Photo: Yemenite Jew sounding the Shofar, 1930s.
Lord of the world, He reigned alone
While yet the universe was naught.
When by His will all things were wrought.
Then first his sovran Name was known.
And when the All shall cease to be,
In dread lone splendour He shall reign,
He was, He is, He shall remain
In glorious eternity.
For He is one, no second shares
His nature or His loneliness;
Unending and beginningless,
All strength is His, all sway He bears.
He is the living God to save,
My Rock while sorrow's toils endure,
My banner and my stronghold sure,
The cup of life whene'er I crave.
I place my soul within His palm
Before I sleep as when I wake,
And though my body I forsake,
Rest in the Lord in fearless calm.
(Solomon ibn Gabirol)
'The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492'
by Peter Cole (Translator)
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Hebrew culture experienced a renewal in medieval Spain that produced what is arguably the most powerful body of Jewish poetry written since the Bible. Fusing elements of East and West, Arabic and Hebrew, and the particular and the universal, this verse embodies an extraordinary sensuality and intense faith that transcend the limits of language, place, and time.
Peter Cole's translations reveal this remarkable poetic world to English readers in all of its richness, humor, grace, gravity, and wisdom. The Dream of the Poem traces the arc of the entire period, presenting some four hundred poems by fifty-four poets, and including a panoramic historical introduction, short biographies of each poet, and extensive notes. (The original Hebrew texts are available on the Princeton University Press Web site.) By far the most potent and comprehensive gathering of medieval Hebrew poems ever assembled in English, Cole's anthology builds on what poet and translator Richard Howard has described as "the finest labor of poetic translation that I have seen in many years" and "an entire revelation: a body of lyric and didactic verse so intense, so intelligent, and so vivid that it appears to identify a whole dimension of historical consciousness previously unavailable to us." The Dream of the Poem is, Howard says, "a crowning achievement."
'Virtually stagnant since late Biblical times, Hebrew poetry and the language itself would be transformed by a succession of poets of genius and their imitators. In Peter Cole's rich new anthology, the extent of their astonishing achievement is fully revealed for the first time in English.... His versions are masterly.'
(Eric Ormsby, New York Times Book Review)
'Perpetually astonishing. The central figures in Peter Cole's anthology are great by any standards.... [They] provoke love in any reader of Hebrew literature, and by [a] miracle of Cole's own creation, in any reader of little or no Hebrew who directly confronts the work of this major poet-translator.... Superb.'
(Harold Bloom, New York Review of Books)
"The book is a treasure trove, a labour of love and exceptional erudition, which will open up to the reader a world of poetry and culture as rich as anything in human civilization."
(Times Literary Supplement)
'...[Cole] has performed an enormous service and produced a book which is by turns moving, charming, and funny. No one after this will be able to write a book on medieval poetry without taking the Hebrew and Arabic poets of Spain into account.'
(Gabriel Josipovici, Times Literary Supplement)
'Meticulously edited and captivating anthology.... [P]oetic scholarship at its best.... [A] major translation project.'
(Marjorie Perloff, Bookforum)
'Peter Cole offers us an unprecedented gift, bringing to life a body of Hebrew poetry that, wrote Harold Bloom, can at its best 'rival the magnificences of Scripture'....[Cole's] achievement in bringing us this volume is as death-defying an act as any ever undertaken by the poets he presents within its pages.
(Esther Allen, Bomb Magazine)
'Traversing five centuries, four hundred poems, and fifty poets, the anthology represents a remarkable literature that evolved and flourished between the East and the West, between sacred and the profane, and amid the collision and collusion of traditions, religions, and languages . . . all bolstered by Cole's extensive introductions, biographies, commentary, and glossaries.'
'Praise for Peter Cole's Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid (both Princeton):"Cole's translations . . . shimmer: they convey the power and mystique of the original.'
Praise for Peter Cole's Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid (both Princeton): 'Cole's vigorous inventive translation is equal to the task of rendering [the] work [of a poet] whose range encompassed commerce and God, war and wine. HaNagid emerges as a man of identifiably modern--even enlightened--breadth, even as the rest of Europe languished in its Dark Ages.'