Imatges de pÓgina

piece, is of a similar nature. Taking the term dramatic in a theatrical sense, it will certainly not apply: but taking it in a laxer sense for a poem by way of dialogue, it is very proper; and though there be strictly no dramatic plot, yet there are successive scenes and poetical machinery. The persons of this drama are for the most part easily distinguishable in the original language, which has a difference of gender in the verbs, as well as nouns and pronouns. Origen, who has been followed by all succeeding commentators, distinguishes the bride and bridegroom-the virgins attendant on the bride, and the companions of the bridegroom.

Mr. HARMER, however, thinks he has discovered two brides, the daughter of Pharoah, and a Jewish lady, who had been married to Solomon prior to the other, and was provoked to jealousy by these nuptials; and this opinion certainly deserves examination in respect to its ingenious author, though I know not that he made a single convert to his opinion.

Mr. Harmer's first and grand reason is—that this bride, in chap. iii. appears to have been accustomed to the bed of Solomon, because she sought him there: By night on my bed I sought him;' which seems inconsistent with the modesty of a new married lady, and with his hypothesis, that the marriage is not consummated till the fourth chapter. When we come to that passage, I shall attempt to show the latter notion to be unfounded: in the mean time, if the language of the spouse be only a

dream, as I shall endeavour to prove, it will afford but a very weak support for his conclu


That Solomon was married before his alliance with Pharoah's daughter, and even before his accession to the crown, should appear by the age of Rehoboam, his son and successor'; but that his first wife was ever crowned, or that she was alive at this period, or even at his accession, are mere uncertain suppositions, and therefore ought not to be employed in argument.

As to the jealous language which Mr. Harmer thought he could perceive in the sequel of the poem, I can attribute it to nothing but the influence of hypothesis, which is very apt to give a colour to all our views of a subject; and if the reader turns to the passages he points out, as I have done, I think he will see as little of it.

That the lady celebrated in chapter vii. is called a prince's daughter, and not the king's (as in Ps. xlv.) has been shewn to be an objection of little consequence. The result then of our last enquiry in connexion with the preceding is, that the lady here celebrated was probably a daughter of Pharoah, lately married to Solomon; and that there is no reason to suppose two wives of Solomon, introduced, or particularly referred to, in this рост. Having so far settled the dramatis persona, or

See 1 Kings, xiv. 21. compared with chap. xi. 42.


Chap. ii. 1,5 iii. 1.

persons of the dialogue, our next enquiry respects the time, i. e. the dramatic time of the piece, and the change of scenery.

The Jewish weddings commonly lasted seven days, as appears in the instances of Jacob and Sampson. From this circumstance the ingenious bishop BOSSUET suggested that the poem should be divided into seven parts, analogous to these days, and he has been followed by many later writers; particularly by the anonymous author of a very ingenious paraphrase on this song. He, however, varies several of the divisions, as I conceive with great judgment, and with good reason, and I was pleased to find, upon making more than one attempt to divide it myself, merely by internal marks, that I fell almost exactly into his divisions; which strongly inclines me to this hypothesis.

We know that the marriages of the ancient Hebrews were attended with music and dancing, as are the eastern marriages to this day; and there can be no doubt but these accompanied the nuptials of Pharoah's daughter; but whether this poem, or any parts of it, as Mr. Harmer suggests, were thus sung, it seem simpossible to ascertain with certainty, however probable it may appear from some circum



Gen. xxix. 27. Judges, xiv. 10, 17.

2 Edinburgh, printed 1775.

Ch. i. 1, &c. iv. I—II.




[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

MY object in this section will be two-fold: 1st. To shew that the images employed are quite in the style of the best eastern writers; and 2dly, That they are not justly chargeable with indelicacy, or licentiousness.


Sir W. JONES will be admitted one of the best judges of the eastern style. He tells us, the Arabian poets compare the foreheads of their mistresses to the morning'; their locks to the night; their faces to the sun, to the moon, or to the blossoms of jasmine; their 'cheeks to roses or ripe-fruit'; their teeth to pearls, hail-stones, and snow-drops; their eyes to the flowers of the narcissus; their curled hair to black scorpions, and to hyacinths; their lips to rubies, or to wine; the • form of their breasts to pomegranates, and the colour of them to snow; their shape to that of the palm tree; and their stature to that of a cypress, palm', &c.


[ocr errors]

In the above quotation I have marked with italics both the features described, and the

1 See Sol. Song, ch, vi. 10.

3 Ch. vii. 7, 8.


Essay on the Poetry of the Easterns.

2 Ch. iv. 3.

images employed; with some references, in the margin, to the passages of this song, where similar images occur; and I shall pursue the same method in the following extracts.

The following is an extract from a literal translation by Sir W. Jones of a 'TURKISH ODE, 'by MESHI'.

Thou hearest the tale of the nightingale, 'that the vernal season approaches. The spring has spread a bower of joy in every grove, 'where the almond-tree sheds its silver blos


[ocr errors]

The roses and tulips are like the bright 'cheeks of beautiful maids, in whose ears the pearls hang like drops of dew.

The time is passed in which the plants were 'sick, and the rose-bud hung its thoughtful 'head upon its bosom.'

Lady Montague, in her tour in the east, met with a TURKISH LOVE SONG, which struck her as remarkably resembling, in its style, the canticle of the king of Israel. Mr. Harmer has copied the whole, and I shall transcribe so much of it as appears to our purpose.

'The nightingale now wanders in the 'vines; her passion is to seek roses.

[ocr errors]

I went down to admire the beauty of the vines3 the sweetness of your charms hath ' ravished my soul*.

1 Asiatic Poems.


Ch. vi, 11, 12. vii. 12.

2 Sol. Song, ii. 11, 12.

• Ch. iv. 9.

« AnteriorContinua »