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HEBREW LYRIC POETRY.*

WHEN the spirit is quickened, moved, and agitated with a great or new thought, poetry may begin. Still all men are not able to express what they think and feel, nor endowed sufficiently with thought and feeling to become poets. The poet cannot rest till he has sung what he has so deeply felt. And as the thought that fills him takes entire possession of him, being for the time the whole world to him, there will be the greatest simplicity and unity in his utterance; so that while the thinker advances from thought to thought, the poet, in the moment of his inspiration, is governed by one thought only.

In moments of poetic inspiration the governing thought impels the poet to expression in all possible ways. At first he is too excited and agitated to utter in ineasured words the thoughts within him. In shouts, in dance, in "phrensy” he obtains relief. But though in the first convulsion of inspiration words give place to stronger and physical expression, the calmer spirit soon seeks in them its only true expression and rest. And as the agitated spirit submits in its excitement to bounds and restrictions, its expressions, whether in dances or words, being its outward likeness, show the same obedience. A kindling thought sets the spirit all a-blaze, but the flames soon descend when they have consumed the spirit's measure of power, again to ascend when new force is collected, and again to sink. The waves of thought and feeling, roll high as they may, cannot tower higher and higher for ever ; for we are not gods, but men: they rise and sink. Hence we find poets singing in numbers

, measures, and verses. He is the greatest poet that can be most agitated by thought, and then express it most perfectly in its due measure.t

In the expression of the thought that possesses him, substance and form are one. As Emerson says, a poem,“ like the spirit of a plant, or an animal, has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form.”

* Die Dichter des Alten Bundes erklärt von Heinrich Ewald. Erster theiles erste halfte Allgemeines über die Hebräische dichtkunst und über das Psalmenbuch. Zweite auflage. Göttingen, 1866. [The first edition of this valuable book appeared in 1839. The second edition is a recast of the first, containing the result of twenty-six years more of unwearied, loving toil in the field of Biblical studies.]

| Comp. Goethe's Sonnet, “Natur und Kunst.”

“For of the soul the body form doth take;

For soul is form, and doth the body make.” In this way poetry must arise in any nation. But where it has existed for a time it influences all that is afterwards produced. Succeeding poets may often use old forms instead of creating new ones, though every true poet renews and thoroughly appropriates the old forms.

Hebrew poetry is of indigenous origin and growth. As the nation so its poetry grew and flourished without foreign influence or restrictions. Though not so rich and comprehensive as Hindoo and Grecian poetry, it possesses a rare simplicity and transparency, and a noble naturalness which concerns itself but little about artistic form. In the fresh beauty, strength, and fulness of youthful thought and feeling, it cares not for the ornaments that old age seeks. To the Hebrew poet his religion gave higher and holier thoughts than were given to the poets of any other nation. The thoughts of the prophet of the Lord woke and raised his spirit.

As all poetry, so the Hebrew may be considered as either unartistic or artistic. Unartistic poetry is the unstudied outflow of thought and feeling. It is Lyric poetry. Lyric poetry is, Ewald says, “the child of the moment, of rapidly rising feelings, of a touched and burning spirit, with which the poet is carried away.” Lyric poetry is the primary form of poetry: from it all other forms are developed. If, for instance, the mind is impressed with a great occurrence, the poet may narrate it in his song. This is the commencement of Epic poetry. If, again, the experience of the poet, of which he sings, seems to him so important that it may be made a law of life to others, he will naturally exhort them to learn its lesson. This is the commencement of Gnomic poetry (Proverbs). And, again, whenever the words and deeds of the different persons of a song are introduced directly for the sake of vivid presentation, this is the beginning of Dramatic poetry. Compare our old English ballads.

These different forms of lyrics may be further developed. One of them may be exclusively taken to attain a further object than expression. And the poet's highest art is required to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable strife between the abandonment of himself to his poetic thoughts and the selfmastery needful in using a chosen regulative form.

We find in Hebrew poetry all the three artistic forms that originate in the lyric. Of these kinds of poetry the didactic or gnomic is most, the dramatic less, the epic least, common. But Israel's poets excelled far more in lyrics, the fresh creations of the moment, songs relieving the full heart, than in more studied and elaborate poems.

We may glance at the construction of Hebrew lyric poetry, and still under the guidance of our author.

A lyric is the outflow of an inspiring thought and feeling designed to be sung and played. Songs, psalms, hymns, by their very name, must not be read but sung: they are musical.* They are of various kinds, as the occasions calling them forth differ. There is the oldest and shortest song, sometimes consisting of but a verse ; Numbers xxi. 17 f., 274.30; 2 Sam. v. 8; 2 Sam. iii. 33 f.

As a criminal dies, should Abner die !
Thy hands not bound,
thy feet not put in fetters:
as one falls before the lawless, fellest thou.

Then there is the sacred song, directed or otherwise referring to God. Such songs may contain but an exclamation, or may be extended to a poem. As the animating shouts at the advance and the resting of the ark in the wilderness, Num. x. 35 f.; or the blessing of Moses, vi. 24–26; and the noble ode of David, 2 Sam. xxii. and Psalm xviii. There is further, the lamentations for the dead, the most sorrowful songs in the world. Of these a beautiful specimen is David's lament for Jonathan, 2 Sam. i 17f.; and a whole book of them once existed. And finally we have one epithalamium, Psalm xlv., perhaps sung at the marriage of Jeroboam II.

We find also in the remains of Hebrew poetry clear examples of antiphonal songs. The earliest and most impressive of these are the great odes of victory, Exodus xv. 1418, and the two of Deborah, Judges v. 1–11, 12—31, sung at the great feasts of the people. In Isaiah's time the two songs, Psalms xlvi., xlviii, were sung in the temple by priests and responding people. Sometimes the king and people, on the royal birthday, or as the army goes forth to battle, pray for God's blessing and help, and a priest responds to them, Psalms xx., xxi. Sometimes in solemn processions responsive songs are used, as Psalm xxiv. 7-10, sung as the ark was entering Jerusalem in the time of David.

But what is the poetical form of a Hebrew lyric? It is not accent or quantity, rhyme or number. Its form is unlike that

*

Comp. Goethe's Lass die Saiten rasch erklingen

Und dann sieh ins Buch hinein ;
Nur nicht lesen! immer singen,

Und ein jedes Blatt ist dein! † 2 Chron. xxxv. 25.

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of the poetry of Greece and Rome, of India and Arabia, of ancient or modern Germany and England. It has remained in the first stage of poetic form, of which we possess elsewhere but few examples, e. g. in Egyptian and Chinese poetry. It is simply rhythm of verse-members. The rhythm, in its simplest form, is the rise and fall of the two members forming a verse. The harmonious play of this rise and fall constitutes the unity and beauty of a verse.

Each member consists, on an average, of 7-8 syllables. The first member is a rise, and the second its corresponding fall. In reading the first the voice rises, and in the second sinks, as

Arise, arise, Deborah !

Deborah

lift up; utter the song! The fundamental parts of a verse are these two members, constituting an harmonious whole in the correspondence of a rise and fali. But from this essential form new ones, apparently departures, are developed. But they are either extensions of the fundamental rhythm, as a dimeter trochaicus extended to a trimeter, or combinations of it, as when a completed rhythmical whole is treated as only the half of a whole, and is made to pair with a new half; or, lastly, diminutions of it.

Now, since there is no rhythm of metre or rhyme in Hebrew, there is the greater necessity for rhythmical thought; since there is less to charm the ear in the chime of the sound, there is the greater need for harmonious sense. And this we find. Thoughts rise and fall in beautiful harmony. Each member contains a thought. The so-called parallelism of members is a living, speaking parallelism of thoughts.

This parallelism is of different kinds. Sometimes the second member is the animated resonance or repetition of the first, not without greater fulness and strength of meaning, as

For the man I slay on account of my wound,

and the child on account of my stripes; i. e., man and child, old and young, I forthwith murder for the slightest wounds that I receive. Gen. iv. 23; Ps. xlix. 6; i. 1; xv. 3, 4. Sometimes it is a less animated rhythm, in which the sentence, being too long for one member, takes up both, the first being broken off at an important point of the sentence, as tinuative or dependent, form a higher unity, either in the form of protasis and apodosis, or antithesis and comparison, or without any external connection.

Ps. cx.

The Lord at thy right hand

scatters in the day of his wrath kings. Ps. cxli. 10 ; xyii. 4. Sometimes two sentences, neither merely resonant nor con* Jahveh, Jehovah is neither musical nor correct. See Ewald's Ausführ

Should I hunger, I would not tell thee :

mine is the world and its fulness ! Ps. I. 12; Prov. xi. 22; xiv. 30.

They may cry-yet no Saviour;

Unto Jahveh*-yet he hears them not.
Ps. xviii. 42 ; xxi. 14.
Into these rhythms may be brought the further beauty, in that
the end of a verse corresponds to its commencement:-

Thy people is all readiness on thy mustering-day:
in sacred adornment from the morning's womb

hast thou the dew of thy youth. Ps. cx. 3 ; xvii. 4.

The verse essentially and commonly consists of two members, which may be represented thus—a b or 1:1. See the example, p. 273. Occasionally we meet with one member only; but this is rare, and is justified by its peculiar circumstances. (Ps. xviii. 2; xxiii. 1.) A verse with more than two members is possible, either by extension or by combination. The first is represented by a b c or 1:1:1.

Then persecute, take my soul may the enemy,

And tread down to the earth my life,

{ And my honour embed in the dust. Ps. lvii. 6, 7; v. 12; vi. 7; xviii. 8; ix. 31. The second kind of many-membered verse, by combination, is more various than the first. We have a b c d or 2:2, four members in pairs.

In my distress I call upon Jahveh,
I cry aloud to my God:
he from his palace hears me call,

my cry comes to his ears. Ps. xviii. 7; comp. xxviii. 1; lix. 17; lxxii. 17. And with greater beauty, where a answers to c and b to d. Ps. xviii. 16. We have also a b c or 2:1, two unequal halves,

{

From the blood of the slain, from the fat of heroes,
Jonathan's bow turned not back,
and Saul's sword returned not in vain.

liches Lehrbuch des H. S., § 20.

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