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1 “ ZION, WILL

EnglishHebrew
by Joseph Yahalom
1 “ ZION, WILL YOU NOT ASK”: A LOVE POEM Yehuda Halevi’s fame was partially due, from the start, to the rapid circulation of his Zionide, “ Zion, will you not ask...” ( 241). It was originally written as a poem of longing for the Land of Israel. The poem’s captives are the very people whose souls are bound to the object of their desires by bands of love – a stock image of love in the Arabic poetry that Halevi emulated. Such poems were written in intimate language addressing the beloved, to whom the lover feels himself tied by a bond that cannot be severed. In this poem of longing, Zion is the beloved object of desire, “ beauty’s paragon bound by love and grace...,” and she is being urged to inquire of her lover’s well- being. Like the lover of the Arabian deserts who wanders sorrowful and weeping among the abandoned dwellings of the tribal encampment of the beloved, saturated with the memory of past loves, so too our poet wanders off in his mind’s eye to sites that lie at the root of the nation’s conscience and of God’s revelation to His prophets. In the long amatory poem to the gazelle, “ Why sweetheart keep your envoys,” the poet, wounded by the beloved’s indifference, speaks of himself in the plural as “ the slain victims.” Here too he addresses his beloved in the opening lines, just as he addressed Zion, by means of the pronominal suffix “ ayich” which determines the end- rhymes running down the entire length of the poem. The poet page TOC Home

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