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Lambert of St. Omer, Liber Floridus [ca. 1120] (Public Domain Image)

Selected Religious Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol

tr. by Israel Zangwill


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The years are a thousand
Since, broken and scattered,
We wander in exile,
Like waterfowl lost in
The depths of the desert.--p. 71.

Solomon ibn Gabirol (b. 1021, d. ca. 1058) was a Jewish Neoplatonist philosopher and poet who lived in Spain during the Islamic period. His devotional poetry, featured here, is considered among the best post-canon, and portions of his poetic works have been incorporated into the Jewish liturgy. However, only two extensive works of his have survived, a collection of his poems, translated here, and a philosophical treatise, the Fountain of Life, which, ironically, was thought to be the work of a Christian until the mid-19th century.

An extended extract from the Fountain of Life is also available at this site.

Of some interest here is the extensive discussion of the structure of the cosmos in the extended poem 'The Royal Crown,' which includes a section which describes each of the celestial spheres in turn. He gives specific astronomical facts which were state of the art in the 11th century. He states that the outer planets, the sun and stars are much larger than the earth (although the specific numbers he gives are a bit too small!). The Royal Crown additionally provides a poetic abstract of the philosophical theories found in the Fountain of Life. Also apparent are references to Kabbalistic concepts, or perhaps Gabirol influenced later Kabbalists. But the focus of these poems is Gabirol's intense relationship with God, which pervades every aspect of his writing. Interwoven are themes of the anticipation of the Messiah, the sorrow of the diaspora, and the meaning of life. Indeed, at one point (# 37) he laments that his only prayer is for God to explain "life's interpretation."

Production Notes: For technical reasons the Hebrew text and notes from the original book have been omitted from this etext. I have also supplied titles for some of the files in the Royal Crown sequence.

Title Page
On Translating Gabirol


1. At the Dawn
2. My Soul Shall Declare
3. The Messiah
4. Invitation
5. Three Things Conspire
6. Before My King
7. Open the Gate
8. Pour Out Thy Heart
9. Six Years Were Decreed
10. ’Tis Joy to Me
11. My Refuge
12. Ecstasy
13. I Have Sought Thee Daily
14. Humble of Spirit
15. For a Marriage
19. The Sun
17. The Redemption
18. God and Israel
19. Reassurance: A Trialogue
20. Duologue
21. Establish Peace
22. Judgment
23. Prayer For the Hazzan
24. Two Things Have Met
25. For New Year’s Day
26. My Lord and King
27. Blow Ye the Trumpet
28. Let the Isles Rejoice
29. For The Day of Memorial
30. God Dwelleth High
31. For Atonement Eve
32. Lord of the World
33. Lord, What Is Man?
34. The Day of Judgment
35. Lamentation
36. The Dwellers In Clay
37. Almighty God
38. The Lord of Heaven
39. Ask of Me
40. Forget Thy Affliction
41. To My Soul
42. Look Up To Thy Maker
43. Invocation
44. Benediction
45. My Heart Clamours
46. Arise, O My Rapture
47. Passover Psalm
48. O God, My Sun
49. The Love of God

50. The Royal Crown

XIII. Mercury
XIV. Venus
XV. Sun
XVI. Sun
XVII. Moon
XIX. Jupiter
XX. Saturn
XXI. The Zodiac
XXII. The Zodiac
XXIII. The Ninth Sphere
XXIV. The Sphere of Intelligence
XXV. The Angels
XXVI. The Throne
XXVII. The World to Come
XXVIII. The Treasuries of Heaven
XXIX. The Soul
XXX. The Soul
XXXI. The Soul