One of the greatest of the medieval poets of Spain was Solomon b. Judah Ibn Gabirol of Cordova (c1021-1058). Little is known of his life after he left Saragossa at the age of sixteen, except that he seemed to have suffered from melancholia and loneliness and died young.

Ibn Gabirol was a philosopher and a poet. His chief philosophical work, written in Arabic, called Meqor Hayyim, dealt with the nature of the divine essence and will. His ethical work Tikkun Middor ha-Nefesh, the first work of its kind by a Jewish philosopher, in as much as it presented an ethical system independent of any specific religious tradition.

Ibn Gabirol was filled with enthusiasm for the Hebrew language; from earliest childhood he made it his goal to restore its original charm and freshness; and he strove to make it possible for the song of the pious singers of old to be heard in it again. Faithful to his goal, he was active in all the fields of religious lyric and did more than anyone else for the dissemination of Hebrew poetry. We have from his hand hymns and meditations, selihot (penitential prayers) and prayers, qinot (dirges) and hopeful, longing visions of the future in the most varied forms and styles.

Ibn Gabirol's secular poetry deals with the standard themes of wine, friends, life, and love, as well as loneliness and sorrow; it expresses both a joie de vivre and despair at the vanity of life and worldly striving.