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5 A STAR GLEAMS FROM

EnglishHebrew
by Joseph Yahalom
5 A STAR GLEAMS FROM CASTILE – IMITATION RHYMING GAMES In one of the palatial residences in Toledo upon which Halevi had chanced, the poet found himself among a circle of belletrists and poets who were engrossed in imitating a famous muwashshah ˙ , considered the acme of literary achievement. This poem had been penned by Yosef Ibn Tzaddiq of Cordoba, “ At night when I wake my musing heart” ( Shirei Yosef Ibn Tzaddiq, 36– 38). The poem they were attempting to imitate was particularly difficult because of two stringed concluding lines, each divided into four short hemistichs with successively recurring rhymes in the first three hemistichs and a different, fixed rhyme sealing the lines at the end, AAAC/ BBBC. The participants managed to produce two strophes, on wine and desire, but from here on they were stymied in their efforts to imitate the muwashshah ˙ . As a last ditch effort they turned to the youngest of the participants, and told him: “ Here, see if what we began you can end.” The poet they had turned to was Halevi who stressed in all modesty the deficient Castilian education of “ The emigrant from Se‘ ir,” as well as the difficulty of the task: “ For the required rhymes/ are few and hard.” There were few words in Hebrew that were at once appropriate to the poem’s subject and deployed triple rhymes in the required hemistichs ( il, al) in each line. Moreover, some of the words with suitable rhymes had already been used by Ibn Tzaddiq, which disqualified them from being reused. The original poem in page TOC Home

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