Page 110 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
thing of an Hebraist, stated that Ibn Gabirol was “superior to
all lyric poets who flourished in Europe, from Prudence to Dan­
te,” no less!). His poetry is again innovative, not only with the
introduction of considerable new vocabulary but also with re­
gard to themes. For example, much of his secular verse (and,
of course, so-called “religious”) is characterized by a profound
concern with wisdom and knowledge. Yet at the same time he
could write light and humorous poems on such apparently triv­
ial subjects as a bee.
The education typical of the Muslim and Jewish world at the
time meant that by the age of sixteen, or earlier, one had com­
pleted study of all the sciences and philosophy. Like others,
therefore, we find that Ibn Gabirol was already composing mas­
terful verse at that young age. O f these, two examples may be
particularly mentioned: one in which he boasts, adolescent-like,
“I am the prince and song my slave,” whereas in another he
complains that what should be his natural joyous grasp of life
is subjugated to the demands of his conscience and his pursuit
of knowledge. Indeed, much of his later poetry is characterized
by a strong mystic sense, which emerged in full blossom in per­
haps his best-known work,
Keter malkhut
(“The crown of mon­
archy;” i.e., divine dominion).7
GROWING REPUTATION
Moses Ibn cEzra (or cEzrah as he spelled it) is certainly the
least known and appreciated of the great “stars” of Hebrew
secular verse. Even in medieval Spain he somehow acquired
more of a reputation for his “religious” than secular poetry,
a reputation which became absolute in the long dark centuries
during which little or nothing was known about the great me­
dieval poet, until slowly manuscripts of his work came to light
in the last century. Although a very feeble and inadequate trans­
7. The bibliography on Ibn Gabirol’s poetry is vast, o f course. There is not
much o f significance recently, however; attention should be called to Israel
Levin,
Ha-sod ve-ha-yesod
(Lod, 1986), which examines freshly the mystic element
in his poetry. Two editions simultaneously o f his secular poetry were done
respectively by Dov Jarden and Hayim Schirmann (H. Brody) in 1975; only
the former has notes. There are also two Spanish translations o f his secular
poetry:
Poesia secular,
by Elena Romero (Madrid, 1978) and
Poemas
by M.J.
Cano (Granada, 1987).