetic art. He was
remarkably skilled in it and elevated in his style. He was called
‘the prince of diction’ and ‘the master of verse’. His verses are
refined and gentle and their connotations highly pleasing. This
young man, of blessed memory, has composed eulogies and
lamentations, and has succeeded in expressing his thoughts with
consummate skill and polish.” So much for Samuel ha-Nagid and
In summarizing, it may be said that as a result of a fuller and
more profound study of Ibn Ezra’s works, such as has been done
by Bialik and Rawnitsky in their edition of Moses ibn Ezra’s
poems (Tel Aviv, 1928), his reputation as an original and force-
ful poet of the Spanish period has been greatly enhanced in the
past few decades. But much remains to be done. There can be
no doubt, however, that when more incisive studies are made
and the complete picture is drawn, Moses Ibn Ezra will rank as
one of the truly great poets in the galaxy of Spanish-Jewish