Monday, March 01, 2010

Gersonides on Two Types of Worthy Poems

Their statement that this poem is the most wonderful and choicest of the songs which are Solomon's is very clearly true because there are two types of worthy poems. The first type is a poem which presents a representation of deep things which are difficult to represent, through the use of symbolic representations and allegory. The second type is the poem crafted to draw one to love what ought to be loved and to reject what ought to be rejected. It is clear that the more the poem represents worthy matters which are ever more useful to the attainment of felicity, it is itself more worthy. So, too, with the second type: the more a poem is crafted to draw one to love worthier things and those things useful for the attainment of felicity, the worthier it is itself. In this book these two types of poems have been combined together in the worthiest fashion, for it presents a representation of the ultimate felicity and attracts one to draw near to it and to strive for it with every possible striving.

Levi ben Gershom, Commentary on Song of Songs, Menachem Kellner, tr. Yale UP (1998) p. 118. (Gersonides's notion of felicity is highly philosophical so his commentary ends up being a very interesting discourse on Jewish-Aristotelian epistemology.)

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