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Cairo Genizah : Poetry

Dunaš Ibn Labrāṭ, wife of, Dunaš Ibn Labrāṭ

Cairo Genizah

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Verso: a complete copy of a poem by the wife of Dunaš Ibn Labrāṭ, followed by the first part of a second poem, a reply from Ibn Labrāṭ to his wife. 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]. Ibn Labrāṭ’s response: 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]. 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. (T-S J2.71, f. 2v). Another copy of the poem by the wife of Ibn Labrāṭ is also found at Mosseri IV.387 and Mosseri VIII.202.2 (two fragments of the same manuscript). On the recto there is a heading confirming the manuscript was copied after the death of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (i.e. later than 1057 CE). Paleographical evidence suggests this is an 11th-century manuscript, most likely from Tyre.</p>

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