Natural Qualifications of a Medieval Poet According to Moshe Ibn Ezra

Natural Qualifications of a Medieval Poet According to Moshe Ibn Ezra


Journal of Semitic Studies, XLI/2 Autumn (1996)


The book Kitdb al-Muhddarah wa-al-Mudhdkarahx by Moshe Ibn Ezra is the only treatise on the poetics of medieval Hebrew literature written in the Middle Ages. The book deals with Hebrew poetry up to the time of Moshe Ibn Ezra (1055/1060-1135/1138). It is the most basic and comprehensive book on the subject and it is on that book that this article is based.4 Inconsidering a poet’s qualifications, Ibn Ezra attaches particular importance to his natural gifts, his ethnic and geographical origin, and his creative talent.

Moshe Ibn Ezra states that one cannot be a poet unless one has, from birth, a natural talent that predisposes one to this art: ‘You should know also, that the poem will not fill the eyes and ears and will not satisfy the heart and mind unless it flows naturally from its creator and from the innate ability of its maker’ {Kitdb, 73). This categorical statement denies the possibility of acquiring the art of poetry; one must be born with a natural flair for it. A person who is not a born poet may try to acquire the an and technique of poetry, but ‘imitation is not nature; what seems blue is not blue.

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