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their institutes and discipline, we nevertheless understand that a principal part of their occupation consisted in celebrating the praises of Almighty God in hymns and poetry, with choral chants accompanied by stringed instruments and pipes. There is a remarkable passage which occurs to this purpose: Saul being nominated king, and, pursuant to the command of God, consecrated by a solemn unction, a company of the prophets, as Samuel ad foretold, descending from the mount of God, (that being the place in which the sacred college was situated) met him; and, preceded by a variety of musical instruments prophesied; upon hearing which, he himself, as if actuated by the same spirit, immediately joined them, and prophesied also. (Sam. x. 5-10.) I find no discordance among authors concerning the nature of this mode of prophesying: all are, I believe, agreed in this point, and all understand by it the praises of God, celebrated with music and song, by the impulse of the Holy Spirit."
It is probable from many suggestions to be found in the Scriptures, that the Hebrews chanted their sacred hymns in opposite and alternate choirs, and that hence in part arose the metre-like construction of the sentences, and the peculiar form in which the lines are parallel, or correspondent to each other. Sometimes one choir performed the hymn, and the other interposed at stated intervals with a particular distich. Sometimes one choir sung a single line, and the other answered with one correspondent in some respect to the first. For example,
1st choir.-"Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good." 2d choir.-"For his mercy endureth forever."
In the same manner was the song at the triumph of Saul and David performed, (I Sam. xviii. 7.) when “the women who played answered one another," that is, they chanted in alternate choirs, one choir singing,
"Saul hath slain his thousands,"
The other answering,
"And David his ten thousands."
To this custom, as well as to the fact, that such repetition and enforcement is the natural dictate of excited feeling, we may probably look for the origin of what forms the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic in the poetry of the Hebrews; that artificial conformation of the sentences, denominated parallelism; consisting chiefly in a certain resemblance between the members of each period, or in the correspondence and similarity, in some respect, of one line with another. This is of three kinds. 1st. Synonymous parallelism. When a sentiment is delivered in one line, and in the next repeated, not in the same terms, but in language of which the form is similar and the sense equivalent, though often with a shade of addi
tion and variety. This form of versification is to be found in the whole of the 114th Psalm, and indeed it is the most common in the Hebrew poetry—thus
1. When Israel went out of Egypt,
2. The House of Jacob from a strange people,
1. Judah was God's sanctuary,
2. And Israel his dominion.
1. The sea saw and fled;
The following examples are from Proverbs.
1. Because I have called and ye refused;
2. I stretched out my hand and no man regarded.
1. But ye have despised all my counsel,
1. I also will laugh at your calamity;
And the following from Isaiah.
1. Seek ye Jehovah, while he may be found;
1. Let the wicked forsake his way;
2. And the unrighteous man his thoughts.
1. And let him return to Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him;
2. Unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
There are other varieties of this kind of parallelism with three, four, and more lines. The following is an example with five.
"Who is there among you that feareth Jehovah?
2d. Antithetic parallelism. Where there is a correspondence between two lines in the way of opposition or contrast in meaning and language; or sometimes in expression, and sometimes in sense, only. The antithesis is various in degree, from the exact contraposition of words, to a general contrast or disparity in the two propositions-thus,
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast;
A wise son maketh a glad father:
But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his maker.
This kind of parallelism is confined principally to the proverbs of Solomon, for it is a form peculiarly adapted to compositions of this character, in which the sentences are detached, and the sentiments aphoristic and contrasted, or pithy and pointed in their nature. "Indeed," says Bishop Lowth, (the critic who first investigated and pointed out the peculiar features of Hebrew poetry,) "the elegance, acuteness, and force, of a great number of Solomon's wise sayings arise in a great measure from the antithetic form, the opposition of diction and sentiment. We are not therefore to expect frequent instances of it in the other poems of the Old Testament, especially those that are elevated in the style, and more connected in the parts." Yet it is sometimes to be found, even in the sublimer poetry; and the following instance from Isaiah is one of great beauty.
In a little anger have I forsaken thee;
But with great mercies will I receive thee again:
3d. The synthetic or constructive parallelism. Where the sentences or lines correspond with each other, not by synonyme, or antithesis, but merely in the general shape of the thought, and form of construction-thus,
Whatsoever Jehovah pleaseth,
That doeth he in the heavens and in the earth;
In the sea and in all the deep, &c.
I will be as the dew to Israel:
He shall blossom as the lily,
And he shall strike his roots like Lebanon;
His suckers shall spread,
And his glory shall be as the olive tree,
It is not improbable that the Hebrew poetry possessed, in addition to this parallel conformation of its lines, some sort of
metre, regulated by certain syllabic laws and principles of harmony and cadence. Indeed, this cannot well be doubted, since its strains were so often adapted to music. At present, with the exception of those poems, in which the initial letters of the lines follow the order of the Alphabet, neither the eye nor the ear of a moderm can detect any thing, which can properly be called metrical, nor is it possible to ascertain with any ac curacy the rules of Hebrew prosody. The rythmical corrospondence of periods or distichs, which has been exhibited, may be denominated verse, and perhaps sounded to the ear of a Hebrew, something as the Thalaba of Southey does to that of an Englishman. Some able critics at a very late period have maintaned that rhyme is to be found in the Old Testament, and that the measures of Hebrew verse are not more irregular that the Latin iambics of Terence. To say the least, it is extremely difficult to discover them, and the parallel conformation may be regarded as the only evident mechanical or artificial arrangement, which characterises the Hebrew poetry.
"The nervous simplicity and conciseness of the Hebrew muse, says the same author, whose beautiful remarks on the English poets have been often quoted in this volume, “prevent this parallelism from degenerating into monotony. In repeating the same idea in different words, she seems as if displaying a fine opal, that discovers fresh beauty in every new light to which it is turned. Her amplifications of a given thought are like the echoes of a solemn melody-her repetitions of it like the landscape reflected in the stream-And whilst her questions and responses give a life-like effect to her compositions, they remind us of the alternate voices in public devotion, to which they were manifestly adapted."
The other most striking characteristic of the poetry in the Old Testament is one which arises almost necessarily from the essential nature of all poetry; a freer use of figures, and a more vivid, wild, romantic phraseology. The poetic diction of the Hebrews is also marked by peculiar usages in the choice, signification, and forms of words. In general the whole character and costume cf their poetry is so altogether different from that of their prose, that it would seem impossible for any careful observer to confound or mistake them. They are peculiarly distinguishable in those morsels of poetry to be found amidst their historical books; for whenever prophecies, praises, and patriarchal or parental blessings are to be recount the excited feelings of patriotism and devotion find their natural utterance in the poetic inspiration, which becomes the ruling and peculiar one; so that the plain narrative style, springs, as it were, at once into the highest region of poetry.
Great boldness in figurative and metaphorical language, characterises all the oriental poetry; but in general that of the Hebrews, though far more vivid, powerful, and daring, than
any to which the genius of Europeans is accustomed, possesses a chaste severity, simplicity, and perfect freedom from extravagance, which will be looked for in vain among that of any other people in the Eastern world. The most "nervous simplicity" does, indeed, mark all the effusions of their muse. To this is owing much of the strength and energy of their descriptions. In what language do they describe a tumultuous commotion; "the roar of the waves and the tumult of the people; and then follows the stillness, and trembling, and "melting away," of the nations, when Jehovah uttereth his voice.
They had no languid, or luxurious, or sonorous epithets, such as those, with which the modern European poets often encum ber and weaken their thoughts, and such as seem to be considered a rare beauty in poetical composition; they had even none such as the Greeks and Romans used, nothing like the "silverfooted," or the "golden-haired," or the "far-darting," &c. Their adjectives do not even admit an alteration from the positive form; the comparative degree is expressed by prefixing a preposition to the noun, and the superlative has no appropriate form or construction, but is expressed by various circumlocutions. They have no compound epithets. They accordingly express their thoughts with the most unconscious simplicity, and seem to have known no such thing as an attempt to elaborate their language or, retouch its colours. The arts of criticism and correction did not exist. Their poets wrote not for fame, but from unsought and almost irresistible impulses: from the free flow of devotional feeling. Everything is pure nature, fresh, early, and undiseased. The sweetness which we find in the Psalms, as well as the sublimity which awes us in Isaiah, may be in great measure ascribed to that simple, unadorned, unartificial manner of expression and feeling, which in a modern writer would perhaps be deemed bald.
At the same time the Hebrew tongue is "confessedly bold and figurative in its idioms, insomuch that it is often impossible to transfuse its spirit by literal translation into the more sober languages of the west. Its genius is averse from abstraction, but its individual expressions teem with powerful and picturesque imagination. The thoughts of the mind are clothed in life and made visible. Thus the blood of Abel'cries from the ground, and the shadow of death is on the eyelids of the mourner.' Its metaphors too have a peculiar union of grandeur and familiarity, as when the Psalmist compares his afflictions to the ploughshare ploughing over or when Isaiah describes the devoted nation that shall be swept before 'the besom of destruction." "
Besides the longer poetical books which have been mentioned, there are hymns and snatches of song, scattered here and there among the prose parts of the Scriptures, especially in the pentateuch, or five historical books of Moses. The Jewish lawgiver himself added to the many accomplishments, by which