The early Hebrews have been credited with the knowledge and use of rime. Judah Provencal, according to Azariah dei Rossi ("Me'or 'Enayim," v.), considered Hebrew poetry the mother of all other poetries, so that in adopting the poetic forms of other peoples the Jews received back from them what they had given long before. Samuel Archevolti ("'Arugat ha-Bosem," xxxii. 112, Venice, 1602) argues that rime and meter existed in the Old Testament, but were not fully developed; while Moses ibn Ḥabib assumes their use in extra-Biblical Hebrew poetry contemporaneous with the Bible, basing this view upon the rimed epitaph of the alleged general of King Amaziah, for which see Jew. Encyc. i. 487b. Of modern writers who attribute an important part to rime in the composition of the Old Testament may be mentioned E. Reuss ("Die Gesch. der Heiligen Schriften des Alten Testaments," § 125; Brunswick, 1881; comp. also Herzog-Plitt, "Real-Encyc." v. 678; and E. Kautzsch, "Die Poesie und Poetischen Bücher des Alten Testaments," p. 8, Tübingen and Leipsic, 1902).

In the Old Testament.

It is, however, generally agreed that rime, i.e., the correspondence in sound of word-endings, did not attain in the Old Testament the importance of a formal principle of poetry, or of a device of style in general. The agreement in terminal sounds of parallel lines (as in Gen. iv. 23; Ex. xv. 2; Deut. xxxii. 2, 6; Judges xiv. 18, xvi. 24; I Sam. xviii. 7; Isa. xxvi. 21; Ps. ii. 3, vi. 2, viii. 5; Prov. v. 15; Job x. 10, 17) can not be considered as an organic element of composition, as it is the result of grammatical congruence and, besides, through any lengthy poem the assonances are not introduced with consistency (not even in Lam. v.). Cases in which the rime extends to stem-syllables (as Gen. i. 2; Josh. viii. 12; II Sam. xxii. 8; Isa. xxiv. 4) are few and far between and, with rare exceptions (Ps. lv. 8; Prov. iv. 6, xxii. 10; Job xxviii. 16), do not stand at the end of corresponding lines.

But those rimes that are found in the Old Testament show the adaptability of Hebrew to this device; and the parallelism of clauses in Old Testament elevated diction must have suggested the use of parallelism of sound, or rime, when once had been awakened through contact with other literatures the sense of the beauty and necessity of externally marking off thought-complexes into symmetrical groups.

In Talmudic and Post-Talmudic Times.

What has been said of the Old Testament is in substance applicable to the compositions of the Talmudic period also. The few rimed rules, proverbial phrases, and incantations scattered through the Talmud (Ber. 44b, 61a, 62a; Ket. 62b; Pes. 114a; etc.) do not justify the supposition of intentional use of the rime (H. Brody, in his edition of Immanuel Francis' "Meteḳ Sefatayim," p. 33, Cracow, 1892). None of the portions of the liturgy quoted or indicated in the Talmud (Ber. 4b, 11b, 28b, 29a, 59b; R. H. 32a; Yoma 87b; Pes. 116a, b; etc.), nor any of the few lyric pieces preserved in it (Suk. 51b, 53a; M. Ḳ. 25b; Ta'an. 31a; Ket. 104a), has even the flectional rime.

The sphere in which rime first appears as an essential element is that of the liturgical productions of the geonic period. As inaugurators of it are generally considered Yannai and especially his disciple Eleazar ha-Ḳalir (comp. S. D. Luzzatto in his "Mobe le-Maḥzor ke-Minhag Bene Roma," p. 8, Leghorn, 1856; Graetz, "Hist. of the Jews," iii. 116, Philadelphia, 1902). In Babylonia the first to employ rime were Saadia Gaon (892-942), in his poem on the letters of the Torah, and his Azharot and agenda, and Hai Gaon (939-1038), in his "Musar Haskel." In Italy the new form of poetry was first adopted by Shabbethai ben Abraham Donnolo (913-982) in the prologue to his "Taḥkemoni," and by Nathan ben Jehiel, author of the "'Aruk" (11th cent.). Of the Africans may be mentioned Dunash b. Labraṭ (10th cent.) and Rabbenu Nissim (11th cent.). In Spain Samuel ha-Nagid (993-1055) introduced rime into non-liturgical poetry also, as in his "Ben Mishle." In the Franco-German school Gershon, the "Light of the Captivity" (960-1040), and Rashi (1040-1104) sanctioned it by use. Owing to the influence of Arabic poetry and the weight of Ḳalir's example, and facilitated by the identity of the suffixes in Hebrew, the use of rime spread rapidly, extending even to titles and prefaces of books; and it has remained the dominant form of Hebrew poetry to the present day. Rime-lexicons were compiled for the benefit of verse-makers, examples of which are: "Sharshot Gablut" by Solomon di Oliveira (Amsterdam, 1665); "Sefer Yad Ḥaruzim" by Gerson Ḥefeẓ (Venice, 1705); "Imre No'ash" by Solomon b. Meshullam Dafisa; and "Clavis Poeseos Sacræ," etc., by Hieronymus Avianus (Leipsic, 1627).

Prosody of the Rime.

The Hebrew term for rime is "Ḥaruz" (properly, "string" of pearls [Cant. i. 10] or of other things [Ḥul. 95b]; in a transferred sense, Yer. Ḥag. ii. 8; Lev. R. xvi. 4; etc.). It is first used in this sense by Gabirol (1021-58). Abraham ibn Ezra (1093-1167) applies it to the entire verse (comp. D. Rosin, "Reime und Gedichte des Abraham ibn Esra," i. 12, Breslau, 1887-89), and Dunash (in his "Le-Doresh ha-Ḥokmot") to poetry as opposed to prose. Asthe rime is rather for the car than for the eye, rimes with with with ; and so also of consonants, ם with ; the former letter, however, does not rime with צ or , nor does ב with ת and , or with ק, etc. Ibn Ezra, in his commentary on Eccl. v. 1, censures Ḳalir among other reasons for riming א with ע, ב with ו, "'osher" with "'asser," etc. (comp. also "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," pp. 97, 105, 119, Vienna, 1829).

The rime is called: (1) "'Ober," that is, "passable," "admissible," when only the vowels and final letters of the riming words are identical; with ; with . This, as also the flectional rime, is found in proverbs and rules, in prayers, and in other rimed prose. Thus Ibn Ezra has the epigram:


(2) "Ra'uy" = "correct," "perfect," when the initial consonants also of the last syllables are identical: with . This is the most usual form of rime, especially in the piyyuṭim. (3) "Meshubbaḥ," when the initial consonants of the penult also are identical: with . Judah al-Ḥarizi sometimes has a perfect assonance of the riming words: e.g. with , etc. The rime is faulty where one of the riming words has the accent on the last syllable ("mi-lera'"), the other on the penult ("mi-le'l"): with . If both words are accented on the penult the rime must extend to both of the last vowels.

The repetition of the whole word was admissible only at the end of strophes, chiefly in Biblical phrases. It is also found in the piyyuṭim of the Franco-German school, which was in general far behind the Spanish in the use of rime. So in the piyyuṭ "Melek ba-Mishpaṭ" for Rosh ha-Shanah, "Aḳashṭah Kesel" for Shemini Aẓeret, "Az Rob Nissim," ascribed to Yannai, in the Seder, etc.

A poem is called "ḳashur" = "bound," when the rime occurs only at the close of the verse-lines (the "soger"); "ḥaẓuy" = "halved," when also the hemistichs rime; and "meḥullaḳ" = "divided," "cut up," when each line rimes in itself and with its parallel line, as in the following example from Gabirol:

Cognate to this latter inner rime is the so-called echo rime, in which the terminal rimes reecho, as it were, the preceding word (a kind of epanastrophe). It was favored in the elegy, e.g., in that of Joseph b. Solomon ibn Yaḥya on Solomon b. Adret (beginning of the 14th cent.):, etc.

It was also affected by the great Palestinian payyeṭan Samuel Nagara (16th cent.).

Play upon Words.

The employment of a play upon words is found in the homonymous poems, called by the Arabic name "tajnis," in Hebrew "shir niẓmad" (AlḤarizi, "Taḥkemoni," 33), or, more appropriately, "shir shittufe ha-millot." The lines close with words identical in sound, but of different, sometimes opposite, meaning. Moses ibn Ezra (1070-1138) especially developed this device in his "Sefer 'Anaḳ," or "Tarshish" (comp. Tobias Lewenstein, "Prolegomena zu Moses ibn Esra's 'Buch des Tajnis,'" Halle, 1893):

Lewenstein, ib. p. 71

"When the voice of the turtle, O friend, is heard then the vintage season is arrived.

Leave off quarreling! Drink and cry, 'Down with every tyrant!'".

The correspondence of the rimes within the strophe is as varied in Ḥebrew as in other languages. The scheme "aa," "bb," etc. ("ḥaruzim meḥubbarim"), is the simplest one. In the liturgical poems the rime usually changes after four lines. But sometimes one and the same rime runs through a whole poem, as in some of the "hosha'not," "ḳinot," etc. In the azharot a single rime is carried on through hundreds of lines. Thus the azharot of the Karaite Judah b. Elijah (16th cent.) consists of 612 lines, all ending in "-rim," and Judah Gibbor's poem "Minḥat Yehudah" (16th cent.) is composed of 1,612 verses with the same termination. In the non-liturgical poetry such rime is illustrated in the diwans of Al-Ḥarizi and Immanuel the Roman (1270-1330; comp. also "J. Q. R." x. 431). Alternate rimes ("ḥaruzim meshullabim"), "abab," etc., unknown in the European literatures before the twelfth century, were used in Hebrew poetry as early as the ninth. Rime enclosed within another ("ḥaruzim nifradim"), "abba," and many other arrangements are employed by one and the same poet.

What may be termed a poem with composite strophes is one in which the first three lines of each strophe have a common rime, while the fourth lines, consisting usually of Biblical phrases, have a different rime; this is exemplified in the poem of twelve strophes by Abraham ibn Ezra, of which the first two are as follows:

  • In addition to the works referred to in the article, J. L. Benzeb, Talmud Lashon 'Ibri, § 378;
  • I. M. Casanowicz, Paronomasia in the Old Testament, pp. 8, 23, Boston, 1894;
  • Anania Coen, Sefer Ruaḥ Ḥadashah, pp. 1-21, Reggio, 1822;
  • Franz Delitzsch, Zur Gesch. der Jüdischen Poesie, vom Abschluss der Heiligen Schriften Alten Bundes bis auf die Neueste Zeit, pp. 8, 126, 132, 137, Leipsic, 1836;
  • L. Dukes, Naḥal Ḳedumim, p. 11;
  • idem, in Der Orient, iv., cols. 355, 519; vii., col. 466;
  • S. L. Gordon, Torat ha-Safrut. p. 117, Warsaw, 1902;
  • David Kaufmann, in Zeit. für Hebr. Bibl. i. 22, Berlin, 1896;
  • Ed. König, Stilistik, Rhetorik, Poetik in Bezug auf die Biblische Litteratur Komparativisch Dargestellt, pp. 286, 329, 355, Leipsic, 1900;
  • A. Neubauer, Meleket ha-Shir, pp. 6, 18;
  • Poznanski, Beiträge zur Gesch. der Hebr. Sprachwissenschaft, 1894, i. 35;
  • J. G. Sommer, Biblische Abhandlungen, p. 85, Bonn. 1846;
  • Steinschneider, Jüdische Litteratur, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc.section ii., part 27, p. 422 (English transl., Jewish Literature from the 8th to the 18th Century, p. 151, London, 1856;
  • Hebrew, Safrut Yisrael, p. 219, Warsaw, 1897);
  • J. G. Wenrich, De Poeseos Hebraicœ Atque Arabicœ Indole Commentatio, p. 242, Leipsic, 1843;
  • Zunz, S. P. p. 86, Berlin, 1855.
T. I. M. C.
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