The middle of the 10th century in Spain was the point in time where the Hebrew poets began to sing. Some Jewish poetry was made even before this era, but the wave of poetic creativity during this particular time is a unique one.
As Kosher River Cruises takes you on a kosher tour through Portugal and Spain, explore the historic melody that is Spanish-Jewish Poetry.
Evolution of Form
The medieval period marked the time when Hebrew poetry was first used in a secular context. Compared to the traditional pieces that sang praises to G-d and gave off a slightly Stoic voice, Spanish-Jewish poetry was mostly composed of ballads and songs celebrating the beauty of nature and outright expression of feelings.
When the literary legends in this era like Jehuda Halevi, Moses Ibn Ezra, and Ibn Gebirol went from echoing the scriptures to losing the parallelism of line, Spanish-Jewish poetry was born. Initially it was criticized for its lack of originality. But as the verses started to take its form, it was then considered as real poetry.
Its previous form was written to worship the phenomena of nature, and expressed awe to its Creator. After it evolved into its genre, it moved into gentler moods. There is freshness into their verses, with a pinch of piety and love. Look up the names listed above, and read some of their work before our cruise through the Douro.
A Unique Verse
It is said that Dunash ben Labrat, one of the greatest Jewish poets of all time, laid the foundation for Spanish-Jewish poetry when he incorporated Arabic meter and rhyme into Hebrew writing. One of the people he influenced the most was his wife, whose name remained unknown throughout history.
There’s not a lot of female figures in the Spanish-Jewish poetry scene saved from Qasmuna of Spain, and possibly Sarah of Yemen. So when the poem of Dunash’s wife was discovered in the 1980s, interest for Spanish-Jewish poetry rose again, not only because of the gender of the author but because of the quality of the poem itself. Written originally in the form revolutionized by her husband, the poem goes:
Will her love remember his graceful doe,
her only son in her arms as he parted?
On her left hand, he placed a ring from his right,
on his wrist, she placed her bracelet.
As a keepsake, she took his mantle from him,
and he, in turn, took hers from her.
Would he settle, now, in the land of Spain,
if its prince gave him half his kingdom?
The piece was said to be written around the time when Dunash ben Labrat was forced out of Spain due to unfavorable circumstances. The depth of the verses and the quality of the piece is certainly one that defined the genre.
Celebrate the Golden Age on the River of Gold
As you take your kosher vacations to the delightful Douro, explore the melodious Spanish-Jewish poetry, maybe write a verse of your own. Join our next cruise by booking your cabin now, and together we will celebrate the Golden Age of Jewish Spain on the River of Gold.