Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The Song of Solomon, newly transated from the Original Hebrew. With a Commentary and Annotations.

I2mo. 25. Dodsley.


T is with all the becoming modesty, ever attendant on real

merit, that our ingenious Translator and Scholiast presents this performance to the learned, as an attempt to rescue one of the most ancient and beautiful paftorals in the world, from the obscurity and confusion in which it has been involved, by the injudicious practice of former Commentators. The generality of these, says he, have been so busily employed in opening and unfolding its allegorical meaning, as wholly to neglect that lis teral {ente, which ought to be the basis of their discoveries, For, as he very justly observes, if a sacred allegory may be de: fined, as a figurative discourse, which, under a lower and more obvious meaning, delivers the most sublime and important truths, it is the firft duty of an Expositor, to ascertain 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 erect. ing an edifice without a foundation, which, however fair and goodly to the view, will be blown down by the lightest breath of true criticism. The first principles of figurative composition require, that the metaphorical sense and the proper, the allegory and its literal meaning, the apologue and its moral, the parable and its spiritual application, thould be clearly distinguished from each other. To jumble and confound them, is contrary to the rules of all good writing, and, indeed, of common sense. Yet this, our Translator remarks, has been the great fault of almost all the Expositors of Solomon's Song: even the best of them, Bishop Patrick, making no regular distinction between the two VOL. XXXI.


fenfes ;

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

To prevent this confusion, and to establish and illustrate the literal sense, is professedly the fole design of this undertaking*.

It is of very little consequence, the Translator thinks, to enquire how far the incidents of this poem are founded on fact; whether it be considered as a simple pastoral, or a sublime allegory: as the same poetic beauties may be displayed, and the fame allegorical truths may be delivered, whether the circumstances of the narrative be real or feigned. From its many personal and local particularities, he is apt to be of opinion, however, that this song describes a real marriage, and that Solomon once celebrated his nuptials in the pastoral manner therein described. Agreeable to this supposition, he divides the poem into seven dramatic eclogues, descriptive of the seven days of the nuptial solemnity among the ancient Jews; adopting, with some variation, the plan of the celebrated Bishop of Meaux, as described by Dr. Lowth.

In support of the propriety of this scheme he observes,

• It is well known, that among the Hebrews, from the earlieft times, the nuptial feast continued seven days. This appears from the words of Laban to Jacob, when he had obtruded Leah upon

him instead of Rachel. Fulfill her weck, i. e. compleat the seven days of the nuptial solemnity with Leah; and (then) we will give thee this (Rachel) also; for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven ather years. Gen. xxix. 27. It appears also from the marriage of Sampson, that the nuptial feast lasted seven 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 solemnized at least fourteen days, that is, double the usual time, because he had given his daughter and son-in-law up for loft. See Tob. viii. 19, 20. This rule is to this day observed among the Jews, and is deemed so essential, that their Rabbies say, if a man were to marry several wives at once, he ought to observe a nuptial week of festivity with every one of them t.

During these seven days of feasting, the Bridegroom was attended by a select number of Companions, who paft the

[ocr errors]

Not that the Translator is of opinion, with the learned Professor Michaelis and others, that this poem hath no allegorical meaning. On the contrary, he seems to entertain the notions generally received on that head, supported with so much plausibility in Dr. Lowth's Prelectiones. + • Calmet. pref. sur les Cantig. Seld. uxor. Heb. 1. ii, c. 11.


whole time with him, and are styled in the New Testament the Friends of the Bridegroom, John iii. 29; and the Children of the Bridechamber; Mat. ix. 15. Sampson had no fewer than thirty at his wedding. Judges xiv. 11. but whether that was the stated number does not appear. On the other hand, a select number of Virgins accompanied the Bride; these are called in the book of Psalms the Virgins her Companions, Pl. xlv. 14. and are in the Gospel said to be Ten in number: whose business it was to go forth and meet the Bridegroom, Mat. xxv. 1, &c. . In the company of these the week of marriage was spent, no doubt, in every kind of diversion that was not forbidden by the law* : and from the following poem it should seem, that every one of the seven days was anciently appropriated to some ceremony that entered into a confirmation of the marriage contract. At present the Jews compleat all the nuptial rites on the evening of the marriage, and devote the seven days following to festivity and mirth only.

« The several Writers who have treated of the marriage ceremonies of the Jews, vary in their accounts from each other, and expressly tell us, that different usages have prevailed in different times and places ti for zealously as the Jews are attached to their ancient customs, they have admitted considerable changes in this respect, as well as other nations. A striking difference may be observed between the marriage rites occasionally mentioned in the Gospel, and those observed by the Jews at presenti: and doubtless in the time of Solomon, and in the ages preceding.the great captivity, they were ftill more remote from the modern usage. This ought to be considered by those who are disappointed 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 treatise, intitled, The present State of the Jews, by L. Addison, D. D. we learn how marriages are Solemnized among the Jews of Barbary. After the marriagecontract is made between the Bridegroom and the relations of the Bride, the is carefully bathed for several 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 festivities. See Calmet and Selden, ubi supra. +Seld. Uxor. Heb. L. ii. c. 16. et paffim.

: To instance only in one circumstance; in the time of our Saviour, the Bride was attended with Ten Virgins, who went out with lamps 10 meet the Bridegroom: at present I find mention buc of Two, and these fit on each side the Bride, when the Bridegroom makes his entrance This at leaft is the usage among the Jews of Barbary.


M 2

fhe is secluded from the sight of all men, even her nearest relations. On the wedding day she is finely adorned, and. passes the morning in acts of devotion. Towards the evening the Bridegroom comes, attended with some select friends, by whom he is conducted into a chamber where the Bride 'sits bes tween two Virgins, as her attendants. She continues seated, while a Rabbi reads the bill of dower, and then the Bridegroom puts a ring upon one of her fingers, calling to all present, tó attest the ceremony. Which done, the Rabbi pronounces them married, and gives them the nuptial benediction. Then wine is presented to the Bridegroom, and he breaks the glass in me mory of the destruction of the temple. After this he takes off the Bride's veil, and giving her his right hand, sits down by her. The marriage fupper is then served up, after which they are "conducted into the bridal chamber: this in the summer 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 present in the bridal chamber as witnesses of the consummation : a circumstance which the Reader is desired to remember when he comes to consider the sixth day's Eclogue of

this poem.

[ocr errors]

• On the next morning begins the nuptial feast, and continues seven + 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 absence from the Bride in many evenings of the following poem. During that separation the young couple make little agreeable presents to each other, and, no doubt, exhibit other tender proofs of their regard.

Among the modern Jews the nuptial week is kept in the house of the Bride's father; and when the seven 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 narriage of a sovereign prince, this circumstance could not well havů been observed ; it is more likely that, on such occasions, 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 inclosure.

« This at leaft seems to have been the case with that marriage which is the subject of the following poem. The entire scene

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

+ Dr. Addison says, Eight days among the Jews of Barbary ; but if this is not a mistake (which I suspect from his referring to Judg. xiv. 12. where it is expressly 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 these divine Eclogues, is apparently laid within the inclosure of the palace and royal gardens. This will account for several passages which appear very wild on any other supposition. Such is the rambling of the new Bride in search of her Lover, fo contrary to the retired and reserved manners of the eastern ladies. Such is the watchmen (miting her: with many other incidents of a similar kind. But upon this plan, the City mentioned in this poem will be nothing more than a range of pavillions or little houses, appropriated to the use of those that were Ministers 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 suppose, in ancient times, unusual, any more than it is at present, to give their lovely Mistresses a stripe or two, when they behaved indiscreetly* 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 Paradise of Astyages, described by Xenophon in his Institution of Cyrus, was furnished with a variety of game, and such like, for the exercise and amusement of that great Monarch. As for the flocks of the Bridegroom and his companions; it is sufficient to observe, that the whole poem has a pastoral air given to it; and besides this, it appears but like one of the freaks of solitary greatness, which, by eastern policy being cut off from all free converse with its subjects, seeks among its slaves, in its impenetrable inclosures, for the ease and pleasing amusements of pris vate life.'

Plausible, however, as the above reasons may appear to fome, it seems that Professor Michaelis, in his notes to a new edition of Dr. Lowth's Prælectiones, hath controverted the supposition which is the basis of this whole work; viz. that the Song of Solomon is a nuptial poem, and describes the seven days of the marriage feast. This learned Professor in particular objects, that he cannot find the marriage ceremonies once described throughout the poem; that the veiling of the Spouse, the consummation, the solemn feast, are not related : thinking it surprizing, that the Bridegroom fhould be so intent on his rural labours, as to be absent whole days both from the Bride and.marriage guests, in order to tend sheep; and should even pass the nights apart from his beloved Spouse.

In answer to these objections, the Translator observes, in a Postscript annexed to this work, that. In the first place it may be observed, the Jewish rites of marriage are probably different

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



« PreviousContinue »