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Gasper Sanctius (or Sanchez) a very laborious Spanish jesuit, who wrote critical notes on most of the old Testament, and particularly on the Canticles, died in 1628, aged 75.
Bossuet, Bp. of Meaux, was the first writer, I believe, who divided this book into seven parts, answerable to the seven days of the Jewish weddings: he has also some critical remarks on the beauty of Solomon's imagery, literally considered. This eloquent prelate lived to the beginning of the 18th century.
Mercerus, or Mercier, is a very learned commentator on this song, and the book of Proverbs, whose notes are chiefly critical. He was professor of Hebrew at Paris; and died in 1562.
Cocceius, professor of theology at Leyden, was a learned and evangelical man; but strongly addicted to allegorical exposition. This writer hath been placed in contrast with Grotius; and it has been said, that the former found Christ every where in the Scripture, and the latter no where.
He died in the close of the 17th cen
Hufnagel and Dathe are foreign writers, which I have not seen, but have been favoured with some beautiful extracts by a friend.
Bochart, though not a commentator on this book, hath learnedly explained such passages as refer to its natural history and geography. Of English commentators the following are the most considerable:
Thomas James, D. D. published a curious exposition of this book at Oxford, in 1607, which was entirely extracted from the fathers, with whom he was well acquainted, and had good
opportunities of consulting, being, if I mistake not, public librarian at Oxford.
Henry Ainsworth's learned, though concise comment on this book, was first printed in England, in 1626; and at Franckfort, in the German language, 1693. This is a most valuable expositor, and one of the first of our countrymen that paid a proper attention to the literal meaning of the Old Testament, which he illustrated, by quotations from the Rabbins.
James Durham printed his exposition first at Edinburgh, in 1668, at London in 1695, and at Utrecht in 1681. His remarks are sweet and savory, and he was the model of most succeeding expositors, who have treated this book rather with a regard to the spiritual improve`ment of the reader, than with a critical view to the genuine meaning of the writer.
In 1609 the pious bishop Hall published an open and plain paraphrase' upon this book, in which I confess the allegory is treated with more modesty and judgment than by some later divines.
Bishop Patrick produced his paraphrase and annotations on this song in 1700. Beside investigating the literal sense, with considerable pains, he has, in the paraphrase, allegorized the whole, in which the Rabbins and the fathers, are his avowed guides.
A host of English writers have indeed written commentaries and sermons on this book, the most considerable of whom, beside the above, are John Dove, John Trapp, Arthur Jackson, and Dr. Collinges, whose writings, especially
the last's, are evangelical and practical; but throw little light, in my humble conception, on the true meaning of the book.
Though the learned Dr. John Owen is not a professed commentator on this song, in his Communion with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,' he has given one of 'the best spiritualexplications of the most interesting passages.
We come now to the present century. At the head of this must be placed the learned and laborious Dr. Gill, whose praise is in all 'the churches.' His Exposition was first printed in 1728, and here the Dr. hath collected every thing valuable he could find, critical or spiritual, either in Jewish or Christian writers. This was im proved and enlarged in successive editions, of which the fourth has been lately printed.
But with all due deference to so great a name, this work appears to me to have capital defects: 1. It confounds and intermixes the, literal and allegorical senses, so as to give neither distinct nor complete. 2. It collects (like the fisher's net) such a quantity of observations, good and bad, as appears to me rather to confuse than to instruct. 3. By applying the several figures to so great a variety of objects, it leaves us still to seek the right. But my chief objection is, 4. To the minute dissection of the allegory, which appears to me to destroy both its consistency and beauty, and expose it far too much to the ridicule of profane minds'.
'I have omitted mentioning, The Fair Circassian, a 'poem imitated from the Song of Solomon,' printed in 1720, and written by Dr. Croxall in early life, which is indeed
In 1751 was published, 'A Dissertation on "the Song of Solomon, with the original text, divided according to the metre (upon Bishop Hare's hypothesis) and a poetical version," (8vo. Millar.) Dr. Kippis' says that it was written by a Mr. Gifford, who considers the poem as 'a "pastoral, composed by Solomon, as the amusement of his lighter hours, just after his nup"tials with Pharoah's daughter.' In this view he looks upon it as a very elegant and beautiful performance. He thinks it was in the gaiety of youth, and before God had so remarkably appeared to him, and given him that divine wisdom, for which he was afterward so eminent! This date he builds chiefly on the order in which Solomon's works are mentioned by the Son of Sirach, which, with the author's other arguments, has been considered in its place. The version is elegant, but being in rhyme is of no assistance as a translation.
The late learned Bishop of London, Dr. Lowth, in his Prælectiones, since translated by Dr. Gregory, devoted two lectures 3 expressly to this poem, and maintains it, as we have already seen, to be an allegorical composition. Michaelis, the learned Gottingen professor, whose notes are subjoined, rejects this interpretation, and understands it only as a poem in the
the only apology which can be made for it; since, though the version is extremely elegant, it always perverts the language of Solomon to the most profane and licentious meaning.
Doddridge's Lectures, vol. II. p. 117, note. 3d edit.
2 Mon. Rev. 1751, P. 492.
3 Lect. XXX, XXXL
praise of matrimonial love, yet he adinits it to be perfectly chaste, as well as elegant. Rev. Mr. Henley, of Hendlesham, has answered these in other notes, in which he endeavours to support the allegory.
In 1764 was published A New Translation, with a Commentary and Annotations," [thin 8vo. Dodsley,] in which the author confines himself to the literal sense, and endeavours to correct some passages of the original, which he supposes may have been corrupted in transcribing. This work was anonymous, but is universally ascribed to::Dr. Percy, the editor of Reliques of antient English Poetry, and since Bishop of Dromore in Ireland...
The year 1768 produced Mr. Harmer's valuable volume, entitled, Outlines of a Com mentary on Solomon's Song, drawn by the help ⚫ of instructions from the East. This work contains, 1. Remarks on its generalinature :- 2. Observations on detached places: and, 3. Queries concerning the rest of this poem. The reader will see by the frequent references to this and the preceding works, how much I have been indebted to them.
OsIn 1772 Dr.. Durell published Critical Remarks on Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles. In the latter the Dr considers the Song of Songs as an epithalamium on Solomon's marriage with Pharoah's daughter; the composition he supposes of a middle nature, between the dramatic and pastoral, but totally excludes any allegorical or spiritual design.
I have next to mention a Scotch anonymous