Vulture in a Cage


Translated from by

Published: December 6th, 2016



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Book Description

Named after Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s sharp self-description, Vulture in a Cage is the most extensive collection of the 11th century Hebrew poet’s works ever to be published in English. Weighty poems of praise, lament, and complaint sit alongside devotional poetry, love poetry, descriptive meditations on nature, and epigrams. On the one hand, Ibn Gabirol covers classical ground in his intense desire to break through corporeal constraints and launch his soul into the realm of the intellect. On the other, he exhibits a strikingly modern sensibility in his turn inward and glorification of the self. In any case, Vulture in a Cage offers a look into the complex and intriguing thoughts of one of the major poets of the Golden Age of Hebrew poetry.

Ibn Gabirol sets the archetype for spiritual turbulence in all subsequent Jewish poetry. ...A bitter personality and yet a sublime visionary.

Harold Bloom

Being medieval, these poems inevitably demonstrate the scope of religious language in their explorations of nature, drink, love, sex, boasting, friendship and loneliness. They are by turns, witty, satirical, elegiac – and always allusive.

Jane Liddell-King, The Jewish Chronicle

Such unpredictable, uniquely structured poems, intent on self-expression, were written...most strikingly by Solomon Ibn Gabirol. His personal poems reveal a divided spirit trying in vain to achieve wisdom and peace of mind, a man isolated from society, hated and feared by people who were unable to comprehend his philosophy...The speaker in these torn between hate, fear, and pride, but miraculously triumphs over himself...His imagery is full of surprises...Ibn Gabirol added a new dimension – searching introspection – to Hebrew poetry.

Dan Pagis, Hebrew Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

"This detailed depiction of a winter scene is among the treasures in Raymond P. Scheindlin’s new book of flowing English translations of secular and sacred poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol..."
Vivian Eden, Haaretz

[Solomon Ibn Gabirol's] poetry was written in a style that did not conform to the esthetics of his age but that today is part of the way we live.
Amos Lassen

Ibn Gabirol's poetry is enormously influential, laying the groundwork for generations of Hebrew poets who follow him--rocky and harsh, full of original imagery and barbed wit, and yet no one surpassed him for the limpid beauty of his devotional verse.
Jewish Book Council

Beautiful locutions about love, longing, and desire.

To learn more about Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s life and works, please read this guide, reprinted from The Jewish Religion: A Companion.

For a more in-depth guide to Ibn Gabirol’s philosophy, check out his entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

“Ibn Gabirol sets the archetype for spiritual turbulence in all subsequent Jewish poetry,” notes Harold Bloom in The New York Review of Books. In this review, Bloom writes about the features of the Golden Age of Hebrew poetry in Al-Andalus.

To learn more about the historical context of Ibn Gabirol’s life, watch this BBC documentary, which explores Al-Andalus as part of a broader look at the Islamic history of Europe.

Read Robert Alter on Raymond P. Scheindlin’s translation of Wine, Women, and Death: Medieval Hebrew Poems on the Good Life.

Listen to Israeli podcast Israel in Translation’s episode on Ibn Gabirol’s poetry, in which host Marcela Sulak, herself a poet and translator, reads from Vulture in a Cage.