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little attention to the rules of art, at such times, enables the mind to progress in regular musical cadences; and hence arises the cesura in poetic lines—the arsis and the thesis—by which the metrical feet are pronounced in alternate accented and unaccented syllables. The Hebrew poetry, as will be seen in another place, does not take the regular cesura, and cannot be reduced to metrical feet; still, in some sense, all poetry, as such, must take some peculiar measurements which should have their proper influence upon the voice and manner of the reader. It would be absurd to read the impassioned language of the feelings, which is always uttered, more or less, in brief sententious propositions, as you would a continuous narrative, or the cool and critically dull productions of the logical understanding. In this way sublimity would quickly be brought into ridicule. It is with a view to assist the reader to discover more readily the poetic structure and beauty of the Psalms, and, therefore, to read and understand them with a higher satisfaction, that the text in the present work has been thrown into the form of parallel lines, answering, as far as our version will admit, to the peculiar form of Hebrew versification. In this form should all the poetical portions of Scripture be placed in our common Bible. The advantages flowing from such an arrangement would be by no means ideal or imaginary. The lines for the most part contain distinct propositions, answering to each other, either by way of resemblance or contrast, and should be read with a pause at the end of each, like all poetry, in order to give the mind time to grasp and individualize, so to speak, the thought which it contains. The only natural arrangement, therefore, is to place each line by itself, so that the reader shall have no difficulty in fixing its proper terminus. It may be thought that a versified form of the Psalms, based merely upon the common English version, is not important, inasmuch as the rhythmical measure of the original Hebrew is not perfectly exhibited in the translation. And this suggestion would have force, if the chief intention were to present or illustrate what might be called the rhythm of Hebrew poetry. But it is far otherwise. The object of placing the text in the form of Hebrew verse, that is, of parallel lines, is not to illustrate the rhythmical proportions of the lines, as they stand in the original, but their sense. An exactly literal transcript of the original could not be made in English without rendering the sense obscure and the language abrupt and harsh; much less could prosodial quantity be thus represented. The importance of preserving the metrical form, however, even in our translation, is attested by the examples of Bishop Lowth, Bishop Horsley, Bishop Mant, and Dr. Townsend, and the testimony of the ablest judges. For the purposes of sense, beauty, and force, it serves an important end; the merely mechanical features peculiar to the Hebrew verse, beyond this, are of less importance. The termination of the lines, which is the important point, is fixed by the Hebrew punctuation; and in this the English answers to the original. So far, then, as the business of interpretation is concerned, and so far as the mere poetical structure of the sentences goes to aid the interpretation, the English verse answers a substantially important purpose. Considerable is gained also by way of suggesting the beauty and elegance of the original. It certainly is not doing justice to a poet to translate his verse into prose, or to throw it into prose form. You may, indeed, give his meaning in this way, but you cannot do him justice as a poet. “It is with the Germans,” says De Wette, “an established principle, in translating every poet, to give him his own peculiar versification, and we adhere to it even where the greatest difficulties are to be conquered; and why should it be abandoned here, [in Hebrew poetry,) where such difficulties do not exist? It is usually abandoned out of a predilection for syllabic measure, and a false refinement of the ear. No poetry, it is imagined, can be harmonious, which is not written at least in iambics; but, in my opinion, this is a false taste. . . . . . The best means, unquestionably, of representing the rhythm to the eye, is by a greater or less insertion or indentation of the lines, in the same manner as we are accustomed to mark our rhythmical divisions. Such an arrangement of the Hebrew poetry is, indeed, nothing new. In ancient manuscripts, and also in the Latin version, the poetical books are divided into hemistichs; and they are printed in the same manner in some of our editions: nay, more, in ancient manuscripts the Mosaic books are also divided off into lines, according to the punctuation, and hence many have wished that an entire edition of the Old Testament might be so printed. Jerome also, in his translation of the Prophets and poetical books, has distinguished the verses and half-verses from each other.”*
To the same effect Bishop Lowth speaks: “It is incumbent on every translator,” says he, “to study the manner of his author; to mark the peculiarities of his style, to imitate his features, his air, his gesture, and, as far as the difference of language will permit, even his voice; in a word, to give a just and expressive resemblance of the original. If he does not carefully attend to this, he will sometimes fail of entering into his meaning; he will always exhibit him unlike himself, in a dress that will appear strange and unbecoming to all that are in any degree acquainted with him. . . . . . To express fully and exactly the sense of the author is, indeed, the principal, but not the whole duty of the translator. In a work of elegance and genius he is not only to inform, he must endeavour to please; and to please by the same means, if possible, by which his author pleases. If this pleasure arises in a great measure from the shape of the composition, and the form of the construction, as it does in the Hebrew poetry, perhaps beyond any other example whatsoever, the translator's eye ought to be always intent upon this; to neglect this is to give up all chance of success, and all pretension to it.”f
The above quotations will suffice to show the reader what importance has been attached, by critics of the first authority, to the simple question of the form in which Hebrew poetry should be written. As this form of writing the Psalms assists the reader to discover the true parallelism of the lines, it has an important bearing on their interpretation; which we shall notice more fully when we come to speak of the nature and laws of parallelism.
SECTION WI-FORM OF HEBREW POETRY.
It has been a question among critics whether the Hebrew poetry could be reduced to regular feet; but it is now universally admitted that rhythm, in the classical and proper acceptation of that word, is not a characteristic of its versification. Some traces, indeed, appear of an attempt to reach a uniform syllabic measurement; but they are so few, and of so doubtful authority, that they cannot be imputed as a characteristic or essential feature. The Hebrew poetry unquestionably possesses measure, but not in the classic sense. Its measure is peculiarly its own; it relates not to the number and the quantity of syllables in a line, but to the thought, the idea. The Psalms were sung in the public worship in the tabernacle and the temple; and the question naturally arises, How could they be set to music without first reducing them to meter? Our ignorance of the pronunciation of the Hebrew, (which has been lost in a great measure with the loss of the living language,) and our very imperfect knowledge of the music of the Hebrew choristers, embarrass our answer to this question. That the pronunciation of the living language enabled the Hebrew musicians to approach much nearer a rhythmical measure of the Psalms than can now be effected, we have reason to suppose; and that their music was of a noisy and very imperfect kind, as compared with the modern improvements in that art, is quite obvious. By varying the quantity of the musical notes, therefore, on the one hand, and by increasing or diminishing the rapidity of pronunciation or syllabic utterances on the other, the difficulties which we would experience in performing the Psalms in music would be greatly lessened. Still, however, we are far from explaining the fact to our satisfaction; but if we suppose the Psalms to have been chanted or cantillated, the difficulty vanishes. Where there is a regular recurrence of the same musical notes, bars, and strains, in each successive stanza, it is obvious there must necessarily be a regular correspondence of metrical feet in the corresponding lines of each stanza; but where the music does not thus consist of a regular recurrence or repetition of the sounds, but is only a continued though varied enunciation of musical tones and modulations, as in a chant, then it is obvious the music could as well apply to a prose form of writing as to the most perfect artificial structure of verse; and such, manifestly, was the character of the Hebrew singing. To such music only could their divine Psalms be set. The essence of poetry, says Frederic Schlegel, consists of three things, “invention, expression, and inspiration.” There is the poetry of the thought, the poetry of the feelings, and the poetry of the diction. The idea naturally takes on a clothing of words suitable to its own peculiar character and intensity; and when the idea is poetic, and is uttered, under the inspiration of excited passion, in language of appropriate elegance and taste, the composition must be essentially poetic. In such cases, too, as was remarked in a previous section, the sentences naturally fall somewhat into measure, even without the aid of special attention to rules. With these more simple efforts the human mind, in its ruder and earlier poetic essays, rested satisfied; but in the more cultivated state of language and of society poetry was brought under more perfect rules. These artificial rules, however, must not be confounded with the essential characteristics of this species of composition. They are mere accidents, not to say that they often fetter the freedom of the imagination and limit the copiousness and power of expression. As artificial forms they have always outlived the life and soul of poetry in all countries where poetry has had a history, and have been preserved by a degenerate age, when the fires of its genius have been extinguished. That the Psalms are deficient in rhythm and ryhme, and other artificial rules of poetry, is no argument against their true poetic character and excellence. If their form is less artificial it is more adapted to give freedom to the imagination, and simplicity, naturalness, and fulness to the expression. The Hebrews, however, had their rules for the construction of lines, verses, and strophes, or stanzas, as is observable by indubitable marks of correspondences throughout the parts and members of their poems, and as appears from their alphabetical poetry. With us, at this late period, and after the Hebrew pronunciation has been lost for more than two thousand years, it is hopeless to attempt to restore their prosody and reconstruct their laws of versification. A few words upon the alphabetical Tsalms are all that seem necessary at the present time, and with these remarks we shall dismiss this part of our subject. The peculiarity of the alphabetical Psalms consists in this, that their lines or verses, or pairs of verses, or strophes, as the case may be, are arranged alphabetically by the initial letters of the lines, verses, &c. Thus the first line or verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; the second line or verse
* Introduction to the Psalms. + Prelim. Dissert. to Isaiah.