Selected Poems of Shmuel Hanagid

Samuel, Author, Peter Cole, Translator, Shmuel Hanagid, Author Princeton University Press $26.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-691-01120-2
As a leading light of Andalusia (Muslim Spain), Shmuel Ben Yosef Ha-Levi HaNagid (993-1056) had many public roles: spice trader, battlefield commander, tax collector, Chief Vizier of Grenada. He was also, according to poet and translator Cole (Rift), the first great poet of the Hebrew renaissance of Muslim Spain. The poems of the first section, ``After Psalms,'' formally evoke the songs of King David, another poet-warrior, while treating epic events of the poet's own time, such as ``The Miracle at Sea'' or a ``Victory Over Seville.'' While the psalm-like poems read very much like the King James translation, the 37 aphorisms of the second section, ``After Proverbs,'' often seem to prefigure the worldy-wise irony of later Yiddish literature (``The rich are small in number/ and the brilliant likewise are few;/ and the number of each is further reduced/ when they step side by side into view.''). The final section, ``After Ecclesiastes,'' shows HaNagid coping with age: ``I'm old, but I've seen the carpenters/ building their coffins for boys.'' 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. Notes and a bibliography are included. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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Hardcover - 236 pages - 978-0-691-01121-9
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