Page 119 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ROTH /JEW ISH LITERATURE IN MEDIEVAL SPAIN
111
Qalonymos b. Qalonymos, were authors of such humorous and
satirical compositions. Solomon ha-Levy, a learned rabbi of Bur­
gos who converted to Christianity as Pablo de Santa Maria prior
to 1391, wrote a famous “Purim letter” satire addressed to Meir
Alguadix, who certainly was not “chief rabbi of Castile” (no such
office then existed, but he was a rabbi and famous doctor as
well as a government official in Castile and Murcia). Several
such satirical works remain, in fact, still in manuscript.
Shem Tov de Carrion is, of course, the most famous of all
Jewish authors with respect to
Spanish
literature, and his
Proverbios morales
has seen many editions, with new ones appear­
ing all the time. In spite of the justifiable fame of the work,
however, little or no effort has been made to examine it in light
of the above-mentioned Hebrew examples of proverbial collec­
tions and compositions. One of the difficulties involved certainly
is with the language, for while it was written in impeccable style
the Spanish language is extremely difficult. Shem Tov has ex­
cited the admiration and effusive praise of students of Spanish
literature for generations (Americo Castro claiming, for exam­
ple, that he represents the first authentic expression of lyricism
in Castilian). Shem Tov, incidentally, was not a
converso,
contrary
to the early claims of some writers.26
For all of the justifiable attention given to Shem Tov, far
less well-known was the equally remarkable Catalan Jewish cour­
tier, Jahuda Bonsenyor, son of the official translator of Arabic
for Jaime I. Jahuda (d. 1331) also served as translator for
Alfonso III and Jaime II and was physician to the royal family.
About 1305 he composed his collection of proverbs and sayings
in Catalan and dedicated it to Jaime II.27 Had that king been
less of a scholar (and, in spite of Baer’s incorrect contention
to the contrary, less of a friend of Jews) he might not have
been amused with at least one of those sayings: “Kings are the
masters of people, and sages the masters of kings!” Bonsenyor’s
work was translated into Castilian as
“Libro de dichos de sabios
26. A. Castro,
Espana en su historia
(Buenos Aires, 1948), p. 562; Robert Tate,
“Four Notes on Gonzalo Garcia de Santa Maria,”
Romance Philology
17 (1963):
362.
27. There have been several editions, the best o f which is
Llibre de paraules
e dits de savis e filosofos,
ed. Gabriel Llabres y Quintana (Palma de Mallorca,
1889).