One of the greatest of the medieval poets of Spain, Solomon b. Judah Ibn Gabirol of Cordova (c1021-1058) produced religious hymns, meditations and prayers, as well as secular secular poetry on the subjects of wine, friendship, life, love, and loneliness. [more about Ibn Gabirol]

The following wine song was written as a protest against a wine seller who was mixing the wine with water. Ibn Gabirol's word plays are based on the gematria system, which converts the Hebrew words to their numerical equivalents. In this system, wine (yayin) is equivalent to "70" and water (mayim) is equivalent to "90." makes available in this "Wine" edition an historical recording of Geula Gill singing Ibn Gabirol's medieval Hebrew poem to a Yemenite folk melody; the recording is courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways [*]

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When my wine is finished, my eyes drip
Pools of water.

Seventy heroes they were,
Wiped out by ninety officers
I have left off singing, for the mouths of
Officers were filled with water.

Bread to eat — how pleasant it is!
But how can a meal taste good to the palate
When the wineglass
Is filled with water.

The Son of Amram (Moses) dried the Red Sea
And made the Egyptian Nile stink.
Who was this man Moses who
Drew water (from the rock).

I'm a friend to the frogs
He likes water,
No-one knows the song of water
Better than he.

He'll be a holy hermit before his death
Like Yithro's descendents
He and his household will become
Drawers of water.

[Enjoy Ibn Gabirol's poem in the original Hebrew]

* Geula Gill singing Ibn Gabirol's Kich-lot Yeni to a folk melody, the musical origin of which is unknown. Arrangement and accompaniment by Dov Seltzer. Track 12 on "Yemenite and Other Folk Songs," (FW 8735) Folkways Records, 1958. The recording is now available on CD from Smithsonian Folkways. [back]

Folkways Records was found in 1948 by Moses Asch who sought to document the entire world of sound. The 2,168 titles Asch released on Folkways include tradition and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word recordings and documentary recordings of individuals, communities and events. Folkways was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987. The entire Folkways catalogue, which includes more than 50 recordings related to the Jewish Heritage, is still available. All recordings include extensive liner notes. For more information: [back]

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