Thursday, March 5, 2015

Is it possible to define poetry.

I spent a little time reading Poetic Diction by the Inkling, Owen Barfield. This book had a considerable influence on C.S.Lewis in that it allowed him to reconcile the scientific view of the world with what goes beyond it. I must say, the leap is somewhat over my head, but I don't disagree. There is something more than our science can deliver.

I found Barfield tough going and scanned most of it. His word studies were fulfilling, but his allusions were to many things that I had not read in Latin, Greek or English, and his theories I found rather vague. I wasn't sure whether he was for them or against them. Yet I do get metaphor.

Now Tim of the 5 minute Bible has challenged me to define what I mean when I think something in the Bible is poetry or prose. I need to respond. And here it is. As I noted in a comment on the previous post:
Raabe (Anchor Bible Commentary on Obadiah, p 6-7) cites some measures related to the use of את and אשׁר. "In standard prose the particle is 15% or more whereas in poetry it is 5% or less." This is easy to verify. Then he says: "if a section has 100 words, את and אשׁר and the definite article ה will comprise five or fewer of the words." This too is testable in my data.
So what would I test? It turns out it is not quite so easy as I thought. Without considering translation, I cannot distinguish the homonym of אשׁר, = happy, from the relative pronoun. It appears also that I must add the counts for all the above together to discover the percentage. But the first statement of the rule in Raabe does not hold for my data (below).

I began by checking the Psalms against Obadiah and I discovered that the range of occurrence of the particle aleph-taf, the object marker, is not significantly different from any of the other books that I currently have in my data. The highest percentage that I found for אשׁר was in Psalm 1 at 7.5%.  But that psalm makes a point of all the assonance in that word.

My superficial tests did not appear significant with respect to the words by themselves, until I added the count of definite articles to the word count.That seems rather arbitrary but Raabe's second statement of the rule (contradicting the first statement) seems to require it. The definite article usage is more significant in determining prose than the words  את and אשׁר. So these stats perhaps have some bearing on poetic style.

I know the poetry of the Psalms has parallelism and recurrence - but it does not have parallelism everywhere and it has many differing patterns of recurrence as I have demonstrated. Parallelism, recurrence, chiasm, and so on also occur in prose. So what is the difference? Is it volume? or is it terseness again appealed to by Raabe. One unquestionable difference is that three books have a different set of accents. My gut feel is simply that poetry has shorter lines, and that the frequency of parallelism is greater, and that there are more uses of ring structures formed by recurring word-roots than in prose.

Here are the stats to scan... You can see that I highlighted a few expected and unexpected anomalies, poetic chapters in prose books, and poems in the Psalms that have values that would make them not poetry. So maybe to the stats. Sometimes my available data is too sparse for the measurement.
Book Ch. Count אשׁר + את Count ה Words in database Word % Article % Total % Result, 1 = Prose
> 15
1 KINGS 3 21 22 248 8.5 8.9 17.3 1
1 SAMUEL 2 0 1 119 0 0.8 0.8 0
1 SAMUEL 21 13 34 284 4.6 12 16.5 1
2 SAMUEL 6 29 35 377 7.7 9.3 17 1
2 SAMUEL 18 2 4 30 6.7 13.3 20 1
2 SAMUEL 19 0 3 31 0 9.7 9.7 0
AMOS 1 4 14 212 1.9 6.6 8.5 0
AMOS 2 10 16 214 4.7 7.5 12.1 0
AMOS 3 6 22 207 2.9 10.6 13.5 0
AMOS 4 7 19 215 3.3 8.8 12.1 0
AMOS 5 12 25 321 3.7 7.8 11.5 0
AMOS 6 3 24 177 1.7 13.6 15.3 1
AMOS 7 4 12 255 1.6 4.7 6.3 0
AMOS 8 2 23 192 1 12 13 0
AMOS 9 15 32 252 6 12.7 18.7 1
DEUTERONOMY 5 51 37 473 10.8 7.8 18.6 1
DEUTERONOMY 6 2 3 48 4.2 6.3 10.4 0
DEUTERONOMY 8 2 2 16 12.5 12.5 25 1
DEUTERONOMY 15 9 4 71 12.7 5.6 18.3 1
DEUTERONOMY 19 1 0 12 8.3 0 8.3 0
DEUTERONOMY 33 2 3 64 3.1 4.7 7.8 0
ESTHER 1 16 68 371 4.3 18.3 22.6 1
ESTHER 2 31 69 438 7.1 15.8 22.8 1
ESTHER 3 16 51 303 5.3 16.8 22.1 1
ESTHER 4 26 36 286 9.1 12.6 21.7 1
ESTHER 5 23 44 265 8.7 16.6 25.3 1
ESTHER 6 26 53 263 9.9 20.2 30 1
ESTHER 7 8 47 187 4.3 25.1 29.4 1
ESTHER 8 24 66 343 7 19.2 26.2 1
ESTHER 9 48 85 544 8.8 15.6 24.4 1
ESTHER 10 1 7 46 2.2 15.2 17.4 1
EXODUS 3 26 37 395 6.6 9.4 15.9 1
EXODUS 14 28 42 347 8.1 12.1 20.2 1
EXODUS 15 1 3 26 3.8 11.5 15.4 1
EXODUS 20 36 24 312 11.5 7.7 19.2 1
EZRA 1 9 17 151 6 11.3 17.2 1
GENESIS 1 3 7 52 5.8 13.5 19.2 1
GENESIS 22 37 28 307 12.1 9.1 21.2 1
GENESIS 24 58 95 919 6.3 10.3 16.6 1
GENESIS 25 30 17 415 7.2 4.1 11.3 0
GENESIS 29 28 39 471 5.9 8.3 14.2 0
GENESIS 38 14 22 405 3.5 5.4 8.9 0
HABAKKUK 1 3 14 197 1.5 7.1 8.6 0
HABAKKUK 2 3 14 262 1.1 5.3 6.5 0
HABAKKUK 3 2 4 212 0.9 1.9 2.8 0
HOSEA 1 7 7 137 5.1 5.1 10.2 0
ISAIAH 1 1 0 16 6.3 0 6.3 0
ISAIAH 2 0 3 46 0 6.5 6.5 0
ISAIAH 3 3 28 251 1.2 11.2 12.4 0
ISAIAH 5 3 2 100 3 2 5 0
ISAIAH 6 8 18 188 4.3 9.6 13.8 0
ISAIAH 14 4 30 376 1.1 8 9 0
ISAIAH 19 11 17 327 3.4 5.2 8.6 0
ISAIAH 24 2 15 133 1.5 11.3 12.8 0
ISAIAH 35 0 0 20 0 0 0 0
ISAIAH 36 3 6 28 10.7 21.4 32.1 1
ISAIAH 44 2 3 104 1.9 2.9 4.8 0
ISAIAH 53 7 4 166 4.2 2.4 6.6 0
ISAIAH 54 6 7 221 2.7 3.2 5.9 0
ISAIAH 55 7 15 185 3.8 8.1 11.9 0
ISAIAH 56 1 0 16 6.3 0 6.3 0
ISAIAH 58 0 2 16 0 12.5 12.5 0
ISAIAH 63 3 1 98 3.1 1 4.1 0
ISAIAH 64 2 7 128 1.6 5.5 7 0
JEREMIAH 20 4 4 111 3.6 3.6 7.2 0
JOB 1 9 32 345 2.6 9.3 11.9 0
JOB 2 12 23 209 5.7 11 16.7 1
JOB 3 4 10 204 2 4.9 6.9 0
JOB 4 2 4 149 1.3 2.7 4 0
JOB 5 2 7 205 1 3.4 4.4 0
JOB 6 1 11 221 0.5 5 5.4 0
JOB 7 1 3 172 0.6 1.7 2.3 0
JOB 8 1 3 166 0.6 1.8 2.4 0
JOB 9 3 5 260 1.2 1.9 3.1 0
JOB 10 1 6 169 0.6 3.6 4.1 0
JOB 11 0 6 148 0 4.1 4.1 0
JOB 12 3 4 183 1.6 2.2 3.8 0
JOB 13 4 12 203 2 5.9 7.9 0
JOB 14 2 2 177 1.1 1.1 2.3 0
JOB 15 2 7 261 0.8 2.7 3.4 0
JOB 16 0 4 172 0 2.3 2.3 0
JOB 17 0 4 112 0 3.6 3.6 0
JOB 18 0 2 142 0 1.4 1.4 0
JOB 19 2 3 213 0.9 1.4 2.3 0
JOB 20 0 2 208 0 1 1 0
JOB 21 0 3 240 0 1.3 1.3 0
JOB 22 2 9 210 1 4.3 5.2 0
JOB 23 2 3 118 1.7 2.5 4.2 0
JOB 24 0 2 203 0 1 1 0
JOB 25 0 3 43 0 7 7 0
JOB 26 1 5 100 1 5 6 0
JOB 27 3 5 169 1.8 3 4.7 0
JOB 28 1 9 207 0.5 4.3 4.8 0
JOB 29 3 1 169 1.8 0.6 2.4 0
JOB 30 1 4 227 0.4 1.8 2.2 0
JOB 31 1 2 310 0.3 0.6 1 0
JOB 32 6 9 197 3 4.6 7.6 0
JOB 33 0 11 246 0 4.5 4.5 0
JOB 34 2 10 297 0.7 3.4 4 0
JOB 35 1 3 116 0.9 2.6 3.4 0
JOB 36 3 4 240 1.3 1.7 2.9 0
JOB 37 2 7 188 1.1 3.7 4.8 0
JOB 38 2 21 299 0.7 7 7.7 0
JOB 39 2 4 213 0.9 1.9 2.8 0
JOB 40 4 8 166 2.4 4.8 7.2 0
JOB 41 1 4 226 0.4 1.8 2.2 0
JOB 42 12 13 241 5 5.4 10.4 0
JONAH 1 10 41 254 3.9 16.1 20.1 1
JONAH 2 4 4 112 3.6 3.6 7.1 0
JONAH 3 5 19 139 3.6 13.7 17.3 1
JONAH 4 7 14 183 3.8 7.7 11.5 0
JOSHUA 1 3 3 30 10 10 20 1
LAMENTATIONS 1 7 14 375 1.9 3.7 5.6 0
LAMENTATIONS 2 6 19 401 1.5 4.7 6.2 0
LAMENTATIONS 3 1 19 381 0.3 5 5.2 0
LAMENTATIONS 4 2 11 258 0.8 4.3 5 0
LAMENTATIONS 5 1 2 145 0.7 1.4 2.1 0
LEVITICUS 6 4 4 64 6.3 6.3 12.5 0
LEVITICUS 20 2 0 14 14.3 0 14.3 0
NAHUM 1 0 6 155 0 3.9 3.9 0
NAHUM 2 2 14 174 1.1 8 9.2 0
NAHUM 3 3 8 232 1.3 3.4 4.7 0
NUMBERS 6 2 0 56 3.6 0 3.6 0
NUMBERS 11 8 20 147 5.4 13.6 19 1
NUMBERS 15 8 6 62 12.9 9.7 22.6 1
OBADIAH 1 14 19 291 4.8 6.5 11.3 0
PROVERBS 31 3 2 222 1.4 0.9 2.3 0
PSALMS 1 5 2 67 7.5 3 10.4 0
PSALMS 2 3 3 92 3.3 3.3 6.5 0
PSALMS 3 2 4 70 2.9 5.7 8.6 0
PSALMS 4 0 2 77 0 2.6 2.6 0
PSALMS 5 0 7 111 0 6.3 6.3 0
PSALMS 6 0 2 84 0 2.4 2.4 0
PSALMS 7 1 4 142 0.7 2.8 3.5 0
PSALMS 8 2 5 77 2.6 6.5 9.1 0
PSALMS 9 1 3 165 0.6 1.8 2.4 0
PSALMS 10 1 4 161 0.6 2.5 3.1 0
PSALMS 11 0 2 68 0 2.9 2.9 0
PSALMS 12 3 3 79 3.8 3.8 7.6 0
PSALMS 13 1 3 55 1.8 5.5 7.3 0
PSALMS 14 1 4 73 1.4 5.5 6.8 0
PSALMS 15 1 1 55 1.8 1.8 3.6 0
PSALMS 16 5 0 97 5.2 0 5.2 0
PSALMS 17 2 7 124 1.6 5.6 7.3 0
PSALMS 18 3 8 397 0.8 2 2.8 0
PSALMS 19 0 4 126 0 3.2 3.2 0
PSALMS 20 0 3 70 0 4.3 4.3 0
PSALMS 21 1 2 104 1 1.9 2.9 0
PSALMS 22 1 7 254 0.4 2.8 3.1 0
PSALMS 23 0 0 57 0 0 0 0
PSALMS 24 2 7 89 2.2 7.9 10.1 0
PSALMS 25 2 9 159 1.3 5.7 6.9 0
PSALMS 26 2 0 85 2.4 0 2.4 0
PSALMS 27 4 2 149 2.7 1.3 4 0
PSALMS 28 2 3 96 2.1 3.1 5.2 0
PSALMS 29 2 5 91 2.2 5.5 7.7 0
PSALMS 30 0 6 97 0 6.2 6.2 0
PSALMS 31 5 12 220 2.3 5.5 7.7 0
PSALMS 32 2 5 110 1.8 4.5 6.4 0
PSALMS 33 4 15 161 2.5 9.3 11.8 0
PSALMS 34 7 9 165 4.2 5.5 9.7 0
PSALMS 35 4 7 229 1.7 3.1 4.8 0
PSALMS 36 0 4 100 0 4 4 0
PSALMS 37 2 7 298 0.7 2.3 3 0
PSALMS 38 2 7 168 1.2 4.2 5.4 0
PSALMS 39 0 6 129 0 4.7 4.7 0
PSALMS 40 3 4 185 1.6 2.2 3.8 0
PSALMS 41 4 3 119 3.4 2.5 5.9 0
PSALMS 42 0 4 132 0 3 3 0
PSALMS 43 0 1 59 0 1.7 1.7 0
PSALMS 44 1 8 197 0.5 4.1 4.6 0
PSALMS 45 0 6 160 0 3.8 3.8 0
PSALMS 46 1 3 100 1 3 4 0
PSALMS 47 3 4 77 3.9 5.2 9.1 0
PSALMS 48 1 3 111 0.9 2.7 3.6 0
PSALMS 49 0 4 167 0 2.4 2.4 0
PSALMS 50 0 5 178 0 2.8 2.8 0
PSALMS 51 2 7 153 1.3 4.6 5.9 0
PSALMS 52 0 4 90 0 4.4 4.4 0
PSALMS 53 1 5 77 1.3 6.5 7.8 0
PSALMS 54 0 6 62 0 9.7 9.7 0
PSALMS 55 2 4 192 1 2.1 3.1 0
PSALMS 56 2 6 120 1.7 5 6.7 0
PSALMS 57 0 6 105 0 5.7 5.7 0
PSALMS 58 1 2 100 1 2 3 0
PSALMS 59 1 10 156 0.6 6.4 7.1 0
PSALMS 60 3 5 113 2.7 4.4 7.1 0
PSALMS 61 0 2 68 0 2.9 2.9 0
PSALMS 62 0 2 117 0 1.7 1.7 0
PSALMS 63 0 2 93 0 2.2 2.2 0
PSALMS 64 1 1 82 1.2 1.2 2.4 0
PSALMS 65 1 2 109 0.9 1.8 2.8 0
PSALMS 66 4 10 154 2.6 6.5 9.1 0
PSALMS 67 2 0 53 3.8 0 3.8 0
PSALMS 68 0 6 310 0 1.9 1.9 0
PSALMS 69 3 4 291 1 1.4 2.4 0
PSALMS 70 0 3 47 0 6.4 6.4 0
PSALMS 71 3 10 203 1.5 4.9 6.4 0
PSALMS 72 2 3 162 1.2 1.9 3.1 0
PSALMS 73 1 4 193 0.5 2.1 2.6 0
PSALMS 74 1 9 195 0.5 4.6 5.1 0
PSALMS 75 0 3 87 0 3.4 3.4 0
PSALMS 76 0 2 90 0 2.2 2.2 0
PSALMS 77 0 9 154 0 5.8 5.8 0
PSALMS 78 14 20 530 2.6 3.8 6.4 0
PSALMS 79 8 8 132 6.1 6.1 12.1 0
PSALMS 80 2 11 141 1.4 7.8 9.2 0
PSALMS 81 0 4 125 0 3.2 3.2 0
PSALMS 82 0 5 61 0 8.2 8.2 0
PSALMS 83 2 1 130 1.5 0.8 2.3 0
PSALMS 84 5 4 116 4.3 3.4 7.8 0
PSALMS 85 0 6 96 0 6.3 6.3 0
PSALMS 86 1 9 147 0.7 6.1 6.8 0
PSALMS 87 0 1 54 0 1.9 1.9 0
PSALMS 88 1 9 142 0.7 6.3 7 0
PSALMS 89 4 12 384 1 3.1 4.2 0
PSALMS 90 0 3 140 0 2.1 2.1 0
PSALMS 91 0 0 112 0 0 0 0
PSALMS 92 1 2 112 0.9 1.8 2.7 0
PSALMS 93 0 0 45 0 0 0 0
PSALMS 94 3 8 169 1.8 4.7 6.5 0
PSALMS 95 4 2 89 4.5 2.2 6.7 0
PSALMS 96 1 9 112 0.9 8 8.9 0
PSALMS 97 0 10 95 0 10.5 10.5 0
PSALMS 98 0 9 74 0 12.2 12.2 0
PSALMS 99 0 4 83 0 4.8 4.8 0
PSALMS 100 1 3 44 2.3 6.8 9.1 0
PSALMS 101 2 1 83 2.4 1.2 3.6 0
PSALMS 102 6 8 212 2.8 3.8 6.6 0
PSALMS 103 5 7 167 3 4.2 7.2 0
PSALMS 104 4 14 271 1.5 5.2 6.6 0
PSALMS 105 12 6 294 4.1 2 6.1 0
PSALMS 106 15 18 331 4.5 5.4 10 0
PSALMS 107 1 3 278 0.4 1.1 1.4 0
PSALMS 108 0 3 98 0 3.1 3.1 0
PSALMS 109 5 7 227 2.2 3.1 5.3 0
PSALMS 110 0 0 65 0 0 0 0
PSALMS 111 0 0 74 0 0 0 0
PSALMS 112 3 1 79 3.8 1.3 5.1 0
PSALMS 113 1 4 60 1.7 6.7 8.3 0
PSALMS 114 0 8 52 0 15.4 15.4 1
PSALMS 115 4 6 135 3 4.4 7.4 0
PSALMS 116 3 6 131 2.3 4.6 6.9 0
PSALMS 117 1 1 17 5.9 5.9 11.8 0
PSALMS 118 1 8 198 0.5 4 4.5 0
PSALMS 119 13 31 1064 1.2 2.9 4.1 0
PSALMS 120 0 2 51 0 3.9 3.9 0
PSALMS 121 1 2 56 1.8 3.6 5.4 0
PSALMS 122 0 2 62 0 3.2 3.2 0
PSALMS 123 1 5 41 2.4 12.2 14.6 0
PSALMS 124 0 5 57 0 8.8 8.8 0
PSALMS 125 1 7 49 2 14.3 16.3 1
PSALMS 126 2 5 50 4 10 14 0
PSALMS 127 4 5 60 6.7 8.3 15 0
PSALMS 128 2 2 47 4.3 4.3 8.5 0
PSALMS 129 1 3 54 1.9 5.6 7.4 0
PSALMS 130 1 5 54 1.9 9.3 11.1 0
PSALMS 131 0 1 33 0 3 3 0
PSALMS 132 2 1 131 1.5 0.8 2.3 0
PSALMS 133 1 6 40 2.5 15 17.5 1
PSALMS 134 2 2 25 8 8 16 1
PSALMS 135 7 7 167 4.2 4.2 8.4 0
PSALMS 136 2 15 166 1.2 9 10.2 0
PSALMS 137 8 4 84 9.5 4.8 14.3 0
PSALMS 138 1 1 76 1.3 1.3 2.6 0
PSALMS 139 2 3 177 1.1 1.7 2.8 0
PSALMS 140 3 1 116 2.6 0.9 3.4 0
PSALMS 141 1 1 95 1.1 1.1 2.1 0
PSALMS 142 1 5 75 1.3 6.7 8 0
PSALMS 143 1 6 117 0.9 5.1 6 0
PSALMS 144 6 8 130 4.6 6.2 10.8 0
PSALMS 145 6 6 152 3.9 3.9 7.9 0
PSALMS 146 6 3 85 7.1 3.5 10.6 0
PSALMS 147 4 6 141 2.8 4.3 7.1 0
PSALMS 148 5 7 111 4.5 6.3 10.8 0
PSALMS 149 0 0 63 0 0 0 0
PSALMS 150 0 1 37 0 2.7 2.7 0
QOHELET 1 5 20 215 2.3 9.3 11.6 0
QOHELET 2 12 33 381 3.1 8.7 11.8 0
QOHELET 3 14 39 273 5.1 14.3 19.4 1
QOHELET 4 21 27 237 8.9 11.4 20.3 1
QOHELET 5 14 25 266 5.3 9.4 14.7 0
QOHELET 6 5 12 170 2.9 7.1 10 0
QOHELET 7 21 27 330 6.4 8.2 14.5 0
QOHELET 8 30 22 281 10.7 7.8 18.5 1
QOHELET 9 19 27 309 6.1 8.7 14.9 0
QOHELET 10 5 17 196 2.6 8.7 11.2 0
QOHELET 11 7 21 143 4.9 14.7 19.6 1
QOHELET 12 10 37 186 5.4 19.9 25.3 1
RUTH 1 8 18 325 2.5 5.5 8 0
RUTH 2 26 42 378 6.9 11.1 18 1
RUTH 3 20 23 258 7.8 8.9 16.7 1
RUTH 4 31 44 335 9.3 13.1 22.4 1
SONG 1 3 13 150 2 8.7 10.7 0
SONG 2 4 31 177 2.3 17.5 19.8 1
SONG 3 6 9 133 4.5 6.8 11.3 0
SONG 4 2 12 178 1.1 6.7 7.9 0
SONG 5 5 9 185 2.7 4.9 7.6 0
SONG 6 2 14 114 1.8 12.3 14 0
SONG 7 1 13 139 0.7 9.4 10.1 0
SONG 8 6 10 174 3.4 5.7 9.2 0
ZECHARIAH 14 16 55 364 4.4 15.1 19.5 1
ZEPHANIAH 1 13 39 269 4.8 14.5 19.3 1
ZEPHANIAH 2 7 11 222 3.2 5 8.1 0
ZEPHANIAH 3 9 18 276 3.3 6.5 9.8 0


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