This chapter assesses the poetry of Samuel ha-Nagid. Samuel ha-Levi hen Joseph ibn Nagrela was born in Cordoba in 993. After the invasion of the North African Berbers in 1013, he was forced to leave Cordoba, which was sacked, and he settled in Malaga, which was, at this time, part of the Berber province of Granada. The story goes that, while in Malaga, his skill as an Arabic calligraphist came to the attention of the vizier Abu al-Kasim ibn al-Arif, and he was appointed the latter’s private secretary. Before the vizier died, he recommended Samuel to Habbus, king of Granada, who made him vizier in 1027. The Jews henceforth called him Nagid (Prince) as a mark of his eminence within the Jewish community. Samuel was, at one and the same time, poet, rabbi, statesman, and general, and distinguished in each one of these fields. His poems are some of the finest in the whole range of Hebrew literature, and his expertise in the elucidation of Biblical and rabbinic literature was acknowledged by all. His poems are noteworthy for the way in which he was able to inform the artificiality and occasional preciosity of construction with deep and obviously sincere content. Ultimately, his long martial poems are unique in the poetic output of the Spanish Jews.
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