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For

L... 120 THE

MONTHLY REVIEW,

SEPTEMBER, 1764.

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The Song of Solomon, newly tranflated from the Original Hebrew. With a Commentary and Annotations. 12mo. 2s. Dodfley.

T is with all the becoming modefty, ever attendant on real merit, that our ingenious Tranflator and Scholiaft prefents this performance. to the learned, as an attempt to rescue one of the most ancient and beautiful paftorals in the world, from the obfcurity and confufion in which it has been involved, by the injudicious practice of former Commentators. The generality of thefe, fays he, have been fo bufily employed in opening and unfolding its allegorical meaning, as wholly to neglect that literal fenfe, which ought to be the bafis of their discoveries. For, as he very juftly obferves, if a facred allegory may be defined, as a figurative difcourfe, which, under a lower and more obvious meaning, delivers the moft fublime and important truths, it is the first duty of an Expofitor, to afcertain that lower and more obvious meaning: it being impoffible, till this be done, to discover what other truths are couched under it. Without this, continues he, all is vague and idle conjecture. It is erecting an edifice without a foundation, which, however fair and goodly to the view, will be blown down by the flightest breath of true criticifm. The firft principles of figurative compofition require, that the metaphorical fenfe and the proper, the allegory and its literal meaning, the apologue and its moral, the parable and its fpiritual application, fhould be clearly diftinguished from each other. To jumble and confound them, is contrary to the rules of all good writing, and, indeed, of common fenfe. Yet this, our Tranflator remarks, has been the great fault of almost all the Expofitors of Solomon's Song: even the best of them, Bishop Patrick, making no regular diftinction between the two

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VOL. XXXI.

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fenfes ;

fenses; but explaining one verfe in the literal meaning, and devoting the next to allegorical conjecture.

To prevent this confufion, and to establish and illuftrate the literal fenfe, is profeffedly the fole defign of this undertaking*.

It is of very little confequence, the Tranflator thinks, to enquire how far the incidents of this poem are founded on fact; whether it be confidered as a fimple paftoral, or a fublime allegory as the fame poetic beauties may be difplayed, and the fame allegorical truths may be delivered, whether the circumftances of the narrative be real or feigned. From its many perfonal and local particularities, he is apt to be of opinion, however, that this fong describes a real marriage, and that Solomon once celebrated his nuptials in the paftoral manner therein defcribed. Agreeable to this fuppofition, he divides the poem into seven dramatic eclogues, defcriptive of the feven days of the nuptial folemnity among the ancient Jews; adopting, with some variation, the plan of the celebrated Bishop of Meaux, as described by Dr. Lowth.

In fupport of the propriety of this scheme he obferves,

It is well known, that among the Hebrews, from the earlieft times, the nuptial feast continued feven days. This appears from the words of Laban to Jacob, when he had obtruded Leah upon him inftead of Rachel. Fulfill her week, i. e. compleat the feven days of the nuptial folemnity with Leah; and (then) we will give thee this (Rachel) alfo; for the fervice which thou shalt ferve with me yet feven other years. Gen. xxix. 27. It appears alfo from the marriage of Sampfon, that the nuptial feaft lafted feven days. Judg. xiv. 15, 17: and even from the marriage of Tobias with Sarah.-Raguel the bride's father infifted, that the marriage-feast should be folemnized at least fourteen days, that is, double the ufual time, because he had given his daughter and fon-in-law up for loft. See Tob. viii. 19, 20. This rule is to this day obferved among the Jews, and is deemed fo effential, that their Rabbies fay, if a man were to marry feveral wives at once, he ought to obferve a nuptial week of festivity with every one of them t.

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During thefe feven days of feafting, the Bridegroom was attended by a felect number of Companions, who paft the

Not that the Tranflator is of opinion, with the learned Profeffor Michaelis and others, that this poem hath no allegorical meaning. On the contrary, he feems to entertain the notions generally received on that head, fupported with so much plausibility in Dr. Lowth's Præ

lectiones.

+ Calmet. pref. fur les Cantiq. Seld. uxor. Heb. 1. ii. c. 11.

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whole

whole time with him, and are ftyled in the New Teftament the Friends of the Bridegroom, John iii. 29; and the Children of the Bridechamber; Mat. ix. 15. Sampfon had no fewer than thirty at his wedding. Judges xiv. 11. but whether that was the ftated number does not appear. On the other hand, a felect number of Virgins accompanied the Bride; thefe are called in the book of Pfalms the Virgins her Companions, Pf. xlv. 14. and are in the Gospel said to be Ten in number: whose bufinefs it was to go In the forth and meet the Bridegroom, Mat. xxv. 1, &c. company of these the week of marriage was spent, no doubt, in every kind of diverfion that was not forbidden by the law*: and from the following poem it fhould feem, that every one of the feven days was anciently appropriated to fome ceremony that entered into a confirmation of the marriage contract. At prefent the Jews compleat all the nuptial rites on the evening of the marriage, and devote the feven days following to festivity and mirth only.

The feveral Writers who have treated of the marriage ceremonies of the Jews, vary in their accounts from each other, and exprefsly tell us, that different ufages have prevailed in different times and places +; for zealously as the Jews are attached" to their ancient customs, they have admitted confiderable changes in this respect, as well as other nations. A ftriking difference may be obferved between the marriage rites occafionally mentioned in the Gofpel, and thofe obferved by the Jews at prefent : and doubtless in the time of Solomon, and in the ages preced-' ing the great captivity, they were ftill more remote from the modern ufage.. This ought to be confidered by thofe who are difappointed in not finding in this poem all the marriage ceremonies described, as they are at present laid down in the Jewish Ritual.

• In an excellent little treatife, intitled, The prefent State of the Jews, by L. Addifon, D. D. we learn how marriages are folemnized among the Jews of Barbary. After the marriagecontract is made between the Bridegroom and the relations of the Bride, she is carefully bathed for feveral days; and this with a peculiar attention on the eve before the marriage: after which

Even the intervention of the Sabbath did not interrupt the nuptial, fellivities. See Calmet and Selden, ubi fupra.

+ Seld. Uxor. Heb. L. ii. c. 16. et pallim.

To inftance only in one circumstance; in the time of our Saviour, the Bride was attended with Ten Virgins, who went out with lamps to meet the Bridegroom: at prefent I find mention but of Two, and these fit on each fide the Eride, when the Bridegroom makes his entrance." This at lealt is the unge among the Jews of Barbary.

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fhe

fhe is fecluded from the fight of all men, even her nearest relations. On the wedding day fhe is finely adorned, and paffes the morning in acts of devotion. Towards the evening the Bridegroom comes, attended with fome felect friends, by whom he is conducted into a chamber where the Bride fits between two Virgins, as her attendants. She continues feated, while a Rabbi reads the bill of dower, and then the Bridegroom puts a ring upon one of her fingers, calling to all: prefent, to atteft the ceremony. Which done, the Rabbi pronounces them married, and gives them the nuptial benediction. Then wine is prefented to the Bridegroom, and he breaks the glass in memory of the deftruction of the temple. After this he takes off the Bride's veil, and giving her his right hand, fits down by her. The marriage fupper is then ferved up, after which they are conducted into the bridal chamber: this in the fummer is usually a kind of bower or arbour. We learn from Selden*, that anciently among the Jews of Galilee, it was the custom for two Bridemen to be prefent in the bridal chamber as witnesses of the confummation: a circumftance which the Reader is defired to remember when he comes to confider the fixth day's Eclogue of this poem.

On the next morning begins the nuptial feaft, and continues fevent days; during which the Bridegroom does not cohabit with the Bride except in the day time; and this helps to account for the Bridegroom's abfence from the Bride in many evenings of the following poem. During that feparation the young couple make little agreeable prefents to each other, and, no doubt, exhibit other tender proofs of their regard.

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Among the modern Jews the nuptial week is kept in the houfe of the Bride's father; and when the feven days are expired, he is conducted with great pomp to the house of the Bridegroom. But in ancient times it was perhaps different; at least in the marriage of a fovereign prince, this circumftance could not well have been obferved; it is more likely that, on such occafions, the Bride, her mother, and virgin companions, were at once conducted to the royal palace, and the whole week of rejoicing was spent within the royal inclofure.

This at leaft feems to have been the cafe with that marriage which is the fubject of the following poem. The entire scene

Seld. Uxor. Heb. lib. ii. c. 16.

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Dr. Addifon fays, Eight days among the Jews of Barbary; but if this is not a mistake (which I fufpect from his referring to Judg. xiv. 12. where it is exprefsly Seven days,) it is another proof how much the Jews vary in their marriage rites: in all other places the Jews obferve Seven days.

of

of thefe divine Eclogues, is apparently laid within the inclosure of the palace and royal gardens. This will account for several paffages which appear very wild on any other fuppofition. Such is the rambling of the new Bride in fearch of her Lover, fo contrary to the retired and referved manners of the eastern ladies. Such is the watchmen fmiting her: with many other incidents of a fimilar kind. But upon this plan, the City mentioned in this poem will be nothing more than a range of pavillions or little houfes, appropriated to the ufe of thofe that were Minifters of the Serail, &c. and the watchmen will be eunuchs appointed to watch over the carriage of the fair females, as well as to wait upon them; and for whom it was not, I fuppofe, in ancient times, unusual, any more than it is at prefent, to give their lovely Miftreffes a ftripe or two, when they behaved indifcreetly. As for the Flock, Foxes, &c. found there; it is well known, that the extent of what may be called the pleasure ground of the eastern Princes was extremely large. The Paradife of Aftyages, defcribed by Xenophon in his Inftitution of Cyrus, was furnished with a variety of game, and fuch like, for the exercise and amusement of that great Monarch. As for the flocks of the Bridegroom and his companions; it is fufficient fo obferve, that the whole poem has a pastoral air given to it; and befides this, it appears but like one of the freaks of folitary greatnefs, which, by eastern policy being cut off from all free converfe with its fubjects, feeks among its flaves, in its impene-. trable inclosures, for the ease and pleafing amufements of private life.'

Plaufible, however, as the above reafons may appear to fome, it seems that Profeffor Michaelis, in his notes to a new edition of Dr. Lowth's Prælectiones, hath controverted the supposition which is the bafis of this whole work; viz. that the Song of Solomon is a nuptial poem, and defcribes the feven days of the marriage feaft. This learned Profeffor in particular objects, that he cannot find the marriage ceremonies once defcribed throughout the poem; that the veiling of the Spoufe, the confummation, the folemn feaft, are not related: thinking it furprizing, that the Bridegroom should be fo intent on his rural labours, as to be abfent whole days both from the Bride and marriage guests, in order to tend fheep; and fhould even pafs the nights apart from his beloved Spouse.

In answer to these objections, the Tranflator obferves, in a Postscript annexed to this work, that In the first place it may be obferved, the Jewish rites of marriage are probably different

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* See fome of the accounts of Perfia, &c.

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