Selected Religious Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0

tr. by Israel Zangwill

A key medieval Jewish Spanish poet and philosopher’s devotional poetry, some of which was adopted into liturgy.
Solomon ibn Gvirol (b. 1021, d. ca. 1058) was a Jewish neoplatonist philosopher and poet who lived in Spain during the Islamic period. His devotional poetry, featured here, is considered among the best post-canon, and portions of his poetic works have been incorporated into the Jewish liturgy. However, only two extensive works of his have survived, a collection of his poems, translated here, and a philosophical treatise, the Fountain of Life, which, ironically, was thought to be the work of a Christian until the mid-19th century.

Of some interest here is the extensive discussion of the structure of the cosmos in the extended poem ‘The Royal Crown,’ which includes a section which describes each of the celestial spheres in turn. He gives specific astronomical facts which were state of the art in the 11th century. He states that the outer planets, the sun and stars are much larger than the earth (although the specific numbers he gives are a bit too small). The Royal Crown additionally provides a poetic abstract of the philosophical theories found in the Fountain of Life. Also apparent are references to Kabbalistic concepts, or perhaps Gvirol influenced later Kabbalists. But the focus of these poems is Gvirol’s intense relationship with God, which pervades every aspect of his writing. Interwoven are themes of the anticipation of the Messiah, the sorrow of the diaspora, and the meaning of life. Indeed, at one point (37) he laments that his only prayer is for God to explain “life’s interpretation.” ‘

About the Author:
Solomon ibn Gvirol, also Solomon ben Judah was an Andalucian Hebrew poet and Jewish philosopher. He was born in Malaga about 1021; died about 1058 in Valencia.

Little is known of Gvirol’s life. His parents died while he was a child. At seventeen years of age he became the friend and protege of Jekuthiel Hassan. Upon the assassination of the latter as the result of a political conspiracy, Gabirol composed an elegy of more than 200 verses. The death of Hai Gaon also called forth a similar poem. When barely twenty Gvirol wrote “Anak,” a versified Hebrew grammar, alphabetical and acrostic, consisting of 400 verses divided into ten parts. Of this grammar, ninety-five lines have been preserved by Solomon Parhon. In these Gvirol reproaches his townsmen with their neglect of the Hebrew language.

Gvirol’s residence in Saragossa was embittered by strife. He thought of leaving Spain, but remained and wandered about. He gained another friend and patron in the person of Samuel ibn Nagdela, whose praises he sang. Later an estrangement arose between them, and Nagdela became for a time the butt of Gvirol’s bitterest irony. All testimonies agree that Gvirol was comparatively young at the time of his death, which followed years of wandering. The year of his death was probably 1058 or 1059.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Category: Books
Released:  September 18, 2009
Publisher:  Indianic, LLC
Price: $0.99 (buy app)

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0