Page images
PDF
EPUB

now from what they were in the time of Solomon : that they have evidently undergone a change in some particulars, and therefore may be presumed to have suffered the same in others.

• But if they had not, the veiling, the marriage supper, the consummation, are according to the present ritual all finished on the marriage night: whereas this poem does not commence before the next morning: The Jews observe seven days of festivity exclusive of that in which the ceremony is performed.

s With regard to the objection, of the Bridegroom's feeding his flock, and being absent from the Bride and the guests : this may appear formidable. - But who is the Bridegroom !--A young and sprightly Monarch, whose pastoral employment could not have been a serious labour, but an agreeable relaxation from the toils of government. To one encumbered with the trappings of greatness, the soft and innocent amusements of rural life, must afford the most delightful of all entertainments. How could an eastern Monarch have past the nuptial week in a more pleasing manner? To give the higher relish to his enjoyments, he throws off all the encumbrances of pomp, and assumes the ease and fimplicity of pastoral manners : and then his friends, the children of the Bridechamber, become shepherds his companions: and though they do not always interpose in the dialogue, we have no reason to conclude that they are ever absent from him. With regard to the nuptial banquets, &c. as these Eelogues describe only part of each day's employment, there are intervals enough in which to assign time for feasting: for as the Poet has thrown all into dialogue, and never speaks in his own person, nothing is described except what the interlocutors occaFionally mention. With respect to the Bridegroom's pafling many of the nights apart from the Bride; we have already seen that this is even now the Jewish usage.

6. That the common rites of marriage are not the formal fubject of this poem, is allowed ; nor will it be wondered at, if we consider who is the Poet.--A lively and ingenious Monarch, who, it fhould seem, had already gone through all these ceremonies a great many times: and this being the case, what could there be engaging in them? what could there be in them of novelty to excité his genius, or deserve his description ?-Let us only suppose, that he had for once a mind to enliven and diverSify the nuptial festivity, by celebrating it in a pastoral manner, and under the affumed character of a shepherd; to which he was probably invited by the Bride's having spent some part of her life in rural occupations,

The royal Paet, in this case, would only touch upon the old established forms delicately, and by insinuation. li would

be

be sufficient if these were not neglected, but ingeniously adapted to the paftoral character. The proceflion, the wedding fupper, the nuptial banquets, would be objects too common, and too well known, to need a formal description. These a Writer of genius would leave to the Reader's imagination to supply, He would chiefly select such incidents as were new and not familiar, the rest he would either entirely omit, or barely allude to them in a delicate manner, and by implication.

« Allow but this to have been the case, and we have at once a clue to the whole poem. Then we shall see why it is not a regular nuptial song on the one hand, nor a pure pastoral on the other. And why the youthful Monarch, having chosen to die versify the nuptial festivities by incidents taken from rural life, and affuming pastoral manners, does not wholly lay aside his regal character, but sometimes blends them together : an union which in those early ages was not unfrequent, when Princes often fed their flocks, and even his own father was taken from the sheep-fold.'

Having been thus explicit with regard to the design and plan of this work, we lhall give our Readers a specimen of its execution, in the Commentary, Text, and Annotations of the third Eclogue.

COMMENTARY.

The Third Day's Eclogue. Opens with the introduction of the bridal bed or pavilion, and concludes with the ceremony of taking off the Bride's veil.

• I. One or more of the Virgins (or perhaps the Spouse herfelf) seeing somewhat at a distance, supported on pillars, and surrounded with a cloud of incense, according to the manner of the eastern nations, who were wont to use Itrong fumigations by way of perfumes, and probably to drive away the insects whose bite is so troublesome in hot countries, very naturally alks, " What is this which approaches from yonder quarter of " the gardens, that lies towards the wilderness?” Others of the Virgins, who by this time perceived it more distinctly, anfwered (with some abruptness, like persons who had been in doubt, but now suddenly discover what it is), “ See! 'tis Solomon's bed,” &c. Upon this a third, &c. takes occasion to describe the superb manner of its structure. All this seems to pass in the Bride's apartment, whence the Bride sends them forth to meet the Bridegroom, who, with his grand retinus, was now approaching very near.

* II. King Solomon enters the Bride's apartment, not as usual in the limplicity of his pastoral dress, but in all the gay ornaments of a Bridegroom; and here it Thould fçem, that in the presence of all his friends, he performs the ceremony of taking off the Bride's veil, Which done, ravith'd with her beauties, he falls into a rapturous descant on them, and runs over her several features in an extasy of admiration, naturally expressed by bold and swelling figures.'

Τ Ε Χ Τ.

The Third Day.
VIRGINS, SPOUSE, BRIDEGROOM, COMPANIONS.

I. VIRGINS. .* *What is this, that cometh up from towards the wilderness, as it were columns of smoke, fuming with myrrhe and frankincenle, with all the powders of the merchant?

OTHER VIRGINS. Ć Behold his bed, which is Solomon's! Threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.

• They are all begirt with swords, being expert in war: every man “ hath” his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night.

OTHER VIRGINS. King Solomon hath made himself a bridal bed of the wood of Lebanon.

He hath made the pillars thereof of filver : the inside thereof of gold: the covering of it of purple.

· The middle thereof is wrought “ in needlework” by her, whom he loveth “ þest” among the daughters of Jerusalem.

SPOUSE. . Go forth, O daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomôn, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.

II. BRIDEGROOM (having removed her veil). 5 + Behold thou art fair, my Love; behold thou art fair.

\ Thine eyes are “ sparkling, as the eyes” of doves, "now" thy veil is removed.

Thy hair is “ fine” as “ that of a flock of goats, which come up “ fleek" from mount Gilead.

• Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep," that are even" fhorn; 'which come up from the washing which are all of them twins, and none hath lost its fellow,

· Thy lips are like a brede of scarlet; and thy speech is charming

As the Aower of the pomegranate, so are thy cheeks, "now" thy veil is removed,

Chăp. iii. ver. 69 7 Chap. iv, ver. '1.

[ocr errors]

« Thy · Thy neck is like the tower of David, built upon an eminence : 'whereon hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of migh ty men.

• Thy two paps are like two young roes, that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

« Until the day breathe, and the shades flee away, I will get me to “ this” mountain of myrrhe, and to “ this” hill of frankincense. • Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee,

ANNOTATION S. < What is this, &c.] We here venture to propose an emnendation of the original, and instead of up who, fcruple not to read mp what. That this was the true original word we have all the internal evidence that the context can afford. For not to mention how uncouth it sounds to compare any single person to pillars of smoke; the reply which follows, evidently thews that the question was WHAT? Had it been WHO IS THIS? to have answered Solomon's bed, would have been foreign to the purpose; the proper reply could only have been, 'Tis fuch or such a perfon: whereas if we read what the answer is proper and pertinent. The corruption was made very early, being copied in all the ancient versions, but is easily accounted for, by łupposing in some ancient copy the 1 He was almost effaced, and the transcriber seeing only a small vestige of the letter, mistook it for a jod, thus :

[ocr errors]

From towards the wilderness.] in is here, and in p, 42, rendered with some latitude FROM 'TOWARDS, and not strictly FROM, as I think it must be interpreted in Deut. xi. 24. and perhaps in some other places.

Behold his bed, &c.] The reason for this bed's being introduced, will be seen hereafter, when we come to explain the fixth

day's Eclogue, and to consider the solemn consummation of the marriage.

But besides the use of it there assigned, the ingenious Friend* whose remarks are distinguished by the letter B, thinks “ this piece of furniture may have been also intended for a prefent to the Bride. This at least was the custom of ancient Greece, On the third day called arauaíz, (described before) the Bride and her relations presented gifts to the Bridegroom, and the Bridegroom and his friends made presents to the Bride. These The late Reverend Mr. Binnel, of Newport in Shropshire.

presents presents consisted of golden vessels, beds, couches, plates, ointment boxes, &c. which were carried in great state to the house of the new married couple. See Potter, vol. ii. p. 294.”

A bridal bed.] The word gmax (no where found but in this place) is by some rendered' a chariot, by others a bed, or bridal bed (from 770 fructum protulit), perhaps it partook of the nature of both, was a kind of Leclica geslatoria, as it is called by Mercer, a sort of moveable bed, drawn or carried about in ftate, not unlike the Palanquins used in other parts of Asia,' which answer at once both the purposes of rest and conveyance. For it should seem that Solomon comes in it, not, as usual, in his paftoral simplicity, but in the highest nuptial fplendor t.

Is wrought-by her whom he loveth among, &c.] This is the interpretation of P. Houbigant: which, however, it must be confeffed, seems a little forced. Upon looking back we are in-' clined to follow the version of Le Clerc, and thus render the words, “ The middle thereof is wrought in needle-work' by “ the daughters of Jerusalem, as a testimony of their love, (or out of regard).” Le Clerc's words are “ Mediamque “ Itratam puellarum Jerofolymitarum amore.” Intelligo hæc de ftragulis, &c. quibus Salomo donatus fuerat a puellis Jerofolymitanis, ut obfervantiam et amorem suum erga eum oflenderent.

With the crown ||, &c.] It was usual with many nations to put crowns, or garlands, on the heads of new-married persons. The Misnah informs us, that this custom prevailed among the Jews; and it should seem from the passage before us, that the ceremony of putting it on was performed by one of the parents : among the Greeks, the Bride was crowned by her mother, as is inferred from the instance of Iphigenia in Euripides, v. 903. See Bochart in his Geograph. Sacra, p. 2. 1. 1. c. 25, who supposes the nuptial crown, and other ornaments of a bride alluded to in Ezek. xvi. 8-12. The nuptial crowns used among the Greeks and Romans, were only chaplets of leaves or Aowers. Among the Hebrews they were not only of these, but also occafionally of richer materials, as gold, silver, &c. according to the rank or wealth of the parties. See Selden's Uxor Hebraica, lib. ii. cap. 15. The original word used in the text is hoy (derived from my circumcinxit, circumtexit,) which is the same that is used to express a kingly crown, 2 Sam. xii. 30. 1 Chron. xx. 2. and is often described to be of gold, Esth. viii. 15. Pfal. xxi. 4. but appears to have been worn by those that were no Kings, Job xix. 9, &c. and was probably often composed of

+ After all, perhaps, the word ought to be rendered a bridal pavilion. 5

King

lefs

« PreviousContinue »