« AnteriorContinua »
Asiatic style, and is not without respectable authorities!
Either of these explanations conveys the same general idea, that the slightest view of the spouse was extremely captivating.-The rest of the imagery is as casy and natural as it is beautiful. The comparison of her conversation to milk and honey is most eminently so. * Pleasant words are an honey-comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.'
These general ideas of the agreeableness of the church to Christ, both in her looks and conversation, having been remarked on in a preceding section, I shall only add here the interpretation of the Targum on the last verse of the paragraph. • When the priests pray in the
holy court, their lips drop as the honey? comb; and so does thy tongue, O thou modest
damsel, when thou deliverest songs and hymns, sweet as milk and honey; and the smell of
the priests garments is as the smell of Leba& non?'
Parallel passages might be quoted from many eastern poets. The Song of Ibrahim says, “ One dart from your
eyes has pierced through my heart, and in the Songs of Gitagovinda, we find a slave acknowledging himself • bought by a single glance from thine eyes, and a toss of thy • disdainful eye-brows.? Asiat. Research. vol. III. p.400.
* Perfumed garments were a favourite luxury with the antients. Of the Messiah it is said, "All thy garments smell
of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.' (See Prelim. Ess. p. 83.) Nor were they peculiar to the Hebrews. Homer relates that Calypso gave Ulysses' sweet smelling garments."
Chap. IV. 12-15. A garden locked is my sister, (my) spouse; A well locked.-a fountain sealed. Thy shoots are a paradise of pomegranates, Together with the precious fruits of cypresses and nards. Spikenard and saffron-calamus and cinnainonWith all the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloos With all the principal aromatics. A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, And streams from Lebanon.
The comparison now drawn has delicate and striking beauties. The bride is here compared to a royal garden-an orchard—a paradise; her future progeny to a plantation of pomegranates; and the various excellencies and graces of herself and them to the most precious fruits, and the most fragrant aromatics'; all reserved for the sole entertainment of her beloved.
Then again her purity is compared to a spring, a fountain; and her fidelity to the spring locked, and the fountain sealed". The latter image
1 In this verse I have been compelled by the poetic form of the original to neglect the Masoretic accents; which I suppose of no great authority: The fruits of the cypresses (or hennas) and the nards, poetically speaking, are their perfumes. The calamus is a sweet scented cane, Isa. xliii. 24. Mr. Swinburne, in his Travels through Spain, (Lett. XII.) speaks of the air all around' being perfumed with the effluvia of the . aloes.'-Most commentators, however, refer this to the wood (lign aloes) which when dried is very fragrant. Mr. Harmer understands the words 'frankincense, myrrh, and : aloes' as generic terms, including various species. In the second (myrrh) he supposes may be included a variety of precious balsams. On Sol. Song. p 294, &c.
2 I am very tender of altering the established reading, especially where the sense does not require it; but in the present may sound strange to an European ear; but where verdure, vegetation, even life itself depends on such a supply of water, it assumes a very different value ; and that fountains, as well as gardens, are locked and sealed in eastern countries, we know on the authority of CHARDIN, and other travellers'.
In the close of the paragraph this image is repeated and enlarged. She is a fountain of gardens,' and a stream of living waters”?; not
instance it should not be concealed, that more than sixty MSS. with the LXX, Syriac, Vulgate, Arabic, and Tigurine versions, instead of (52) a well (a spring built round, with a wheel to draw the water) repeat (11) garden locked;' which is very agreeable to the style of Hebrew poetry, and is preferred by Castel, Doderlein, and other critics.
1 Harmer's Observ. vol. I. p. 113.
* Dr. Percy and Mr. Harmer contend strongly that these expressions are a testimony of the bride's virginity on the night of consummation, which was required by the law of Moses; and I admit that the like expressions are used by eastern writers in such a sense. But then it must be remembered that, in an unmarried woman, purity and virginity are precisely the same idea. That this kind of distant imagery is common in the East, and is not restricted as Mr. Harmer would have it, appears from the following passages.-Feirouz, a vizier, having divorced his wife upon suspicion of infidelity, her brothers apply for redress in the following figura
My lord, we have rented to Feirouz a most delightful garden, a terrestrial paradise;" he took possession • of it, encompassed with high walls, and planted with the ! most beautiful trees that bloomed with fowers and fruit: he
has broken down the walls, plucked the tender flowers, de• voured the finest fruit, and would now restore us this gar? den, robbed of every thing that contributed to render it deli* cious when we gave him admission to it.' (Miscell. of Eastern Learning, vol. I. p. 12.)---Cahibah, mother of the Khalif Motaz, complained of Saleh, that among other crimes he had
only pure and pleasant in herself, but adapted to communicate blessings all around her; and, in short, to be the mother of a numerous and happy offspring. That this is the clear and established meaning of these metaphors appears, not only from the use of parallel expressions in the eastern poets, and the concurrent testimony of the Jews, but especially from the following passage in the same inspired writer.
• Drink waters out of thine own cistern;
And running waters out of thine own well.
• rent her veil, which D'Herbelot explains of having dishonoured her. (Bib. Orient. p. 644.) In a famous Persian romance, a princess assures her husband of her fidelity in his absence in these terms: "The jewels of the treasury of se
crecy are still the same as they were, and the casket is sealed • with the same seal.' (Bahur Danush, vol. III. 65.)
Now the two last instances, relating to married women, cannot be confined to the sense which Mr. Harmer and others have imposed on such terms, it is therefore probable that the other should not be so confined ; Solomon's assertion therefore that the garden was locked, and the fountain sealed, will not prove that the marriage was yet incomplete, as the hypothesis of Mr. Harmer requires. On the other hand, the language of the author in the first verse of chap. v. appears to me decisive, that the marriage had been consuminated.
· Prov. v. 15–18. That is, as good Bp. PATRICK (who speaks the general sense of the commentators) paraphrases
The fountain of gardens, and streams from Lebanon, are taken locally by an old writer', who fixes the former six miles from Tripoli, and the latter about a mile to the south of Tyre. It is a circumstance, however, of little or no importance. JOSEPHUS tells us that Solomon took great delight in his gardens and fountains of waters ’, which indeed, with their perfumes, are the grand objects of luxury in eastern countries.
There can be no difficulty in the application of these images, which are often employed by the prophets, particularly ISAIAH.
They consider the world, filled with ignorance and vice, as a wilderness, dry, and barren, or
the text:- Marry, and in a wife of thine own enjoy the • pleasures thou desirest, and be content with them alone; • innocent, chaste, and pure pleasures :-Of whom thou
mayest have a lawful issue, which thou needest not be • ashamed to own; but openly produce and send them • abroad, like streams from a spring, to serve the public
So among the modern Jews, the bridegroom offers the following petition : • Suffer not a stranger to enter into the • sealed fountain, that the servant of our loves (i. e. the bride)
may keep the seed of holiness and purity, and not be bar
ren: -Selden's Uxor Hebraica, lib. iii. cap. 2.--Addison's present State of the Jews, chap. v.
The fame idea of chastity is certainly intended by the gar• den locked,' or shut up; on which the TARGUM thus comments : “ Thy women, which are married to modest
men, are as a modest damsel, and as the garden of Eden, • into which no man hath power to enter, except the righa • teous, whose souls are by angels carried into it.'
· Adrichonius Theatrum terræ Sanctæ, quoted in Gill. : Josephus, Antiq. lib. viii. cap. 7.