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Selected Religious Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol

by Solomon Ibn Gabirol

Bibliographic information

TitleSelected Religious Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol
AuthorSolomon Ibn Gabirol
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2002
SubjectGeneral Jewish-Interest Literature



Poetry, philosophy, and science, apparently three distinct fields of intellectual endeavor, are essentially but three different manifestations of the same spiritual force, which urges man onward to search for the solution of the riddle of existence. Science attacks the problem from the physical side; philosophy grapples with it from the rational, or mental side; poetry tries to penetrate the mystery with its vision.

Solomon Ibn Gabirol was not only a great poet, but also a great philosopher. His vision was broad and his penetration keen. He saw further than the ordinary poet and felt deeper than the ordinary philosopher. He even cultivated science in his effort to grapple with the riddle of existence. His genius flourished in an atmosphere of exceptional instabilitynow warm, now cold; now hostile, now cordial; and this constant change in the condition of his environment is not without its corresponding change in the temper of his poems.

Gabirol's literary activity may be classified under the following headings: Biblical Exegesis, Grammar, Philosophy and Ethics, and Poetry. That he actually wrote a commentary on the Bible is doubtful, but there are indications that he did not neglect the Bible entirely. Abraham ibn Ezra cites him on three occasions in his commentary on the Pentateuch, once in his commentary on Isaiah, twice in his commentary on Psalms, and once in his commentary on Daniel. All these instances, however, are examples of the allegorical method of interpretation, and it is possible that they were taken from some philosophical work of Gabirol or from some special work on the subject of biblical allegory. In fact we have two citations from Gabirol in David Kimhi's commentary on Psalms (378, 23) which are taken from his ethical work. But the biblical illustrations in which this very work on ethics abounds lend countenance to the suggestion that Gabirol also engaged in biblical exegesis.

The present volume of translations from this rare singer of the Ghetto limits itself to such of his poems as have been incorporated in or designed for the liturgy of the Synagogue, though it is far from exhausting even these.

In translating the Keter Malkut, [the translator] has regarded a rhyme-scheme as apt to mislead [him] from [his] original. It is noteworthy that in his greatest poem, Gabirol, though he conserves rhyme largely, throws over the jingle of a fixed meter, as if to give sincerity and spontaneousness freer scope. It is as loose as the Arabic Makamat, and each stanza being a law to itself, the poet can follow the ebb and flow of his mood, trammelled only by the need of rhyme.

About the Author 

Solomon Ibn Gabirol ---

Solomon Ibn Gabirol was a Jewish poet and philosopher. His secular poetry deals partly with nature and love, but most of it reveals a gloom and bitterness engendered by his tragic life. Orphaned early, he spent much of his life contending with mediocre rivals and critics jealous of his scholarship. It is thought that he was murdered by a rival. Ibn Gabirol`s religious poetry is filled with a mystic awe of God, and much of it has been incorporated into the Judaic liturgy. His great philosophical work, The Well of Life, showing the influence of Neoplatonism, was written in Arabic. In its Latin translation (Fons vitae), it exercised a great influence on Christian thought. The book is an attempt to explain the universality of matter, man`s purpose in life, and the communion of man`s soul with the spiritual sources that created it. His hundreds of poems and his book of ethics, The Improvement of the Moral Qualities, were also important.


Introduction. By ISRAEL DAVIDSON

On Translating Gabirol. By ISRAEL ZANGWIL

Text and Translation

  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

  16. The Sun

  17. The Redemption

  18. God and Israel

  19. Reassurance

  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

Notes on Introduction

Notes on Text

Technical Payyetanic Terms



Pour out thy heart to the Rock,

Pour out thy inmost soul

To the stronghold naught can shock,

As the mornings and evenings roll.

To Him who around and before

Is, whether thou rest or roam,

To Him let thy thoughts upsoar,

Be thou on the road or at home.

Thus tested by praise and belief,

Thou favour divine shalt gain,

He will turn His ear to thy grief,

He will bend His eye on thy pain.

Behold, He will pay thy reward,

Thou shalt share the abode of the blest,

For the day thou return to the Lord,

He will draw thee close to His breast.


Six years were decreed for a slave to wait

When his freedom he sought at his master's


But the years of my bondage lack term or date,

It is hard, O my Master, to understand.

Why, Sire, should a hand-maid's son bear sway,

And me with affliction and anguish task?

There cometh no answer, howe'er I pray,

In despite that each day for reply I ask.

What word at the last wilt Thou say, my King?

An Thou findest no ransom, O Lord, take me!

Take me for Thy people as offering,

I will serve Thee for ever and ne'er go free.


I have made Thee my refuge, my terror and


And when straitly besieged I have made Thee

my tower,

When to left and to right I have sought for a


I could look for dear life to no aid but Thy


More than all earthly treasure I have made Thee

my portion,

Through all cares the delight and desire of my


In the flood of Thy love I have rapture eternal

And prayer is but an occasion for praise.

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