« PreviousContinue »
Tempered into rapturous strife,
Thy destined bond-slave? No! though earth be dust
Works, p. 179.
How beautiful is the poet's earnest prayer for a grateful heart, and for a constant sense of the divine presence and blessing, contained in the following lines:
"Preserve, O Lord! within our hearts
And loses its sweet savor!
Thanksgiving Ode, p. 228.
The "Ecclesiastical Sketches" contain specimens of our author's best manner; and are not only calculated to throw light upon many obscure passages in the history of early Christianity in Great Britain, but also to excite a spirit of devotion and faith in the reader. In these sketches the poet dwells, first, upon the history of the Church, from the introduction of Christianity into Britain to the consummation of the papal dominion; secondly, to the close of the troubles in the reign of Charles the First; thirdly, from the restoration to the present time. And though each sonnet is complete in itself, the entire series forms a magnificent gallery of historical picures,-separate, yet intimately connected with, and illustrating each other. And although the author's strong attachment to the Church of England is clearly exhibited in the course of these sketches, they are not the less valuable and interesting to us on this account; for we are not among the number of those who suppose that such an attachment is inconsistent with the expansive spirit of Christian love. Wordsworth is indeed a Church-of-England man ;-but he is a follower of Christ;-a believer of the pure doctrines, and a participator in the high enjoyments of our holy religion; and his labors in poetry have been directed,-not, as some have insinuated, mainly to the end of fixing the Establishment more firmly in the affections of the English people, but to the far nobler and more congenial purpose of showing that the religion of Jesus Christ contains the only sources of genuine happiness, and the only elements of moral progress; that, far from being inconsistent with the most complete development of man's intellectual powers, it is designed to educe all the faculties of his mind, and to elevate them to that perfection for which they are evidently created. Full and strong is the poet's confidence in the adaptation of religion to the wants of man's nature, and in the ultimate triumph of the principles of divine truth over the darkness and corruption that is in the world; and we join heartily with him in the humble hopefulness of the "Conclusion" to the Ecclesiastical Sketches:
"Why sleeps the future, as a snake, enrolled
Yields, if with unpresumptuous faith explored,
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
A Grammar of the Hebrew Language. By GEORGE BUSH, A. M., Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature in the New-York City University. Second edition, corrected and enlarged. New-York, 1839. Pp. 276. Gould, Newman, & Saxton.
THE old dynasty of Hebrew grammarians reigned in uninterrupted succession from David Kimchi through the intervening links of Elias Levita, Buxtorf, Alting, and Schroeder, down to the high German and theological doctor GESENIUS. Professor Stuart unhappily raised the wrath of the last despot, by presuming, unasked, to become his infelicitous dragoman. GESENIUS had not enjoyed his supremacy a long time before EWALD changed the order of succession, and by a splendid revolution in the whole science of Hebrew grammar established a new and permanent regime. Professor BUSH, who had hitherto been following with Professor Stuart in the train of Gesenius, has, by a timely revolt, bowed to the new order of things, and promises to be the grand vizier to the new sultan, while Stuart is handed over to the fate of the bow-string. It is true Professor Lee, of Cambridge, attempted a simultaneous revolution with EWALD. But how could a man, with one unwieldy idea, supplant another possessed of ten thousand? The grammar of Professor Lee presents a mass of undigested materials. As an elementary book it is completely a failure. It would make a good grammatical dictionary, if it were only alphabetically arranged; but being merely a catalogue of nouns, a desultory analysis without any prominent organization-a mere cento of stray reminiscences-and the development of one unhappy conceit, that the noun is the primary part of speech-it may be consigned to the fate of all overwrought lucubrations, that is, become the legitimate prey of those who know how to avail themselves of what is useful in it for their own compilations.
The great question is now, Whether Hebrew grammar shall be taught by an arbitrary system, invented by the grammarians, and borrowed from other languages, which is utterly at variance with the nature and genius of the tongue; or whether it shall be elucidated by its own laws, by the philosophy of its own phenomena, interpreted according to the first principles of speech, the primeval
sources of natural organization, physiological utterance, and mental development. While Gesenius and Stuart have determined on the former course, Ewald and Bush have decided for the latter. We henceforth go back to the first principles of things. We have the laws of mind and the phenomena of language both before us; and it is hard if we cannot, having the causes and effects thus placed in juxta-position, the extremes, as it were, of the proportion, discover the means by which a harmonious system may be realized.
Yet it is a matter of uniform experience, that, in the promulgation of any new theory, there is a tendency in the human mind to rush to extravagance. Though each party may possess a portion of the truth, yet an innovator does not think his work of regeneration perfect till he has torn up the old system, root and branch: he comes forth with no conservative reform: his object is to destroy, not to save. Thus the method of Gesenius has been beaten up in all its fastnesses and strongholds merely to gratify the revolutionary spleen of a new dictator; and consequently other grammarians must step in to mediate between the contending parties, and reconcile the discordant theories by an harmonious adjustment. It is needless to say, that, while Professor Bush has given a judicious prominence to Ewald's system, he has not altogether abandoned the principles of his old master. He has extracted every thing that was sound and useful, and grafted it upon the old stock; he has caught the spirit of Ewald, who was rather too prolix, exuberant, arbitrary, vague, and unpractical, and reduced him to a more symmetrical and compact form; he has introduced his philosophy to give life to the barren frame-work of Gesenius and Stuart, and to throw interest into their dry mannerisms. Where we have hitherto been contented to take the facts of the Hebrew phenomena of language, we are now made acquainted with their natural history; and thus Hebrew, no longer an isolated, abstruse study, becomes a branch of a widely extended cyclopædia of knowledge, in which the physiology of language and thought is traced to its first elements, and is made to become an important and necessary part of a sound and liberal education.
We are not to look upon Professor Bush as a hewer of wood or a drawer of water. His position is that of a master workman. It is not his office to make the wheels of the machinery, or even to set them in motion, in any particular system. He looks abroad from above all systems, and moderates the errors of their orbits where they would seem to threaten a general collision and universal ruin. Yet Professor Bush can pick up a pin with the same facility as he can tear up the trunk of a tree. His whole soul is occasionally in philology, and eager for the fray. His comprehensive mind can thread the whole minutiæ of detail into a general plan, without abandoning one straw to the wind as a useless incumbrance; and thus, while the elements of the language are thrown out into a bold, lucid, orderly circle of arrangement, and the minor details condensed into a wheel within a wheel by the aid of typographical contrast, one philosophical spirit animates the mass; and the student, becoming interested, is carried along without being aware of the secret influence which impels him.
Yet Professor Bush has apparently a competitor in the race.
Professor Stuart is, what may be called, passé. But Professor Nordheimer, of the same university, has come forward with an incomplete Critical Grammar of the Hebrew Language. He subscribes himself the acting professor of New-York University, and is posterior in standing there to Professor Bush. The latter, perhaps, has been, like the knight Fainéant, of Ivanhoe, the genuine Cœur de Lion, reserving himself for great occasions. The Critical Grammar of Nordheimer, as far as published, viz., the whole of the orthoepy, orthography, and etymology, preceded that of Professor Bush; and consequently the latter had the advantage of examining it previous to his own act of publication, and "perceived that their plans were, in many respects, different." The fact is, the main object of Professor Bush was to concentrate the collective wisdom of his predecessors, with the whole of their late improvements, in a sound, practical grammar, without hazarding any thing of his own, saving his judicious discrimination and the strikingly illustrative character of his style; while, on the other hand, it appears to be the design of Professor Nordheimer to pursue his own particular speculations in advancing the new course of philosophical investigation to which Ewald gave birth. The work of Professor Nordheimer does not stand at all in the way of Professor Bush; and he publicly returns, in his preface, his "unfeigned thanks" to Professor N. for "the many valuable suggestions" he received at his hands. Let us therefore return to THE Professor, the new candidate for a high place among Hebrew grammarians.
The first thing which strikes us in Professor Bush's work is his Introduction, which, in that part which relates to the nature and history of the Shemitic tongues generally, is an able conveyancing and transmigration of the preface of the last edition of Gesenius' Elementary Grammar. This does great credit to the Professor's head and heart. It forms a very interesting article, and it is concluded by an excellent digest of the progress of Hebrew grammarians in their improvement of the philological art.
The next thing we come to is the very interesting investigation of the original consonantal functions of all the Hebrew letters. Professor Bush says, "These letters are not so properly the representatives of sounds, as of the position of the organs in the ineffectual attempt to utter sounds." Professor Nordheimer says:-"The first and most obvious division of words is into syllables, which these letters were designed to represent; while their farther subdivision into consonants and vowels was an after process. Thus the syllable ba was originally considered in the light of a single articulated sound; and it was not till considerable progress had been made in the investigation of the constituent elements of speech that it was discovered to consist in reality of two sounds-namely, a consonant, formed by the unclosing of the lips, and a vowel, or mere continuous emission of the voice. The Sanscrit, Bengali, and Ethiopic alphabets are instances of the syllabic system carried to its highest degree of perfection: in all of them a syllable, consisting of a consonant and a following short a, is represented by the consonant alone; in the two former, when any other vowel is required, it is expressed by an additional character, and in the Ethiopic a slight variation in the form of the consonant is made to answer the
same purpose. The Hebrew alphabet, on the contrary, furnishes the mere outline or skeleton of a word, which is to be filled up by the knowledge of the reader."
Professor Bush has subsequently well illustrated this stenogra. phic form of consonantal writing, and obviated all appearance of difficulty as to its practical use, when the language was a spoken one. (Pp. 36, 37.) The first written Hebrew language was indubitably stenographical; and we cannot at all doubt of the practical reality of this method, when even in the present day, and in modern languages, though furnished with the regular number of vowels, our eye alone is no guide to the pronunciation of words unless assisted by oral knowledge. The best system of literal writing leaves a great deal to be supplied by the norma loquendi, the general usage. Nevertheless the theory of Nordheimer, that the chevi consonants acquired their character of vowels, or matres lectionis, from possessing an organic affinity with them in their emission by the voice, and that they thus naturally coalesced with the several corresponding vowel points by a physiological assimilation, so as to produce the quiescence of the former, however ingenious it may be in the principle, does not satisfy all the difficulties of the case. For though the general stenographical nature of Hebrew syllabication be admitted, yet the ehevi may originally have possessed, though with a very imperfect use, all the force and nature of vowels. That they were such, appears to be a matter of little doubt; for in that character they passed into the Greek language, in the time of Cadmus, 1400 years before Christ, and have thence held their place as such in all the European alphabets. Their subsequent consonantal use may be easily accounted for. As they enjoyed but a very limited employment in Hebrew syllabication as vowels, and as the original pronunciation was lost or began to change, they were altogether abandoned to their consonantal value, in order to make way for the greater facility of the vowel punctuation. Here Nordheimer's organic theory may very aptly come in to explain the reverse of his position, viz. how the original vowel letters came to acquire the power of consonants, and occasionally quiesce in their homogeneous points; and how their condition as matres lectionis was referred to as an antecedent state, which they had not altogether lost, and which served to explain their present office. That the ehevi were originally radically vowels, may be held in perfect consistence with the belief that the greatest portion of the language was left to its stenographical consonantal method, without availing itself of their general use. It was reserved for the ingenious Greeks, through the cognate Phenician character, to apply the original vowels to a more extensive syllabic organization. It would be absurd to believe, on the ordinary hypothesis, that the first character of a primitive alphabet, which has passed into European languages as a most important vowel, was first devised merely as an arbitrary sign without any sound at all. This would be quite contrary to Nordheimer's doctrine, that the first alphabetical letters were designed to represent syllables, a compound sound of a vowel and a consonant, when by this arrangement we have an aleph perfectly soundless. In the Babylonish captivity, seven hundred years before Christ, the pronunciation of the Hebrew must have changed; and