Rabbi ben Ezra

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An inscription from lines 16 and 17 of the poem on a building at The Ohio State University.

"Rabbi ben Ezra" is a poem by Robert Browning about Abraham ibn Ezra (1092–1167), one of the great poets, mathematicians, and scholars of the 12th century. He wrote on grammar, astronomy, the astrolabe, etc.

The poem begins:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be [...][1]

— Stanza I, lines 1-2

It is not a biography of Abraham ibn Ezra; like all of Browning's historical poems, it is a free interpretation of the idea that ibn Ezra's life and work suggests to Browning. At the center of the poem is a theistic paradox that good might lie in the inevitability of its absence:

        For thence,—a paradox
        Which comforts while it mocks,—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
        What I aspired to be,
        And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.[1]

— Stanza VII

The poem was published in Browning's Dramatis Personae in 1864. The protagonist believed that "a lunar eclipse at the beginning of an illness has a baneful influence, that a solar eclipse prolongs the period of sickness, and that a conjuction of planets or of the sun and the moon is a very dangerous sign", a belief that was common with the Greek-Alexandrinian sect of iatromathematicians.[2]

The opening lines are quoted in the 1978 TV movie A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story, and it is speculated that this[3] is the inspiration for the John Lennon song "Grow Old with Me".


  1. ^ a b Browning, Robert (1897). The Poetical Works. 1. London: Smith Elder and Co. pp. 580–583.
  2. ^ Smith, David Eugene (July 1, 1917). "Medicine and Mathematics in the Sixteenth Century". Ann Med Hist. 1 (2): 125–140. OCLC 12650954. PMC 7927718. PMID 33943138.
  3. ^ "How a TV baseball movie inspired late Lennon love song", Dalya Alberge, The Observer, 4 October 2020

See also[edit]