The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492

By Peter Cole | Go to book overview

GLOSSARY

The following notes relate only to terms mentioned in this anthology and are by no means
exhaustive. Likewise, poems cited at the end of each entry illustrate the term under dis-
cussion but do not account for all the poems in this volume that demonstrate a given phe-
nomenon.*

acrostic: While the vast majority of liturgical poems were written to be presented on behalf of a congregation of worshipers, and not as the personal expression of the individual poet, poets regularly “signed” their hymns with acrostics registering their names. Usually these acrostics ran down the spine of the poem, with the first letter of each line spelling out the poet's name. Sometimes the acrostic would include only the poet's first name, while at other times the full name in a variety of permutations would appear. Alternatively particularly in longer composite poems, the poets employed alphabetical acrostics in a variety of (sometimes quite elaborate) arrangements.

adab: A central term in classical Arabic—and, by extension, Hebrew—literature, adab connotes both learning in its fullness as a way of life and the signature style of the cultured person. It refers at once to disciplines of the mind and soul, good breeding, refinement, culture, and belles lettres. Similar to the Greek notion of paideia.

ahava: A piyyut, or liturgical poem, that was originally part of the yotzer, a longer sequence of liturgical poems composed to accompany the recitation of the Shema' during the morning liturgy on Sabbaths and festivals. (Yotzer means “Creator” or “He who creates,” as in the first benediction leading up to the recitation of the Shema': “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Creator of the heavenly lights.”) In Spain, it appears that the yotzer broke apart and its units became independent genres. The ahava was recited before the second benediction anticipating the Shema': “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who in love (be'ahava) hast chosen Thy people Israel.” Most of the Spanish ahavot are

*Information for the glossary is drawn, for the most part, from Schirmann's two-volume history (see
p. xxii, this anthology); The Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, ed. Julie Scott Meisami and Paul Starkey
(London/New York, 1998); Adonis, Arabic Poetics, trans. Catherine Cobham (Austin, 1990); Dan
Pagis, Secular Poetry and Poetic Theory: Moses Ibn Ezra and His Contemporaries “Hebrew”, (Jerusalem,
1970); Shulamit Elitzur, Hebrew Poetry in Spain in the Middle Ages “Hebrew” (Tel Aviv, 2004), vols. 1–3;
The Legacy of Muslim Spain, ed. S. Jayyusi (Leiden, 1994); Michael Sells, Desert Tracings (Middletown,
1989); Neal Kozodoy “Reading Medieval Hebrew Love Poetry,” AJS Review 2 (1977); Proverbs/Eccle-
siastes, ed. R.B.Y. Scott, The Anchor Bible (New York, 1965); Suzanne Stetkevych, Abu Tammam and the
Poetics of the Abbasid Age (Leiden, 1991); Paul Fussell, Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (New York, 1965/79);
and Raymond Scheindlin, Wine, Women, and Death (Philadelphia, 1986) and The Gazelle (Philadelphia,
1991).

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