The Andalusi Hebrew poet known to posterity as Solomon ibn Gabirol שלמה בן יהודה אבן גבירול, (he probably pronounced his name Šalúmu bin Yihúða Ibn Gabirúl in his beloved Hebrew) or سليمان بن يحيى بن جبيرول Sulaymān Bin Yaħyā Bin Jabīrūl in his native Arabic, was one of the most complicated figures of the Middle Ages. Born in 1022, in Malaga, to a family that fled Cordoba with the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate, and raised in Saragossa -an important center of Andalusi learning- the precocious Ibn Gabirol had already come to be an important poet before he reached 20. Early in life, he contracted skin tuberculosis, which left him in constant pain for the rest of his life, rather unsightly and, it would seem, quite cranky as well.
Ibn Gabirol's father died while his son was a teenager, and so the overachieving young poet was raised and looked after by Yequthiel Ibn Hasan Al-Mutawakkil Bin Qabrun, a Jewish court notable who was to become Ibn Gabirol's patron. In 1039, Yequthiel was murdered by rivals at the Saragossan court. For Ibn Gabirol, who had no means of support of his own, the loss was to prove catastrophic.
The short poem included here, one of Ibn Gabirol's most famous, is an elegy for Yequthiel, composed just after his murder.
Lines Written In Remembrance
By Solomon Ibn Gabirol
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
See the sun gone red toward evening now
As though it covered itself in a shroud of crimson,
Stripping the edges of dead north and south,
Putting a violet pall on the west wind.
And earth- left in her nakedness below-
Seeks shelter in the shadow of night, and rests;
And then the skies go silent black as though
Covered in sackcloth for Yequthiel's death.
שלמה אבן גבירול
רְאֵה שֶׁמֶשׁ לְעֵת עֶרֶב אֲדֻמָּה
כִּאִלּוּ לָבְשָׁה תוֹלָע לְמִכְסֶה,
תְּפַשֵּׁט פַּאֲתֵי צָפוֹן וְיָמִין
וְרוּחַ יָם בְּאַרְגָּמָן תְּכַסֶּה,
וְאֶרֶץ – עָזְבָה אוֹתָה עֲרֻמָּה
בְּצֵל הַלַּיְלָה תָּלִין וְתֶחְסֶה,
וְהַשַּׁחַק אֲזַי קָדַר, כְּאִלּוּ
בְּשַׂק עַל מוֹת יְקוּתִיאֵל מְכֻסֶּה.