« PreviousContinue »
THE FIRST PART.
OF THE HEBREW METRE.
THE HEBREW POETRY IS METRICAL.
The necessity of inquiring into the nature of the Hebrew verse— The Hebrew poetry proved to be metrical from the alphabetical poems, and from the equality and correspondence of the sentiments ; also from the poetical dictionSome of the most obvious properties of the verse-- The rhythm and mode of scanning totally lost ; proved from facts—The poetical conformation of the sentences- The Greek and Latin poetry materially different from the Hebrew, from the very nature of the languages-Hence a peculiar property in the prose versions of the Hebrew poetry, and the attempts to exhibit this poetry in the verse of other languages.
On the very first attempt to elucidate the nature of the sacred poetry, a question presents itself uncommonly difficult and obscure, concerning the nature of the Hebrew verse, This question I would indeed gladly have avoided, could I have abandoned it consistently with my design. But since it appears essential to every species of poetry that it be confined to numbers, and consist of some kind of verse, (for, indeed, wanting this, it would not only want its most agreeable attributes, but would scarcely deserve the name of poetry), in treating of the poetry of the Hebrews it appears absolutely necessary to demonstrate, that those parts at least of the Hebrew writings which we term poetic are in a metrical form, and to inquire whether any thing be certainly known concerning the nature and principles of this versification or not. This part of my subject, therefore, I undertake, not as hoping to illustrate it by any new observations, but merely with a view of inquiring whether it will
admit of any illustration at all. Even this I shall attempt with brevity and caution, as embarked upon an ocean dishonoured by the shipwreck of many eminent persons, and therefore presuming only to coast along the shore.
In the first place, (notwithstanding that a contrary opinion has been supported by some of the learned), I think it will be sufficiently apparent, if we but advert to them a little more attentively, that certain of the Hebrew writings are not only animated with the true poetic spirit, but in some degree confined to numbers; for there appear, in almost every part of them, such marks and vestiges of verse, as could scarcely be expected to remain in any language after the sound and pronunciation (as is the case with the Hebrew at present) were, through extreme antiquity, become almost totally obsolete.
There existed a certain kind of poetry among the Hebrews, principally intended, it should seem, for the assistance of the memory; in which, when there was little connexion between the sentiments, a sort of order or method was preserved, by the initial letters of each line or stanza following the order of the alphabet. Of this there are several examples extant among the sacred poems ;* and in these examples the verses are so exactly marked and defined, that it is impossible to mistake them for prose; and particularly if we attentively consider the verses, and compare them with one another, since they are in general so regularly accommodated, that word answers to word, and almost syllable to syllable. This being the case, though an appeal can scarcely be made to the ear on this occasion, the eye itself will distinguish the poetic division and arrangement, and also that some labour and accuracy has been employed in adapting the words to the measure.
The Hebrew poetry has likewise another property altogether peculiar to metrical composition. Writers who are confined within the trammels of verse, are generally indulged with the license of using words in a sense and manner remote from their common acceptation, and in some degree contrary to the analogy of the language; so that sometimes they shorten them by taking from the number of the syllables, and sometimes venture to add a syllable for the sake of
* Psal. xxv. xxxiv. xxxvii. cxi. cxi. cxix. cxlv. Prov. xxxi. from the 10th verse to the end. The whole of the Lamentations of Jeremiah except the last chapter. - Author's Note.
OF THE HEBREW METRE.
LECT. III. adapting them to their immediate purpose. This practice is not only effectual to the facilitating of the versification, but also to the prevention of satiety, by varying the sounds, and by imparting to the style a certain peculiar colouring, which'elevates it above the language of the vulgar. Poetry, therefore, always makes use of some such artifice as accords best with the genius of each language. This is exemplified particularly in two respects: first, in the use of glosses or foreign language; and secondly, in that of certain irregular or less received forms of common words.* The extreme liberty which the Greeks allowed themselves in these respects is remarkable; and their language, beyond every other, because of the variety and copiousness of the different dialects which prevailed in the several States of Greece, was peculiarly favourable to it. Next to them, none perhaps have admitted these liberties more freely than the Hebrews, who not only by the use of glosses, but by that of anomalous language, and chiefly of certain particles peculiar to metrical
* See Aristot. Poet. c. 22.
† The poetical particles which the grammarians in general call Paragogic, (or redundant), are as follow:- added to nouns, Numb. xxiv. 3. Psal. 1. 10. ìxxix. 2. cxiv. 8. civ. 11. 20. Isa. Ivi. 9., (it occurs here twice). Zeph. ii. 14.
“992, Numb. xxiv. 3. as also inin, Psal. I. 10. &c. seems to be a pleonasmus peculiar to the Syriac. For thus it is common for that people to express themselves 999797772. The Son of his David, Matt. i. 1. 1997 79. The countenance of his Lord, Isa. i. 20. 1310ns. Psal. cxiv. 8. It was formerly read '80s, as appears from the Septuagint, aquestes üdallows" -H.
Added to nouns, adverbs, prepositions, is common in the poets : also to the participles, Benoni, sing. masc. and fem. Gen. xlix. 11. Psal. ci. 5. Prov. xxviii. 16. Jer. xxii. 23. xlix. 16. li. 13. Ezek. xxvii. 3. This, however, the Masorites have sometimes rashly expunged.
Concerning the ', when added to verbs in the second pers. fem. sing. pret. I have sometimes my doubts whether it be an error or not. Certainly the Masorites are of opinion that it should always be expunged. See Jer. xiii. 21. Ixii. 23. xxxi. 21. and Ezek. xvi. where it occurs eleven times. Now, it is not in the least probable that in one apter the same error should so frequently take place. “But in these eleven places many MSS. confirm the Masoretic Keri,* for the is wanting."-K. It may also be a Syriac gloss, which is the opinion of Cappel; Crit. Sac. lib. iii. c. xiii. 8. Though there is a passage, where it occurs in the same person masc. in2x), “because thou hast said,” Psal. lxxxix. 3. So indeed almost all the old interpreters, except the Chaldean paraphrast, have taken it; and rightly, indeed, if regard is to be paid to the context or the parallelism of the sentences. But this I rather esteem an error, though the Masorites have not noted it as such.
“ Verbs in which the · is added to the second pers. fem. sing. pret. follow the Syriac and Arabic form."-H.
* A Masoretic term for a various reading.
composition, and added frequently at the end of words, have so varied their style, as to form to themselves a distinct
in for o, or 07, occurs frequently in the Hebrew poetry. See Psal. ii. 3, 4, 5. where it appears five times: sometimes in the singular for 1; see Isa. xliv. 15. liji, 8. Job xx. 23. xxii. 2. xxvii. 23. Psal. xi. 7. It is very often merely paragogic, or redundant. ns simply seems to be altogether poetical; it occurs in Nehem. ix. ll. and is taken from the Song of Moses, Exod. xv. 5.-It is, however, not the same with præfixes or suffixes.
« Isa. liii. 8. 183. The Septuagint in this place is nxcom es farcelow (he was led unto death): in this it follows the Arabic version, which reads 77723." - H.
Of these particles, which I call poetical, there occur very few examples in the prose parts of Scripture; indeed I do not know that there are any more than the following:-1, Gen. i. 24. but instead of 378 inn, the Samaritan copy has 3787 nin, as it is also expressed in the Hebrew in the following verse. " Gen. xxxi. 39. twice: but it is also wanting in the Samaritan copy; although it may possibly be meant for a pronominal affix. Also in Ruth üi. 3, 4. three times; iv. 5. and in 2 Kings iv. 23. “ But in all these places, many MSS. confirm the Masoretic Keri; for · is wanting."-K. Lastly, 12, Exod. xxiii. 31. but instead of innuna, the Septuagint and the Vulgate read Dinwra, and the context favours this reading.
Hitherto, perhaps, might be referred the 17 and 1 paragogic, and the relative w, which occur more frequently in the poets than elsewhere.
These are most, if not all of them, examples of anomalies, which serve to distinguish particularly the poetic dialect. To demonstrate more fully how freely they are made use of by the sacred poets, I shall annex a specimen, which Abarbanel exhibits as collected from one short poem, namely, the Song of Moses. “ You may observe," says he,“ in this poem, words sometimes contracted for the sake of the measure, and sometimes lengthened and extended by additional letters and syllables, according as the simple terms inay be redundant or deficient. The letters which in this canticle are superadded, are as follow :—the vau and jod twice in the word 1910)', for in reality DD2 would have been quite sufficient: the jod is also added in 19782; the vau in
in ;תבלעמו in ; כסמו tlue vau also in :תורישמו the vau in ; יאכלמו
inx: the thau in npix." (In truth, this form of nouns appears to be altogether poetical; many examples of which may be found in Glass. Phil. Sac. p. 269. ; all of them, however, from the poetic and prophetic books.)
;וומות יח The deficient are jod in .תטעמו in ; תביאמו The vau in • so also ; נהלתו for נהלת The vau in :תמלא מהס for תמלאמו so in for the prince ; נמוגו כל ישבי כנען is deficient in the verse לבב the word
of the prophets cannot be suspected of erring in grammatical or orthographical accuracy; but the necessity of the verse and a proper regard to harmony so required it.” Abarb. in Mantissa Dissert. ad Libr. Cosri. a Buxtorfio, edit. Basil. 1660, p. 412. To these examples one might add from the same can
.ירגזון paragogic in ,ארממנהו epithentic in נ ,כמו twice in מו ticle
Concerning the glosses or foreign words which occur in the Hebrew poetry, in the present state of the Hebrew language it is difficult to pronounce on the ruins, as it were, of neighbouring and contemporary dialects: since possibly those words which are commonly taken for Chaldaic (for instance) might have been common to both languages; on the contrary, some of those which more rarely occur, and the etymology of which we are ignorant about, may have
poetical dialect. Thus far, therefore, I think we may with safety affirm, that the Hebrew poetry is metrical. One or two of the peculiarities also of their versifieation it may be proper to remark, which, as they are very observable in those poems in which the verses are defined by the initial letters, may at least be reasonably conjectured of the rest. The first of these is, that the verses are very unequal in length—the shortest consisting of six or seven syllables, the longest extending to about twice that number; the same poem is, however, generally continued throughout in verses not very unequal to each other. I must also observe, that the close of the verse generally falls where the members of the sentences are divided.*
.4 .chap . xiv ,מוהבה which in the Hebrew would be ,מדהבה in the word
been borrowed from the neighbouring dialects. Since, however, there are some words which more frequently occur in the poetical remains, and which are not elsewhere to be found but in the Chaldee, we may reasonably conjecture concerning these, that they have been introduced into the Hebrew, or at least, after becoming obsolete in common language, might be again made use of: such are the following, Bar, (a son), Koshet, (truth), Sega, (he increased), Shebach, (he praised), Zakaph, (he lifted up), Gnuck, (in the Hebrew tzick), he pressed, &c. Observe Moses, however, in the exordium of his last benediction, Deut. xxxiii. has he not also frequently admitted of Chaldaisms? What is nx? which again occurs, ver. 21. What is 220 ? in both form and sense Chaldaic. What 777 ? a word scarcely received into common use among the Hebrews till after the Babylonish captivity; especially since the Hebrew abounded in synonymous terms, expressive of the law of God. (But perhaps this last word in this place is rightly suspected to be an error. See Kennicott, Dissert. I. of the Hebrew Text, p. 427. and Houbigant in loc.) Isaiah, however, elegantly adopts the Chaldaic form speaking of Babylon,
, . . Nor less appositely on the same subject does the Psalmist introduce the word 1905390, Psal. cxxxvii. 3. which is the Chaldaic for 780557w, as the Chaldean paraphrast himself allows, who renders it by the synonymous term X112, as elsewhere he renders the word 550 ; (see Ezek. xxvi. 12. xxix. 19. xxxvii. 12, 13.); nor indeed do the other interpreters produce any thing to the purpose. Some instances of grammatical anomalies in the glosses have been detected; such are the following Syriac or Chaldaic: ' for 7, Psal. cxvi. thrice; ciii. five times; also in Jer. xi. 15. 071 for 1', Psal. cxvi. 12. l' as a termination plur. nom, masc. for Oy, Job iv. 2. xxiv. 22. xxxi. 10. and frequently elsewhere; also Prov. xxxi. 3. ; Lam. iv. 3. ; Ezek. xxvi. 18. ; Mic. iii. 12.
, , . , are Chaldaic as well as Arabic. 7335390, but this word seems to have followed the etymology of the Arabic verb 53 n, he bound, he led captive ; whence the Septuagint arayayoytis nuas ; and the Chaldaic 3112, he carried away captive.” H.-Author's Note.
This mode of versification is not altogether foreign to our own language, as is evident from some of our earliest writers, particularly Piers Plowman. $. H.
,מדהבה ,חבב .in the Arabic form אתו the Samaritan
, has ,אתה