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languages, of accent. But the true pronunciation of Hebrew is lost - lost to a degree far beyond what can be the case of any European language preserved only in writing; for the Hebrew, like most Oriental languages, expressing only the consonants, and being destitute of the vowels, has lain now for two thousand years mute, and incapable of utterance. The number of syllables in a great many words is uncertain; the quantity and accent are wholly unknown.” — “ The masoretical punctuation," which professes to supply the vowels, was formed a thousand years after the language had ceased to be spoken; and is “ discordant, in many instances, from the imperfect remains of a pronunciation of much earlier date, and better authority, that of the Seventy, of Origen, and other writers;” and “ it must be allowed, that no one, according to this, has been able to reduce the Hebrew poems to any kind of harmony."
It is certain that Hebrew verse did not include rhyme; the terminations of the lines, when they are most distinct, never manifesting any thing of the kind. Acrostic, or Alphabetical arrangement, as in the 119th Psalm, is found in several instances; and was adopted, no doubt, for the purpose of aiding the memory of the learner, or the reciter.
Parallelism is a principle feature in Hebrew
“ He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Psalm xxxiii. 9.
6 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him;
and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”. Isa. lv. 7.
Every phrase, indeed almost every word, has its response in these quotations. I have chosen the common version, in preference to that of the learned Prelate, because it is more simple in the foregoing and following cases), and, from being familiar, is more easily intelligible when addressed to the ear. That organ, though marvellously quick in apprehending sounds, and their collocation, to which it has been accustomed, finds it exceedingly difficult to follow (in verse especially) new phrases and strange thoughts. On the other hand, in reading, the eye can dwell more intensely on the distinct verbiage; having, in this respect, the advantage of the ear, because in moving along the little horizon of the page, it catches glimpses of words to come, while it retains the receding traces of those that are passed; and thus is enabled to gather up the meaning, as it unfolds, from the
both of the text and the context: for sight, like
“ The spider's touch, so exquisitely fine,
Essay on Man. whereas the ear can only connect the successive sounds as they are pronounced, with those that are gone by, which are often imperfectly caught, and more faintly remembered, as the discourse proceeds. I make the remark here, but apply it generally to the passages of verse which I may quote in these papers; having (for the most part) deliberately chosen those
which may be deemed common-place, because such will be best understood by the hearers, from my ineffective recitation.
Bishop Lowth exhibits various forms of Hebrew stanzas (manifestly such to the eye, and not altogether imperceptible by the ear), consisting of two, three, four, and even five lines, admirably implicated and symmetrical, from the disposition of the parallelisms, and other poetic symbols. Antithesis is the second characteristic of Hebrew
The Book of Proverbs abounds with this figure.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” Prov. xiii. 12.
“ The mountains shall depart, and the hills shall be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed." - Isa, liv. 10.
Amplification is the third prevailing feature.
“ As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up
He shall return no more to his house ; neither shall his place know him any more.” Job, vii. 9, 10.
“ How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel ! As the valleys are they spread forth; as gardens by the river side; as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar-trees beside the waters.”-Numbers, xxiv. 56.
Compare the harmonious cadences of this fine prose in our own old version of Holy Writ, with the
halting, dancing, lumbering, grating, nondescript paragraphs in Macpherson's Ossian.
Greek and Latin Prosody.
The metres of Greek and Roman verse are the glories of those two languages: the one, the most copious, opulent, and flexible; the other, the most condensed and energetic of any that are well known. These two tongues contain treasures of literature, esteemed by the learned above all that time has spared of the works of past generations; principally, no doubt, for their intrinsic value, but partly, also, on account of their rarity and antiquity; and yet more so from the impulse of our own early prejudices in their favour, and those noble, venerable, and beautiful affinities which they hold with all that
“Seems wisest, virtuousest, discretest, best,"
among the most extraordinary people of the old world; living, as they did, in the light of nature, but under circumstances peculiarly favourable to the development of every kind of talent; who cultivated all the fine arts, and carried, as we have ocular demonstration, history, eloquence, poetry, architecture, and sculpture, even to the vanishing point of perfection. Nor, in the abstruse sciences, were their attainments less admirable; while, in music and painting - from contemporaneous testimony and analogy with their other accomplishments — we may presume, that they had reached
an exquisite proficiency; yet, from their ignorance of thorough bass in the one, and the perfect management of lights and shadows in the other, it is difficult to imagine that in these they could compete with the greatest masters and practitioners of modern times.
The construction of Greek and Latin verse is pretty well understood ; indeed, the theory may be considered as quite made out by rule and precedent; but, after all, the true pronunciation of both languages having been in a great degree forgotten, our mode of giving utterance to their metres must be exceedingly imperfect; although we can ascertain the number of syllables in every word, and designate the quantity of each syllable; and notwithstanding the wonderful precision with which the most doubtful and difficult passages can be analysed; the most corrupt amended, if not restored; and the authenticity even of accredited readings tried by tests as subtle, and almost as infallible, as those employed in modern chemistry. Nothing, indeed, in human learning, human sagacity, or human taste, is more remarkable than the skill manifested by the Bentleys and Porsons of our days, in detecting all the niceties of a dead language; yet, from the very circumstances of the language being dead, — though the anatomy of every nerve and sinew be correctly demonstrated, the life itself being gone, something must be wanting which cannot be seen, and the absence of which must be felt. Hence our perception of classical rhythm must be rendered so defective, that the most perfect tact of verbal criticism is but like the fine touch of the blind man, whereby he ascertains the