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any hypothesis. For harmony arises from the proportion, relation, and correspondence of different combined sounds; and verse from the
arrangement of words, and the disposition of syllables, according to number, quantity, and accent; therefore the harmony and true modulation of verse depends upon a perfect pronunciation of the language, and a knowledge of the principles and rules of versification; and metre supposes an exact knowledge of the number and quantity of syllables, and, in some languages, of the accent. But the true pronunciation of Hebrew is lost: lost to a degree far beyond what can ever be the case of any European language preserved only in writing: for the Hebrew language, like most of the other Oriental languages, expressing only the consonants, and being destitute of its vowels, has lain now for two thousand years in a manner mute and incapable of utterance: the number of syllables is in a great many words uncertain; the quantity and accent wholly unknown. We are ignorant of all these particulars; and incapable of acquiring any certain knowledge concerning them: how then is it possible for us to attain to the knowledge of Hebrew verse ? That we know nothing of the quantity of the syllables, in Hebrew, and of the number of them in many words, and of the accent, will hardly now be denied by any man: but if any should still maintain the authority of the Masoretical punctuation, (though discordant in many instances from the imperfect 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. 8 See Hare, Prolegomena in Psalmos, p. xl. &c.
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.
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 rhyine, that is, from similar corresponding sounds terminating the verses; but from some sort of rhythm, probably 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 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 synonymous, parallels antithetic, and parallels synthetic. Of each of
9 See A Larger Confutation of bishop Hare's Hebrew Metre, London, 1766 ; where I have fully treated of this subject.
these I shall give a variety of examples, in order to shew 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 connection 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 intirely, or nearly the same. As in the following examples :
• O-Jehovah, in-thy-strength the-king shall-rejoice ;
Call-ye-upon-him, while-he-is near :
ĮSAIAH liv. 4.
Isaras, li. 7, 8.
Isaiad, lv. 3.
“ Bow thy heavens, O Jehovah, and descend ;
1 The terms in English, consisting of several words, are hitherto distin. guished with marks of connection; to show, that they answer to single words in Hebrew.
Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke :
Shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.” Ps. cxliv. 5, 6.
Isaiah lxv. 21, 22. Parallels are also sometimes formed by a repetition of part of the first sentence: “ My voice is unto God, and I cry
Ps. lxxvii. 1, 11, 16.
Hosea, v 4. 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
Those that hate me,2 and I will cut them off.” 2 Sam. xxii. 41.
JOB, xxvi. 5.
Isaiah, xli. 28.
% In the parallel place, Ps. 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.
3 See the note on the place.