Page 108 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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The ensuing debate between his disciples and those of his
opponent, Menahem b. Saruq, stimulated both the development
of grammatical study and poetic creativity. By the time that the
first truly “great” poet arose, Samuel Ibn Naghrillah, there had
already been, in fact, many lesser poets. Ibn Naghrillah (the
correct form of his name) was, of course, the prime minister
and commander-in-chief of the armies of the Muslim independ­
ent kingdom of Granada. Due both to opposition to his appoint­
ment to such a post, and even more to the desire of Granada’s
enemies to conquer the kingdom, there was constant warfare.
For eighteen years he was required to lead troops into battle
against these Muslim enemies. Samuel, perhaps understandably,
began to see himself as something of a “messianic” figure, a
reincarnation of biblical heroes such as David and Solomon.
His poetic compositions were, in fact, given titles which them­
selves reveal this:
Ben Tehilim
(“son of Psalms”),
Ben Mishley
of Proverbs”), and
Ben Qohelet
(“son of Ecclesiastes”). While all
are magnificent works, it is the first, the so-called “
,” which
contains the heart of his poetic production.3 Here there is,
again, considerable innovation with regard to themes and in
meter and linguistic forms. Far from being a slavish imitation
of biblical style, as some writers have wrongly portrayed me­
dieval Hebrew poetry in general, a careful analysis of his and
other poets’works reveals great ingenuity in creating new words
and in new usage of traditional grammatical forms and vocab­
There were numerous other Hebrew poets in the generation
of Ibn Naghrillah and after, some of whom unfortunately re­
o f Jewish Studies,
D (vol. 4) (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 1-5. Absolutely
essential now is the magnificent study and translation o f
E l D ivan Poetico de
Dunash Ben Labrat
by Carlos del Valle Rodriguez (Madrid, 1988), containing
medieval Hebrew texts on poetics.
Ben Tehilim
Ben Mishley
have received important critical editions, with
complete notes, by the late Dov Jarden (1966 and 1983), who unfortunately
was not able to do the same for
Ben Qohelet.
There is an excellent Spanish
translation o f the war poems (only) by Angel Saenz-Badillos and his wife Judit
Targarona Borras, both outstanding Hebraists:
Poemas desde el campo de batalla
(Cordoba, 1988), with the Hebrew texts. English translations have so far not
been accurate.