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Zarco, Judah


ZARCO, JUDAH (16th century), rhetorician and poet. Born on the island of Rhodes, Zarco subsequently lived for some time in Salonika. There he became a member of the Ḥakhmei ha-Shir ("Masters of Poetry"), who held competitions in the art of poetry and who also composed epigrams, poems, and works of rhetoric for various occasions. While still in Rhodes, Zarco had already written love poems and rhetorical works; and when he came to Salonika, he was received with great respect and was extolled by the local poets for his inventiveness.

Zarco composed a maqāma entitled Leḥem Yehudah (Constantinople, 1560), which he dedicated to the "Maecenas" Abraham ibn Ḥen. It was published only once and is today a rarity. Its contents run as follows: A certain king had an exceedingly beautiful daughter. He shut her up and took great care that no lover should have access to her. Five princes came and attempted with the help of a certain wise man to enter the locked palace. They disguised themselves and entered, each one in a different manner, and one of them was successful in his stratagem. Zarco took great pains to compose a complicated acrostic that runs the entire length of the maqāma, and which has no parallel; but his work was not of the same quality as that of the famous writers of maqāma.


A.M. Habermann, Toledot ha-Piyyut ve-ha-Shirah (1970), 232f.; idem, in: J. Zarco, Leḥem Yehudah (1970), introduction; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 392f.

[Abraham Meir Habermann]

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