Isaac ben Abraham Ha-Gorni

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ISAAC BEN ABRAHAM HA-GORNI (13th century), Hebrew poet. Born in the city of Aire (i.e., "threshing floor," Heb. goren, hence the name Gorni) in southwestern France, Gorni seems to have spent part of his life in Luz (Hautes Pyrénées) and Lucq (Basses Pyrénées). From his verses, it seems that he led a wandering life and he was constantly dependent on patrons. He was, among other places, at Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Manosque, Carpentras, Draguignan, and Perpignan, complaining almost constantly about the shallow culture and the parsimony of their inhabitants. Because of various love affairs he was bitterly persecuted by his compatriots. Several features of his poetry could have been taken from troubadour poetry, and although he uses the meters and rhymes of classical Andalusian poetry, he is far removed from most of its poetical conventions. According to Neubauer, Gorni was on intimate terms in Perpignan in about 1280–90 with Abraham *Bedersi, to whom he addressed many complimentary poems, but received an answer only after a long delay. Their friendship does not seem to have lasted long: Bedersi composed a series of blunt, poetical lampoons ridiculing Gorni and did not consider him worthy of inclusion in his poem, Ḥerev ha-Mithappekhet (publ. in Ḥotem Tokhnit, 1865), in which he lists the names of the famous contemporary poets. Their way of understanding poetry was too different, and apparently for not a few intellectuals of the time Gorni's poetry, far removed from Andalusian traditions, was not highly esteemed. Gorni was involved in another literary quarrel with Isaiah Debash of Aix, whose friend Shiloni he had violently attacked.

Although in some places his style is uneven and at times awkward, Gorni was undoubtedly a poet of unusual talent and originality. The poem on his fate after death, a kind of "last will and testament," replete with both sarcasm and anxiety, is unique in the literature of the Middle Ages. Two centuries later, his fame was still firmly established: Jacob ben David *Provençal names him together with Al-Ḥarizi and Sulami as the best Hebrew poets of Provence (Letter of the year 1490, ed. by E. Ashkenazi in Divrei Ḥakhamim (1849), 70). Gorni's poems were published by M. Steinschneider, H. Gross, A.M. Habermann, and J.H. Schirmann, but they deserve a new critical edition. We know today 18 of his probably much more numerous poems: praising the generosity or fustigating the heartlessness of several Provençal communities, invectives against other poets, etc. He represents himself as one of the wandering jongleurs of his time, going from place to place with his musical instrument, as shown by J.H. Schirmann and A. Brenner.


Steinschneider, in: A. Bedersi, Ḥotem Tokhnit, pt. 3 (1865), 4–6; Renan, Rabbins, 719–25, 747; Gross, in: mgwj, 31 (1882), 510–23; Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1956), 472–84; idem, in: Sefer Yovel Y. Baer (1960) 168–72; idem, in: Lettres Romanes, 3 (1949), 175–200; J. Zinberg, Geschihte fun der Literatur bay Yiden, 2 (1943), 130–4; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 420. add. bibliography: A.M. Habermann, Shirei Avraham ha-Bedersi ve-Yiẓḥak ha-Gorni ve-Ḥugam (1968), 29–44; Carmi, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (1981), 397–400; A. Brenner, in: Zutot, 1 (2002), 84–90. Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (1997), 484–98 (Heb.).

[Jefim (Hayyim) Schirmann /

Angel Sáenz-Badillos (2nd ed.)]

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Isaac ben Abraham Ha-Gorni

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