The late development of Hebrew muwashshah in Christian Iberia

by Angel Senz-Badillos


SUMMARY: In one of the latest groups of Hebrew poets, the so-called Circle of Saragossa (end of the fourteenth, beginning of the fifteenth century), we can find several strophic compositions written according to the classical Andalusian Hebrew tradition of  the muwashshah. We find them especially among other poems of Shelomoh ben Meshullam de Piera and Shelomoh Bonafed. Some of them imitate the structure and even the melody of well-known compositions of the classical period. Sometimes, the authors gave this name to compositions that strictly speaking are not muwwashshahat in the classical meaning of the term, since they do not have all the classic characteristics of this kind of poems. For instance, the kharja, or better the final lines, are in Hebrew rather than in Arabic or Romance.


A significant name, "the way of the rhymes" can describe how some late Hebrew poets saw the muwashshah not a long time before the expulsion of 1492. According to Bonafed, the muwashshah was especially difficult: "particularly precious, they are not seen frequently like the rest of the poems, since they are very strict with regard to the rhymes, and have a different atmosphere."

I would like to discuss the structural changes introduced in the muwashshah in this epoch, and its relation to previous compositions whose melody is reproduced in the new strophic poems.