Monday, July 22, 2013

A little Lowth on the subject of Hebrew poetry.

The origin and first use of poetical language are undoubtedly to be traced into the vehement affections of the mind. For what is meant by that singular frenzy of poets, which the Greeks, ascribing to divine inspiration, distinguished by the appellation of enthusiasm, but a style and expression directly prompted by nature itself, and exhibiting the true and express image of a mind violently agitated? When, as it were, the secret avenues, the interior recesses of the soul are thrown open; when the inmost conceptions are displayed, rushing together in one turbid stream, without order or connection. Hence sudden exclamations, frequent interrogations, apostrophes even to inanimate objects: for to those, who are violently agitated themselves, the universal nature of things seems under a necessity of being affected with similar emotions. 
From lecture 4 of Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, Robert Lowth. I think he would consider me mad for not being mad.

And here is the famous bit from lecture 18, wherein he 'explains' by a myriad of examples the synonymous and the antithetical parallelism and his third classification, synthetic or constructive parallelism:
The variety in the form of this synthetic parallelism is very great, and the degrees of resemblance almost infinite: so that sometimes the scheme of the parallelism is very subtile and obscure, and must be developed by art and ability in distinguishing the different members of the sentences, and in distributing the points, rather than by depending upon the obvious construction. How much this principle pervades the Hebrew poetry, and how difficult of explication it is, may in some degree be illustrated by one example. This appears to consist of a single line, if the sentiment only be considered: "I also have anointed my king on Sion, the mountain of my sanctity." But the general form and nature of the Psalm requires that it should be divided into two parts or versicles : as if it were, "I also have anointed my king ; I have anointed him in Sion, the mountain of my sanctity." Which indeed the Masoretes seem to have perceived in this as well as in other places....
He makes this comment because of the placement of the atenach: וַ֭אֲנִי נָסַ֣כְתִּי מַלְכִּ֑י

It would appear then that he regards every verse as containing a parallel. I would not have considered this verse of Psalm 2 as being in a form of parallelism. Clearly too, he regards the accents as not having anything to do with chironomy or music.