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but to transact business; all must find it highly advantageous to retain in their memories the maxims of proverbial wisdom. Aphorisms excite attention by elegance of diction, or the beauty of rhetorical figures; they command respect by their oracular brevity; and the smart and poignant truths contained in them penetrate deeply into the mind, and infix themselves in the memory. What more can be required to recommend this kind of composition to our notice, than its adoption by the Holy Spirit, as the means of disseminating inspired knowledge?
This method of instruction appears to be peculiarly suited to the disposition and genius of the Asiatics, among whom it has prevailed from the earliest ages. The Gymnosophists of India delivered their philosophy in brief ænigmatical sentences ;* a practice adopted and carried to a great extent by the ancient Egyptians.f The mode of conveying instruction by compendious maxims obtained among the Hebrews, from the first dawn of their literature, to its final extinction in the East through the power of the Mohammedạn arms; and it was familiar to the inhabitants
of Syria and Palestine, as we learn from the testimony of St. Jerom.* The eloquence of Arabia was mostly exhibited in detached and unconnected sentences, which, like so many loose gems, attracted attention by the fulness of the periods, the elegance of the phraseology, and the acuteness of proverbial sayings. Nor do the Asiatics, at present, differ, in this respect, from their ancestors, as numerous Amthâl, or moral sentences, are in circulation throughout the regions of the East, some of which have been published by Hottinger, Erpenius, the younger Schultens, and others who have distinguished themselves by the pursuit of Oriental learning.I “The moralists of the
• “ Familiare est Syris, et maxime Palæstinis, ad omnem sermonem suum parabolas jungere.”-Hieronimi Comment. in Matt. xviii. 23.
+ “ Orationes autem eorum minime in partes suas juxta rhetoricæ apud Græcos et Latinos præcepta distributæ, nec methodice concinnatæ; adeo ut sententiarum in üs frequentium gemmæ vere dispersæ, minimeque inter se colligatæ videantur, totusque sermo arena sine calce recte dici posse videatur. In sententiarum tamen rotunditate, phrasium elegantia, ac proverbiorum acumine, invenies quod animum feriat.”-Pococke, Specimen Historiæ Arabum, p. 167, ed. White, Oxon. 1806. See Sale's Preliminary Discourse to the Koran, sect. 1, p. 35, Lond. 1812.
Hottingeri Hist. Orient, lib. ii. cap. 5. Erpenii Prov. Arab. Cent, duæ, Leidæ, 1614. Schultens, Antholog. Senten. Arab. Lug. Bat. 1772. “ Veteres Arabum sententiæ sunt innumera; et permulta sunt volumina, quæ Amthâl sive Sententias, complectuntur.”—Sir Wm. Jones, Poeseos Asiaticæ Commentarii, p. 275, ed. Eichhorn, Lips. 1777. See D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, in Amthâl, and Les Maximes des Orientaux, at the end of vol. iv.
East,” says Sir Wm. Jones, “have, in general, chosen to deliver their precepts in short sententious maxims, to illustrate them by sprightly comparisons, or to inculcate them in the very ancient forms of agreeable apologues: there are, indeed, both in Arabic and Persian, philosophical tracts on ethics, written with sound ratiocination and elegant perspicuity: but in every part of the Eastern world, from Pekin to Damascus, the popular teachers of moral wisdom have immemorially been poets, and there would be no end of enumerating their works, which are still extant in the five principal languages of Asia."*
The ingenious, but ever-disputing and loquacious Greeks were indebted to the same means for their earliest instruction in wisdom. The sayings of the seven Wise Men; the Golden Verses of Pythagoras; the remains of Theognis and Phocylides, if genuine; and the Gnomai of the older poets, testify the prevalence of aphorisms in ancient Greece. Had no specimens remained of Hellenic proverbs, we might have concluded this to have been the case; for the Greeks borrowed the rudiments, if not the principal part of their knowledge from those whom they
• Disc. on the Philos, of the Asiatics, Works, vol. i. p. 167, 4to. Lond. 1799.
árrogantly termed barbarians ;* and it is only through the medium of compendious maxims and brief sentences that traditionary knowledge can be preserved.+ This mode of communicating moral and practical wisdom accorded with the sedate and deliberative character of the Romans ;I and, in truth, from its influence over the mind, and its fitness for popular instruction, proverbial expressions exist in all ages and in all languages.
* Brucker, Hist. Philos. lib. ii. cap. 1. Burnet, Archæologiæ, lib. i. cap. 9. Shuckford's Connections, Pref, to vol. i.
The greatest part of Greek aphorisms have, no doubt, perished; having fallen into neglect when the dialectic art and a systematic philosophy gained ground among this acute and disputatious people. Eusebius, in his Treatise against Marcellus, lib. i. cap. 3, makes men. tion of Greek proverbs, and collectors of them. Among the Deperdita are the Kuplau Aoča of Epicurus.-Diog. Laert. lib. x. p. 724. Cicero, de Finibus, lib. ii. 57; de Nat. Deor. lib. i. $ 30.
Seneca, Ep. 59. Both Suetonius (Vita Cæsaris, $ 56) and Cicero (ad Divers. 1. 9, Ep. 16) speak of the Dicta Collectanea of Cæsar; namely, Apophthegms collected by him; and some aphoristic sayings of the ancients are reported by Valerius Maximus, lib. vii. cap. 2.
Ray's Collection of English Proverbs is well known; and there is a book entitled, Adagia sive Proverbiorum omnium quæ apud Græcos, Latinos, Hebræos, Arabes, &c. in usu fueruut Collectio, fol. Erf. 1646. Sir Wm. Jones mentions the precepts of Odin, written in the Runic tongue, and the work of a Persian poet, Sheikh Attâr, as instances of aphoristic composition.- (Comment, de Poes. Asiat. p. 274, ed. Eichhorn, Lips. 1777.) Grotius, in his Prolegom. to the Proverbs, speaks of the Ekloyal of the Byzantine emperors.
Proverbs, in the Hebrew language, are called Meshalim, which is derived from a verb signifying both to rule, to have dominion, and to compare, to liken, to assimilate: hence the term denotes the highly figurative and poetic style in general, and likewise those compendious and authoritative sentences in particular, which are commonly denominated Proverbs. This term, which our Translators have adopted after the Vulgate, denotes, according to our great Lexicographer, “ a short sentence frequently repeated by the people, a saw, an adage;" and no other word can, perhaps, be substituted more accurately expressing the force of the Hebrew; or if there could, it has been so long familiarized by constant use, that a change is totally inadmissible. *
• The LXX employ the term napoiuia, whose etymology, from παρα and oιμος, νια, clearly ascertains its meaning to be that of a saying of general notoriety, such as is commonly heard in the ways and streets; but in 1 Kings, iv. 32, they render the Hebrew word by Tapabolat, and in Prov. xxv. 1, by paideial. The Arabic Jio, and the Syriac Vaso, of similar import, manifestly spring from the same root as the Hebrew Supp, by a common permutation of Shin and Tau. For a further explanation of swn, besides the Lexicons, see Bishop Lowth's Prælect. 4, with the note of Michælis. Michælis, Supplem. ad Lex. Heb. No. 1483. Doederlein, Observat. prefixed to his Scholia in Prov. Carpzovii Introductio in Lib. Canon. par. 2, cap. iv. § 1. Peters’s Crit. Diss. on the Book of Job, p. 45, Loud. 1751.