Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another Hebrew poem, which is also an Italian poem.

Apparently the David Simonsen Manuscripts digital collection at the Kongelike Bibliotek web site will provide posts for the next thirty years. Or could provide posts, but it won't, so don't worry.

Anyway, here's another little gem from one of Reggio's note books:



Apparently Italian Jews felt compelled to follow in the footsteps of Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Modena and write poems which sounded the same phonetically in both Hebrew and Italian, and meant the same thing (with a bit of stretching on both counts). Modena seems to have pioneered the genre at the tender age of 13 (see here) with his elegy for his teacher, Chi nasce, muor - קינה שמור. Eighteenth century Londoner Ephraim Luzzatto produced his own, Ah! L'uom misero è - הלום מי זה רואה.

Here Reggio copied an inscription on a tombstone found in the cemetery of his native Gorizia. We see that we can add another poet who wrote Ecco l'ora - הא כל אורה. Assuming this poem was never published before, you've seen it here first. It looks like it was written by the deceased, David ben Moshe Luzzatto (17?-1771), himself.

I guess this is a good place to reflect on digitization. The Simonsen archive becoming newly available is a sterling example of two things to keep in mind. The first is how amazing and wonderful it is that so many gems are available for free online. Imagine, I can read and see excellent images of dozens and dozens of rare manuscripts that I would otherwise have to go to Denmark for, or jump through all kinds of hoops to get copies of them. Wow!

The second thing, the other hand, is that this serves to highlight how only a tiny fraction of what is out there is online, and in reality only a small fraction will probably ever become available. This is a reminder that libraries are still an extremely important resource.

Here's Manuscript Boy's take on this collection.

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