Cairo Genizah : Poetry

Cairo Genizah

<p style='text-align: justify;'><p>A copy of a poem, apparently by the wife of the great Spanish poet Dunaš b. Labrāṭ (920-990 CE). In this exchange of poems between the couple, Dunaš’s wife, left behind in Spain with their young baby, expresses her feelings at their separation in a Hebrew poem. Ibn Labrāṭ’s reply, that he remains true to his young wife, follows. Ibn Labrāṭ (920-990 CE) was a Spanish poet, grammarian and commentator who worked in the service of Ḥasday Ibn Šapruṭ, the leader of the Jewish community in Spain. Ibn Labrāṭ had a contentious relationship with his contemporaries, but very little is known about his wife. Her poem - the only known medieval Hebrew poem by a woman - has been praised for its quality and poignancy: Will her love remember his graceful doe / her only son in her arms as he parted? / On her left hand he placed a ring from his right, / on his wrist she placed her bracelet. / As a keepsake she took his mantle from him, / and he in turn took hers from her. / Would he settle, now, in the land of Spain, / if its prince gave him half his kingdom? [translated by Peter Cole]. The couple appear to have separated reluctantly under difficult circumstances, resentfully described in another poem identified as being by Ibn Labrāṭ to his employer: I served you in sorrow, for all your wares are loathsome. / I will glean no grapes, nor will I gather corn. / I betrayed a young wife and sent her a writ of divorce. / I left my home, and abandoned the son that she bore. Ibn Labrāṭ’s response to his wife’s poem: Were you seeking the day of my death when you wrote: / ‘Have you betrayed and abandoned your vows?’ / Could I betray a woman so wise / given by god as the bride of my youth? / Had my heart ever thought to leave you / I would have torn it into pieces. / For those who betray their beloved companion, / God brings down with the trials of foes. / Lions soon will devour his flesh, / and vultures will consume his blood. / Who resembles the stars of dawn […] [translated by Peter Cole]. If Ibn Labrāṭ's wife was responsible for the composition, the poem would be the only known medieval Hebrew poem by a female poet. It is also possible that it was composed by Ibn Labrāṭ himself, with his wife's 'response' presented as a poetic trope.</p></p>


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