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IDYL THE SEVENTH. Including the fourth Chapter and the first Verse of the
The various and discordant opinions of the most respectable expositors respecting the literal meaning of that portion of the Canticles on which we are now entering, forewarn us of difficulties; and demand from the reader an extraordinary degree of candour and indulgence towards the present attempt.
This Idyl, according to the division which I have adopted, begins with a description of the personal charms of the fair one, as they appeared in the eyes of her admirer. He next declares his intention of departing-and taking his leave, with expressions of his entire satisfaction with his espoused, promises one day to take her with him to his home, and acknowledge her as his bride.--He then describes the residence he has provided for her, where she may wait in pleasure and security the arrival of this appointed day.-Lastly, the spouse entertains her beloved and his companions.
Such, if I am right in my conjectures, is the exterior imagery of this beautiful allegory. The scene of the poem is distinctly marked as lying on the northern borders of the Land of Promise.
a Thine eyes are doves behind thy tresses b:
a Or, “ Thine eyes are the eyes of doves." There is some uncertainty whether the dove itself, or the eye of the dove, be the intended comparison. It may be necessary also to observe, that several of the following comparisons, as illustrations of female beauty, though they, may appear to us obscure or inapt, might, nevertheless, in the times and circumstances when these poems were composed, have been most appropriate and elegant.-The figurative language before us is probably of that sort, which any enamoured lover of the age of Solomon would have employed to panegyrize the admired object of his passion.
o Parkhurst, after Michaëlis, renders any a vail, and so does Dr. Percy. But the more probable meaning appears to be, the projecting hairs ornamenting the forehead, and flowing down the sides of the face. “ Cirrus."-Simon. “ Beneath thy shadowy hair.”—Good.
c So Shultens, and after hiin Simon, give the force of the single word wha. mane aquatum iverunt. Parkhurst renders it glisten (nitent), and observes, that the bride's hair is compared not merely to the long curled hair of the eastern goats, but to a lock of goats glistening from Mount Gilead ; in allusion not only to its glossiness, but also to the numerous ringlets or tresses into which it was broken, and which adorned the head of the bride, as the glistening goats did the sides and precipices of the mountain. To perceive the aptness and beauty of this image, we should, of course, have been acquainted with the local scenery of Mount Gilead in the time and circumstances supposed.
d nisip præcisæ: determinatæ, ordinatæ, i. e. invicem similes, q. d. ejusdem cæsionis, h. e. proportionis. Coll. 1 Reg. vii. 37. ut Bochartus et Clericus interpretantur.- Simonis, Heb. Lex.
e San. geminus duplex fuit.-Simonis. “The Arabic verb Sen denotes not only to bring forth twins, but also to have a companion." See Henley's note in Gregory's trans. of Lowth's Lectures,
And no one among them is' bereaved of her fellow.'
On’thy face behind thy tresses.
fnba is properly a fragment, a piece split off, some understand it of the bloom. So Simon, “Eruptio floris.' Others of the fruit when the shell bursts of itself. So Dr. Gill, “ The rind being broken, it appears full of grains and kernels, of a white colour, interspersed with a reddish-purple juice, like blood, as Pausanias remarks, and looks very beautiful.” So that one might almost conclude, that the comparison is intendied for the mouth, and not for the temple or cheek. Apo from ppr, is generally indeed translated The Temple; but the order of the above comparisons forbids us to suppose that this part of the face is intended in this place. The Septuagint and many other interpreters render it cheek. The meaning of the verb ppr, however, tenuis fuit vel factus est, attenuatus est, as well as the nature of the comparison, may be supposed to favour the notion, that the lower or narrow part of the face, where the mouth is situated, is intended. Mr. Good, though he understands the comparison of the cheek, “ As the blossom of the pomegranate, so are thy cheeks beneath thy locks;" yet, in another part of his work, p. 129, in a long quotation, which he has given us from the Gitá-govindà, has accidentally afforded a very similar use of the same comparison.—“O thou whose lips, which outshine the grains of the pomegranate, are embellished, when thou speakest, by the brightness of thy teeth!”
8 Some tower built by David, which we may conjecture to have heen, from its situation, and the symmetry of its proportions, an object of general admiration, and which, from the additional cir. cumstance of its being used for the suspending of armour, might have afforded an appropriate comparison for the neck and its ornaments. Compare Ezek. xxvii. 2. divoko. “ armamentarią.” Simon.
All armour of the mighty:
h The mountain of myrrh and hill of frankincense, most commentators agree in supposing to be Mount Moriah, where the temple was built--the hill appropriated to the burning of incense and sacrifice.
The connexion and meaning I conceive to be, “ I am about to depart and return to my distant abode, but let her be assured from no dissatisfaction with the object of iny affections. — The day too will come when I will take her with me, and acknowledge her as my bride, in my father's house."-oba is an appellation of the bride here, for the first time introduced. It corresponds indeed . with our bride, inasmuch as it belongs to a new-married woman, (Isa. Ixi. 10. Jer. ij. 32); but it appears, she did not afterwards lose the title in her adoptive family, at least so long as her husband's parents were living (Gen. xxxviii. 11. 16. 24. Ruth, i. 6, 7, 8). For it should be remarked, that the term is not used in direct reference to the husband, but to his parents: she is their oba, not his abo (Lev. xviii. 15). It corresponds therefore more nearly with our term daughter-in-law; and the French term for daughter-in-law, une belle fille, i. e. a fine daughter, is almost equivalent, as Mr. Parkhurst observes, to the Hebrew nba.-"A perfecto ornatu vel a coronâ qua ornari solebat; vel quod tecta sive velata ad sponsum adduceretur, et post hac tecta incederat.” Simon.
k As the mention of the mountain of inyrrh, designated Mount
Moriah, or Jerusalem, as the abode of the departing lover, so it now appears from these lines, that the supposed residence of the espoused was situated somewhere beyond the north or north-east borders of the land of Canaan. Mount Lebanon is well known, Amana, if the conjecture be right, which places it at the rise of the celebrated river of Damascus, Abana, or, as the margin reads, Amana, was an eminence at no great distance. Senir, Shenir, or Sirion, is also a mountain in the same parts, as appears from Deut. iii. 8, 9, and i Chron. v. 23. In the poetical language of the royal Psalmist, it is mentioned as a compeer of the lofty Lebanon (Ps. xxix. 6). Hermon, an appellation given to several mountains, belongs particularly to that mountainous track where the Jordan originates, which still fixes our attention to the same northern border. The Mountain of Leopards is also mentioned as being the name of a round and high mountain very near to Lebanon (see Andrichomius in Gill, and Pool's Syn.) And the spot called the Lions’-dens, though we discover no vestige of the name, was, in all probability, not very remotely situated.
In order to go to the residence of her beloved, the spouse must pass this border; and on the eminences here inentioned, spots, I conceive, celebrated for the extent of view which they commanded, she would be first gratified with a prospect of the land of promise, and of the distant abode of her husband.
That this conjectural interpretation is countenanced by the general appearance of the country, the following very interesting extracts from Volney's Travels will show* :
" Whether we approach Syria from the side of the sea, or by the immense plains of the desart, we first discover, at a distance, a clouded ridge, which runs north and south as far as the sight extends; and, as we advance, distinguish the summits of mountains, which, sometimes detached, and sometimes united in chains, uniformly terminate in one principal line which overtops them all; we may follow this line, without interruption, from its entry by the north, quite into Arabia. It first runs close to the sea, between Alexandretta and the Orontes, and, after opening a passage to that river, continues its course to the southward, quitting, for a short distance, the shore, and, in a chain of continued summits, stretches as far as the sources of the Jordan, where it sepa
* Volney's Travels in Egypt and Syria, Third Edition.