De Piera, Solomon ben Meshullam
DE PIERA, SOLOMON BEN MESHULLAM
DE PIERA, SOLOMON BEN MESHULLAM (c. 1342–c. 1418), Hebrew poet of the Kingdom of Aragon, descendant of Meshullam b. Solomon *de Piera. His family was an important Jewish family of Catalonia who had its origins in Piera, a municipality of Barcelona county. He was in Cervera in 1385 (he bought the right to a seat in the new synagogue) and in 1387 he visited or stayed in neighboring Monzon. At this time he was in contact with the school of talmudists and poets of Gerona. He relates that in 1391 people attacked his house and took his own still-unmarried children away. After his children's deaths, Solomon de Piera found refuge in Saragossa, where no unrest had occurred. There he was in the service of three generations of the De la Cavalleria family. He acted as secretary to Don Solomon de la Cavalleria (Abenlavi), the patriarch of the family; he fulfilled similar functions for his son, Don Benvenist de la Cavalleria; and he was the tutor of the latter's two sons. He gave himself over completely to the art of teaching how to write verses and compose poems. Thanks to Solomon de Piera, a completely new phenomenon appeared in the history of Hebrew poetry in Spain, for he was the leader of a group of poets who gave themselves the names of kat ha-meshorerim, "the group of poets," and adat o ḥevrat nogenim "band" or "troupe of musicians." They were poets like Vidal de la Cavalleria, son of Don Benvenist, Vidal Benvenist (or Abenvenist), the author of Efer ve-Dinah; Moses Abbas, Moses Gabbai, Samuel al-Rabi, Vidal al-Rabi, etc., who figure in the Dîwân of De Piera and maintained correspondence with him. All of them composed the same type of poetry. Just like the poets around them who wrote in Romance, they sent each other letters in the form of poems and took part in disputes and competitions. This "troupe of musicians," known also as the poets of the "Circle of Saragossa," started on its path after the terrible events of 1391, flowered during the reigns of the two last monarchs of the House of Barcelona, Juan I and his brother Martin the Humane, who died in 1396 and 1410, respectively; and began its decline with Fernando de Antequera's ascent to the throne of Aragon, because of his proselytizing zeal. It ceased to exist shortly after 1414, as a consequence of the Dispute of Tortosa and the conversion to Christianity of some of its most important members, including Vidal de la Cavalleria and De Piera himself. The most important work of Solomon de Piera was his Dīwān, composed and edited by himself. He added headings to the poems, written in the first person, explaining the circumstances under which the poems were composed and naming their authors or addressees. The preservation of the manuscripts of De Piera's poems is due to a later literary circle of a similar kind, which flourished in Salonika in the second half of the 16th century (Saadiah *Longo and others). There exist at least six manuscripts, dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries that claim to contain the Dīwān of De Piera, and many others (at least 21) with some of his poems and writings. About 362 poems of Solomon de Piera are preserved in his Dīwān. Most have a qasida structure and are in conventional meters, and 35 – nearly all, liturgical compositions – are muwashshaḥāt. In addition to the poems, there are many texts in rhymed prose – letters and other writings that are not independent compositions but form a single unit with the accompanying poems. The nature of this material has been obscured by the fact that S. Bernstein gave the title The Diwan (1942) to his collection of Solomon de Piera's poems. But De Piera's original Dīwān was neither an anthology nor a miscellaneous collection of poems like Bernstein's edition; it was a coherent work, in which all the above-mentioned materials appeared according to a definite structure and organization. At Don Benvenist's request, De Piera wrote a "manual for composing poetry," the Imrei No'ash, that has not been completely preserved or completely edited. His dictionary of rhymes, however, had wide distribution, as one can see from the large number of existing manuscripts. The introductory poem and the preface to this work were published by Tauber (Kiryat Sefer, 1924–25); the section Ḥelek ha-Millim ha-Meshuttafim was published by M. Tama in Maskiyyot Kesef (Amsterdam (1785), 3–23). A collection of liturgical poems by De Piera was published by S. Bernstein (huca, 19, 1945). Commissioned by the Jewish community of Saragossa, De Piera wrote a number of circular letters to the communities of Aragon on such matters as taxation. He also wrote letters in prose to the poet Moses Abbas (A.M. Habermann, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad. 1964).
Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1959), 564–81, 698; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 472–3; Brody, Beitraege zu Salomo do Pieras Leben und Wirken (1893); Vardi, "The 'Group of Poets,'" in: Saragossa. Secular Poetry (Heb., 1996); Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (1997), 580–600; Targarona-Scheindlin, in: rej, (2001), 61–133.
[Judit Targarona (2nd ed.)]