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BISHOP HARE'S SYSTEM
It is well known that an hypothesis was invented by the late Bishop Hare concerning the Hebrew Metres; and the arguments which he had advanced in its favour appeared so conclusive to some persons of great erudition, as to persuade them that the learned Prelate had fortunately revived the knowledge of the true Hebrew versification, after an oblivion of more than two thousand years; and that he had established his opinion by such irresistible proofs, as to place it beyond the utmost efforts of controversy. Whoever, indeed, encounters it in such a manner as only to call in question some particular part, to intimate only an occasional scruple, or to attack but one or two of his arguments, will, doubtless, “ attempt in vain* to root out of their minds an opinion which has been so deeply implanted and established by the authority of so great a man; much less will any person obtain credit who shall affirm that he has discovered what was not discovered by the learned Prelate, unless by the strongest arguments he not only overthrows the hypothesis which he rejects, but confirms his own. Avoiding, therefore, every subterfuge, I shall come immediately to the point, and demonstrate by the clearest and most decisive instances, which is the only method of extorting assent from the incredulous, that I have actually discovered the nature and principles of this poetry,” and those directly contrary to the system which he has adopted. I shall, on this occasion, make use of the same example that Bishop Hare himself has chosen, which, when properly considered, will, I. think, sufficiently explain and prove my opinion, and at the same time effectually overturn his hypothesis.
* See Hare's Preface to the Psalms, at the beginning.
1. odéh javóh becól lebáb,
i. 2. besód jesárim vévedáh. 3. gédolím mapasé javóh,
ii. 4. dérusím lecól chepzéhem. 5. hód vehádar póvaló, 6. vezidkathó vomédeth lávad. 7. zecér vasáh leníphlotháv; 8. chánun vérachúm jav6h. 9. téreph náthan líreáv, 10. jízcor lérolám berítho. 11. coach mayasáv higíd lerámo, 12. lathéth lahém nachálath góim. 13. marasé jadáv eméth umíspat ;
vii. 14. neemánim cól pikdúav: 15. semúcim lávad lévolám,
viii. 16. pásuím beeméth vejásar. 17. pedúth salách lerámo,
ix. 18. zívah lévolám berítho. 19. kâdos vénorá semó; 20. resíth chocmah jirath javoh. 21. sécel tób lecól voséhem,
xi. 22. tehíllathó vomédeth lávad. From this alphabetic Psalm, which is divided into its proper verses according to the initial letters, and restored to its proper numbers without any violation of the text, without even any change of the Masoretic vowels, (except that, with Bishop Hare, I read javoh), the canons of the Hebrew metre are to be collected and established.
* I. In the first place, then, in the Hebrew poetry the feet are not all dissyllables ; for in verse 3. 11. 16.-lím mayacoach maya—im be—are Dactyls; in verse 13, 14. marasé,
* The following are the principal rules or canons of Bishop Hare :-
3. When the number of the syllables is even, the verse is trochaie, placing the accent on the first syllable.
4. If the number of syllables be odd, they are to be accounted iambics, and the accent is to be placed on the second syllable, in order to preserve the rhythm.
5. The periods mostly consist of two verses, often three or four, and sometimes more.
6. The verses of the same period, with few exceptions, are of the same kind.
7. The trochaic verses mostly agree in the number of feet: there are, however, a few exceptions.
neema---are Anapæsts : contrary to the first canon of Bishop Hare.
II. Attention must always be paid to the quantity of the syllables; for the same word, as often as it occurs, is always of the same quantity; for instance, javóh, lecól, are constantly lambics, lávad is always a Trochaic, mapasé an Anapæst; lévolám is uniformly an Amphimaser; berítho, romédeth, is an Amphibrachis: contrary to the second canon of Bishop Hare.
III. The verses are either Trochaic, which admit a Dactyl; or Iambic, which admit an Anapæst; but it by no means follows that a verse is either the one or the other, from its consisting of an even or odd number of syllables. Those indeed which consist of an even number of syllables, are for the most part Iambic, as verse 1, 2. 7. 13, 14, 15. 20.; but they are also sometimes Trochaic, as verse 3, 4. 10. 18. 21.; and those which consist of an odd number of syllables are mostly Trochaic, as verse 5. 8, 9. 11. 16. 19.; they are however sometimes Iambic, as verse 6. 12. 17. 22.: contrary to the third and fourth canons.
IV. The verses of the same period are of different kinds, period iii. iv. vi. viji
. ix. x. xi. a few only excepted, as period i. ii. v. vii.; and those which are of the same kind seldom agree in the number of syllables and feet : for instance, in period ii. and v. the first verse is a Trochaic Dimeter Catalectic, the second a Trochaic Dimeter Acatalectic; in period vii. the first is an Iambic Dimeter Hypercatalectic, the second an Iambic Dimeter Catalectic; the only instance of verses agreeing in kind, agreeing also in syllables and feet, is in period i., and those are Iambics : and this is contrary to the sixth, seventh, and eighth canons.
- V. All the periods consist of only two verses ; for, properly, koph and resh constitute the penultimate, and shin and tau the ultimate period; as also appeared to the learned Cappell:* this is contrary to the fifth canon.
VI. Each verse has one particular sense : contrary to the ninth canon.
6. That what I have advanced as true and indisputable, is most true, appears from the examples which I have adduced;
8. In the iambic verses the feet are mostly unequal, though in some instances they are equal.
9. Each verse does not contain a distinct sense. - See Hare's Pref. p. 27. • See Cappell, Crit. Sac. lib. i. cap. xii. 11.
and whoever reads attentively the book of Psalms will find similar instances in almost every page.”
See Hare's Preface, p. 31. The reader bas doubtless observed, that, to establish our two last canons, and perhaps the others, a general proposition is deduced from a particular instance; viz. so it is in this Psalm, and so, there. fore, it must be in all Hebrew poems whatever: in this, however, I only copy Bishop Hare; for, to say the truth, upon this mode of reasoning, and begging the question at the same time, depends his whole hypothesis.
I find these observations have greatly displeased Dr Thomas Edwards, a strenuous advocate for Bishop Hare's metres. Towards the conclusion of his Dissertation lately published he asserts, that I did not understand what I presumed to censure: And to this accusation I indeed plead guilty; for I will freely confess, that I neither did understand, nor do I yet understand, what metre can exist without any distinction of long and short syllables, or what can be meant by trochaic, iambic, and anacreontic feet and verses, where no regard is paid to the quantity of the syllables. Nor do I understand any better, what purpose the confutation of my hypothesis can answer, since I gave it myself as futile and false, and since the futility of it was one of the strongest arguments against the hypothesis of Hare. This argument can only be done away by proving that my hypothesis is not founded upon the same, or upon principles equally clear and certain with Bishop Hare’s: this unfortunately his defender has not done, nor indeed can he do.
With regard to his accusation, that I have acted dogmatically, and that I have upon my own authority, and without any regard to reason, affirmed, that the hypothesis of Bishop Hare depends altogether upon his taking for granted the very point to be proved; in order to exonerate myself from so invidious an imputation, and in order to confirm what I before had advanced, I must request the reader's attention to the following particulars.
The 11lth Psalın is proposed as an example, and is divided into Ferses, whence the laws of Hebrew versification are to be deduced. We grant that in this Psalm the verses are rightly distinguished, since it is alphabetical, and the members of each period are nearly equal. But what is this to the establishment of a certain rule for the division of others, which are neither alphabetical, nor seem capable of a regular and equal distribution of the sentences and members ? Indeed, such is the difficulty of Bishop Ilare's hypothesis in this respect, that, according to it, a number of the Psalms are divided, not only arbitrarily and oddly, but inelegantly, injudiciously, contrary to the genius of the Hebrew poetry, and contrary to every appearance of truth. We will take for an example the 1st Psalm, on which the Author prides himself not a little. But when divided into verses, by what rule is it accented? Why in this rather than any other manner ? How is it proved, that, when the number of syllables is even, the verse is trochaic, when odd, iambic? From the nature and principles of trochaic and iambic verse? By no means; for, in the Greek and Latin trochaics and iambics the case is directly contrary; but merely from the pleasure and will of the Author. Why then may not I, or any other person, affix different accents to this 11 lth or any other Psalm, and so turn the trochaics of Bishop Hare into iambics, and his iambics into trocbaics ? By what rule too are the syllables numbered ? According to the Masoretic punctuation ? By no means; for the Masoretic number of syllables is altered, and that, as by a previous rule, or according to an established system of metre, which existed before the punctuation; as from this Psalm, so ordered and illustrated, the rules of metre are afterwards to be collected. “ But I do not desert the Masoretic punctuation, unless an erroneous punctuation interferes with the metre." This would be a sound argument, if it were previously determined what these rules
Since this is the case; since I have deduced happily the abstruse principles of the Hebrew metre from this Psalm, or rather explained clearly such as readily presented themselves, and have reduced them to an art easy, perfect, and consistent -depending upon principles certain and self-evident; but not taking those liberties in which Bishop Hare has prolixly indulged himself, so as to make the same word sometimes trochaic, sometimes iambic, sometimes a dissyllable, and sometimes a trisyllable; I may reasonably indulge myself in the hope, that the candid reader will prefer my hypothesis to that of Bishop Hare. This at least I trust I may expect, that he will treat them upon equal terms, and allow to each the same authority, that is--NONE AT ALL.
In the same manner, every hypothesis which pretends to define the laws of Hebrew metre, and to prescribe the numbers, the feet, the scanning of the lines, may, I think, be easily overset; for to that hypothesis another directly contrary, yet confirmed by arguments equally forcible, may, I am persuaded, be successfully opposed.
With regard to the opinion of those who suppose the whole art of Hebrew metre to consist in a similarity of termination to each verse; though it has acquired some popu
of metre were. But for what good reason are all trisyllabic metres excluded from the Hebrew poetry? “ Because truly, if the trisyllabic feet were admitted, a distinction of long and short syllables would have place necessarily in the Hebrew poetry.” And why should it not ? “ In Hebrew poetry there is no respect at all to the quantity of the syllables.” A most extraordinary assertion, and scarcely credible ! But that so it might be, learn from the tes. timony of your eyes and ears. « For from this Psalm it is evident, that no regard is paid to quantity in the Hebrew poetry ; since in the 4th and 5th verses, not to mention other instances, the le and ve are long. On the other hand, in the fifteenth and twenty-second, mu in semucion, and hil in tehillatho, are short.” That is, according to Ilare, the shortest syllable may be made use of instead of the longest (such indeed he acknowledges them to be) in his trochaic and iambic measures; and on the other hand, the longest may be introduced instead of the shortest-of which this Psalm affords the precedent; and, on the authority of this precedent, a law is framed to serve in all other cases: and when we ask, upon other evidence, the reason of the fact, he refers us to his own authority and his own example. For indeed, says he, this is the plain state of the case : “ That this, and all that I have urged upon this subject, is undoubtedly fact, is plain from the examples which I have produced ; and must strike every reasonable person who only looks into a single page of the book of Psalms.” I confess it, indeed, most learned Prelate, if we look into your Psalms; but I fear we shall then be very little nearer the truth, since it is by no means a decided point that your Psalms are rightly and judiciously divided into verses, feet, and syllables.
See “ A larger Confutation of Bishop Hare’s Hebrew Metres, in a Letter to Dr Edwards, Lond. 1764."-duthor's Note.