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the piano in an accomplished Jewish family, will not readily admit the entire absence of those externals of poetry which adapt it to music.
The reason why so little that is satisfactory bas been attained with regard to the Hebrew metre, is in part to be found in the extreme views taken by those ancient scholars who thought that all poetry must follow the rules of Greek and Latin versification. While one class of writers, following the guidance of these, have claimed too much of regularity for Hebrew poetry, others, driven to the opposite extreme, have left the subject as one on which nothing satisfactory could be ascertained. The thought naturally occurs, is there not some middle path? Can we know nothing of Hebrew versification, unless we know every thing? If the language was ever pronounced by human organs, it must have had something of cadence, of the distinction of long and short, or accented and unaccented, syllables. Can we not observe the arrangement of these in individual instances, and thus ascend by the inductive method from particulars to some generalization which may be of value, even if we cannot attain to a complete theory of Hebrew versification ?
But it is argued by Lowth (“Lectures on Hebrew Poetry," Lecture III.), that “the true Hebrew pronunciation is totally lost.” Discrediting the Masoretic system of the vowel-points, he says, “ If, in reality, the Hebrew language is to be con. formed to the positions of these men, we must be under the necessity of confessing, not only what we at present experience, that the Hebrew poetry possesses no remains of sweetness and harmony, but that it never was possessed of any." The Hebrew, “ destitute of vowel-sounds, has remained altogether silent - if I may use the expression, incapable of utterance — upwards of two thousand years." In conformity with these views is the brief and scornful condemnation, annexed to Lowth's Lectures, of Bishop Hare's system of Hebrew metre. But Lowth, with all his great merits, shared the tendency of his age to an undue depreciation of the vowel-points, which resulted at length in their rejection, and the introduction of a pronunciation of mere guess-work. The language
was rendered wonderfully easy; but whether its attainment, with so much left out, was worth the little trouble it cost, might be questioned. That period has passed away; and Hebrew scholars admit that the points and accents affixed by the Masorites, complicated as they are, and often erroneous as they may probably be, are yet, on the whole, our true guide to the pronunciation of the language.
The assertion of Lowth, that the Hebrew remained silent two thousand years, is happy in its elegance of expression, rather than in its truth. Gesenius, and Stuart after him, have shown the falsity of the opinion that the Hebrew became a dead language during the exile at Babylon. In the time of the Maccabees, it was still used in inscriptions and in books; the latter evidenced by the Hebrew portions of the Book of Daniel. At that period, however, a change had begun, which gradually converted it into the Hebræo-Aramæan, spoken at the Christian era. But the ancient Law was still read in the synagogues every sabbath; the sacred guild of the Rabbis received its formation; and the traditions began to gather, which were afterwards embodied in the Talmud. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the schools of Tiberias and Babylonia preserved the literary treasures of the nation with jealous care; and in the latter of these, at least as early as the ninth century, the Masora was composed. Its authors, then, did not invent vowels and punctuation for a language of which only the consonants remained: they but affixed marks to show the traditional reading of a language to whose study their close attention, and that of their prede. cessors, had been devoted, and which had been read aloud at least every seventh day since the period when it ceased to be in common use.
As we find reason, then, for modifying greatly one assertion of Bishop Lowth, we are emboldened to differ from another,
– that which declares the utter deficiency of the Hebrew, as read with the points and accents, in sweetness and harmony. The peculiar beauty of the language, certainly, was not in these. It was, far more, in its wonderful power of condensation; each word in Hebrew, on an average, answering to two in English. But if the Hebrew psalms are read with tolerable attention to the accents, or even to the simple general rule of laying the stress on the final syllable, it will be perceived, that, if not capable, in general, of being scanned by the rules of Latin prosody, they yet have a sonorous dignity, and a rhythmical flow.
But let us look a little closer at this subject, and, for a specimen, take the earliest we can find in the Bible. Lamech, the antediluvian bigamist and man-slayer, appears to have been — alas that it should be sol— the first poet. His composition, which may be read in English in Gen. iv. 23, stands as follows in Hebrew; its sounds being expressed as simply as possible in English letters:
“ Atháh ve Zilláh, shemáyan kolí
Ve Lámech shivyím veshivyá.” The first thing noticeable about this ancient production is, that four out of the six lines rhyme. The fifth and sixth lines would rhyme also, but for the slight sound of the unaccented syllable in in Kain. The rhythmical flow of the verse is scarce less obvious.
The next passage to which we turn is Josh. x. 12. The speech of Joshua is a line of poetry:
“Shemesh, be-Givyón dóm, ve-yaréah be-yémek Ayalón." · Altering the last accent, this becomes a regular hexameter:“Shemesh, be- | Givyon | dom ve ya | reah be- 1 yemek A | yalon."
The sense and measure may be thus expressed in Eng. lish:“Sun, upon Gibeon stand, and the moon in the vale of Ajálon.”
This agrees with the reference, in the next verse, to the “ Book of Jasher," in proving to us that we are not reading history, but a poetic legend.
Of measure nearly similar is the first part of Isaiah's parable of the vineyard (Isa. v.). We give the first line, with a translation in the same measure:
" Ashíra ná lethithí shirath' dothí lecharmó.” “ I'll sing a song to my love, a lovely song of his vines." We add a few instances of measure and rhyme from the Psalms. Psalm viii. 5 (4th in the English Bible): –
“Mah enosh, chi thizcherénnu ?
Uben A'dam, chi thiphkedénnu ? " Psalm lxxxv. 11 (10th in the English Bible):
“ Hésed ve-eméth niphgáshu,
Zédek ve-shalóın nasháku.” Psalm cái. 5:–
“Lireóth be-tóváth behirécha,
Lísmoah be-simháth goyécha,
Léhithhallél im náhelothécha.” The sacred name which we pronounce Jehovah was proba. bly a dissyllable, having the sound “ Yahveh.” There are critical reasons for this opinion, quite independent of the doctrinal theory advanced some time since, which made the name an argument for the divinity of Christ. The name is solemnly introduced in Exod. iii. 15; and there, evidently, should be read “ Yahveh," "He is," answering to “Ebyeh," "I am," in the fourteenth verse. In that, God speaks of himself in the first person; in the fifteenth, he directs what Moses should say of him in the third person. With this pronunciation, the 113th Psalm becomes nearly a regular trochaic:—
“ Hálelu avthé Yahvéh!
Yal' hashamáim chevothó,” &c.
Turning to the Book of Proverbs, we find, in regard to measure and rhyme, what might be expected from the nature of that species of composition. The proverbs of other nations are sometimes in prose, sometimes in verse. It is natural, then, that, among those which Solomon composed or collected, both descriptions should occur. In the first chapter, the eighth and ninth verses are as follows:
“ Shemá béni, musár avícha,
Ve-yavakím legargrothécha.” The rhyme here is grammatical, formed by applying the same suffix “cha," "thy," to the successive clauses. In Prov. xiv. 4 is a rhyme of another kind; the vowels that form it being different in the Hebrew, though we cannot express their difference with English letters:
“Be-áin álaphim evús bór;
Be-rav tévuvoth bechóa shór.” A similar instance is in xxii. 1. For other instances of rhyme which cannot be explained as merely resulting from suffixes, the second chapter of Proverbs alone affords several, in the 2d, 3d, 6th, 11th, 16th, and 17th verses. The first chapter of Proverbs contains eleven rhymes; the second and third, nine each; the twenty-third and thirty-first chapters, eight each; and other parts of the book in various proportion, The rhyme is accompanied by a correspondence between the rhyming lines, in regard to the number and cadence of the syllables.
We will not add further illustrations of a subject not generally interesting. We trust, however, that, at a time when there is some disposition to undervalue theological learning, the labor is not in vain that has been spent in presenting the example of our venerable Hebrew scholar, and in showing, that, after all his researches and those of others, “ there remaineth yet,”' in this region of literature, as in Canaan after the conquests of Joshua, “very much land to be possessed.”