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This article is arranged according to the following outline (for modern poetry, see *Hebrew Literature , Modern; see also *Prosody ):

    The Search for Identifiable Indicators of Biblical Poetry
    The Presence of Poetry in the Tanakh: An Overview
    Meter and Rhythm
    Imagery, Metaphor, and Simile
    Repetition and Patterning
    Other Poetic Devices
    Al-Andalus and Provence
        SECULAR POETRY IN AL-ANDALUS (C. 950–1150)
            Philology and Poetry
            Rhetorics and General Poetics
            Trends in Secular Poetry in Al-Andalus
            Trends in Secular Poetry in Christian Northern Iberia
    France and Germany
    Research on Hebrew Poetry in the 1970s
    Developments in the 1980s
            Prose and Rhymed Prose
            Monographs and Studies
            Edited Texts
            Interpretive Works
            Additional Bibliography on Individual Subjects
            Jubilee and Memorial Volumes
            Anthologies and Collections
    Developments from 1990 to 2005



The Bible preserves several versions of the first plague upon the Egyptians. The account in the book of Exodus is commonly classified as prose, while the retellings in the Psalms are categorized as poetry:

Moses and Aaron did just as YHWH commanded: he raised the rod and struck the water that was in the Nile in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile turned to blood, and the fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile, and the blood was all over the land of Egypt (Ex. 7:20–21).

 He turned their rivers into blood;
and their streams they could not drink (Ps. 78:44).
 He turned their waters into blood
and killed their fish (Ps. 105:29).

What qualifies the Exodus passages as "prose" and the Psalms passages as "poetry"? What are the distinguishing features of biblical poetry?

These questions are not easily answered, in part because of a lack of scholarly consensus about many aspects of biblical poetry and in part because there are not always sharp distinctions between poetry and prose. Nevertheless, in spite of uncertainties in our understanding of this ancient, sacred literature, it is possible to delineate those sections of the Bible widely considered poetry and to outline the key stylistic features of biblical poetry.

The Search for Identifiable Indicators of Biblical Poetry

In theory, there are a number of potential ways to identify poetry in a given body of literature. We might expect to identify the poetic sections of the Bible by turning to discussions of biblical poetics, by terminology used to label a passage as poetry, or by the distinctive layout of a page. In practice, however, none of these avenues leads to a clear, consistent determination of what constitutes biblical poetry.

In the classical period, thinkers like Aristotle and Horace penned theories about the nature, mechanics, and effects of poetry. In contrast, in the Bible we do not find definitions of poetry or discussions of how biblical poetry operates. In fact, biblical Hebrew does not have a general term for "poetry," though various terms do seem to signal the presence of a poetic passage. For instance, the passage known as the "Song of Moses" is introduced with the statement: "Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song (שירה)" (Ex. 15:1). David's eulogy for Saul and Jonathan is labeled as a "dirge" (קינה) (II Sam. 1:17). Many compositions in the book of Psalms begin with the word מזמור which is translated as a "psalm" and likely indicates a song accompanied by a stringed instrument. Such terms suggest that a number of labels were used to classify certain types of compositions; yet these titles are not used consistently throughout the Bible, nor are they affixed to every text that a contemporary scholar would consider a poetic passage.

Since these internal indicators do not point conclusively or consistently to the presence of biblical poetry, we might look to visual means in order to identify biblical poetry. When opening selected Hebrew editions or translations of the Bible, one can determine the poetic sections by the distinctive layout of the verses. For example, in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, in Genesis 4:23–24 the prose format gives way to poetic verse, signaling a shift in discourse. However, in Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia or the Koren Holy Scriptures, no graphic distinction is made between poetry and prose. A comparison of Bibles that use stichography shows that the delineation into cola is not universally agreed upon, but instead is an interpretative act determined by the scholars preparing a given edition or translation (compare, for instance, the different colon boundaries in the presentation of Jeremiah 6:14 BHS and JPS).

The convention of visually distinguishing poetic passages through stichography evolved over time. In Qumran texts versification is found sporadically (e.g., 4QPSb and 4QPSa). In talmudic times, spacing was used widely in certain books, but it was not required. The Talmud established special writing for only four sections: Ex. 15:1–18; Josh. 12:9–24; Judg. 5; Est. 9:7–9 (TB, Meg. 16b; TJ Meg. 3:7); the late tractate Soferim added Deuteronomy 32 to the list (Sof. 12:8–12). Three of these are poetic passages (Ex. 15; Judg. 5; Deut. 32); others are prose. The Talmud describes two stichographic patterns. In the first pattern, "small brick over small brick, large over large," each line contains two columns of writing separated by a blank space in between; in the second, "small brick over large brick, large over small," the lines alternate between one line consisting of two columns with a space in the middle, and then the next line with one column with blank spaces on both sides.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Jewish scribes commonly incorporated some type of special spacing, not only for the sections mentioned in talmudic sources, but also for other parts of the Bible, such as Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Lamentations, the Song of Asaph (I Chr. 16:8–35), and selected lists. After the advent of the printing press, most printed masoretic Bibles abandoned stichographic arrangement of all but those passages mandated by the Talmud. Most modern scholarly editions reversed this trend, employing stichography for everything considered poetry, including many of the prophetic books.

The Presence of Poetry in the Tanakh: An Overview

Lacking conclusive indicators of the presence of biblical poetry, one must rely on stylistic features to identify biblical poetry. Though some scholars caution against drawing sharp distinctions between poetry and prose (e.g., Kugel 1981, 83), a general consensus exists about which parts of the Bible contain poetry. Although prose dominates, poetry permeates every part of the Bible, totaling approximately one-third of the corpus.

Ketuvim or Writings contains the most poetic material, including Psalms, Proverbs, Job 3:3–42:6, Song of Songs, and Lamentations, along with scattered poetic selections in Ecclesiastes (e.g., 1:2–9; 3:1–8) and other books (e.g., I Chron. 16:8–35). Poetry overshadows prose in the Latter Prophets, for most of the prophetic books contain poetic verse exclusively or predominately; Jonah and Ezekiel stand out as exceptions. In the Former Prophets, poems punctuate the narrative account of Israel's history in Judges 5 (Song of Deborah), I Sam. 2:1–10 (Hannah's Prayer), II Sam. 1:19–27 (David's eulogy for Saul and Jonathan), II Sam. 22 (David's Song), and II Sam. 23:1–7 (David's last words). Some of the smaller poetic passages include Jotham's fable (Josh. 10:12–13) and Solomon's declaration to God (I Kings 8:12–13).

The Torah preserves several lengthy poems, including the Testament of Jacob (Gen. 49:2–27), the Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:1–18), the Song of Moses (Deut. 32), and Moses' Blessing (Deut. 33). We also find a number of shorter poetic compositions or fragments, such as the Song of Lamech (Gen. 4:23–24), Miriam's Song at the Sea (Ex. 15:21), the Song of the Ark (Num. 10:35–36); the Song at the Well (Num. 21:17–18), the Victory Song over Moab (Num. 21:27–30), and the Oracles of Balaam (Num. 23:7–10, 18–24; 24:3–9, 15–24). In some instances, often in the course of a dialogue, a few poetic verses interrupt the surrounding prose narrative, as when the man names the woman (Gen. 2:23), God speaks to Cain (Gen. 4:6–7), or Rebekah's family bids her farewell (Gen. 24:60).

In each part of the Bible, the poetic material displays a notable degree of diversity in content. Note the range of poetic expression in Ketuvim, with aphorisms in Proverbs, passionate diatribes on human suffering in Job, sensual love songs in the Song of Songs, and mournful laments for the destruction of Jerusalem in Lamentations. Within the book of Psalms itself, in certain texts the speaker joyfully sings God's praises, while in others, the psalmist cries out in pain and calls upon God's help. Likewise, the poetry of the prophets contains many passages in which the prophets rail against the people for their moral and religious failings, and others in which they exhort their listeners to repent or entice them with visions of a glorious future. The Torah contains a similar poetic panoply, with songs of victory, deathbed blessings, oracles, and other assorted passages. Nevertheless, for all this variety in genre and subject matter, the poetic sections of the Bible exhibit considerable stylistic similarities. Understanding biblical poetry requires a familiarity with the literary devices adeptly wielded by the writers of biblical poetry, namely parallelism, rhythm, terseness, imagery, metaphor, repetition, patterning, and other tropes.


The identification of parallelism as a central defining feature of biblical poetry traces back to the Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of The Hebrews delivered by Bishop Robert Lowth in 1753. In the context of a lecture entitled "The Prophetic Poetry is Sententious," he endeavors to illustrate that the literature of the Prophets deserves to be classified as poetry, just like Psalms and other poetic parts of the Bible. In order to prove that "the Prophetic Muse is no less elegant and correct" (Lowth, 210), Lowth marshals a host of citations intended to demonstrate that parallelism operates the same in the Prophets as in the Psalms. Explaining what he means by the term "parallelism," Lowth states: "The poetical conformation of the sentences, which has been so often alluded to as characteristic of the Hebrew poetry, consists chiefly in a certain equality, resemblance, or parallelism, between the members of each period" (Lowth, 210). While he acknowledges that parallelism exhibits significant variety, nonetheless he groups his examples into three "species": synonymous, antithetic, and synthetic parallelism.

Lowth explains that in the most frequent variety, synonymous parallelism, "the same sentiment is repeated in different, but equivalent terms" (Lowth, 210). He cites a number of examples:

 When Israel went forth from Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange speech (Ps. 114:1).
 And nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance (Isa. 60:3).

In antithetic parallelism, which is most prevalent in Proverbs, "a thing is illustrated by its contrary being opposed to it" (Lowth, 215), as seen in Proverbs 27:6 (Lowth's translation):

 The blows of a friend are faithful;
But the kisses of an enemy are treacherous.

Lowth's third category, called 'synthetic' or 'constructive' parallelism, consists of "all such as do not come within the two former classes" (Lowth, 216–17). Lowth provides a number of examples to illustrate this rather amorphous category, including the following:

 I will be like the dew to Israel;
He shall blossom like the lily,
and he shall strike root like a Lebanon tree (Hos. 14:6).
 Nations rage, kingdoms totter,
He raises his voice, the earth melts (Ps. 46:7).

Lowth recognizes that the degrees of resemblance in this third category are nearly infinite and that the workings of the parallelism can sometimes be subtle and obscure. He concludes his lecture with the caveat that lest the topic "appear light and trifling to some persons, and utterly undeserving any labour or attention," he promises that the study of parallelism will yield copious rewards (Lowth, 220).

For over 200 years, Lowth's tripartite understanding of parallelism dominated the discussion of biblical poetry. As subsequent scholars sought to refine Lowth's work, they added additional categories like "incomplete parallelism," "staircase parallelism," and "janus parallelism." Then, starting the in late 1970s and 1980s, a number of studies were published that challenged Lowth's perception of parallelism and expanded our understanding of the nuances and complexities of biblical verse.

In the 1981 book, The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History, James Kugel contends that the ways of parallelism are numerous and varied, far exceeding Lowth's limited three categories. He observes that the degree of connection between two parallel clauses may range anywhere from no perceivable correspondence to just short of a word-for-word repetition. He insists that the second, "B" clause does not simply restate the first, "A" clause. Instead, the B-line expands upon the A-line in a multitude of ways: reasserting, supporting, particularizing, defining, completing, or going beyond the first line. He illustrates his approach as he interprets Psalm 145:10 (Kugel's translation):

 All your works praise you, Lord
and your faithful ones bless you.

Instead of focusing on the similarities between these two clauses, Kugel draws attention to the differences. He points out that "faithful ones" is more specific than "all your works," just as "bless" differs from the more general term "praise." Kugel captures the various ways in which the second line differs from and develops the first with the phrase, "A is so, and what's more, B is so" (Kugel 1981, 8).

In the 1985 work, The Art of Biblical Poetry, Robert *Alter highlights what he terms the "impulse to intensification" in biblical poetry. He argues that even in lines that appear at first glance to be nearly synonymous, a closer reading often reveals a "dynamic progression" from one half of the line to the next. He points out that many parallel lines move from a common word in the first line to a more poetic term in the second, a pattern that can be seen in Psalms 114:1 above, where the unique phrase "a people of strange speech" follows the common term "Egypt." According to Alter, the treatment of numbers in poetic parallelism exemplifies this pattern of intensification, for a number in the first clause usually is increased in the second clause by one, a decimal, or a decimal added to the number. For example, in Genesis 4:24, "sevenfold" is paired with "seventy and seven," and in Amos 1–2, "three" parallels "four." He asserts that in biblical poetry "the characteristic movement of meaning is one of heightening or intensification…of focusing, specification, concretization, even what can be called dramatization" (Alter 1985, 19).

During this same time period, a number of scholars turned away from Lowth's three-fold model of poetic parallelism by shifting the focus of the discussion from semantics to grammar (see Collins 1979; Geller 1979; O'Connor 1980; Greenstein 1982). In the 1985 study, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism, Adele Berlin applies the study of linguistics to the topic of parallelism, but she does so in a more expansive manner, one that helps the reader to uncover and appreciate the intricacies of biblical parallelism. She sees parallelism as a multifaceted phenomenon, one that involves grammatical, lexical-semantic, and phonological aspects on the level of individual words, as well as clauses and larger expanses of a text. Instead of drawing a stark contrast between synonymous and antithetical elements, she asserts that parallelism achieves its effectiveness from the interplay of equivalence and contrast along these various aspects and levels.

Isaiah 1:10 provides a good example of the dynamic nature of poetic parallelism:

 Hear the word of YHWH, leaders of Sodom,
Give ear to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah.

The two cola in this verse certainly meet Lowth's definition of synonymous parallelism, for the same sentiment appears to be repeated in "different, but equivalent terms." However, further investigation reveals varying degrees of equivalence and contrast. Looking first at the lexical aspect of this bi-colon, the correspondence between the words in the two cola may range from exact equivalence to complete contrast. In this case, we find a number of word pairs that exhibit a high degree of semantic similarity. The divine names "YHWH" and "God" belong at the far end of the scale, for the two names point to the same referent. The verbs "hear" and "give ear" are frequently paired terms that both call upon the audience to listen, though the first verb is more standard and the second more poetic. Similarly, the nouns "word" and "instruction" are both used to designate God's teaching, though the first term is more general and the second more specific. With the last two words in each colon, we move more toward the contrast side of the scale. The nouns "leaders" and "people" cannot be considered synonymous, for the first word refers specifically to the ruling class, whereas the second denotes the population as a whole. The place names "Sodom" and "Gomorrah" identify two different cities, though often the nouns appear as a consecutive, fixed phrase ("Sodom and Gomorrah"); the two cities symbolize a place of debauchery and sin.

Expanding the scope of the examination from the relationships between the individual words to the connections between the two cola as a whole, on a semantic level, the two lines appear fairly synonymous: the second colon echoes the basic sentiment of the first. In both sentences, the prophet calls the intended audience to listen to God's message. By invoking the place names Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaiah metaphorically maligns his listeners, a fitting prelude to the divine diatribe that follows.

Applying the same approach to the grammatical aspects of the verse reveals a similar amalgam of relationships of equivalence and contrast. Syntactically, the two sentences are identical:

Verb + Direct Object (noun + divine name) + Subject (noun + place name)

However, when we unpack each colon grammatically, we discover a number of contrasting elements. While the verbs are both second person plural imperatives, they differ in conjugation: qal and hif 'il. The masculine noun דבר ("word") contrasts with the feminine תורה ("instruction"). This difference in gender is supplemented by the place names, for while names of cities are usually regarded as feminine, the masculine looking סדם ("Sodom") contrasts with the feminine looking עמרה ("Gomorrah"). Likewise, the plural noun קצינים ("leaders") and the singular עם ("people") introduce a contrast in number. The two divine names also differ in several respects: unlike the unmarked, singular YHWH, the word אלהינו ("our God") is grammatically plural and marked with the addition of the first person plural suffix.

These various types of grammatical variation stand in opposition to the more pervasive sense of semantic and syntax similarity. What sort of exegetical insights can this sort of analysis yield? In this case, the interplay of equivalence and contrast on these different levels animates the verse. In addition, the grammar reinforces the prophet's message. By addressing both the leaders and the people as a whole, Isaiah implies that all strata of society are guilty and thus fitting recipients of his words. In a more subtle manner, the grammatical contrast supplements this inclusive message: masculine and feminine, singular and plural, all need to heed God's charge to "cease to do evil and learn to do good" (Isa. 1:16–17).

Berlin also contributes to the study of biblical parallelism by introducing the linguistic concepts of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations to describe the connections between isolated words and entire cola. Compare the relationship between the two cola in Isaiah 1:10 to the two cola in Hosea 14:2:

 Return, O Israel, to YHWH your God,
for you have stumbled because of your sins.

In this case, the two halves of the verse do not mirror each other syntactically or echo each other semantically. Instead, the second colon continues the topic introduced in the first colon, providing a justification for the prophet's call to return. The relationship between the two cola in Hosea 14:2 can be termed "syntagmatic," whereas the connection between the two parts of Isaiah 1:10 can be labeled "paradigmatic," concepts introduced by the influential linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure. "Syntagmatic" refers to the linear relationships between the signs in a sentence, the way the words and sentences connect to one another and form a sequence. "Paradigmatic" refers to the way words and phrases can substitute for one another. Applying these concepts to the level of words helps us to differentiate the paradigmatic connection between a word pair like "hear" and "give ear" in Isaiah 1:10, where one word substitutes grammatically and semantically for the other, and the syntagmatic link between Sodom and Gomorrah, where the parallel terms constitute the break up of a continuous or fixed phrase. A good example of a syntagmatic word pair is found in Judges 5:12, where "Barak" parallels "son of Abinoam."

Often, the nature of the relationship is not as clear as in Isaiah 1:10 and Hosea 14:2, or a passage may combine paradigmatic and syntagmatic elements. In some cases, how one views the relationships between isolated words and the cola as a whole can influence how one interprets a given passage. For example, Hosea 14:3 reads:

 Take with you words
And return to YHWH.

If we consider "taking words" and returning to God as paradigmatic phrases, meaning that the two cola can be substituted for or equated with one another, that implies that repentance involves a verbal confession or declaration of the sort provided by Hosea in the subsequent verses. In contrast, if we understand the two phrases as syntagmatic, or as two parts of a consecutive sequence, that suggests that one must speak words of contrition before one can reconcile with God.

Scholars like Berlin, Alter, Kugel, and others have helped to refine our reading of biblical poetry. Their work encourages us to look at poetic parallelism not simply as a mirror, whereby one poetic line tends to reflect the other in a fairly synonymous manner. Instead, like a kaleidoscope, parallelism creates multifaceted, shifting patterns of equivalence and contrast, substitution, and continuity. By analyzing the various aspects and levels of a poetic passage, we gain a keener appreciation of the artistry and interpretative possibilities of this aspect of biblical poetry.

Meter and Rhythm

Interestingly, although Lowth's discussion of parallelism stands out as the most influential aspect of his writings on biblical poetry, he did not dedicate a lecture specifically to this topic; instead, he introduced the subject in lecture 19, as part of a series of talks on the Prophets. In contrast, Lowth devoted his third lecture entirely to the topic of meter. The title of this speech summarizes his stance on the subject: "The Hebrew Poetry is Metrical."

The question of whether or not biblical poetry displays some sort metrical system has vexed scholars from antiquity to the present day. The word 'meter' derives from the Greek term 'measure' and refers to the counting and organization of various aspects of spoken discourse. Some metrical systems measure syllables, accents, or both, as seen in the following poem by Jonathan Swift, which contains four accents and eight syllables per line (the following two selections are taken from Fussel, 11):

 Creatures of ev'ry Kind but ours
Well comprehend their nat'ral Powers;
While We, whom Reason ought to sway,
Mistake our Talents ev'ry Day.

The system called quantitative meter counts durational units, meaning that each unit consists of 'long' and 'short' rather than 'accented' and 'unaccented' syllables. In the poem 'Iambicum Trimetrum,' Edmund Spenser imitates this type of meter, which was used in most Greek and Roman poetry:

 Unhappy verse, the witness of my unhappy state,
Make thyself flutt'ring wings of thy fast flying
Thought, and fly forth unto my love, wheresoever she be.

Over the centuries, scholars have scoured the poetic sections of the Bible, looking for signs of these various forms of meter. One factor that complicates the matter is that, unlike the case regarding other ancient languages like Akkadian or Greek, we are not certain as to precisely how biblical Hebrew was pronounced. Largely influenced by contemporary poetic aesthetics – be that Greek, Arabic, Renaissance, or other types of poetry – some ancient, medieval, and modern scholars have insisted on the existence, biblical meter while others have rejected such a conclusion. Among the more recent studies of biblical poetry, the consensus has shifted toward the latter perspective. Kugel insists: "There is indeed an answer to this age-old riddle: no meter has been found because none exists" (Kugel, 301). Given the deficits in all metrical theories of biblical poetry, Berlin concludes: "It seems best, therefore, to abandon the quest for meter in the poetry of the Bible" (Berlin, 1996, 308).

While biblical poetry may not contain conclusive evidence of meter, it does display a certain degree of symmetry and sound patterning. As a result, a number of scholars suggest that we shift the focus of the discussion from meter to the broader notion of rhythm, which refers to various forms of sound repetition and regularity (Berlin 1996, 308; Kuntz, 326; Miller, 102–3; Peterson and Richards, 37–47). The observation has been made that segments of biblical verse tend to be of similar length, often with the same number of stresses in the parallel lines. For instance, when David eulogizes Saul and Jonathan, he ends his dirge with the statement:

 איך נפלו גבורים
ויאבדו כלי מלחמה
How have the mighty fallen;
and the weapons of war are lost (II Sam. 1:27).

Here, the cola each contain three stresses, though the number of syllables differs. As occurs frequently in biblical poetry, an element in the first line is absent, but assumed, in the second. The second colon compensates for the "gapped" interjection "how" by introducing a two word subject, the construct phrase "weapons of war." This type of compensation produces a sense of balance between the two lines, adding to the appearance of rhythmic balance in biblical poetry.


According to Berlin, the rhythm of biblical poetry results in part from the terseness of parallel lines, the fact that the lines of biblical poetry tend to be short and comprised of about the same number of words and stresses. She identifies terseness as one of the defining features of biblical poetry, explaining that since "poetry has a tendency to be more terse, more concise, than non-poetic discourse," this creates "the impression that in poetry each word or phrase is more loaded with meaning, since fewer words must bear the burden of the message" (Berlin 1996, 303). Paul Fussel refers to this quality of poetry as 'density': "Density of texture is attained by an interweaving of poetic elements…so firmly and tightly that, once interwoven, the separate strands resist unraveling" (Fussel, 90).

Several trends contribute to the terseness of biblical poetry. First, poetic verses frequently omit the definite article (ה), the accusative marker (את), and the relative pronoun (אשר). Compare, for instance, prose and poetic accounts of the first plague quoted earlier:

He raised the rod and struck the water (ויך את המים) that was in the Nile (אשר ביאר) and all the water that was in the Nile (כל המים אשר ביאר) turned to blood, and the fish that were in the Nile (והדגה אשר ביאר) died, and the Nile stank, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile, and the blood was all over the land of Egypt (Ex. 7:20–21).

 ויהך יאריהם לדם
ונזליהם בל ישתיון
He turned their rivers into blood;
and their streams they could not drink (Ps 78:44).

The juxtaposition of the two passages highlights the terseness of the psalm in contrast to the wordier prose version. The Exodus quotation repeats "the Nile" five times, whereas the psalmist varies the language, invoking the more general terms "rivers" and "streams" as a synonymous, paradigmatic word pair. In the six-word, syntagmatic bi-colon, the Psalm summarizes the narrative told with 24 words in the Exodus account.

Secondly, biblical poetry abounds with parataxis, meaning that cola often are joined together without conjunctions. In prose, hypotaxis dominates, for dependent clauses are usually linked with conjunctions that specify how one clause relates to the other. Frequently, as in the preceding examples from Psalm 78, two cola appear one after another, merely connected by the conjunction vav (ו), which carries a range of meanings. As seen in the discussion of Hosea 14:3, the vague nature of the conjunction vav can produce ambiguity, thus requiring the interpreter to determine the nature of the connection. Does the vav indicate that the second line repeats the basic idea of the first: Take with you words and thus return to YHWH? Or does it imply a sequence of actions: Take with you words and then return to YHWH? In many other cases, two poetic lines are juxtaposed with no grammatical marker specifying the relationship between the statements, as seen in the following citations:

 You turned my mourning into dancing for me,
You undid my sackcloth and girded me with joy (Ps. 30:12).
 A garden locked is my sister, bride,
a fountain locked, a spring sealed-up (Song 4:12).

Imagery, Metaphor, and Simile

The quotes from Psalm 30 and Song of Songs highlight another defining feature of biblical poetry: the abundant use of imagery. The term 'imagery' is a complicated term that often is used to speak about figurative language in general or the more specific trope of metaphor. In fact, the terms 'imagery' and 'metaphor' designate two distinct, though frequently overlapping literary devices. In Psalms 30:12, the speaker paints a visual picture of a person in mourning who breaks out in dancing. In Song of Songs 4:12, the speaker also evokes a mental image, but in this case, the images of the garden, fountain, and spring function as part of a comparison, the key component of a metaphor.

Imagery involves the creation of a mental image, which can be visual (sight), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), tactile (touch), as well as organic or kinesthetic (awareness of bodily organs and muscles) (Friedman, 560). For instance, the prophet Joel depicts of a future time of judgment, the day of YHWH, when "the beasts groan" and "the waterways are dried up" (Joel 1:18, 20). The first comment involves an auditory element, while the second is primarily visual. Amos also speaks about the day of YHWH, warning that "it shall be darkness, and not light" (Amos 5:18). When Isaiah speaks about a very different type of time, he likewise relies upon imagery, creating a vision of a wolf dwelling with a lamb and a leopard stretching out alongside a young goat (Isa. 11:6).

In these examples, the speaker uses language to take a snapshot: a picture of predators reclining alongside their former prey, a vision of total darkness, a scene of parched streams and groaning bears. In each case, as the saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words. Amos does not specify what will happen on the day of YHWH; instead, the image of darkness communicates the general impression that this will be a dreadful time. Similarly, Isaiah paints a series of mental pictures from which his audience can extrapolate the larger point that a glorious future will bring peace and harmony among all creatures. In doing so, he taps into a larger motif that signals a return to Eden. With imagery, the poet goes beyond the straightforward language on the page, delivering a more vivid, but less explicit message. Utilizing the listener's various senses, the writer employs a concrete image to convey a more abstract idea.

While a metaphor also evokes an image, what makes it distinct is the presence of an analogy, a comparison between a hypothetical situation and an actual situation. For example, in the extended metaphor in Isaiah 5:1–7 (the "Song of the Vineyard"), the prophet likens the actual situation, God's displeasure about Israel's immoral behavior, to a hypothetical situation, a gardener's disappointment about the way the vineyard he lovingly tended yielded wild grapes. At the end of the passage, Isaiah explicates the metaphor: "For the vineyard of YHWH of Hosts is the House of Israel" (Isa 5:7). Applying the frequently used terminology coined by I.A. Richards, the subject under discussion (here, the Israelites) would be considered the 'tenor' and that to which the subject is being compared (here, the vineyard) would be called the 'vehicle.'

In a metaphor, the analogy is implicit, whereas it is explicit in a simile, a closely related trope. Examples of similes abound in biblical poetry, as seen in the following passages from the book of Hosea. At several points, Hosea favorably compares God to dew or rain in order to send the message that God nourishes Israel and will bring about her revival and success:

 And He will come like rain for us,
like latter rain that waters the earth (Hos. 6:3).
 I will be like dew for Israel;
he will blossom like the lily (Hos. 14:6).

In both cases, the preposition כ ("like" or "as") signals the presence of an analogy. Other grammatical markers such as כאשר ,כמו, or כן are also used in biblical similes, though with less frequency.

Elsewhere, Hosea applies a similar simile to speak about Israel instead of God. In the process, he transforms this comparison from a compliment to a criticism, from a promise of Israel's prosperity to a depiction of her demise. In Hosea 6:4, directly after the positive comparison between God and rain quoted above, the hypothetical situation (the source of precipitation) is cast in a negative light when used to describe the actual situation (the fleeting nature of Israel's covenantal faithfulness):

 What shall I do for you, Ephraim,
and what shall I do for you, Judah,
and your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
and like dew that early goes away?

Further on, Hosea incorporates nearly identical language as part of a string of similes compiled to convey a somewhat different message: a warning that Israel is destined for ruin as a result of her sins:

 Therefore, they will be like a morning cloud,
and like dew that early goes away,
like chaff driven away from the threshing floor,
and like smoke from a window (Hos. 13:3).

This litany of similes, each of which is introduced with the marker כ, provides the prophet with a vivid, effective means of chastising his audience.

With a metaphor, the speaker crafts the comparison in a variety of ways. The most obvious type of metaphor takes the form of a predicative statement, as in "YHWH is my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1), "All flesh is grass" (Isa. 40:6), or "Israel is a ravaged vine" (Hos. 10:1). Each of these nominal sentences equates one object with another object, thus creating an anomaly. In other instances, the metaphor is introduced by weaving together words connected with the actual situation and vocabulary associated with the hypothetical situation. For example, in the previous citation from Isaiah 1:10, the prophet compares his audience to the archetypal sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah by linking the second person plural imperative verbs and the nouns "leaders" and "people" with the place names "Sodom" and "Gomorrah." The Israelites addressed are not, in fact, residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, but only metaphorically equated with them. In Amos 1:2, the metaphor is more subtle, created by pairing a divine subject with a verb primarily associated with the sound produced by lions:

 YHWH roared from Zion,
and from Jerusalem he raised his voice.

The combination of "YHWH" and "roared" creates an incongruity that, in part, marks this statement as a metaphor.

In the following example, it is the larger context that exposes the anomalous nature of the analogy. In the beginning of the book of Isaiah, God states:

 Children I reared and raised,
and they rebelled against Me (Isa. 1:2).

If a parent had spoken these words about his or her children, there would be nothing incongruous about the sentence; thus, it would not constitute a metaphor. Here, however, the larger context establishes that the speaker is God, the subject is Israel, and the comparison provides a means of expressing God's sense of anger and disappointment about the Israelites' actions. The pairing of a divine, first person subject with verbs typically associated with the actions of human parents generates a semantic incongruity that identifies this statement as a metaphor. As these examples demonstrate, a metaphor contains both an analogy and an anomaly. In contrast, a simile lacks any sort of anomalous element, for it explicitly compares two entities, without equating them.

Interpreting metaphors and similes involves unpacking the common features that motivate the analogy, what Max Black labels the 'associated commonplaces' (Black, 74). Imagine a Venn diagram, with "God" in one circle and "dew" in another. What qualities do the two have in common? What characteristics would fit in the overlapping section of the two circles? In the abstract, we might compile a list of various attributes shared by God and dew. However, when interpreting the simile as it appears in Hosea 14:6, the relevant question is: What specific qualities are focused upon in this particular verse? In Hosea 14, the larger context allows the interpreter to decipher the associated commonplaces, for the subsequent verses describe how Israel will flourish like a verdant plant. One can infer from the larger passage that just as dew nourishes trees and flowers, so God will sustain and support Israel so the nation can thrive. In a separate context, when the prophet applies the same analogy to Israel, different associated commonplaces drive the comparison. In Hosea 6:4, the clause "that early goes away" modifies the simile "like dew," thereby specifying what Israel has in common with dew: just as dew evaporates rather quickly, so Israel's loyalty to God is fleeting. When the same simile appears in Hos 13:3, the surrounding context confirms the accuracy of this reading. Morning clouds, dew, chaff, and smoke are all ephemeral, a characteristic that the prophet warns will be true for Israel as well. As these examples demonstrate, in many cases, the associated commonplaces are made clear by modifying phrases or the broader context; sometimes, however, analyzing the analogy requires a greater degree of conjecture and interpretative effort.

Note that many of these examples involve metaphors or similes for God. Speaking about the divine naturally demands the use of metaphor or simile, for human beings can only attempt to articulate ideas about God by applying the known and the familiar. For instance, in order to impress upon Israel God's commitment to comfort the exiles, God is pictured as a loving mother:

 a person whose mother comforts him,
so I will comfort you (Isa. 66:13).

The wording of the simile makes it clear that comfort is the associated commonplace generating the comparison. The prophetic books in particular contain an array of analogies for God. In addition to those cited so far (dew, shepherd, lion, parent), we find an abundance of metaphors, some drawn from the sphere of human relationships and others from the natural world and from other semantic domains relevant to the ancient Israelites, such as husband (e.g., Hos. 2), warrior and woman in labor (Isa. 42:13–14), spring of living water (Jer. 2:13), light (Isa. 60:19), and traveler (Jer. 14:8), to name only a few.

Repetition and Patterning

David's tribute to Saul and Jonathan concludes with two phrases invoked to describe the deceased men:

 How have the mighty fallen,
and the weapons of war are lost (II Sam. 1:27).

In the first colon, literal language is used to characterize Saul and Jonathan. In the second, David communicates through figurative language, employing the image of abandoned armor to speak of the loss of Israel's military leaders. The phrase "how have the mighty fallen" is repeated two other times in this passage: once at the end of the first verse (v. 19) and again toward the end of the unit (v. 25). When a word or phrase recurs at the beginning and end of a composition, it is called an inclusio or envelope structure. When a word or phrase repeats a number of times, particularly at marked intervals, it is called a refrain.

Repetition stands out as an important way to convey meaning in the Bible. In poetry as well as prose, repetition of key words allows the author to highlight and emphasize central themes. For instance, in Hosea 14:2–9, the root ש.ו.ב. ("to turn") appears five times. First, the prophet charges his listeners to return to God (vv. 2, 3); then he promises that God will "heal their turning back," for God's anger "has turned away" from them (v. 5; also see v. 8). Likewise, in Isaiah 60:1–3 the roots א.ו.ר. ("light") and ז.ר.ח. ("shine") each repeat three times in this short unit, amplifying the message that the light of Zion will illuminate the darkness:

 Arise, give light, for your light has come
and the glory of YHWH has shone upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
and thick clouds the peoples;
but upon you YHWH will shine
and His glory will be seen over you.
And nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by the brightness of your shining.

Additional types of repetition can be found in poetic compositions throughout the Bible. In Isaiah 40–66, reduplication, or the side-by-side repetition of the same word, punctuates numerous passages, including: "Comfort, comfort my people" (Isa. 40:1); "I, I am YHWH" (Isa. 43:11); "Pass through, pass through the gates" (Isa. 62:10). In certain psalms, the same phrase repeats at the beginning of several consecutive lines, such as "how long" in Psalm 13:2–3 or "bless" in Psalm 115:12–13. Even more prominently, in Psalms 148 and 150, "Hallelujah" (הללו יה) ("Praise Yah") frames each psalm, functioning as an inclusio; in between, the verb הללו ("praise") starts each of the subsequent lines, seven times in Psalm 148 and ten times in Psalm 150. In other cases, the repetition appears at the end of the line, as seen in Psalm 136, where the phrase "for His steadfast love is eternal" (כי לעולם חסדו) concludes each of the 26 verses. As these examples demonstrate, repetition not only conveys meaning, but also serves as a structuring device and enhances the aesthetic quality of the composition.

In biblical poetry, patterns are created though repetition as well as through other means. In various psalms and in the book of Lamentations, the verses are arranged alphabetically, in what is called an acrostic (Lam. 1–4; Ps. 111; 112; 119; 145). A prominent pattern in the Bible is a chiasm, where elements in a verse or over the larger expanse of a text are arranged in reverse order. Genesis 9:6 provides a good example: "The one who sheds [A] the blood [B] of a human [C], by a human [C'] shall his blood [B'] be shed [A']." Isaiah 1:18 contain a number of overlapping patterns. Note the chiastic arrangement of the similes in relation to the verbs in each bi-colon:

 If your sins are [A] like scarlet [B],
like snow [B'], they will turn white [A'].
If they have turned red [C] like crimson [D],
like wool [D'] they will be [C'].

Looking at the two bi-cola together, a chiastic pattern emerges in the order of the verbs, with the verb "to be" alternating with causative, color-related verbs: "are [A]…will turn white [B]…have turned red [B']…will be [A']." Focusing just on the similes, the references to red and white appear in ABAB order: "like scarlet [A], like snow [B]…like crimson [A], like wool [B]. With its rich use of imagery and its precisely arranged elements, Isaiah 1:18 demonstrates the potential complexity and artistry of biblical verse.

Another form of repetition and patterning involves the use of sound. Alliteration entails the repetition of the same or similar sound; in the Bible, we find ample examples of consonance, the more specific category of the repetition of consonants. For instance, listen to the way Amos 5:5 incorporates several recurring sound patterns, which Shalom Paul attempts to capture in his English translation:

 ואל תדרשו בית אל
והגלגל לא תבאו
ובאר שבע לא תעברו
כי הגלגל גלה יגלה
ובית אל יהיה לאון
But do not seek Beth-el!
Nor go to Gilgal!
Nor cross over to Beer-sheba!
For Gilgal shall go into galling exile,
And Beth-el shall become a nullity.

Isaiah 5:7 provides a good example of paranomasia, a play on words using similar sounding words with different meanings (JPS translation):

 ויקו למשפט
והנה משפח
והנה צעקה
And He hoped for justice,
But behold, injustice;
For equity,
But behold, iniquity!

Other Poetic Devices

Paranomasia is one of a host of literary devices found in biblical poetry. Classical Greek rhetoricians coined much of the terminology that is still used today to label the manifold ways language can be manipulated to produce various rhetorical effects. The few mentioned below reflect some of the more prominent tropes in biblical poetry.

In II Samuel 1:27, David speaks of Jonathan and Saul as "weapons of war." He does not compare them to armor, which would constitute a metaphor. Instead, he metonymically speaks of them using the name of an object with which they are associated. Metonymy involves a connection between two entities related in some sort of a part/whole manner; synecdoche is considered either a subset of metonymy or a distinct trope. Amos creates a metonym when he refers to ruler of Ashkelon as "the one who grasps the scepter" (Amos 1:8), thus linking the king with an action and object associated with him.

The book of Amos contains examples of a number of other tropes. Amos employs hyperbole, or emphatic exaggeration, when he expresses the message that God rejects religious rituals if people do not act with justice and morality. The juxtaposition of two verbs in the first colon amplifies the tone of the passage:

 I hate, I despise your festivals;
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies (Amos 5:21).

Earlier in the book, Amos effectively uses rhetorical questions, constructing a prophecy comprised of nine rhetorical questions. He begins by asking: "Can two walk together without having met?" (Amos 3:3). Then, question after question, he draws his audience in so that they eventually recognize his main point: "My Lord God has spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8). Deutero-Isaiah cleverly crafts a rhetorical question in order to respond to the Israelites' feeling of having been abandoned by God:

 Can a woman forget her nursing baby,
have no compassion on the child of her womb?
Though these might forget, I will not forget you (Isa. 49:15).

This rhetorical question forms a metaphor that compares God to a mother in order to reassure the Israelites of God's enduring love and commitment. The expected answer to the rhetorical question is 'no'; but the prophet surprisingly suggests that, in certain cases, a mother might forget her child. This verse shows the limitations of a metaphor: God may be similar to a mother, but God's powers far exceed that of any human being. As Deutero-Isaiah repeatedly reminds his listeners: "To whom can you liken God?" (Isa. 40:18); ultimately, God is beyond compare.

This example demonstrates the way poetic devices often operate in conjunction with one another. In many cases, we can identify the specific type of trope found in a poetic passage. In other cases, a writer's creativity defies easy categorization. None of the stylistic features discussed in this article are restricted to biblical poetry. They all appear in biblical prose, though not with such frequency and intensity. As Berlin points out, it is not the mere presence of elements such as parallelism or terseness, but their predominance "which marks the poetic expression of the Bible" (Berlin 1985, 5). Appreciating the artistry of biblical poetry and the depth of its meaning requires being a skillful reader, one who can unpack the language, structure, and imagery of a poetic passage and then piece everything back together in a way that gives voice to the ideas conveyed in the elevated discourse of poetry.

[Andrea L. Weiss (2nd ed.)]


Al-Andalus and Provence

Hebrew secular poetry flourished in Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus) from the middle of the 10th century to the middle of the 12th and in the Christian kingdoms of the North of the Iberian Peninsula and Provence from the middle of the 12th century to the end of the 15th (shortly before the expulsion). During these two eras, particularly the former, Spanish Jewry developed a versatile poetry of far-ranging scope which was rooted in the revival of the biblical tradition. At the same time it also evolved in the light of Muslim, and later of Christian, culture and poetry and in the spirit of contemporary rationalistic trends.


A "golden era" was reached by the Hebrew poetry of Al-Andalus whose principal exponents were *Samuel ha-Nagid , Solomon ibn *Gabirol , Moses *Ibn Ezra , and *Judah Halevi ; these three last poets attained artistic excellence both in secular and in devotional poetry, i.e., liturgical poetry incorporated in the prayer service (see *Piyyut ). The most remarkable innovation of this period, however, was the creation of secular poetry which became a vehicle through which the poet could express his personal thoughts and feelings and his relation to man and society. The style and motifs of secular poetry came to influence devotional poetry, which, however, developed separately and was considered a distinct genre.

Prior to the rise of secular poetry in Spain, Hebrew poetry in the various centers (Ereẓ Israel, Babylon, Byzantine Italy, etc.) had been liturgical only, except for a few early texts. The earliest non-liturgical poems (works by *Saadiah Gaon (tenth century) and his contemporaries), dealing with public matters, stem from Babylonia; however, the firm religious tradition of the Babylonian Jewish community precluded any far-reaching innovations. Congenial conditions for secular poetry evolved in the new Jewish community in Muslim Spain, a community not bound by tradition and prospering in an environment of religious tolerance and great cultural and ethnic diversity. It absorbed the culture of its environment and developed rapidly under the Cordoba caliphate and the petty kingdoms that were formed after the caliphate disintegrated in the 11th century.

The patronage of the Jewish courtier, who was either a government official, a financier, or a landowner, created favorable conditions for the development of secular Hebrew poetry. The most eminent Jewish courtiers attracted scholars, artists, and poets to their courts, as did their Muslim counterparts. *Menahem b. Jacob ibn Saruq and *Dunash b. *Labrat , the earliest Hebrew poets in Spain, were the court poets of *Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut , who was himself a courtier of Abd-al-Raḥman III, caliph of Cordoba. Most of the later poets of the Andalusian period were also court poets; a few poets, however, made their living as physicians and dayyanim, etc. The institution of patronage in Muslim Spain began to decline in the middle of the 12th century but continued in the Christian North of the Iberian Peninsula for a long time, though not as prominently.

The court poet depended on his patron's favor and was closely connected with the latter's fate at the royal court. (Some patrons, such as Ibn Gabirol's Jekuthiel, were executed as a result of court intrigues.) From the literary point of view the main drawback of court poetry was the conventionality in creativity that necessarily prevailed in the most commonly used poetic genres. One of the poet's main social functions was to compose panegyrics for his patron and dirges on the death of the latter's relatives. Thus the same motifs, images, and conventional formulations constantly recurred.

On the other hand the status of the court poet had many advantages. Poetry was part of the cultural life at the court and added to the prestige of the patron since it was the far-reaching dissemination of the poetry written at his court and the popularity it gained which spread his fame. Poetry was also a weapon in the hand of the poet, mainly in the guise of satiric poems. The poet enjoyed economic security, respectability, and sometimes even friendship, since many patrons were erudite, and true lovers of poetry. Cultural life at the court also afforded the means for the extensive development of different poetic genres: wine and love songs for feasts, as well as other genres which did not have an immediate social function, e.g., universal wisdom poems and personal poetic complaints. The evolvement of a cultured and refined reading public at the numerous courts developed a keen critical sense both in the public and in the poet and stimulated the development of poetry into a highly refined art. The dependence of the court poet on his patron was considered natural, and the decline of the institution of patronage at the end of the Andalusian period was seen by poets as a direct cause of the decline of poetry.

Poetry was a very popular art. The works of Samuel ha-Nagid, for example, were already known during his lifetime, as testified to by Moses ibn Ezra in his poetics, "In all the regions of East and West… Babylon… Ereẓ Israel… Egypt… Ifriqiya (Tunis, etc.)… and Spain." Evidence from the Cairo Genizah shows that manuscripts of Spanish poems were brought from Spain to Egypt and thence to Yemen. The fact that after the decline of the Spanish center its poetry was preserved and copied in remote countries testifies to its wide distribution. In Spain itself there were many centers of poetry: Lucena, Seville, and other towns were called "cities of poetry," such as Cordoba, Granada, etc.


The language of the Bible had a glorious renascence in secular poetry and superseded other linguistic layers which had developed since the end of the biblical period, i.e., talmudic and especially paytanic Hebrew, which in Spain were considered arbitrary and chaotic. The opposition to these latter developments was at times extreme, as Abraham ibn Ezra's criticism (in his commentary on Eccles. 5:1) of the style and language of Eleazar *Kallir , the greatest of the early poets, who lived in Ereẓ Israel.

This return to the ancient source of the language was a great innovation. Biblical Hebrew, considered the only accurate form of Hebrew, was seen as a clear, precise, beautiful, and divine tongue, which was superior to all other languages. The view reflected the spiritual contest with the Arabs who set up the style of the Koran as a theological and aesthetic model and developed linguistic and poetic tools for its interpretation. An answer to this challenge could only be in the adoption of a biblical style which, because of its antiquity, diversity, poetry, and accuracy preserved by the masorah, was a formidable opponent. In his work on poetics, Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa al-Mudhākara (c. 1135), Moses Ibn Ezra illustrates each rhetorical figure by using both contemporary Arabic and Hebrew poetry, but he primarily refers to the Bible 'so that the Arabs will not discredit it and think… that the Hebrew tongue (i.e., biblical Hebrew) lacks aesthetic rules.' He also mentions the work Kitāb la-Badʿi (around 900) which discusses rhetorical figures in the Koran, but insists that, though contemporary poetry applies the Arabic poetic form and style, it is mainly rooted in the language of the Bible.

Philology and Poetry

The new approach not only developed out of internal apologetics and external rivalry, but was fostered by the spirit of rationalism expressed in the flourishing of sciences, including philology and philological exegesis – a prerequisite to a biblical renascence and to the development of a new poetic style. Already the earliest poets, Menahem ibn Saruq, Dunash b. Labrat, and Samuel ha-Nagid were also philologists, while all poets had a distinct inclination for philology.

An important innovation in form was the introduction into Hebrew of an exact quantitative poetic meter, as found in Arabic poetry. The metric system (establishing a new symmetry of sound which aroused admiration) was based on a grammatical (morphological) principle: the distinction between short and long metrical units according to the exact biblical vocalization of the words.

Since quantitative meter had from its inception in Hebrew poetry been accepted as an immutable law, a preoccupation with biblical grammar and a mastery of biblical style in general was a natural outcome. Hebrew poetry used not only biblical vocabulary but also biblical idioms or verses which were interwoven into the fabric of the poem among other ornaments of style. This style, called mussiv, was not a mechanical mosaic of quotations, but a peculiar and original combination in a new context, which often led to a surprising change in meaning whose effect sometimes was humorous. Readers brought up on the Bible studied these new effects, examined the poems in the light of the new linguistic and poetic norms, criticized them, and even corrected them.

In time, though poetry tended toward extreme biblical purism, both in vocabulary and in form (for later changes see below), semantic and syntactical changes were nevertheless introduced into biblical Hebrew. Syntax was at times determined by meter and biblical words consequently acquired a new meaning, either through the influence of similar Arabic words or through motifs drawn from Arabic poetry. The fusion of the biblical background with the new elements of stylized poetry followed clear aesthetic principles.

The poetics of the time, though formulated for Hebrew poetry by Moses ibn Ezra at the end of the Andalusian period (c. 1135), is found already in the early poetry of the period and reflects Arabic critical works and poetry. Normative and neoclassic in character, it considers secular poetry (it does not deal with devotional poetry) as an art which demands education and training even for the naturally talented. It calls for clear, formal, rhetorical, and thematic requirements.


Spanish Hebrew poetics thus demands that each poem be carefully rhymed and its meter be meticulous. Most of secular Hebrew poetry was written in the Arabic qaṣīda form (or in its abbreviated form, qit'a), i.e., it had to have one unchangeable rhyme throughout the poem and one quantitative meter dividing each verse (bayit) into two hemistichs. Poems in which homonyms replace the rhymes are a variation of this type of poem. The other type of secular poem was the 'girdle poem' (the muwashshaḥ) whose strophic pattern was a creation of Andalusian Arabs. While the monotony of the classical form was relieved in the "girdle poem," allowing for virtuosity in metrical schemes and rhyme patterns, it was based on a unique principle of form. The "girdle poem" combines fixed and variable rhyme elements. Each stanza has a different rhyme and is followed by a section of a varying number of verses which have the same rhyme. This rhyme recurs only in each of these sections.

In their imitation of complex and intricate forms of Arabic "girdle poems" (or of Hebrew ones by their predecessors), the Hebrew poets showed great skill in techniques of poetry. Some concluded their poems with an Arabic or Hispano-Roman jarya, which was frequently taken from a popular folk song. The muwashshaḥ form was mainly a vehicle for entertaining and encomiastic poetry; but in Hebrew it was also assimilated into devotional poetry.

Rhetorics and General Poetics

Poetry was mainly regarded as "ornamented speech" and the creative process as a conscious art. The poet chooses the subject and themes which he then "embellishes" with figures and tropes. This view which separates form and content is foreign to the modern conception of poetry. The approach, basic to the rationalistic exegesis of metaphorical language in the Koran and the Bible (in order to refute an anthropomorphic interpretation of descriptions of God), was adopted by the theory of poetry and was also used by poets.

The poet's art is revealed in the rhetorical weave of the poem and in the details of poetic diction. It, too, is bound by tradition: conventional phrases and images recur in new combinations, as in a colorful kaleidoscope of style which changes the patterns of its permanent elements. Originality is praised but its scope is limited and is usually expressed by subtle, though sometimes surprising, variations on conventional elements rather than by daring individualistic vent and outburst, or by a new sensibility.

The choice of themes is circumscribed and conventionally fixed. Many subjects were considered unsuitable for poetry, others were only conventionally treated. Some poetic genres employ the neo-classical style which is beyond the individual and the specific. In wine songs, for example, the scenery is conventional, reinforced by traditional images: the feast par excellence or the ideal qualities of wine. Similarly, love poetry usually centers on a beautiful but harsh mistress of the type of la belle dame sans merci. The unhappy rejected lover humiliates himself before the beloved (in front of others who watch him, or in front of a moralizer); but he draws supreme pleasure from his torment.

In general, this poetry posits an ideal world of opposites (absolute beauty or absolute ugliness, heights of joy and delight or abysses of grief, etc.). The imagery is also often based on real or fictitious antitheses (pearls of wisdom as against the mire of folly; flames of anguish as against rivers of weeping, etc.).

As many compositions are polythematic, it is also possible to overcome the limits of convention and to express more personal or realistic views, according to the wish of the poet. Even in the most classical period Hebrew poetry is not purely formal and conventional, but allows a distinctive and personal means of expression of high literary value.


Secular poetry includes panegyrics, dirges, poems of self-praise, satire, wine songs, love poems, wisdom poems, complaints, songs of friendship and separation, etc. Genres were considered to be defined mostly by theme and to some extent by tone. This type of division, however, is not exhaustive, since each genre also has in addition to theme a specific pattern reflected in many ways, e.g., in the attitude of the speaker (personal or universal), the specific use of motifs, imagery, and even recurring formula.

The autonomy of the genres is most striking in the long poems similar to the Arabic qasida, which are not one unit. Traditionally, these have an "introduction" (on any subject, e.g., a feast), the "body" of the poem (treating the actual theme, e.g., panegyrics), and between these a "transition verse." Many times, the author plays with contrasting descriptions of feelings in both parts of the poem, creating a very dynamic ambience. In these poems the division is also not exhaustive. There is often a further subdivision into many diverse secondary sections, each belonging to a different genre. Many of the long poems therefore resemble a series of short poems of different genres. Though the elements of stylization in secular poetry were highly conventionalized, poetry was not stifled; it is richer in themes than is usually thought; variations in rhetorical and descriptive usages or in combination of genres, etc., are exceedingly numerous; some important poems do not even belong to any of the set genres. The basic principles of theoretical and practical poetics, however, differed from the modern and appealed to a different type of sensibility.

Trends in Secular Poetry in Al-Andalus

The development of secular poetry testifies to a conscious and directed aim toward a continuous improvement of vehicles of expression and the increase of genres and themes within a normative framework. The character of secular poetry became defined in a relatively short period of time. Its inception was around 950 in Cordoba, under the patronage of Isaac ibn Shaprut, and particularly at the court of his son *Ḥisdai ibn Shaprut . The earliest secular poet was apparently Menahem ibn Saruq; the novelty of his poems (of which only fragments are extant or merely the names) lay in their purpose and theme, but not as yet in the synthetic Hebrew-Arabic style which was to mark the school. That style was introduced as a deliberate novelty by Dunash b. Labrat, Menahem's rival at Ḥisdai's court. Dunash adapted the principle of the Arabic quantitative meter to Hebrew poetry and changed its whole outlook through the integration of images, figures of speech, motifs, and genres taken from Arabic poetry. His innovation in meter aroused a sharp controversy between his and Menahem's disciples, who claimed that he corrupted the Hebrew language (see Isaac *Ibn Kapron , Isaac ibn *Gikatilla ). While Dunash's views prevailed and greatly influenced Spanish Hebrew poetry, he did not develop all these possibilities in his own poetry – encomiastic and polemical poems and a quasi wine song which remain poor in style. His innovations were developed and extended in the following generation by Isaac b. Levi *ibn Mar Saul , and particularly by Isaac *ibn Khalfun , who was the first professional poet to write secular poetry.

Secular poetry expanded with the appearance of Samuel ha-Nagid, who introduced (or fully developed for the first time) universal wisdom poems, encomiastic and derogatory poems, official and personal dirges, wine and love poems, ornamental epigrams, and most of the other genres of secular poetry, including a genre which was not taken up by his followers, i.e., war poems. Samuel ha-Nagid's achievement is spectacular not only in the diversity of genres and themes he used, but in the flexibility of his style, his glittering descriptiveness, and in some aspects of his poetic diction. His high status as Jewish leader, minister serving as one of the commanders of the army, halakhist, and philologist undoubtedly also contributed toward establishing secular poetry (which greatly developed in his generation) as a branch of literature. As stated by Abraham *Ibn Daud , "In the days of Ḥisdai they started chirping and in the days of Samuel ha-Nagid they gave voice" (see Moses b. Samuel ha-Kohen *Gikatilla , and Judah b. Samuel *Ibn Balam ).

His younger contemporary, Solomon ibn Gabirol, famous as a philosopher and poet, added to secular poetry a dimension of introspective depth and complexity, particularly in his personal poems which express the poet's struggle against fate and his yearning for love. The paradox, which had served his predecessors as a rhetorical device, became in Gabirol's poems a means through which the poet expresses his divided soul. The change of mood from despair to joy, to boasting, in his secular poetry contrasts sharply with the tone of his excellent devotional poetry, which was written in a different style (see *Piyyut ). Gabirol not only wrote personal secular poems which depart from conventions but modified existing genres by refining the diverse aspects of their conventions.

At the end of the 11th century the Spanish style had already become defined, and even minor poets, whose range was limited, produced commendable works and enriched the extensive background from which the great talents emerged. Literary activity in secular and devotional poetry increased greatly; "these groups of poets are as water, at first it flows slowly and then it gushes forth" (Moses ibn Ezra; see *Piyyut in Spain, Isaac ibn Ghayyat, Levi b. Jacob *Ibn Altabban , *Baḥya b. Joseph ibn Paquda , *Joseph b. Sheshet ibn Latimi , and Joseph b. Jacob *Ibn Sahl ). The characteristics were defined and expressed in theory and in practice in the works of Moses ibn Ezra (c. 1055 to 1135) who, to some extent, represents the school. In Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa al-Mudhākara, his work on poetics, he states the school's views on poetry: its essence, function, sources, and its practical theory of ornamentation. In another essay Maqāla bi al-Hadīqa fi ma'anī al-majāz wa al-haqīqa, he introduces a theory of metaphor as related to biblical exegesis and to contemporary poetry. Among his diverse secular poems some are written in a very ornamental style, showing a preference for the metaphor over the simile and combining it with various figures of speech. He was the first to develop homonymic poems in Hebrew which he collected in his Sefer ha-Anak.

Secular poetry attained its classical peak with the works of the greatest Hebrew poet of the period, Judah Halevi. He gained fame not just through his personality and nationalistic sentiments, expressed in his poems and in his book Sefer ha-Kuzari, but for the quality of his poetry which aroused the admiration of his contemporaries. His talent found scope both in his extensive and excellent devotional poetry and in his secular poetry, expressed in its range, versatility, and perhaps most of all in its pleasing style, which the poet achieved by a very flexible use of rhetorical devices, surprising twists, and a personal tone accompanying well-known themes. Judah Halevi infused new life into the literary tradition of his time, even to the extent of deviating from convention, which he did with the freedom of the master. Through new combinations he modified and changed most of the poetic genres of his time. In dirges, for example, he not only used the classic form but innovated the genre with the strophic form, to which he gave a ballad-like quality by introducing a dialogue with the deceased. His poems are also marked by a change of tone, and his love poems range from lightness and humoristic brilliance to sensuality. Judah Halevi also created new genres: poems about Zion and sea poems. He developed the new possibilities that secular poetry afforded, yet none of the later poets reached his poetic excellence or versatility.

The Andalusian period of Hebrew poetry came to an end in Judah Halevi's generation (see Solomon ibn al-Mu'alem, *Joseph b. Ẓaddik , and Judah b. Isaac *Ibn Ghayyat ) – a very short time after his death in Egypt or Palestine (1141) and that of Moses Ibn Ezra in northern Spain (1138?). The Almohads invaded Andalusia (1145) and wrought havoc among the Jewish communities, which were completely destroyed.


From the mid-12th century (during the Reconquista), as Jews emigrated to the north and the Christians advanced southward, secular Hebrew poetry (and Hebrew poetry in general) passed into the Christian North of the Peninsula. Although the cultural environment was no longer Muslim and the Arabic language and poetry were superseded by the Romance languages and literatures, and to some extent by troubadour poetry, secular poetry deliberately and consciously carried on the tradition of the Andalusian period. The Hebrew poets of Christian Spain at times declared themselves to be the guardians of the Andalusian tradition or merely its epigones (e.g., Judah *al-Ḥarizi in Taḥkemoni). Sometimes they might evince an affinity for a particular Andalusian poet and his fate (e.g., Solomon b. Reuben *Bonafed for Solomon ibn Gabirol, who had lived about 400 years earlier). In reality, however, important changes occurred in secular Hebrew poetry in Christian Spain due both to external influence and to internal development, one of which was in the sphere of language. In theory the ideal of biblical Hebrew still prevailed. Many poets who wrote and translated maqāmāt stressed their intention to glorify biblical Hebrew and to prove its vigor. Al-Ḥarizi (in his introduction to Taḥkemoni) even presented an allegorical personification of biblical Hebrew as his muse. In practice, however, some poets by the middle of the 13th century no longer adhered to biblical purism and used more and more rabbinic (talmudic and midrashic) language, and even the contemporary scientific and philosophical language which had evolved in the late 12th century. At the same time translated literature developed to bring scientific and philosophic writings to the Jews of the Northern Christian kingdoms who could not understand the original Arabic. Speculative literature written in Hebrew also began to flourish during this period.

Though the vocabulary was expanded, poetic diction tended to a prose-like sparseness or, conversely, to a baroque-like elaborateness and to manneristic forms, i.e., the use of certain letters only, poems composed in a geometrical form, poems which could be read backward, vertically, mirror-poems, poems with echo, etc. Such devices appeared in some poetry only, but rarely allowed for genuine poetic expression. Humor and satire as poetic vehicles were already comparatively prominent in the 12th century. Parody was a popular device (e.g., parody of the marriage contract, the Mishnah, the prayer for the dead, etc.), especially in maqāmāt ( *Judah b. Isaac ibn Shabbetai , Vidal Benveniste; see *Maqāma and *Parody ), for entertainment and, even more, for pungent social satire.

In the sphere of genres, the most prominent innovation in the Christian period was the development of the maqāma, which was primarily an amusing story, written in rhymed prose with special emphasis on stylistic brilliance (sometimes at the expense of the plot), interlaced with poems that had both rhyme and meter. The plot at times was only a pretext for their introduction. The maqāma therefore may be classified as poetry, but it also contains prose narrative elements. Al-Ḥarizi's maqāmāt were patterned on the Arabic works of Al-Hamdani and Al-Ḥariri, in which the hero, a likable scoundrel, appears in many independent stories, and the narrator relates his adventures. Most of the other rhymed stories – some by authors earlier than Al-Ḥarizi, e.g., *Judah ibn Shabbetai and Joseph b. Meir *Ibn Zabara , while others were later, e.g., *Jacob b. Eleazar and Isaac b. Solomon ibn *Sahula – adopted a different technique to unravel the plot and to present the characters and their function. They thus deviated from the classic maqāma genre. Some also show Christian influence, both in subject and in motif. In the 13th century, and perhaps somewhat earlier, the maqāma acquired a didactic-moralistic and satiric character and was strongly influenced by philosophy (e.g., Shem Tov *Falaquera ) and by the *Kabbalah (e.g., Isaac ibn Sahula).

Beside the maqāma, literary correspondence also developed in a very particular way. Many Jewish intellectuals of the time maintained correspondences with co-religionists as a way of showing their ability in writing and their knowledge of Jewish culture. This correspondence included long sections of rhymed, highly rhetorical prose, and some verses. It acquired its own structure, with a prose introduction, a few initial verses indicating the number of verses of the main body of the composition, and the body itself; usually a section in prose followed, and, on the back of the paper, a few lines about the addressee.

Non-narrative metrical secular poetry also had a much wider range of subjects than in the Andalusian period. It broached topical matters, the most important of which was the major 13th-century controversy on the character and teaching of Maimonides (see Meshullam b. Solomon *de Piera , Meir *Abulafia , and the *Maimonidean Controversy ). In the 14th and 15th centuries forced conversion and resistance to it was a foremost topic, beside other more classic genres (panegyrics, dirges, satiric poems, love songs, etc.). While the polemical poems were not always of great artistic value, they were typical of the adherence to reality found in secular poetry and the avoidance of ideal classicist generalizations of the Andalusian period. This trend also found expression in other poetic genres, seen in the explicit mention of places, dates, etc., in the ready acceptance of new specific concrete themes, and in the realistic description of objects (e.g., a prison cell, a chess game, or a poor man's torn coat). Other themes testify to Christian influence, particularly troubadour poetry (through Provençal and related dialects, such as Catalan) and, to a much lesser extent, Spanish poetry which was then in its beginning (though some Hebrew poets also wrote in Spanish, e.g., *Santob de Carrion Shem Tov Ardutiel). Such themes were spiritual love (for a woman; e.g., Todros *Abulafia ), a debate between abstract ideas ( Abraham *Ibn Ezra and others), the wanderings of a Hebrew troubadour ( *Isaac b. Abraham ha-Gorni ), mutual invectives between poets written in the form of a troubadour tenson (Todros Abulafia and *Phinehas b. Joseph ha-Levi ), nature described pastorally (Meshullam de Piera), and other subjects (as well as some manneristic effects).

Secular poetry in the Christian period through its expansion of themes and forms was more variegated than the secular poetry of the Andalusian period. At the same time, however, it usually was inferior in literary merit. There were some talented poets and some groups of poets, but there was no pleiad centering around great poets as in the Andalusian period.

Trends in Secular Poetry in Christian Northern Iberia

The beginning of the period of secular poetry in the Christian Northern kingdoms of the Peninsula (during and shortly after the destruction of the Jewish communities of al-Andalus) is represented by the versatile Abraham ibn Ezra, poet, commentator, philologist, and scientist, who disseminated the Hebrew-Spanish style and culture in Christian Spain. His extensive poetry already reveals the particular blend of Andalusian tradition and the beginning of the new trends in its humor, satire, realistic approach and description – mentioning places, etc., the use of new genres (e.g., poems of debate in which the proponents are abstract ideas), and in some manneristic effects. From the 12th to the 15th centuries, the fusion of Andalusian tradition with the various new elements (humor in parody, satire, concreteness, etc.) was differently effected in maqāmāt, rhymed stories (similar to the maqāma in form), and the poems interlaced in these stories which sometimes appear in a special section, e.g., at the end of Taḥkemoni by Al-Ḥarizi (see Joseph ibn Zabara; Isaac, author of Mishlei Arav; Judah ibn Shabbetai; Isaac, author of Ezrat Nashim; Judah al-Ḥarizi; Jacob b. Eleazar; Abraham b. Samuel ha-Levi *Ibn Ḥasdai ; Shem Tov Falaquera; Isaac ibn Sahula; *Kalonymus b. Kalonymus ; Isaac b. Joseph ibn *Pollegar ; Shem Tov Ardutiel; Maimon *Galipapa ; *Mattathias ; and Vidal Benveniste for the development of this literature; see also *Maqāma ).

The principal innovations are first fully developed in the highly original poetry of Meshullam de Piera (early 13th century). He extensively resorts to rabbinic language and even to the language of the translators using unusual syntactic links between verses, but also sudden conceptual transitions and at times an obscure style which bears affinity to the troubadour trobar clus. He reduces the laudations in the panegyrics to a closing dedication (a type of troubadour envoi), etc.

The poet Todros Abulafia (late 13th century), whose patron was Don Isaac de la Maleha (courtier of Alfonso X, "the Wise"), also introduced novel themes into secular poetry, such as spiritual love and love poems about Arab and Christian women, description of the court and of the prison in which the poet was incarcerated, and comments in his poems on hackneyed poetic conventions. He created new genres – a panegyric for the king patterned on a troubadour poem, panegyrics in which he used bold erotic imagery, and poems of controversy with other poets. To some extent he was also an innovator in clever manneristic forms (letter combination, echo rhymes, etc.). His poetry, however, shows him to be also an epigone of the Andalusian school (particularly of Moses ibn Ezra). Todros Abulafia was still bound to the Arabic language and poetry 150 years after his city Toledo had been conquered by the Christians.

During the 13th century secular poetry also developed in countries which had not been under Muslim rule, particularly Provence, which was for more than one century a part of the Kingdom of Aragon, and as such received a strong Andalusian tradition, although through Hebrew only. Abraham b. Isaac *Bedersi (Habadrashi; of Beziers, Perpignan) tends to verbosity and flowery playfulness, employing strange images and even conspicuous mannerism in form. He seems to have been particularly fond of literary controversy with the poets of his time. His view on tradition and innovation is found in a fragment of a long and tedious poem in which he reviews early Hebrew poets, contemporary poets, and even Christian troubadours. His contemporary, *Isaac ha-Gorni , with whom he disputed, was a kind of Jewish troubadour who made the round of the communities with his musical instruments, as he himself states in some of his poems.

The poems by *Jedaiah (ha-Penini), son of Abraham Bedersi, are manneristic like his father's, but show more talent and poetic restraint. Jedaiah is perhaps the best-known Provençal Hebrew poet by virtue of his philosophical satiric work, Beḥinat Olam, which imitates the biblical style (division into verses, etc.). Even Boḥan (1322), by Kalonymus b. Kalonymus (the greatest translator of Provence), a similar work but of greater literary merit, is rich in talmudic expressions. It is characterized by despair about the Jewish condition, by biting satire, and by humor.

During the last 200 years (the 14th and 15th centuries) in which secular poetry flourished, Spanish Jewry lay under the shadow of persecutions and had to contend with forced conversion. The theme, however, is expressed in Spanish Hebrew literature as early as the 13th century. Among these is the controversy on religion between Isaac Pulgar and the apostate *Abner of Burgos, carried on in polemical poetry and in maqāmāt.

The tendency in secular poetry toward formal mannerism and the use of linguistic and stylistic trick devices for their own sake is partly found in the poems of Ibn Soli, Joseph b. Sheshet ibn Latimi, and Samuel b. Joseph *Ibn Sasson , Isaac *Pulgar 's friend. While there was also a number of good single poems, there was an increase of uninspired versification of the books of the Bible and of philosophy. Some secular poems attained a high degree of excellence, e.g., the amusing maqāmāt of Shem Tov Ardutiel, of Maimon Galipapa, and to some extent the works of the last group of poets, Adat Nogenim, "the circle of Saragossa," which toward the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century centered around the Lavi family – Solomon de Piera (a relative of the poet Meshullam de Piera), Vidal (Joseph) b. Lavi, Vidal Benvenist, Astruc *Rimoch , Solomon *Bonafed , and others. While some of them converted to Christianity after the *Tortosa Disputation in 1414, others continued to write in Hebrew.

The last prominent Hebrew poet in Christian Spain, Solomon *Bonafed , one of the younger members of the Adat Nogenim group (which had disintegrated), did not convert to Christianity. He attended to problems of immediate import; at the same time he also wrote personal poetry, e.g., love poems to various women. He launched a biting satirical attack against his enemies. (For other poets of the time, see Solomon ha-Levi, Profiat *Duran (ha-Efodi), Moses b. Isaac *Remos , Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ *Duran (the Rashbaẓ), and *Mattathias ). Saadiah b. Maimun *Ibn Danan , one of the last Hebrew poets of Spain, lived in Granada, the last Muslim stronghold, which had been a center of Hebrew poetry hundreds of years earlier. After the conquest of Granada and the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492, Ibn Danan moved to North Africa. Among the Jews expelled from Spain were a number of poets who continued writing in other countries, e.g., Judah b. Isaac *Abrabanel , who gained some fame for his book on love written in Italian.

The Jews expelled from Spain and their descendants continued to foster the Spanish style in their countries of refuge. The influence of the Hebrew-Spanish style had, however, extended beyond the Spanish borders long before – at the time secular poetry flourished in Spain. From the 12th century onward it was taken up by Jewish communities throughout the Muslim world (Egypt, Babylonia, Yemen, etc.), but it also influenced Jews in the Christian world (Italy, to some extent Germany, northern France, and especially Provence). The expulsion from Spain led to a new flourishing of the Hebrew-Spanish style in such widely dispersed Jewish communities as Turkey, Greece, North Africa, Ereẓ Israel, and Holland. The period extended from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

Echoes of secular and devotional poetry, particularly of the great Andalusian poets, are found in modern Hebrew poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century. This harking back, however, is only sporadic.

[Dan Pagis]


Italy was the first European country, other than Spain, in which Hebrew poetry, both sacred and secular, was developed. Although the Jewish population there was never large, the Hebrew poets in Italy made a notable contribution to Hebrew poetry. In prayer the Jews in Italy originally used the piyyutim of Ereẓ Israel, but, beginning in the ninth century, Italian paytanim arose who, for all their dependence upon the Ereẓ Israel piyyut, made their poems express something of their own time and place. Secular Hebrew poems written in Italy during the earliest period have not survived, and only one paytan, *Silano , who lived in the ninth century in Venosa, is known to have composed humorous verse. The best-known early paytanim in Italy were members of the Ahimaaz family: *Shephatiah b. Amittai and *Amittai b. Shephatiah , and later, members of the *Kalonymus family, and *Elijah b. Shemaiah . Ahimaaz b. Paltiel's family chronicle, Megillat Yuḥasin (Megillat Aḥima aẓ), written in rhymed prose, dates from the middle of the 11th century. Undoubtedly there was communication between the Jews of Spain and Provence and those of Italy, and Hebrew poetry written in Spain was known in Italy. From the beginning of the 12th century metrical poems were already being composed by Italian poets, e.g., *Jerahmeel b. Solomon (in southern Italy) and *Isaiah b. Mali di Trani . In the 13th century Benjamin delli Mansi composed a satire on his contemporaries in rhymed prose entitled Massa Gei-Ḥizzayon. The greatest secular Hebrew poet of Italy, *Immanuel b. Solomon of Rome (Manoello Giudeo), lived during the 13th and 14th centuries. His Maḥberot Immanu'el (Brescia, 1492; critical ed., Jerusalem, 1957), containing all his prose and poems, was influenced by the poetry of Italy and Provence and the writings of Judah al-Ḥarizi, an influence Immanuel himself admitted. Immanuel was one of the first to compose sonnets in Italian and the first to compose Hebrew sonnets. His works comprise 28 compositions (maḥberot), the last being Maḥberet ha-Tofet ve-ha-Eden ("Hell and Paradise") in which the influence of Dante's Divine Comedy is recognizable. It has been suggested that, since Dante's work is called The Divine Comedy, Immanuel's be called "The Human Comedy."

Immanuel's work inspired a diversification in secular poetry. Similarly, sacred poetry also began to acquire a new character; the poets of Italy, after the manner of the poets of Spain, composed metrical piyyutim. In the 15th century Italian Hebrew poets began to emancipate themselves from their servitude to Spanish meter, utilizing instead a new (syllabic) meter which did not differentiate between the long and the short syllable.

Translating works from Arabic into Hebrew became a major literary activity in 13th- and 14th-century Italy, as it had been earlier in Provence. One of the great Hebrew translators, Kalonymus b. Kalonymus b. Meir (Maestro Calo), who lived several years in Italy, became the friend of Immanuel of Rome and others of the 'group of the poets' in Rome.

The first Hebrew play, Zaḥut Bediḥuta de-Kiddushin, by Judah Leone b. Isaac *Sommo of Mantua (c. 1527–1592), was written in Italy and may have been performed during the author's lifetime. Sommo stated that he wrote the comedy to demonstrate that the Hebrew language was not dead and that it was capable of expressing contemporary concerns. Apart from this play, and apparently others, Sommo also wrote poetry and was known for his 'Dialogues on Stagecraft,' a discussion in Italian of the history and nature of the theater. However, Sommo's original work was preceded by the Hebrew translation made by Joseph b. Samuel Zarfati (b. in Rome, Giuseppe Gallo; d. 1527) of the Marrano Fernando de *Roja s' important Spanish play, Tragicomedia de Calisto y Malibea (La Celestina). The play, which first appeared in Burgos in 1499, had considerable influence on the development of drama. Although the translation itself has been lost, the translator's prologue is extant (see *Drama ).

Leone *Modena , a man of great learning, composed poetry and prose in Hebrew and Italian and also a play in Italian. Moses b. Mordecai *Zacuto , the 17th-century kabbalist and poet, composed two Hebrew plays: Yesod Olam (Berlin, 1875), on the patriarch Abraham, and Tofteh Arukh (Venice, 1715), on punishment after death. Tofteh Arukh ('Prepared Hell'), a play which reflects the influence of Immanuel of Rome, was at one time read as a musar book. Scholars who had read the play at communal gatherings requested the poet Jacob Daniel b. Abraham *Olmo (Ferrara, 1690–1757) to compose a play about the Garden of Eden. Complying with this request, Olmo wrote Eden Arukh ('Eden Prepared'), which was published together with Tofteh Arukh in Venice in 1744. In the 17th century the brothers Jacob and Immanuel *Frances wrote poetry, satire, and polemic. Although subsequently a great deal of Hebrew poetry was composed in Italy, few innovations were introduced until the appearance in the 18th century of Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto , who began a new chapter in Hebrew poetry.

France and Germany

In the Middle Ages the Jewish inhabitants of France and Germany constituted a single cultural entity. Although it is probable that secular poetry in the vernacular was composed by Jews living in this area, none of it is extant. The Hebrew poetry of the Jews of France and Germany was initially liturgical (for a further treatment see *Piyyut ). In their synagogues the Jews of these countries initially used the piyyutim of Italian Jewry, and those Ereẓ Israel piyyutim which had been adopted in Italy. The first paytanim in France and Germany, who appeared at the beginning of the tenth century, were members of the Kalonymus family (Moses and Meshullam) originating from Italy. In the mid-tenth century *Simeon b. Isaac and *Gershom b. Judah ("the light of the exile") lived there. With the increase in the number of French and German paytanim, two of the greatest medieval paytanim, *Ephraim b. Isaac of Regensburg and *Ephraim b. Jacob of Bonn, made their appearance in the 12th century. Ephraim b. Isaac was the first to use Spanish meter in his piyyutim, and Ephraim b. Jacob integrated short piyyutim into his Sefer Zekhirah, a chronicle of the persecutions suffered by Jews of his time. Although in his Tefillah Tikkaḥ Teḥinna Tivḥar (Oẓar, 473) the 11th-century paytan, *Meir b. Isaac , anticipated Ephraim b. Isaac in the use of the Spanish meter in piyyut, this innovation was not followed up until much later. In the 12th and 13th centuries, *Judah b. Kalonymus and his son, *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms, author of the Sefer Roke'ah, reflected in their piyyutim the sufferings endured by the Jews of their era. In medieval times every rabbi composed piyyutim, since the people wished to hear not only the traditional piyyutim but also new ones expressive of their time and place, and composed by a paytan whom they knew. Although these piyyutim are important from an historical point of view, poetically they contain little originality.

A parody, Leil Shikkorim Hu Zeh ha-Laylah (Oẓar, 721), attributed to *Menahem b. Aaron ibn Zeraḥ , was inserted into the Maḥzor Vitry apparently as a joke. Also extant are the satirical poems Golim Holekhei Derekh (Oẓar 119) of Gomplin, the song, Yom mi-Ẓarefat Yaẓati ("The Day I Left France"), by Isaac, and the jocose poems in Hebrew and Yiddish of Menahem Oldendorf (15th–16th centuries). >From the 16th to 18th centuries paytanim and rhymesters, whose poetry is of little value, appeared in France and Germany and in countries to which French and German Jews immigrated, e.g., Bohemia, Russia, and Poland.


Before the expulsion in 1290, paytanim in England, such as *Joseph b. Asher of Chartres, who lamented the pogrom in York (1191), and *Meir b. Elijah of Norwich (13th century) were influenced by the French paytanim. Meir of Norwich, in addition to piyyutim, composed metrical rhymes of four lines in which the first two and last two letters of the line are identical. Secular poetry, some of which was inspired by Spanish poetry, was also written. Indebted to the French fabulist, Marie de France, is the secular poetry found in Mishlei Shualim ("Fox Fables," latest edition, Jerusalem, 1946) by *Berechiah b. Natronai ha-Nakdan , who lived in the 13th century in Normandy and also in England. The work is written in rhymed prose and the fables end with metrical poems.

For the modern period see *Hebrew Literature , Modern. See also *Piyyut (includes a list of paytanim and poets); For a general review, see *Literature , Jewish, Hebrew poetry.

[Abraham Meir Habermann]

Research on Hebrew Poetry in the 1970s


The scholarly research devoted to Medieval Hebrew poetry in the mid-1970s was most notable for the publication of critical editions of the poems of the great poets of Spain. H. Brody and H. *Schirmann published an edition of the secular poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1974), which included 276 original poems and 26 most probably attributable to him, garnered from 97 manuscripts and 93 printed texts. Following their work, Dov Yarden also published an edition of Ibn Gabirol's secular poems, adding in a second volume those edited by Brody and Schirmann, but adding his own interpretation. He cites the manuscripts without giving actual textual variants.

In 1976 Israel Levin published the first book in a series sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences, which is to include all the religious poems of Abraham *Ibn Ezra . This volume contains 262 poems out of a total of 478 by him. A commentary distinguished by great clarity accompanies all the poems and complements the description of the poet's work already published by Levin in the monograph, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Ḥayyav ve-Shirav (1970).

Yonah David published in 1974 a critical edition of the poems of the renowned Spanish poet and translator, Nahum ha-Ma'aravi, whose date has been established as circa 1300. Although only 13 religious and two secular poems by him are known, the publication revealed him in all his glory and splendor. He translated the Sefer Yeẓirah of Yizhar Ha-Yisraeli and the Iggeret Teman of Maimonides. Each translation is preceded by a poem in Hebrew by Nahum and his poetry, written in one of the most tempestuous periods of Medieval Jewish history, gives faithful and artistic expression to the period.

A.S. Halkin has published (Mekiẓe Nirdamim, 1975) the translation of the philosophical work of Moses *Ibn Ezra Sefer ha-Iyyunim ve-ha-Diyyunim. The translation, an outstanding scholarly and precise work, replaces the outdated translation by Ben-Zion Halper (1924; 1966). The volume gives the Arabic original and the translation on opposite pages and includes a detailed introduction, in addition to the commentary. Keter has put out two valuable books in the field of the history of Hebrew poetry. The first, Shirat ha-Kodesh ha-Ivrit Bimei ha-Beinayim (1976) by Ezra Fleischer, describes the development of Hebrew religious poetry from its original center, Ereẓ Israel, to its emergence in Spain, Italy, and Germany. He succeeds admirably in defining the special characteristics of the religious works in relation to their connection with rabbinic literature. Many of the poems are published here for the first time, and it includes an extensive, up-to-date bibliography of research in Hebrew religious poetry. The second book, Ḥiddush u-Masoret be-Shirat ha-Kodesh ha-Ivrit by Dan Pagis, complements Fleischer's volume. Mention should be made also of the monumental work by N. Golb, History and Culture of the Jews of Rouen in the Middle Ages (1976), in which he describes the community with its leaders, supporters, and rabbis, but also deals with the history and language of its poets.


The most significant contribution in the study of the Hebrew poetry of Italy has been the publication of critical editions of the early Italian poets, undertaken by Yonah David. He has thus far published The Poems of Zebadiah (1974), who lived and wrote in southern Italy in the 9th century; The Poems of Amittai ( *Amittai ben Shefatiah , 1975), who also wrote in southern Italy (Oriah) at the end of the 9th century; one single kerovah for the fast of the 17th of Tammuz by Yudah ha-Kohen bi-Ribbi Mastiya, one of the first paytanim of Rome, who lived not later than the 10th century (1973); Abraham, known as Ezra bar Mattityah, a paytan of Rome, who lived in the middle of the 12th century and wrote only one work, Yoẓer Le-Pesaḥ (1977); and the piyyutim of Elya bar Shemaiah, who lived in Bari during the second half of the 11th century (American Academy for Jewish Research, 1977). It gives 38 poems collected for the first time.

Dramatic works have not been overlooked. Noam, an oratorio on the Revelation, by Mattitiah Nissim Tireni (Ancona, 1745; died after 1810), has been published in a limited edition of 100 copies.

After the publication of critical editions of two of the plays of Moses Ḥayyim Luzzato (Ma'aseh Shimshon, 1967; Migdal Oz, 1972), David published a comparative study of Luzzato, Ha-Maḥazot shel Moshe Ḥayyim Luẓẓato (1973) and also analyzed the contribution made by him to Hebrew rhetoric and poetics in Moses Ḥayyim Luzzato's Rhetoric and Poetics (A Comparative Study), Jerusalem 1978.

Ezra Fleischer made an important contribution to the study of Hebrew Poetry in Italy with his publication of the piyyutim of Solomon ha-Bavli, who lived and worked in the 11th century and by whom 24 piyyutim are extant (Israel Academy for Sciences, 1973).

Hitherto unknown poetic works of Moses Ḥayyim Luzzato have been discovered and published. They supplement those published by Klar and Ginzburg and provide additional evidence of Luzzato's poetic ability.

Mention should also be made of the new corrected edition of the Ahima'az Scroll, first published in 1944 by B. Klar, to which has been added a seliḥah by the author *Ahimaaz ben Paltiel , Ish Yemini mi-Yoshevei ha-Lishkah (pp. 107–108).

Two additional volumes have been published in the field of piyyut. Fleischer's Pizmonei Ha'anonimus (Israel Academy of Science, 1974) is a critical edition of 580 poems found in a Genizah manuscript in the Cambridge University Library (Ms. add 3363). According to Fleischer, they were by an anonymous paytan who lived in Ereẓ Israel about the end of the 9th century. In his introduction he shows that the pizmonim of the 'Anonymous' have preserved a distant echo of some important developments in the history of Hebrew liturgical poetry in Oriental Jewish communities in the 9th century, which helped bring to a close the period of classical liturgical poetry and led to the emergence of the post-classical period.

In 1977 A. Mirsky published Piyyutei Yose ben Yose, containing 11 piyyutim, which are certainly by him, and four which are also attributed to him. The volume includes a comprehensive introduction dealing with the period and works of Yose.

Developments in the 1980s

During the 1980s, a number of noted scholars in the field of Medieval Hebrew Poetry died, namely: A. *Scheiber , J. *Schirmann , N. Allony, A.M. *Habermann , G. *Vajda , H. Schwarzbaum, D. Jarden, D. Goldschmidt, D. Pagis, Y. *Heinemann , and A.L. Wilsker. Anthologies of articles from their estates, as well as memorial volumes, have begun to appear.

During the 1980s, the decade under review, editions of poetic texts from all the countries of the Diaspora as well as from Ereẓ Israel were published.


Ereẓ Israel. All the piyyutim of Yannai (Z.M. Rabinowitz); piyyutim of Eleazar Berabbi Kiler (S. Elizur). Babylonia. Rabbi Hai Gaon (Y. Hasida); Eleazar ben Jacob ha-Bavli (D. Jarden); Rabbi Judah Berabbi Benjamin (S. Elizur). Byzantium. Simeon bar Megas (Y. Yahalom). Spain. Joseph Bensuli (Y. David); A. Ibn Ezra (I. Levin); Y. Ibn Ezra (M. Schmelzer); Joseph Ibn Zaddik (Y. David); Samuel ha-Nagid (Ben Mishlei; D. Jarden); Isaac ibn Ghiyyat (Y. David); Judah Halevi (religious poems; D. Jarden); Jehiel ben-Harosh (Y. David); Isaac b. Solomon al-Ahdab (O. Raanan). Provence. Rabbi Zerahiah ha-Levi Gerondi (I. Meiseles). North Africa. Fradji Shawat (E. Hazan).


Prose and Rhymed Prose

"Isaac Polgarzer ha-Dat" (J.S. Levinger); Shem Tov ben Isaac Ardutiel, "Ma'aseh ha-Rav" ("The debate between the pen and the scissors"; Y. Nini and M. Fruchtman); Berechiah ha-Nakdan, Mishle Shu'alim ("Fox Fables"; H. Schwarzbaum); Sippurei ben Sira (E. Yassif).

Monographs and Studies

Topics chosen focused on trends and aims in poetry and prose. (1) Poetry. The following poets and topics were studied and annotated: Judah Halevi (A. Doron; E. Hazan); Samuel ha-Nagid (T. Rosen-Moked; A. Zemach); M. Ibn Ezra (J. Dana); Erez Israel piyyut (Y. Yahalom); Saadiah Gaon (N. Allony); Eliezer Berabbi Kiler (S. Elizur). (2) Types of Hebrew secular poetry (I. Levin; T. Rosen-Moked; R. Tsur; R. Scheindlin; M. Itzhaki, Y. Feldman). (3) Types of Hebrew religious poetry and the piyyut of Erez Israel (E. Fleischer; D. Goldschmidt; J.J. Petuchowski). (4) Hebrew emblem-riddles in Italy (D. Pagis). (5) The history of Hebrew poetry in Spain, Provence, Italy (J. Schirmann) and Morocco (H. Zafrani).

Edited Texts

(1) V.E. Reichert, The Tahkemoni of Judah al-Harizi, an English translation, vol. I, Introduction and Gates 1–15 (Jer., 1965), 234 pp.; vol. II, Gates 16–50 (Jer., 1973), 443 pp.

(2) E. Hazan, Shirei Fradji Shawat (Jer., 1976), a critical edition of 91 poems by the most famous Hebrew poet in Tunisia, who apparently lived in the 17th century. He came to Tunisia from Fez, Morocco, and composed a total of 900 poems which were largely religious in nature. The real name of the poet was Raphael Malah, who adopted the equivalent Arabic name Fradji Shawat.

(3) Y. Hasida, Rav Hai Gaon, Reshuyyot le-farshiyyot ha-Torah (Jer., 1977), 63 pp.; the book contains 29 poems for sections of the Torah.

(4) R. Bonfils and A.M. Habermann (eds.), Kalonymus ben Kalonymus, Megillat Setarim al Massekhet Purim (Jer., 1977), a facsimile of the first edition published in Pesaro in 1513. Along with 24 pages of text there are 34 facsimile pages. The book contains an article by the translator M.D. Cassuto about Kalonymus in Rome and an introduction by Habermann on Massekhet Purim, its editions and printings.

(5) E. Romero (tr. and ed.), Selomo ibn Gabirol, Poesia secular (Madrid, 1978), 532 pp., with an introduction by Dan Pagis. This is a bilingual edition with selected texts, translations, and notes.

(6) S. Hopkins, A Miscellany of literary pieces from the Cambridge Genizah Collection…Old Series, Box A 45 (Cambridge, 1978), 110 pp.; this work has facsimiles and copies, along with short introductions, and includes piyyutim by Kallir and a fragment from Esa Meshali by Saadiah Gaon.

(7) Y. David, Piyyutei Yosef Bensuli ("The Poems of Joseph Bensuli"), critical edition with introduction and commentary (Jer., 1979), 55 pp. Joseph Bensuli was an important Hebrew poet in Toledo, Spain, at the beginning of the 14th century. Fifteen liturgical collections found in Spain and elsewhere.

(8) H. Schwarzbaum, The Mishle Shualim, 658 p., bibliography, table of narrative types and table of narrative motifs plus a general index. In this comprehensive work the author presents not only competent translations of all the fables, but examines the various sources which influenced them and offers a comparative folkloristic analysis.

(9) Rabbi Shem Tov ben Isaac Ardutiel (or Don Santo de-Carrion), Ma'ase -Harav (The Debate between the Pen and the Scissors; Tel Aviv, 1980), 86 pp., edited with introduction, commentary, and notes by Y. Nini and M. Fruchtman.

(10) I. Levin, Shirei ha-Kodesh shel Avraham Ibn Ezra ("Religious Poems of Abraham Ibn Ezra," 1 (Jer., 1975), 522 pp.; 2 (Jer., 1980), 708 pp. Volume one contains 262 poems and volume two has 247 poems.

(11) M.H. Schmelzer, Yizhak ben Avraham Ibn Ezra, Shirim ("Isaac ben Abraham Ibn Ezra, Poems"; New York, 1980), 171 pp., edited on the basis of manuscripts, with an introduction and notes; the book contains a letter and 44 annotated poems.

(12) L.J. Weinberger, Sefer ha-Selihot ke-Minhag Kehillot ha-Romaniyyotim ("Romaniote Penitential Poetry"; New York, 1980), 248 pp.

(13) A. Saenz-Badillos, Tešubot de Dunaš ben Labrat, critical edition and Spanish translation (Granada, 1980), 124 + 164 pp.

(14) A. Scheiber, Geniza Studies (New York, 1981), 570 pp.

(15) Amadis de Gaula (Alilot ha-Abir), Hebrew translation by the physician Jacob di Algaba, first published Constantinople, c. 1541. Critical edition with introduction by Z. Malachi (Tel Aviv, 1981), 240 pp.

(16) Varela Moreno Ma Encarnacion, Tešubot de Yehudi ben Šešet, edited and translated with commentary (Granada, 1981), 117 pp.

(17) Y. David, The Poems of Joseph Ibn Zaddik (Jerusalem, 1982). Joseph Ibn Zaddik (1075–1149) was well known as a Hebrew poet in Cordoba, Spain, at the beginning of the 12th century. This critical edition of his extant poetry, in which 36 poems are collected for the first time, includes liturgical poems, eulogies, love songs, and four lamentation.

(18) D. Jarden, Divan Shemuel Hanagid; vol. 2, Ben Mishlei ("The Son of Proverbs"; Jerusalem, 1982), 478 pp.

(19) L.J. Weinberger (ed.), Bulgaria's Synagogue Poets: The Kastoreans, critical edition with introduction and commentary (Cincinnati, 1983), 175 pp.

(20) I. Levin, Iggeret Hay Ben Mekitz by Abraham lbn Ezra, a critical edition supplemented with a Hebrew translation of the Arabic original Hay Ibn Yaqiẓan by Abu Ali Alḥusain Ibn Abdalla Ibn Sina (Tel Aviv, 1983), 99 pp.

(21) J. Yahalom, Piyyutei Shimon bar Megas (Jerusalem, 1984). The poet Simeon bar Megas lived in Byzantine Palestine in the sixth or seventh century. He is the author of a cycle of over 150 kedushot based on the triennial cycle then current in Palestine. His writings constitute one of the few resources for information on Palestinian Jewry, its practices and customs, during the crucial period of transition from the Byzantine to the Arabic period. Simeon Bar Megas's 218 poems manifest a special ingenuity in vocabulary and inventiveness, in the use of neologisms, poetic form, and structures. They contribute also to knowledge of Palestinian Hebrew, which, according to the editor, was still spoken in Simeon Bar Megas's time, at least in the villages.

(22) J.S. Levinger, Isaac Polgar, Ezer ha-Dat ("A defense of Judaism"), a critical and annotated edition (Tel Aviv, 1984), 197 pp.

(23) D. Jarden, Shirim Ḥadashim le-Rabbi Elazar ben Ya'akov ha-Bavli ("New Poems of Rabbi Eleazar ha-Bavli"), based on manuscripts and printed editions (Jerusalem, 1984), 60 pp.

(24) I. Meiseles, Shirat ha-Maor. The Poems of Rabbi Zerahia ha-Levy (Jer., 1984), 186 pp. critical edition with commentary. The complete collection of the liturgical poems of Rabbi Zeraḥiah ha-Levi Gerondi is presented in this volume, which contains 51 poems collected from 145 manuscripts located in 32 libraries.

(25) L.J. Weinberger, Jewish Poets in Crete (Cincinnati, 1985), 211 pp., a critical edition with introduction and commentary.

(26) Y. Ratzaby, A Dictionary of Judeo-Arabic in R. Saadya's Tafsir (Ramat Gan, 1985), 151 pp.

(27) E. Yassif, Sippurei Ben-Sira bi-Ymei ha-Beinayim (Jer., 1985), 324 pp.

(28) Ma'aseh Zofar, an ancient story first printed in Salonika, c. 1600, republished by Z. Malachi (Lod, 1985), 72 pp., a limited edition of 100 copies.

(29) Y. David, The Poems of Yehiel ben-Harosh (1986), a critical edition with introduction and commentary (Jer., 1986), 65 pp. Rabbi Jehiel ben-Harosh was a theologian, a judge (dayyan), and also a poet of Toledo, Spain, during the 14th century. The poems of Ben-Harosh are offered here in a critical edition of extant works, 15 liturgical poems collected for the first time. The poet was, moreover, a witness of the 1391 massacre in Toledo, and his lamentations give a historical perspective of Jewry in the Middle Ages in Spain.

(30) D. Jarden, Shirei ha-Kodesh le-Rabbi Yehuda Halevi ("The Liturgical Poetry of Judah Halevi," vol. 1: The Winter Festivals (Jer., 1978); vol. 2, The Summer Festivals (Jer., 1980); vol. 3: Other Poems (Jer., 1982); vol. 4, Poems (Jer., 1986)). The four volumes of this edition include 550 poems. In addition to an introduction, a commentary, source references and parallels, and indices are provided.

(31) T. Alsina Trias, Olmo Lete, del. G., El Diwan de Yosef ibn Saddiq, according to the critical edition by Yonah David. Introduction, text, and notes (Barcelona, 1987), 116 pp.

(32) Z.M. Rabinovitz, The Liturgical Poems of Rabbi Yannai according to the Triennial Cycle of the Pentateuch and the Holidays, critical edition with introductions and commentary, vol. I: Introduction, Liturgical Poems to Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus (Jer., 1985), 508 pp.; vol. II: Liturgical Poems to Numbers, Deuteronomy and Holidays and indexes (Jer., 1987); 444 pp.

(33) Y. David, The Poems of Rabbi Isaac Ibn Ghiyyat (Lucena 1038–Cordoba 1089) (Jer., 1987); the first anthology of 370 poems by this poet.

(34) Sh. Elizur, Rabbi Jehuda Berabbi Binjaminis, Carmina Cuncta. Ex codicibus edidit, prolegominis et notis instruxit (Jer., 1988), 319 pp.

(35) Sh. Elizur, Kedushah ve-Sir Kedushta'ot le-Shabbatot ha-Neḥamah le-Rabbi Eleazar Berabi Kiler, critical edition with commentary and epilogue (Jerusalem 1988), 109 pp.

(36) O. Raanan, The Poems of Ishak ben Shlomo Al-Ahdab based on manuscripts and prints. Critical edition with commentary (Lod, 1988), 152 pp. The 90 poems in this book represent a great variety of a didactic ethical nature and humorous and satiric elements. The poet was born towards the middle of the 14th century in Castile, Spain, and died after 1429, approximately at the age of 80.

(37) The Piyyutim of Rabbi Musa Bujnah of Tripoli (1989), 251 pp., were edited by Ephraim Ḥazan, who also wrote the introduction and notes. The book has two parts: the first describes North African Hebrew poetry and discusses the poet and his period, the genre of his poems and their language, while the second offers 109 piyyutim by this poet. Appendices provide a table of poetic meters, a list of sources, and an index to the piyyutim.

(38) Pirkei Shirah, from the treasure-houses of poetry and piyyut of Jewish communities, were produced by Yehudit Dishon and Ephraim Ḥazan (1990), 166 pp. The book includes, in addition to the introduction of the editors, chapters by Ya'akov Adler on the explication of a poem by Yosé ben Yosé; Yiẓḥak Meizlish on a heretofore unknown personal bakkashah by Zerahiah ha-Levi; Benjamin bar-Tikvah, on a kerovah by Rabbi Berachiah; Judah Razaby, on songs of praise by Joseph ha-Yerushalmi; Hadassah Shai, on a selection from a maqāma by Joseph ben Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi: Aaron Mirsky, on poems of Israel Najara from his She'erit Yisrael; Ephraim Ḥazan on eight piyyutim by Mandil Avi-Zimra; Meir Wallenstein, on the character of Samuel Vitale according to a poetic letter by Moses Judah Abbas.

(39) Ezra Fleischer's The Proverbs of Sa'id ben Babshad appeared in 1990 (320 pp.). In this book the author publishes fragments of a major collection of proverbs, written by an unknown medieval Hebrew poet, Said ben Babshad, who flourished in Iraq or in Persia at the end of the 10th and beginning of the 11th century. The eleven chapters of the book, in addition to the texts themselves, summarize the progress of this research, the linguistic issues, ideology, and poetics as well as sources of influence upon which the poet drew. The proverbs were culled from 25 manuscripts located in 10 different collections, most prominently from the Cairo Genizah.

(40) Ḥibbat ha-Piyyut was edited by Eliyahu Gabbai. It is a selection of piyyutim representing different Jewish communities. The commentary was provided by Herzl and Balfour Hakkak. This is a second edition, and it appeared in 1990 (258 pp.). The book has 18 chapters.

(41) Federico Peʾrez Castro published Poesia secular Hispano-Hebrea (1989; 399 pp.), which contains translations of 92 Hebrew poems by nine of the most outstanding medieval Hebrew poets, from Menahem ibn Saruq to Judah Halevi. Included are notes and introductions to each poem, edited by H. Schirmann in his Ha-Shirah ha-Ivrit bi-Sefarad u-ve-Provence. There are also a general introduction and bibliography.

(42) Carlos del Valle Rodriguez wrote El Divan Poetico de-Dunash ben Labrat. La introuducion de la metrica arabe (1988), 543 pp. The book has, in addition to an introduction, six chapters: (1) Dunash ben Labrat the man; (2) the poetry of Dunash; (3) language of Dunash; (4) quantitative metrics; (5) a diachronic survey of Hebrew metrics; (6) the terminology of Hebrew poetry. Moreover, all of Dunash's poems (including those of doubted attribution) are printed according to N. Allony's edition. The author added two appendices which cite the most significant works treating Hebrew metrics [text opposite translation], and finally the volume ends with a bibliography, list of terms, and list of names.

Interpretive Works

(1) C.A. Colaḥan, "Santob's Debate between the Pen and the Scissors," Dissertation, University of New Mexico (1977), 360 pp.

(2) A. Doron, "Kivvunim u-Megamot be-Ḥeker Shirato shel Yehudah ha-Levi," Dissertation, Tel Aviv University (1977), 240 pp.

(3) N. Ben-Menahem, Inyanei Ibn-Ezra (Jerusalem, 1978), 373 pp., an anthology of the author's articles on Abraham Ibn Ezra.

(4) E.D. Goldschmidt, On Jewish Liturgy: Essays on Prayer and Religious Poetry (Jerusalem, 1978), 494 pp.

(5) Mishnato ha-Hagutit shel Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi, published by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Department of Tarbut Toranit (Jerusalem, 1978), 242 pp. The book is divided into four sections: (a) the thought of Judah Halevi, a general discussion, (b) society and state, (c) historical thought, and (d) thought and experience. Eighteen contributors participated in the volume, which was dedicated to the 900th anniversary of the birth of Judah Halevi.

(6) J.J. Petuchowski, Theology and Poetry: Studies in Medieval Piyyut (London, 1978), 153 pp. The book contains ten piyyutim in the original language, as well as in English translation, accompanied by commentary.

(7) J. Schirmann, Le-toledot ha-shirah ve-ha-dramah haivrit ("Studies in the History of Hebrew Poetry and Drama;" Jerusalem, vol. I, 1979, 438 pp., vol. 2, 1980), 376 pp. A year before his death, Schirmann was able to collect the studies and essays which he had published from 1931 through 1978, and arrange them chronologically according to subject matter. Vol. 1 is devoted to early Palestinian piyyut and medieval Spanish and southern French poets. Vol. 2 deals with Hebrew poetry in Italy from its beginnings until approximately 1800, as well as with Hebrew drama during the 16th–18th centuries. The material has been revised and the biography of Judah Halevi rewritten on the basis of the Genizah finds of Shlomo Dov Goitein. This is a monumental work distinguished for its erudition, expertise, and meticulous care in dealing with the literary creativity of more than a thousand years.

(8) I. Levin, Me'il Tashbeẓ, The Embroidered Coat: The Genres of Hebrew Secular Poetry in Spain (Tel Aviv, 1980). The six chapters of the book are divided as follows: (a) the qasida; (b) the war poems of Samuel ha-Nagid; (c) songs of praise; (d) poems of glory; (e) poems of complaint; (f) poems of retribution, apology, and abuse.

(9) Z. Malachi, Be-No'am Si'aḥ, Pleasant Words: Chapters from the History of Hebrew Literature (Lod, 1983). This volume contains articles dealing with five types of subject matter: (a) studies in piyyut; (b) Hebrew poetry in Spain; (c) Medieval Hebrew fiction; (d) the Balbo family of Candia (Crete) in the 15th century; and (e) authors and books of Amsterdam.

(10) A. Ẓemach and T. Rosen-Moked, Yeẓirah Meḥukha mah: Iyyun be-Shirei Shemuel ha-Nagid ("Sophisticated Writing: a Study of Samuel ha-Nagid's Poems"; Jer., 1983), 158 pp. The authors analyze and explain 17 poems by Samuel ha-Nagid. The book includes three short introductions which treat various biographical, thematic, and methodological aspects of the poet's work.

(11) J. Dana, Ha-Po'etika shel-ha-Shirah ha-Ivrit bi Sefarad bi-Ymei ha-Beinayim al-pi Rabbi Moshe ibn Ezra u-Mekoroteha ("Of Medieval Hebrew Literature, According to Moshe Ibn Ezra"; Tel Aviv, 1983), 337 pp. The book contains, in addition to an introduction, chapters devoted to: (a) content and form, (b) the best poem is that which contains the greatest falsehood, (c) the ornaments in poetry, (d) the qualification and image of the poetic outline, (e) M. Ibn Ezra as poetical theorist and as poet, and (f) influence and originality in the poetics of M. Ibn Ezra. There are also a bibliography and indices.

(12) E. Fleischer, Ha-Yoẓerot be-Hithavvutam u-ve-Hitpatteḥutam ("The Yotzer, Its Emergence and Development"; Jerusalem, 1984), 795 pp. This is an illuminating and comprehensive scholarly treatment of a thousand years of the development of the yoẓer form, from its beginnings in Byzantine Palestine (c. the 6th century) to its decline in the European Jewish centers. Over two hundred unpublished selections from the Cairo Genizah are employed by the author, the first work of its kind in Hebrew.

(13) H. Zafrani, Poesie juive au Maroc, (ed. Yosef Tobi; Jer., 1984), 210 pp.

(14) A. Doron, Yehuda Ha-Levi: Repercusion de su obra, with a biographical sketch of Judah Halevi by Fernando Diaz Estaban (Barcelona, 1985).

(15) J. Dishon, Sefer Sha'ashuim le-Yosef ben Meir ibn Zabara ("The Book of Delight Composed by Joseph ben Meir Zabara"; Jerusalem, 1985), 292 pp.

(16) Studies in the Work of Shlomo Ibn-Gabirol (Zvi Malachi (ed.), Hanna David (co-ed.); Tel Aviv, 1985). The book contains two collections of articles. The first is dedicated to the philosophical elements in the poetry of Ibn Gabirol, while the second deals with the types of poems by him and the characteristics of his poetry. There were 12 contributors in addition to the editor.

(17) J. Yahalom, Sefer ha-Shir shel ha-Piyyut ha-Ereẓ-Yisraeli ha-Kadum ("Poetic Language in the Early Piyyut"; Jer., 1985), 218 pp. This study deals with the language of the early Ereẓ Israel piyyutim which struggled to maintain its independence between the natural needs of expression, rooted in the spoken language, and the archaic literary tradition characteristic of the piyyutim. During this confrontation there developed a new independent literary language which bridges the ancient times and the Middle Ages; its distinctive signs are developed and expanded in this work.

(18) Y. Silman, Bein Filosof le-Navi: Hitpatteḥut Haguto shel R. Yehuda ha-Levi be-Sefer ha-Kuzari ("Thinker and Seer: The Development of the Thought of R. Yehuda Halevi in the Kuzari"; Ramat Gan, 1985), 325 pp.

(19) T. Rosen-Moked, Le-Ezor Shir ("The Hebrew Girdle Poem (Muwashshah) in the Middle Ages"; Haifa, 1985), 245 pp.

(20) N. Allony, Meḥkarei Lashon ve-Sifrut: Pirkei Sa'adiah Gaon (Jer., 1986), 400 pp.

(21) E. Ḥazan, Torat ha-Shir be-Fiyyut ha-Sefardi le- Or Shirat ha-Kodesh shel R. Yehuda ha-Levi ("The Poetics of the Sephardi Piyyut According to the Liturgical Poetry of Yehuda Halevi"; Jer., 1986), 340 pp.; this work, with introduction, appendices and indices, discusses meter, rhyme, and euphonic word-texture: language, methods of formulation and imagery, and structural methods.

(22) Dan Pagis, Al Sod Ḥatum ("A Secret Sealed," Hebrew Baroque Emblem-Riddles from Italy and Holland; Jerusalem, 1986). This work deals with Hebrew riddles which developed in Italy and Holland in a 200-year period, 1650–1850. The ten chapters of the book cover: the field and its study; the origin of the emblem-riddle and foreign languages; the literary riddle as a social genre; the social role of the emblem-riddle; the "emblem-riddle" and related subjects; tricks of language; Aramaic, Hebrew, and the random interpolation of the key word; the body of the emblem-riddle; the unit of the false "solution," three emblem-riddles by Rabbi Moses Zacuto. There are also indices, bibliography, and an English summary.

(23) R.P. Scheindlin, Wine, Women, and Death: Medieval Hebrew Poems on the Good-Life (Philadelphia, New York, Jerusalem, 1986), 204 pp. The author presents the original Hebrew poem along with his own English translation, followed by commentary which explains its cultural context. Included are 31 poems, grouped into three categories: (a) Wine, description of or meditations on the wine party, a conventional Arabic social gathering; (b) Women, Golden Age poems of love and desire; (c) Death, mellow reflections on the brevity of life. Among the poets whose work is represented in this collection are: Samuel ha-Nagid, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Moses Ibn Ezra, and Judah Halevi.

(24) M. Itzḥaki, "Ani Hashar": Studies in Secular Poetry in Spain (Tel Aviv, 1986), 133 pp. This work discusses a number of poems by Samuel ha-Nagid, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Moses ibn Ezra, and Judah Halevi in the light of normative poetics of the period.

(25) I. Levin, Ha-Sod ve-ha-Yesod ("Mystical Trends in the Poetry of Solomon Ibn Gabirol"; Lod, 1986), 174 pp.

(26) Y. Feldman, Bein ha-Kotavim le-Kav ha-Mashveh ("Semantic Patterns in the Medieval Hebrew Qasida": Tel Aviv, 1987), 130 pages. The author analyzes through semantic deductions six qasidot by Moses Ibn Ezra and thereby demonstrates significant principles of structure which are based on two patterns of organization: opposition or polarization and comparison.

(27) M. Itzḥaki, Ha-Ḥai Ge en ve-ha-Mawet Boẓer ("Man-the Vine; Death-the Reaper: The Tocheha Hebrew Admonishment Poetry of Spain"; Tel Aviv, 1987), 82 pp.

(28) R. Tsur, Ha-Shirah ha-Ivrit bi-Ymei ha-Beinayim be-Perspektivah Kefulah: Ha-Kore ha-Versatili ve-Shirat Sefarad ("Medieval Hebrew Poetry in a Double Perspective: The Versatile Reader and Hebrew Poetry in Spain." Papers in Cognitive Poetics; Tel Aviv, 1987), 221 pp. The book deals with medieval literature from three perspectives: (a) the analysis and evaluation of the poems as the result of interaction between the ideational generic figurative, and prosodic dimensions as objects of perceived meaning; (b) the skills necessary for a versatile reader to be able to respond to a wide range of literary styles; (c) the contemporary reader's confrontations with the styles of a far-distant literary period.

(29) S. Elitzur. Piyyutei Eleazer berabbi Kiler (Jer., 1988), 430 pp.

Additional Bibliography on Individual Subjects

(1) Todros ha-Levi Abulafia (1989), 234 pp., was published by Aviva Doron. Todros ha-Levi Abulafia was born in Toledo some hundred years after the transfer of the Jewish cultural centers from Muslim Andalusia to Christian Spain. This book describes the poetry of the Hebrew-Castilian poet against the background of the cultural crossroads in which he lived and worked. The book comprises, in addition to an introduction, a selected bibliography, and three indices (poems treated in the book, subject, and name) eight chapters: (a) the author and his times; (b) Todros ha-Levi, a Hebrew author at the crossroads of literary streams; (c) national and religious expressions in the language of Todros's personal poetry; (d) time in his poetry; (e) the attitude of the poet towards his poetry; (f) love poems; (g) methods of structural and rhetorical design in his poems; (h) comments on a selection of poems from Gan ha-Meshalim ve-ha-Ḥidot.

(2) Rina Drory's The Emergence of Jewish Arabic Literary Contacts at the Beginning of the Tenth Century appeared in 1988. In addition to an introduction and summary, the book has six chapters: (a) the structure of the Jewish literary system at the beginning of the 10th century; (b) the consolidation of Hebrew and Arabic as the written languages for the Jewish literary system; (c) unequivocal literary patterns: Karaite patterns; (d) ambivalent literary patterns: wisdom proverbs; (e) biblical treatment; (f) the role of Saadiah Gaon in contacts with Arabic literature. Indices of names and of works conclude this important contribution to the field.

(3) Yehuda Halevi, a selection of critical essays on his poetry, selected with an introduction by Aviva Doron, was published in 1988, 285 pp. It has (a) studies into the biography of the poet by H. Schirmann, S.D. Goitein, and Yosef Yahalom; (b) articles on his poems – a total of 16 items by Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, Franz Rosenzweig, Ben-Zion Dinur, Michael Ish-Shalom, Yitzḥak Heinemann, Aryeh Ludwig Strauss, Yisrael Levin, Moshe Schwartz, Adi Zemaḥ, Aharon Mirsky, Reuven Zur, Dov Sadan, Ezra Fleischer, Ẓevi Malachi, Ephraim Ḥazan, and Aviva Doron; (c) five appendices – Samuel David Luzzatto's Betulat Bat-Yehudah (1840); a diwan by Judah Halevi; from Michael Sachs' Religious Poetry of the Jews (1845); Heinrich Ḥayyim Brody's Rosh Davar' to a diwan by the poet; and from Fritz Yitzḥak Baer's The History of Jews in Christian Spain (1945).

(4) Abraham Ibn Ezra y su tiempo, the acts of an international symposium held in Madrid, Tudela, and Toledo on February 1–8, 1989, 396 pp., appeared in 1990. This book contains the 45 lectures given by international scholars at the symposium held in honor of the 900th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Ibn Ezra.

Jubilee and Memorial Volumes

(1) Shai le-Heiman (A.M. Habermann Jubilee Volume), edited by Z. Malachi with the assistance of Y. David (Jer., 1977), 385 pp. This volume contains 21 articles, a bibliography of Habermann's works and an index to piyyutim he published, prepared by Y. David.

(2) J. Blau, S. Pines, M.J. Kister, S. Shaked (eds.), Ḥakkirei Mizraḥ (Studia Orientalia, Memoriae D.H. Baneth Dedicata) (Jer., 1979), 407 pp.

(3) G. Nahon and Ch. Touati, Hommage a G. Vajda. Etudes d'histoire et de pensé juive édités par… (Louvain, 1980), 604 pp. The 40 contributions dealt with Judaica studies.

(4) Z. Malachi (ed.), Yad le-Heiman (The A.M. Habermann Memorial Volume; Lod, 1983), 434 pp. The five sections of the book deal with Medieval Hebrew literature, the heritage of Eastern Jewry after the Expulsion from Spain, bibliography and study of the Hebrew book, the history of liturgy and customs, and the memory of Prof. Habermann.

(5) Le-Zikhro shel Ḥayyim Schirmann, published by the Israel National Academy of Science (Jer., 1984). The essays included are "The Position of Prof. Schirmann in the Study of Hebrew Poetry," by S. Abramson; "On Retribution and Redemption in the Religious Poems of Abraham Ibn Ezra," by I. Levin, and "Ups and Downs in Ancient Hebrew Poetry," by A. Mirsky.

(6) Z. Malachi (ed), Be-Oraḥ Mada (Aharon Mirsky Jubilee Volume, essays on Jewish Culture; Lod, 1986), 619 pp. In addition to a selected bibliography of the works of A. Mirsky, the book contains essays on Jewish studies, on Hebrew poetry in Spain and North Africa, on poetry and piyyut and culture.

(7) G.J. Blidstein, Y. Salmon, E. Yassif (eds.), Eshel Beer-Sheva ("Essays in Jewish Studies in Memory of Professor Nehemia Allony"; Beersheba, 1986), 371 pp. A bibliography of the works of Nehemiah Allony prepared by R. Attal is included.

Anthologies and Collections

(1) J. Rothenberg, H. Lenowitz, and Ch. Doria, A Big Jewish Book; Poems and Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present (New York, 1978), 633 pp.

(2) K. Bosley, The Elek Book of Oriental Verse (London, 1979).

(3) D. Pagis (ed.), Ke-Ḥut ha-Shani ("The Scarlet Thread; Hebrew love poems from Spain, Italy, Turkey and the Yemen"; Tel Aviv, 1979), 120 pp. an anthology of 99 poems by 23 poets, dating from the 10th to the 19th centuries. The poems are arranged in 12 sections by subject and motif rather than according to chronological order.

(4) Abraham ibn Ezra Reader, annotated texts with introduction and commentary, by I. Levin, edited by M. Arfa (Tel Aviv, 1985), 438 pp.

(5) Angel Saenz-Badillos and Judit Targarona Borras published an anthology, Poetas Hebreos de-al-Andalus (Siglos X–XII), in 1988, 232 pp. This is the first anthology of its type to appear in Spain: it offers selections from 12 of the greatest Hebrew poets of Spain, beginning with Menahem ibn Saruq and ending with Abraham Ibn Ezra. The text, in an excellent translation, is accompanied by a selected bibliography.

(6) Aharon Mirsky's 731-page Ha-Piyyut, The Development of Post-Biblical Poetry in Eretz-Israel and the Diaspora, appeared in 1990. This large, excellent anthology contains 45 articles representing 40 years of research in the field. There are three sections to the book: (1) 16 articles on the sources of the prayers and the initial steps toward piyyut in the Bible; post-biblical poetry; poetry in the talmudic period; delineation of the characteristics of ancient poetry; the schools within ancient Hebrew poetry; the piyyut tradition in the Land of Israel; and other items.

(2) 15 articles on innovations introduced by early post-biblical poetry, including language and the poetic form; the significance of rhyme in Hebrew poetry; clarification and explication of the language of poetry, and so on;

(3) 14 articles on Hebrew poetry in Spain and Germany and the nature of the poetry which began anew in the eastern countries in the 17th and 18th centuries; evaluations of four important poets – Dunash ben Labrat, Rabbenu Gershom Meor ha-Golah, Judah al-Ḥarizi, and Israel Najara. The book ends with indices on subjects, piyyutim and paytanim.


(1) J. Heinemann and A. Shinan, Tefillot ha-Keva veha-Ḥovah shel Shabbat ve-Yom Ḥol (Tel Aviv, 1977), 131 pp., deals with the weekday and Sabbath liturgy and includes explication, history, and discussion of their structure.

(2) J. Heinemann, Prayer in the Talmud (Berlin, 1977), a revised English edition of the 1964 Hebrew-language version.

(3) H.G. Cohen (ed.), Ha-Tefillah ha-Yehudit ("Prayer in Judaism: Continuity and Change"; Jerusalem, 1978), 292 pp.

(4) J. Heinemann, Iyyunei Tefillah ("Studies in Jewish Liturgy"; Jerusalem, 1981), edited by A. Shinan, 205 pp.

(5) A. Mirsky, Yesodei Ẓurot ha-Piyyut ("The Original Forms of Early Hebrew Poetry"; Jer., 1985), 134 pp., deals with ancient Ereẓ Israel poetry.

(6) A.M. Habermann, Al ha-Tefillah ("Essays on Prayers"), edited by Z. Malachi (Lod, 1987), 148 pp. This collection is made up of various essays on prayers published during the author'slifetime.

(7) The monumental (posthumous) work by D. Gold-schmidt, Meḥkare Tefillah u-Fiyyut.


(1) D.S. Loewinger (ed.), Osef Piyyutei Sepharad ("Collection of Spanish Piyyutim"; Jerusalem, 1977), 264 pp. Facsimile edition based on Ms. 197 in the David Guenzberg Collection. Lenin Public Library, Moscow.

(2) J. Yahalom (ed.), Kit'ei ha-genizah shel piyyutei Yannai ("A Collection of Genizah Fragments of Yannai's Liturgical Poems"; Jerusalem, 1978), 214 pp.

(3) E. Koren, The Alphabetical Index to Israel Najara's Poems (Tel Aviv, 1978), 44 pp.

(4) D. Carpi (ed.), Bibliotheca Ital 0-Ebraica: Bibliografia per la storia degli Ebrei in Italia 1964–1973, collected by A. Luzzato and M. Moldavi (Rome, 1982).

(5) D. Pagis, E. Fleischer (eds.), Y. David (co-editor), A Bibliography of the Writings of Prof Jefim (Haim) Schirmann (1904–1981) (Jer., 1983), 48 pp.

(6) "Bibliography of the Writings of G. Vajda", in: Da'at, 10 (1983), 53–66,125–126.

(7) R. Attal, Kitvei Professor Nehemya Allony ("A bibliography of the writings of Prof. N. Allony"; Beersheba, 1984), 33 pp.

(8) Y. Ganuz, Bibliografiyyah shel Kitvei Ḥayyim Schwarzbaum be-Ḥeker ha-Folklore ha-Yehudi ve-ha-Aravi, in: Yeda-Am, 22 (1984; no. 51–52), 10–19.

(9) M. Beit-Arie, The Only Dated Medieval Manuscript Written in England (1189 C.E.) and the Problem of Pre-Expulsion Anglo-Hebrew Manuscripts (Appendix 1 by M. Banitt; appendix 2 by Z.E. Rokeaḥ), London 1985, 56 pp.

(10) Y. David, "A Decade of Research on Medieval Hebrew Literature," in: Jewish Book Annual, 43 (1985–1986), 107–117;

(11) J. Yahalom, Maḥzor Ereẓ Yisrael, Kodex ha-Genizah with a paleographic introduction by E. Engel, facsimile edition (1988), 148 pp.

(12) Ḥeqer ha-Shirah ve-ha-Piyyut ("Research in Poetry and Piyyut") 1948–1978, a cumulative index-bibliography was published by Ben-Gurion University in 1989. There are 451 pages in Hebrew and 31 in other languages. The editors were Gisella Davidson, Elhanan Adler, Pinḥas Ziv, and Amira Kehat.

(13) The Catalogue of the Jack Mosseri Collection appeared, edited by the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, with the collaborations of numerous specialists (1990), 407 pages, with a foreword by Claude Mosseri and a preface by Israel Adler. The catalogue contains, in addition to a concordance of call-numbers and indices of titles, subjects, authors, places, dates, languages, copyists and persons mentioned, and melody indications, a listing on piyyut and poetry-genres, subjects, and forms and incipits of the piyyutim and the poems.

[Yonah David]

Developments from 1990 to 2005


E. Fleischer, Mishle Sa'id ben Babshad (1990); A. Sáenz-Badillos & J. Targarona, Šĕmu'el ha-Nagid. Poemas. I, Desde el campo de batalla (Granada 1038–1056) (1990); A. Sáenz-Badillos, J. Targarona & A. Doron, Judah ha-Levi, Poemas. Shirim (1994); A. Sáenz-Badillos & J. Targarona, Šemu'el ha-Nagid. Poemas. II, En la corte de Granada (1998); N. Allony, Shirim Genuzim: Shirim Ḥadashim mi-Genizat Kahir, ed. J. Tobi (2001).


R. Brann, The Compunctious Poet (1991); D. Pagis, Hebrew Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1991); F. Corriente & A. Sáenz-Badillos, Poesía estrófica (1991); A. Sáenz-Badillos, El alma lastimada: Ibn Gabirol (1992); D. Pagis & E. Fleischer, Ha-Shir Davur 'al Ofanav: Meḥkarim u-Masot ba-Shirah ha-Ivrit shel Yeme ha-Beinayim (1993); A. Schippers, Spanish Hebrew Poetry and the Arab Literary Tradition: Arabic Themes in Hebrew Andalusian Poetry (1994); D. Bregman, Shevil ha-Zahav: ha-Sonet ha-'Ivri bi-Tekufat ha-Renesans ve-ha-Barok (1995); E. Hazan, Ha-Shirah ha-'Ivrit bi-Ẓefon Afrikah (1995); I. Levin, Me'il Tashbeẓ: ha-Sugim ha-Shonim shel Shirat ha-Ḥol ha-'Ivrit bi-Sefarad (1995); J. Schirmann, & E. Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain (Heb., 1995).

T. Vardi, "Adat ha-Nognim be-Saragosah, Shirat ha-Ḥol" (diss. 1996); D. Bregman, Ẓeror Zehuvim: Sonetim Ivriyyim mi-Tekufat ha-Renesans ve-ha-Barok (1997); P. Fenton, Philosophie et exégèse dans Le Jardin de la méthaphore de Moïse Ibn 'Ezra, philosophe et poète andalou du XIIe siècle (1997); S. Kats, Benot-ha-Shir ha-Na'vot: Hebetim Po'etiyim, Ḥevratiyyim ve-Historiyyim bi-Yeẓiratam shel Meshorere-Sefarad (1997); T. Rosen, Shirat ha-Ḥol ha-Ivrit bi-Ymei-ha-Beinayim (1997); J. Schirmann, & E. Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (Heb., 1997); I. Levin, Tanim ve-Khinor: Ḥurban, Galut, Nakam u-Ge'ulah ba-Shirah ha-Ivrit ha-Le'ummit (1998); J. Chetrit, Piyiut ve-Shirah be-Yahadut Maroko: Asupat Meḥkarim al Shirim ve-al Meshorerim (1999); R.P. Scheindlin, Wine, Women, & Death: Medieval Hebrew Poems on the Good Life. (1999); D. Bregman, Sharsheret ha-Zahav: ha-Sonet ha-Ivri le-Dorotav (2000); R. Drory, Models and Contacts. Arabic Literature and Its Impact on Medieval Jewish Culture (2000).

R. Brann, Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Islamic Spain (2002); S. Einbinder, Beautiful Death: Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France (2002); A. Tanenbaum, The Contemplative Soul: Hebrew Poetry and Philosophical Theory in Medieval Spain (2002); T. Rosen, Unveiling Eve: Reading Gender in Medieval Hebrew Literature (2003); A. Brenner, Isaac ibn Khalfun: a Wandering Hebrew Poet of the Eleventh Century (2003); J. Targarona & A. Sáenz-Badillos (eds.), Poesía hebrea en al-Andalus (2003); S. Elizur, Shirat ha-Ḥol ha-Ivrit bi-Sefarad ha-Muslemit (2004); M.M. Hamilton, S.J. Portnoy, et al. Wine, Women and Song: Hebrew and Arabic Literature of Medieval Iberia (2004); J. Tobi & M. Rosovsky, Proximity and Distance: Medieval Hebrew and Arabic Poetry (2004); Joseph ben Tanhum, Arugot ha-Besamim, ed. J. Dishon (2005).


M.J. Cano, Ibn Gabirol, Poesía religiosa (1992); C. del Valle, Isaac ben Jalfón de Córdoba: poemas (1992); M. Itzhaki, M. Garel, et al. Jardin d'Eden jardins d'Espagne: poésie hébraïque médiévale en Espagne et en Provence: anthologie bilingue (1993); P. Cole, Selected poems of Shmuel HaNagid (1996); L.J. Weinberger, Twilight of a Golden Age: Selected Poems of Abraham Ibn Ezra (1997); I. Goldberg, Solomon ibn Gabirol: a Bibliography of His Poems in Translation (1998); M. Itzhaki & M. Garel, Poésie hébraïque amoureuse: de l'Andalousie à la mer Rouge: anthologie bilingue (2000); P. Cole, Selected poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (2001).

[Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]


BIBLICAL: L. Alonso Schökel, A Manual of Hebrew Poetics (1988); R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (1985); idem, "The Characteristics of Ancient Hebrew Poetry," in: R. Alter and F. Kermode (eds.), The Literary Guide to the Bible (1987); A. Berlin, Biblical Poetry through Medieval Jewish Eyes (1991); idem, The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism (1985); idem, "Introduction to Hebrew Poetry," in: The New Interpreter's Bible, 4:301–15 (1996); idem, "Motif and Creativity in Biblical Poetry," in: Prooftexts, 3 (1983), 231–41; idem, "Reading Biblical Poetry," in: M. Brettler and A. Berlin (eds.), The Jewish Study Bible (2004), 2097–104; Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia, ed. A. Dotan (2001); Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977); M. Black, "Metaphor," in: M. Johnson (ed.), Philosophical Perspectives on Metaphor (1981), 63–82 (reprint of Proceedings from the Aristotelian Society, N.S. 55 (1954–55), 273–94; T.V.F. Brogan, "Poetry," in: A. Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan (eds.), The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 938–42; G. Buccellati, "On Poetry – Theirs and Ours," in: T. Abush, J. Huenergard, P. Steinkeller (eds.), Lingering Over Words (1990), 105–34; W.T.W. Cloete, "The Colometry of Hebrew Verse," in: Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, 15 (1989) 15–29; idem, "A Guide to the Techniques of Hebrew Verse," in: JNSL, 16 (1990), 223–28; idem, "Verse and Prose: Does the Distinction Apply to the Old Testament?" in: JNSL, 14 (1988), 9–15; T. Collins, Line-Forms in Hebrew Poetry: A Grammatical Approach to the Stylistic Study of the Hebrew Prophets (1978); H. Fisch, Poetry with a Purpose: Biblical Poetics and Interpretation (1988); J.P. Fokkelman, Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible at the Interface of Hermeneutics and Structural Analysis (1998); idem, Reading Biblical Poetry: An Introductory Guide, trans. I. Smit (2001); D.N. Freedman, "Pottery, Poetry, and Prophecy: An Essay on Biblical Poetry," in: JBL, 96 (1977), 5–26; N. Friedman, "Imagery," in: Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan (eds.), The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 559–66; P. Fussell, Poetic Meter & Poetic Form (1979); S. Geller, "The Language of Imagery in Psalm 114," in: T. Abush, J. Huehnergard, P. Steinkeller (eds.), Lingering Over Words (1990), 105–34; idem, Parallelism in Early Biblical Poetry (1979); S. Gevirtz, Patterns in the Early Poetry of Israel (1963); S.E. Gillingham, The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (1994); G.B. Gray, The Forms of Hebrew Poetry (1972); J. Greenfield, "'The 'Cluster' in Biblical Poetry," in: Maarav, 5–6 (1990), 159–68; E. Greenstein, "Aspects of Biblical Poetry," in: Jewish Book Annual, 44 (1986–87), 33–42; idem, "Robert Alter on Biblical Poetry: A Review Essay," in: Hebrew Studies, 27 (1986), 82–94; The Holy Scriptures (Jerusalem, Koren Publishers Jerusalem Ltd., 1988); B. Hrushovski, "The Meaning of Sound Patterns in Poetry," in: Poetics Today, 2 (1980) 39–56; idem, "Prosody, Hebrew," in: Encyclopaedia Judaica, 13:1195–240 (1971); J. Kugel, The Great Poems of the Bible (1999); idem, The Ideal of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History (1981); idem, "Some Thoughts on Future Research into Biblical Style: Addenda to The Idea of Biblical Poetry," in: JSOT, 28 (1984), 107–17; K. Kenneth, "Recent Perspectives on Biblical Poetry," in: Religious Studies Review, 19 (1993), 321–27; F. Landy, "Poetics and Parallelism: Some Comments on James Kugel's The Idea of Biblical Poetry," in: JSOT, 28 (1984), 61–87; idem, "Recent Developments in Biblical Poetics," in: Prooftexts, 7 (1987), 163–205; M. Lichtenstein, "Biblical Poetry," in: B.W. Holtz (ed.), Back to the Sources (1984), 105–27; R. Lowth, Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews (1847); P.D. Miller, Jr., "Meter, Parallelism, and Tropes: The Search for Poetic Style," in: JSOT, 28 (1984), 99–106; J. Muilenburg, "Poetry: Biblical Poetry," in: Encyclopaedia Judaica, 13:671–93 (1971); A. Niccacci, "Analysing Biblical Hebrew Poetry," in: JSOT, 74 (1997), 77–93; M. O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure (1997); D. Orton (ed.), Poetry in the Hebrew Bible: Selected Studies from Vetus Testamentum (2000); S. Paul, Amos (1991); D.L. Petersen, David and K.H. Richards, Interpreting Hebrew Poetry (1992); E. Reiner, Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring Rope Cut: Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria (1985); I.A. Richards, The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1936); E. Spicehandler, "Hebrew Poetry," in: A. Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan (eds.), The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 501–9; Tanakh: The Traditional Hebrew Text and the New JPS Translation (19992); W.G.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to Its Techniques (1995); idem, "Problems and Solutions in Hebrew Verse: A Survey of Recent Work," in: VT, 43 (1993), 372–84; idem, Traditional Techniques in Classical Hebrew Verse (1994); E.R. Wendland, "The Discourse Analysis of Hebrew Poetry: A Procedural Outline," in: E. Wendland (ed.), Discourse Perspectives on Hebrew Poetry in the Scriptures (1994); M. West, "Looking for the Poem: Reflections on the Current and Future Status of the Study of Biblical Hebrew Poetry," in: P. House (ed.), Beyond Form Criticism: Essays in Old Testament Literary Criticism (1992), 423–31; Z. Zevit, "Psalms at the Poetic Precipice," in: Harvard Annual Review, 10 (1986), 351–66; idem, "Roman Jakobson, Psycholinguistics, and Biblical Poetry," in: JBL, 109 (1990), 385–401. MEDIEVAL HEBREW SECULAR: SPAIN AND PROVENCE: For editions and studies of individual authors, see the individual articles. Davidson, Ozar, 4 vols. (1924–33); second enlarged edition with general introduction by Ḥ. Schirmann (1970); Ḥ. Schirmann, in: KS, 26 onward (from 1950 onward), annual bibliography of research in secular and sacred poetry; Schirmann, Sefarad (19612), an anthology of poetry in Spain and Provence, with an introduction on each poet, and a bibliography; idem, La poésie hebraique du Moyen Age en Espagne, in: Mélanges de Philosophie et de Littérature juives (1962), 171–210; idem, Shirim Ḥadashim min ha-Genizah (1965); idem, "Problems in the Study of Post-Biblical Hebrew Poetry," in: Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 2 (1967), 228–36; A.M. Habermann, Toledot ha-Piyyut ve-ha-Shirah (1970); B. Halper, The Scansion of Mediaeval Hebrew Poetry, in: JQR, 4 (1913/14), 153–224; J. Schirmann, "La métrique quantitative dans la poésie hébraïque du Moyen Age," in: Sefarad, 8 (1948), 323–32; D. Yellin, Torat ha-Shirah ha-Sefaradit (1939); S. Abramson, Bi-Leshon Kodemim (1965); D. Pagis, Shirat ha-Ḥol ve-Torat ha-Shir le-Moshe ibn Ezra u-Venei Zemanno (1970); J. Schirmann, "The Function of the Hebrew Poet in Medieval Spain," in: JSOS, 16 (1954), 235–52; J. Weiss, Tarbut Ḥaẓranit ve-Shirah Ḥaẓranit (1948); S.D. Goitein, "Ha-Makamah ve-ha-Maḥberet – Perek be-Toledot ha-Sifrut ve-ha-Ḥevrah be-Mizraḥ," in: Maḥbarot le-Sifrut, 5 (1951), 25–40; I. Goldziher, "Bemerkungen zur neuhebraeischen Trauerpoesie," in: JQR, 14 (1901/02), 719–36; J. Schirmann, "The Ephebe in Medieval Hebrew Poetry," in: Sefarad, 15 (1955), 58–68; I. Levin, "Zeman ve-Tevel be-Shirat ha-Ḥol ha-Ivrit be-Sefarad bi-Ymei ha-Beinayim," in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 5 (1962), 68–79; J. Schirmann, "Der Neger und die Negerin; Zur Bildersprache und Stottwahl der Spanisch-Hebraeischen Dichtung," in: MGWJ, 83 (1939), 481–92; S.M. Stern, Hispano-Arabic Strophic Poetry; studies selected and edited by L.P. Harvey (1974); D. Yellin, Hebrew Poetry in Spain, edited with an introduction by A.M. Habermann (vol. 3 of a proposed 7-volume edition of the writings of David Yellin); D. Pagis, Change and Tradition in the Secular Poetry: Spain and Italy (1976). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Sáenz-Badillos, in: Miscelánea de Estudios Árabes y Hebraicos, 50:2 (2001), 133–61; A. Tanenbaum, in: Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World (2001), 171–85; T. Rosen, in: The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (2002), 241–94. ITALY: B. Klar (ed.), Megillat Aḥima'aẓ (1945); Schirmann, Italy; idem (ed.), Ẓaḥut Bediḥuta de-Kiddushin (1946); P. Naveh (ed.), Kol Shirei Ya'akov Frances (1969); S. Bernstein (ed.), Divan le-Rabbi Immanu'el ben David Frances (1932); C. Roth, The Jews in the Renaissance (1959); Y. David, The Poems of Elya bar Shemaya, Critical edition with introductions and commentary (1977). FRANCE AND GERMANY: I. Elbogen et al., Germania Judaica (1934); A.M. Habermann, Piyyutei Rabbi Shimon bar Yiẓḥak (1938); idem, Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Ẓarefat (1966); idem, Hebrew Poems of Meir of Norwich (1966); idem, in YMḤSI, 2 (1936), 92–115; idem, in: Sinai, 15 (1945), 288–98; S. Spiegel, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), The Jews, their History, Culture, and Religion, 1 (19603), 854–92. MAQĀMA: Y. Ratzaby, Yalkut ha-Maqama ha-Ivrit, Sippurim be-Ḥaruzim (1974), selections from maqamot of 32 authors from Solomon ibn Zakbel to Bialik, with a detailed introduction and notes. PIYYUT: D. Gold-schmidt, Meḥkarei Tefilah (1979); J. Yahalom, The Syntax of Ancient Piyyut (including Yannai) as a Basis for its Style (1974).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.