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Masoretical punctuation, (though discordant in many instances from the inperfect remains of a pronunciation of much earlier date, and of better authority, that of the Seventy, of Origen, and other writers,) yet it must be allowed, that no one, according to that system, hath been able to reduce the Hebrew poems to any sort of harmony.* And indeed it is not to be wondered, that rules of pronunciation, formed, as it is now generally admitted, above a thousand years after the language ceased to be spoken, should fail of giving us the true sound of Hebrew verse. But if it was impossible for the Masoretes, assisted in some measure by a traditionary pronunciation delivered down from their ancestors, to attain to a true expression of the sounds of the language, how is it possible for us at this time, so much further removed from the only source of knowledge in this case, the audible voice, to improve or to amend their system, or to supply a more genuine system in its place, which may answer our purpose better, and lay open to us the laws of Hebrew versification? The pursuit is vain; the object of it lies beyond our reach; it is not within the compass of human reason or invention. The question concerning Hebrew metre is now pretty much upon the same footing with that concerning the Greek accents. That there were certain laws of ancient Hebrew metre is very probable; and that the living Greek language was modulated by certain rules of accent is beyond dispute: but a man born deaf may as reasonably pretend to acquire an idea of sound, as the critic of these days to attain to the true modulation of Greek by accent, and of Hebrew by metre.t
Thus much then, I think, we may be allowed to infer from the alphabetical poems; namely, that the Hebrew poems are written in verse, properly so called ; that the harmony of the verses does not arise from rhyme, that is, from similar corresponding sounds terminating the verses, but from some sort of rhythm, probably from some sort of metre, the laws of which are now altogether unknown, and wholly undiscoverable ;_yet that there are evident marks of a certain correspondence of the 'verses with one another, and of a certain relation between the composition of the verses and the composition of the sentences, -the formation of the former depending in some degree upon the distribution of the latter,--so that generally periods coincide with stanzas, members with verses, and pauses of the one . with pauses of the other; which peculiar form of composition is so observable, as plainly to discriminate in general the parts of the Hebrew Scriptures which are written in verse, from those
* See Hare, Prolegomena in Psalmos, p. xl. &c.
+ See A Larger Confutation of Bishop Hare's Hebrew Metre ; London, 1766 ; where I have fully treated of this subject.
which are written in prose. This will require a larger and more minute explication, not only as a matter necessary to our present purpose, that is, to ascertain the character of the prophetical style in general, and of that of the Prophet Isaiah in particular, but as a principle of considerable use, and of no small importance, in the interpretation of the poetical parts of the Old Testament.
The correspondence of one verse or line with another, I call parallelism. When a proposition is delivered, and a second is subjoined to it, or drawn under it, equivalent, or contrasted with it in sense, or similar to it in the form of grammatical construction, these I call parallel lines; and the words or phrases, answering one to another in the corresponding lines, parallel terms.
Parallel lines may be reduced to three sorts,- parallels syno-, nymous, parallels antithetic, and parallels synthetic. Of each of these I shall give a variety of examples, in order to show the various forms under which they appear; first, from the books universally acknowledged to be poetical; then, correspondent examples from the Prophet Isaiah, and sometimes also from the other Prophets, to show that the form and character of the composition is in all the same.
As some of the examples which follow are of many lines, the reader may perhaps note a single line or two intermixed, which do not properly belong to that class under which they are ranged. These are retained, to preserve the connexion and harmony of the whole passage; and it is to be observed, that the several sorts of parallels are perpetually mixed with one another, and this mixture gives a variety and beauty to the composition.
First, of parallel lines synonymous; that is, which correspond one to another, by expressing the same sense in different but equivalent terms; when a proposition is delivered, and is immediately repeated, in the whole or in part, the expression being varied, but the sense entirely or nearly the same: As in the following examples:
“O-Jehovah, in-thy-strength the-king shall-rejoice;
And-in-thy-salvation how greatly shall-he-exult!
Psal. xxi. 1, 2.
" Because I-called, and-ye-refused;
I-stretched-out my-hand, and-no-one regarded;
I also will-laugh at-your-calamity;
Prov. j. 24-32.
“Seek-ye Jehovah, while-he-may-he-found;
Call-ye-upon-him, while-he-is near:
Isa. lv. 6, 7.
“ Fear not, for thou-shalt-not be-ashamed;
And-blush not, for thou-shalt-not be-brought-to-reprcach:
Isa. liv. 4.
“ Hearken unto-me, ye-that-know righteousness;
The-people in-whose-heart is-my-law:
Isa. li, 7, 8.
In the foregoing * examples may be observed the different degrees of synonymous parallelism. The parallel lines sometimes consist of three or more synonymous terms; sometimes of two, which is generally the case when the verb, or the nominative case of the first sentence, is to be carried on to the second, or understood there; sometimes of one only, as in the four last examples. There are also among the foregoing a few instances, in which the lines consist each of double members, or two propositions, I shall add one or two more of these, very perfect in their kind :
“ Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah, and descend;
Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke:
Psal. cxliv. 5, 6.
" And they shall build houses, and shall inhabit them ;
And they shall plant vineyards, and shall eat the fruit thereof:
Isa. Ixv. 21, 22.
Parallels are also sometimes formed by a repetition of part of the first sentence:
"My voice is unto God, and I cry aloud;
My voice unto God, and he will hearken unto me.” " I will remember the works of Jehovah;
Yea, I will remember thy wonders of old.” ". The waters saw thee, O God! The waters saw thee; they were seized with anguishi.”
Psal. Ixxvii, 1, 11, 16.
« For he hath humbled those that dwell on high;
The lofty city, he hath brought her down:
Isa. xxvi. 5, 6.
• What shall I do unto thee, O Ephraim !
Hosea vi, 4.
* The terms in English, consisting of several words, are hitherto distinguished with marks of connexion-to show, that they answer to single words in Hebre'v.
Sometimes in the latter line a part is to be supplied from the former to complete the sentence:
" And those that persecute me thou wilt make to turn their backs to me; Those that hate me,* and I will cut them off.”
2 Sam, xxii. 41.
• The mighty dead tremble from beneath ;
The waters, and they that dwell therein."
Job xxvi. 5.
" And I looked, and there was no man;
Even among the idols, t and there was no one that gave advice;". “ And I inquired of them, and there was no one] that returned an answer."
Isa. xli. 28.
Further, there are parallel triplets—when three lines correspond together, and form a kind of stanza, of which, however, only two commonly are synonymous :
“ The wicked shall see it, and it shall grieve him;
Psal. cxii. 10.
6. That day, let it become darkness;
Let not God from above inquire after it ;
Job jji. 4, 6, 9.
“ And he shall snatch on the right, and yet be hungry ;
And he shall devour on the left, and not be satisfied ;
Isa. ix. 20.
“ Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe ;
Come away, get you down, for the wine-press is full ;
Joel iii. 13.
There are likewise parallels consisting of four lines ; two distichs being so connected together, by the sense and the construction, as to make one stanza. Such is the form of the 37th Psalm, which is evidently laid out by the initial letters in stanzas of four lines; though in regard to that disposition some irregularities are found in the present copies. From this Psalm, which gives a sufficient warrant for considering the union
* In the parallel place, Psal. xviii. the poetical form of the sentence is much hurt, by the removing of the conjunction from the second to the first word in this line; but a MS, in that place reads as here.
+ See the Nore on the place. ,