Solomon Ibn Gabirol: Two Poems

Not much is known of the life of Solomon (or Shelomo)  Ibn Gabirol, although his writing exerted considerable influence on Muslims and Christians of his age.  He was born in Malaga, in 1021 or 1022 CE, and at some point his father moved the family north to Saragossa, which was a centre of Islamic and Jewish learning at the time.  Solomon was a gifted poet with a philosophical mind and a deep sense of devotion, but he also had a very difficult and irascible character. He was described dismissively by one writer as a ‘social misfit.’ What is more, in his teenage years he contracted some chronic illness that left him bitter and in constant pain.  He never married, had fickle friends, and provoked powerful enemies; by 1045, he was forced to leave Saragossa, and apparently spent the rest of his life wandering.  His date of death is uncertain; it may have been 1050, but some put it as late as 1070.  As these two poems show, however, despite his difficult exterior he carried a pearl within.

I Look for You

I look for you early,
my rock and my refuge,
offering you worship
morning and night;
before your vastness
I come confused
and afraid, for you see
the thoughts of my heart.

What could the heart
and tongue compose.
or spirit’s strength
within me to suit you?
But song soothes you
and so  I’ll give praise
to your being as long
as your breath-in-me moves.

* * *

Haven’t I Hidden your Name

I seek you every evening and dawn,
my face and palms turned up to you;
with a thirsty spirit for you I moan,
like a beggar come to my door.

The heavens can’t contain you,
and yet my thoughts somehow do:
haven’t I hidden your name in my heart
until my love for you crossed my lips?

Therefore I’ll praise the name of the Lord
so long as His breath in me lives.

from The Dream of the Poem
Tr. & ed. Peter Cole

2 Replies to “Solomon Ibn Gabirol: Two Poems”

    • Nawab Pasnak Post author

      Yes, Munar, it comes from a very deep level, where our ‘me’ is forgotten. May we be able to make such a vow.


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