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The Book of Delight and Other Papers   By: (1858-1925)

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First Page:

THE BOOK OF DELIGHT

AND

OTHER PAPERS

BY

ISRAEL ABRAHAMS, M.A.

Author of "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," "Chapters on Jewish Literature," etc.

1912

PREFACE

The chapters of this volume were almost all spoken addresses. The author has not now changed their character as such, for it seemed to him that to convert them into formal essays would be to rob them of any little attraction they may possess.

One of the addresses that on "Medieval Wayfaring" was originally spoken in Hebrew, in Jerusalem. It was published, in part, in English in the London Jewish Chronicle , and the author is indebted to the conductors of that periodical for permission to include this, and other material, in the present collection.

Some others of the chapters have been printed before, but a considerable proportion of the volume is quite new, and even those addresses that are reprinted are now given in a fuller and much revised text.

As several of the papers were intended for popular audiences, the author is persuaded that it would ill accord with his original design to overload the book with notes and references. These have been supplied only where absolutely necessary, and a few additional notes are appended at the end of the volume.

The author realizes that the book can have little permanent value. But as these addresses seemed to give pleasure to those who heard them, he thought it possible that they might provide passing entertainment also to those who are good enough to read them.

ISRAEL ABRAHAMS

CAMBRIDGE, ENG., September, 1911

CONTENTS

I. "THE BOOK OF DELIGHT"

II. A VISIT TO HEBRON

III. THE SOLACE OF BOOKS

IV. MEDIEVAL WAYFARING

V. THE FOX'S HEART

VI. "MARRIAGES ARE MADE IN HEAVEN"

VII. HEBREW LOVE SONGS

VIII. A HANDFUL OF CURIOSITIES

i. George Eliot and Solomon Maimon ii. How Milton Pronounced Hebrew iii. The Cambridge Platonists iv. The Anglo Jewish Yiddish Literary Society v. The Mystics and Saints of India vi. Lost Purim Joys vii. Jews and Letters viii. The Shape of Matzoth

NOTES

INDEX

[Transcriber's Note: Index not included in this e text edition.]

"THE BOOK OF DELIGHT"

Joseph Zabara has only in recent times received the consideration justly due to him. Yet his "Book of Delight," finished about the year 1200, is more than a poetical romance. It is a golden link between folk literature and imaginative poetry. The style is original, and the framework of the story is an altogether fresh adaptation of a famous legend. The anecdotes and epigrams introduced incidentally also partake of this twofold quality. The author has made them his own, yet they are mostly adapted rather than invented. Hence, the poem is as valuable to the folklorist as to the literary critic. For, though Zabara's compilation is similar to such well known models as the "Book of Sindbad," the Kalilah ve Dimnah , and others of the same class, yet its appearance in Europe is half a century earlier than the translations by which these other products of the East became part of the popular literature of the Western world. At the least, then, the "Book of Delight" is an important addition to the scanty store of the folk lore records of the early part of the thirteenth century. The folk lore interest of the book is, indeed, greater than was known formerly, for it is now recognized as a variant of the Solomon Marcolf legend. On this more will be said below,

As a poet and as a writer of Hebrew, Joseph Zabara's place is equally significant. He was one of the first to write extended narratives in Hebrew rhymed prose with interspersed snatches of verse, the form invented by Arabian poets, and much esteemed as the medium for story telling and for writing social satire. The best and best known specimens of this form of poetry in Hebrew are Charizi's Tachkemoni , and his translation of Hariri. Zabara has less art than Charizi, and far less technical skill, yet in him all the qualities are in the bud that Charizi's poems present in the fullblown flower... Continue reading book >>




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