Mar 27 2013
by Solomon ibn Gabirol
English version by Israel Zangwill
My thoughts astounded asked me why
Towards the whirling wheels on high
In ecstasy I rush and fly.
The living God is my desire,
It carries me on wings of fire,
Body and soul to Him aspire.
God is at once my joy and fate,
This yearning me He did create,
At thought of Him I palpitate.
Shall song with all its loveliness
Submerge my soul with happiness
Before the God of Gods it bless?
/ Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerryjohn/ /
Something today in honor of Passover by one of the greatest Medieval Jewish poets and philosophers, Solomon ibn Gabirol…
(I’m still looking for a truly excellent translation of his poetry in English. This poem today, for example– I think with a more elegant translation it could soar in the mind and open the heart. But there is enough left to us in this translation that, with a little attention, we can touch its secret effervescence. So spend a few moments rereading this poem; find the spaces between the words and meanings, and let the magic rush in!)
|Solomon ibn Gabirol|
Shelomo ibn Gabirol (or Solomon ibn Gabirol) was a Jewish poet and philosopher who lived in Spain when it was under Muslim rule. He was born in Malaga and lived most of his life in Saragossa. He was an impoverished orphan who survived with the support of a Jewish courtier, who encouraged him in his poetry.
His major philosophical work known in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages was entitled Fons Vitae (The Fountain of Life). Ironically, for centuries this was thought to be the work of a Muslim philosopher since it was lost in Europe but eventually translated into European languages from an Arabic source. It was only in the nineteenth century that the true author was clearly identified as ibn Gabirol.
Ibn Gabirol’s great poetical work was A Kingly Crown, a collection of verses that exhibit his talents as mystic poet and philosopher. He was clearly a Kabbalist as several of his poems make reference to the Sefer Yezira (The Book of Creation, an important work in the Kabbalistic tradition). Other elements of his poetry hint at the influence of Sufism, which was widely practiced throughout Spain and much of the Muslim Mediterranean.