The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage

By Raymond P. Scheindlin | Go to book overview

10
The Voyage

The poems in this chapter chronicle Halevi’s voyage—not the external motion from west to east but the internal journey of the pilgrim’s heart, with the external events serving merely its occasion. They represent a range of moods unified by a common voice and style, and, though not designed by the poet as a cycle, they fall naturally into a coherent sequence.

The poet’s absorption in his own emotional and religious state is so complete that he hardly refers to his destination, the Land of Israel, or to the large external themes that motivated his pilgrimage, such as the history and destiny of the Jewish people or the special character of the Land of Israel. That his destination is the Holy Land, that the land is the node where God and the world interact, and that it has a special connection with the Jewish people are all taken for granted. The focus is nearly entirely on the pilgrim’s inner experience.

It is pleasant to speculate on whether the individual poems in this group were written soon after the poet left his home or late in the voyage; during a storm; while in port awaiting a change of wind; or on some other identifiable occasion. Scholars have indulged in such speculation, but it runs against the grain of the poems, and the results are unconvincing, as a moment’s reflection will reveal. Absent external evidence, it is impossible to determine whether a particular poem describing a storm was written after a storm (emotion contemplated in tranquility), in anticipation of one (the poet as visionary), or during a storm (the one time that a poem

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The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I- A Portrait of the Pilgrim 9
  • 1- Halevi’s Religious Development 11
  • 2- The National Problem 53
  • 3- The Visionary 70
  • Part II- The Pilgrimage 95
  • 4- Alexandria 97
  • 5- Cairo 119
  • 6- Alexandria Again 141
  • Part III- The Pilgrim Speaks 153
  • 7- An Epistle 155
  • 8- In Imagination 163
  • 9- Argumentation 182
  • 10- The Voyage 215
  • Epilogue 249
  • Notes 253
  • Poem Sources 285
  • Bibliography 291
  • Index of Poems 299
  • Index of Names and Subjects 303
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