Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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lation of some of his poems into English was published, it is
only recently that we have finally had a completion of the edition
and notes of his secular poetry, to which already many newly
discovered poems must be added. A proper understanding of
these may reveal him to be the greatest of all the medieval poets.
Of no less significance is the fact that he was the only medieval
Jewish author of a complete book on poetics. This work, written
in Judeo-Arabic (simply Arabic written in Hebrew letters) deals
almost as much with Arabic poetry as with Hebrew, and given
the fact that almost
medieval work on Arabic poetics written
by an actual poet has survived, his work becomes all the more
Judah ha-Levy, a younger contemporary and erstwhile
protege of Moses Ibn cEzrah, is of course famous throughout
the world for his “Zion” poetry; i.e., the poems he wrote later
in his life when he planned to leave Spain to live in Palestine.
The most famous of these has been translated repeatedly into
numerous languages.9 Nevertheless, it should be pointed out
that the motif of longing for Zion hardly originated with him,
bu t is found already in Dunash, and especially in Ibn
There are altogether well over 100 names, at least, of Hebrew
poets known to us from medieval Spain, from the Muslim pe­
riod down through the fifteenth century. Little attention has
so far been given even to those whose work has survived in
substantial amounts.10 It is important to note that, contrary to
8. Brody’s 1935 edition o f
Shirey ha-hol
was finally completed by Dan Pagis
(Jerusalem, 1978; the notes are Brody’s). Rosa Castillo in Spain promises a
Spanish translation. The long-awaited edition o f the Judeo-Arabic text o f the
Kitab al-muhadara wa ’l-mudakara,
with an inadequate Hebrew translation by A.S.
Halkin, appeared in 1975. An edition o f the text in Arabic script (!) and a
somewhat improved Spanish translation by Montserrat Abumalham Mas in two
volumes was published in Madrid, 1985-86. I am preparing an English trans­
lation o f the work.
9. Again, many new poems have appeared since Brody’s edition o f his
and a complete new edition would be desirable. See generally my brief sketch,
“Judah Ha-Levi,” in Frank N. Magill, ed.,
Critical Survey o f Poetry: Foreign Lan­
guage Series
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1984) II, 179-214.
10. An exception is Todros b. Judah Abulafia, the Castilian poet o f the thir­
teenth century, the subject o f a recent Hebrew book by Avivah Doron,
be-hatsar ha-melekh
(Tel-Aviv, 1989), an interesting study despite its perhaps un­
fortunate title (which tends to perpetuate the myth o f the “courtier” poet);
see also my “Two Jewish Courtiers o f Alfonso X called Zag (Isaac),”