Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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CASPI / THE CREATIVE WRITING OF THE YEMENITE JEWS
67
everywhere, there are distinct traces o f the Palestinian influence
in David Adani’s
Midrash Ha-Gadol.
Still, the Yemenite poets bor­
rowed conventions, metaphors and images from the Hebrew
Spanish schools and incorporated these into their poetry. An in­
dication of the extent o f the Spanish influence can be seen in the
Jawab (response) poetry, a genre peculiar to Yemenite poetry
alone. In this genre a Yemenite poet interweaves a response to a
poem by a Spanish master in alternating lines, while maintaining
the rhyme and rhythm of the original poem. We have thirty ex­
amples o f this ingenious style o f poetry in our possession today.
Rhymed prose, or maqamas, were never popular in Yemen,
probably because they were looked down upon as a foreign ele­
ment of secular poetry. The first poet to use this genre was David
b. Yesha, who wrote in the 16th century and who produced two
complete volumes containing religious elements. A second poet
who demonstrated his mastery in the composition of Hebrew
poetry and who devoted his talents to the development o f this
genre was Zechariah al-Dahiri, also of the 16th century. Among
his many works, some of which remain unpublished, is the
Sefer
Ha-Musar,5
a collection of maqamas written in the styles o f the
Spanish school, particularly that of al-Harizi, and the Italian
school, particularly that of Immanuel of Rome.
Further examples of the strong influence exerted by the Span­
ish Hebrew schools of poetry can easily be found on examination
of the poetry of such writers as Daniel Fayyumi of the 12th cen­
tury. He is considered to be the earliest of the Yemenite poets
and his only known works are three piyyutim for the High Holy-
days. In contrast to the Hebrew poetry of Spain, which concen­
trated on the motifs o f love and friendship, the Hebrew poetry in
Yemen focused on redemption and the ascent to Zion. By the end
of the 16th century poets had begun to draw on mystical writings
for inspiration and poetry was elevated to an esoteric level by the
incorporation o f kabbalistic metaphors. Traces of this style are
also evident in the compositions of the 16th century poets Zecha­
riah al-Dahiri, Yeshua and David b. Yesha.
HOMILETICS AND POETRY — SECOND PERIOD
Some o f the midrashic literature of the second period draws
upon the literature of the Kabbalah. The midrash
Hemdat Yamim
5 Zechariah al-Dahiri,
Sefer Ha-Musar,
Yehudah Ratzaby, ed., 1965.