"The word of God is in them as they burst forth, and as they return; they obey the divine command, rushing along as a whirlwind, and returning to prostrate themselves at His throne."
--THE BOOK OF CREATION.
"Thy flocks are scattered o'er the barren waste,
Yet do they not forget thy sheltering fold."
--ODE TO ZION.
AMONG the noted Hebrew poets of the Middle Ages, Ibn Gebirol was the earliest, and Judah Halevi was the greatest. Ibn Gebirol, or, to give his name in full, Solomon ben Jehudah ibn Gebirol, was, like most of the medieval Hebrew poets, a native of Spain, born during the most brilliant epoch of its Mohammedan Arab conquerors, the days of the Caliphs, or priest-kings, of Cordova. Ibn Gebirol wrote chiefly in the Arabic tongue, was indeed the author of a work of philosophy famous among medieval scholars who knew its author only by his Arabic name as Avicebron. Yet even in his short and busy life--he died in the year 1058, when scarcely beyond thirty years old--Ibn Gebirol found time to turn to the language of his brethren and compose some tender Hebrew melodies, such as are given here.
Judah Halevi, or Jehudah hal-Levi, was born in Toledo, Spain, in the year 1080 and died in Jerusalem, or at least there disappeared from human sight and knowledge, in 1150. In those days of tumult and persecution in the East, such a disappearance implied death, whether mercifully immediate or coming only after long misery and possible imprisonment. Halevi's poems were composed in Spain, and are still treasured by his people as among their chief poetic treasures, especially his Ode to Zion. He also wrote in prose the highly poetical book "Cusari," which is given a later place in our volume.