Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Canticles
CANTICLES. The book of Canticles, or the Song of Solomon, is called in Hebrew The Song of Songs (that i < (he choicest of songs), or, according to the full title which stands as the first verse of the book, The choicest of the songs of Solomon. In the Western versions the book holds the third place among the so-called Solomonic writings, following Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In Hebrew Bibles it stands among the Megillot, the five books of the llagiographa which have a prominent place in the Syna gogue service. In printed Bibles and in German MSS. it is the first of these because it is read at the Passover, which is the first great feast of the sacred year of the Jews. Spanish MSS., however, place it second among the Megillot, givir.g the precedence to Ruth.
No part of the Bible has called forth a greater diversity of opinions than the Song of Solomon, and that for two reasons. In the first place, the book holds so unique a position in the Old Testament, that the general analogy of Hebrew literature is a very inadequate key to the verbal difficulties, the artistic structure, and the general conception and purpose of the poem. In point of language it is most nearly akin to parts of the Bible which, like the song of Deborah, belong to Northern Israel, agreeing with these not only in individual traits but in the general characteristic that the departures from ordinary Hebrew are almost always in the direction of Aramaic. Many forms unique in Biblical Hebrew are at once explained by the Aramaic dialects, but not a few are still obscure. The philological difficulties of the book are, however, less fundamental than those which lie in the unique character of the Song of Solomon in point of artistic form, and in the whole atmosphere of thought and feeling in which it moves. Even in these respects it is not absolutely isolated. Parallels to the peculiar imagery may be found in the, book of Hosea, in a few passages of the earlier chap ters of Proverbs, and above all in the 45th Psalm ; but such links of union to the general mass of the Old Testa ment literature are too slight to be of material assistance in the solution of the literary problem of the book. Here, again, as in the lexical difficulties already referred to, we are tempted or compelled to argue from the distant and insecure analogy of other Eastern literatures, or are thrown back upon traditions of uncertain origin and ambiguous authority.
The power of tradition has been the second great source of confusion of opinion about the Song of Solomon. To tradition we owe the title, which apparently indicates Solomon as the author and not merely as the subject of the book. The authority of titles in the Old Testament (see Bible) is often questionable, and in the present case it is certain on linguistic grounds that the title is not from the hand that wrote the poem ; while to admit that it gives a correct account of the authorship is to cut away at one stroke all the most certain threads of connection between the book and our historical knowledge of the Old Testament people and literature. We have already noted that, when judged by comparison with other parts of the Bible and by its Aramaic texture, the dialect points to a northern origin of the poem. It is to Northern Israel, moreover, that the whole local colouring and scenery belong ; so that even those commentators who still make Solomon the hero and author of the book are compelled to represent him as laying aside his kingly pomp to wander with a peasant girl through the gardens and forests of Galilee. The untenableness of this last attempt to rescue the authority of the title will appear as we proceed.
To tradition, again, we owe the still powerful prejudice in favour of an allegorical interpretation, that is, of the view that from verse to verse the Song sets forth the history of a spiritual and not merely of an earthly love. To apply such an exegesis to Canticles is to violate one of the first principles of reasonable interpretation. True allegories are never without internal marks of their allegorical design. The language of symbol is not so perfect that a long chain of spiritual ideas can be developed without the use of a single spiritual word or phrase ; and even were this possible it would be false art in the allegorist to hide away his sacred thoughts behind a screen of sensuous and erotic imagery, so complete and beautiful in itself as to give no suggestion that it is only the vehicle of a deeper sense. Apart from tradition no one, in the present state of exegesis, would dream of allegorizing poetry which in its natural sense is so full of purpose and meaning, so apt in sentiment, and so perfect in imagery as the lyrics of Canticles. We are not at liberty to seek for allegory except where the natural sense is incomplete. This is not the case in the Song of Solomon. On the contrary, every form of the allegorical interpretation which has been devised carries its own con demnation in the fact that it takes away from the artistic unity of the poem and breaks natural sequences of thought. The allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon had its rise in the very same conditions which forced a deeper sense, now universally discarded, upon so many other parts of scripture. Yet strangely enough there is no evidence that the Jews of Alexandria extended to the book their favourite methods of interpretation. The arguments which have been adduced to prove .that the LXX. translation implies an allegorical exegesis are inadequate ; and Philo does not mention the book at all. Nor is there any allusion to Canticles in the New Testament. The first trace of an allegorical view identifying Israel with the spouse appears to be in the Fourth Book of Ezra, near the close of the 1st Christian century (v. 24, 26 ; vii. 26). Up to this time the canonicity of the Canticles was not unquestioned; and the final decision as to the sanctity of the book, so energetically carried through by 11. Akiba, when ha declared that " the whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel ; for all the scriptures (or Hagiographa) are holy, but the Canticles most holy," must be understood as being at the same time a victory of the allegorical interpretation over the last remains of a view which regarded the poem as simply erotic.
The form in which the allegorical theory became fixed iu the synagogue is contained in the Midrash Chazita and in the Targum, which is a commentary rather than a translation. The spouse is Israel, her royal lover the divine king, and the poem is explained as tracing the great events of the people s history from the Exodus to the Messianic glory and final restoration.
The authority of Origen, who, according to Jerome, surpassed himself in his commentary of ten volumes on this book, established the allegorical theory in the Christian church in the two main forms in which it has since prevailed. The bridegroom is Christ, the bride either the church or the believing soul The latter con ception is, of course, that which lends itself most readily to purposes of mystical edification, and which has made Canticles the manual in all ages of a wide-spread type of religious contemplation. But the other view, which identifies the bride with the church, must be regarded as the standard of orthodox exegesis. Of course the alle gorical principle admitted of very various modifications, and readily adapted itself to new religious developments, such as the rise of Mariolatry. Within the limits of the orthodox traditions the allegory took various colours, accord ing as its mystical or its prophetical aspect was insisted on. Among mediaeval commentators of the former class S. Bernard holds a pre-eminent place ; while the second class is represented by Xicolaus de Lyra who, himself a converted Jew, modified the Jewish interpretation so as to find in the book an account of the i^rocessus ecclesice under the Old and New Testaments. The prophetic exegesis reached its culminating point in the post-Refor mation period, when Cocceius found in the Canticles a complete conspectus of church history. But the relaxa tion of traditional authority opened the door to still stranger vagaries of interpretation. Luther was tempted to understand the book of the political relations of Solomon and his people. Others detected the loves of Solomon and Wisdom a view which found a supporter in Rosenmiiller even in the present century; alchemists thought of Solomon s researches in their art; and Puffen- dorf, by the aid of Egyptian hieroglyphics, referred the whole to the grave of Christ.
The history of the literal interpretation begins with the great * commentator" of the Syrian Church, Theodoras of Mopsuestia (died 429), who condemned equally the at tempt to find in the book a prophecy of the blessings given to the church, and the idea even at that time expressed in some quarters that the book is immoral. Theodorus regarded the Canticles as a poem written by Solomon in answer to the complaints of his people about his Egyptian marriage ; and this was one of the heresies charged upon him after his death, which led to his condemnation at the second council of Constantinople (553 A.D.) A literal interpretation was not again attempted till in 1544 Chateillon (Castellio or Castalion) lost his regency at Geneva for proposing to expel the book from the canon as impure. Grotius (Annot. in V. T., 1644) took up a more moderate position. Without denying the possibility of a secondary reference designed by Solomon to give his poem, a more permanent value, he regards the Canticles as primarily an oapio-rvs (conjugal prattle) between Solomon and Pharaoh s daughter. The distinction of a primary and secondary sense gradually became current not only among the Remonstrants, but in England (Lightfoot, Lowth) and even in Catholic circles (Bossuet, 1GU3). In the actual understanding of the book in its literal sense no great progress was made. Solomon was still viewed as the author, and for the most part the idea that the poem is a dramatic epithalamium was borrowed from Origen and the allegorists, and applied to the marriage of Pharaoh s, daughter. To reconcile this idea with the fact that the Song is full of peasant life, a most artificial style of composition had to be assumed. In Bossuet s once celebrated theory, to which Lowth also inclined, the epithalamium is made to extend over seven days, and each morning the bridegroom, who is fictitiously represented as a shepherd, rises early to pursue his rustic toil, leaving his bride alone till the evening. The seventh day is the Sabbath, when the bride and bridegroom appear together (ch. viii.). From Grotius to Lowth the idea of a typical reference designed by Solomon himself appears as a mere excrescence on the natural interpretation, but as an excrescence which could not be removed without perilling the place of Canticles in the canon, which, indeed, was again assailed by Whiston in 1723. But in his notes on Lowth s lectures, J. D. Michaelis, who regarded the poem as a description of the enduring happiness of true wedded love long after marriage, proposed to drop the allegory altogether, and to rest the canonicity of the book, as of those parts of Proverbs which treat of conjugal affection, on the moral picture it presents (1758). The hints which Michaelis offered for the interpretation of the book on this principle showed a singular want of delicacy ; but the moralizing rationalism of the period was not to be shocked by any impropriety which was atoned for by the " important moral tendency " of the book as a whole ; and the principle laid down by the critic of Gottingen was carried out in a variety of hypotheses, each, as Herder com plained, more improper than the other. A real step, however, was made in 1771 by J. T. Jacobi, who distin guished the husband of the Shulamite from Solomon, and representing the latter as a baffled tempter, prepared the way for the theory now most current among critics.
Then came Herder s exquisite little treatise on Solomon s Songs of Love, the Oldest and Sweetest of the East (1778). Herder possessed that delicacy of taste and sympathetic poetical genius which the school of Michaelis altogether lacked. Delighting iu the Canticles as the transparently natural expression of innocent and tender love, he was indignant at an exegesis which, in a supposed apologetical interest, was content to establish a didactic object for the book by the aid of hypotheses which sullied the purity and profaned the sanctity of the utterances of genuine human affection. If the songs of Canticles were allowed to speak for themselves, they would need no theory to explain their meaning, no apology to justify their morality, no fiction of a typical or didactic purpose to commend them as pure, lovely, and worthy of a place in a holy book. Is not true love itself holy 1 for love is. the fountain of all man s bliss, and all love, like goodness and truth, is at root one. Herder justifies these views in a sort of aesthetical commentary, which triumphantly vindicates the naive innocence and genuine delicacy of the love which the book displays. But his sympathy with the sentiment of the Canticles was truer than his eye for details ; and the idea that the poem is simply a sequence of independent songs without inner unity, grouped so as to display various phases and stages of love in a natural order, culminating in the placid joys of wedded life, was in some respects a retrograde step.
Since Herder there has been no attempt of any intrinsic value to rehabilitate the allegorical theory, or the theory of a second sense consciously followed by the author. Even those commentators who, like Delitzsch (1851 and 1875) or his followers Zockler (1868) and Kingsbury (in the Speaker s Commentary, 1873), assume that Canticles owes its place in the canon to the typical importance of Solomon in the history of salvation do not venture to make this idea an element in the exegesis.
In determining the literal sense recent scholars have followed three main courses. The theory of Herder, which refuses to acknowledge any continuity in the book, was accepted by Eichhorn on the part of scholars, and with some hesitation by Goethe on the part of the poets. Commentaries based on this view are those of Dopke (1829), Magnus (1842), Noyes (1846); and it has also enjoyed the critical authority of De Wette and Diestel. A second view which is at present dominant recognizes in the poem a more or less pronounced dramatic character, and following Jacobi distinguishes the shepherd, the true love of the Shulamite, from King Solomon, who is made to play an ignominious part. Propounded in last century by Staudlin (1792) and Ammon (1795), this view was energetically carried out by Umbreit (1820), and above all by Ewald, whose acuteness gave the theory a new develop ment, while his commanding influence among Hebrew scholars acquired for it general recognition. Ewald assumed a very simple dramatic structure, and did not in his first publication (1826) venture to suppose that the poem had ever been acted on a stage. His less cautious followers have been generally tempted to dispose of difficulties by introducing more complicated action and additional inter locutors (so, for example, Hitzig, 1855 ; Ginsburg, 1857 ; Renan, 1860); while Bottcher (1850) did his best to reduce the dramatic exposition to absurdity by introducing the complexities and stage effects of a modern operetta into a drama of the 10th century before Christ. The third view is that of Delitzsoh and his followers, who also plead for a dramatic form though without supposing that the piece was ever acted but adhere to the traditional notion that Solomon is the author, who celebrates his love to a peasant maiden, whom he made his wife, and in whose company the proud monarch learned to appreciate the sweetness of a true affection and a simple rustic life.
In comparing these various views with what is found in the book itself, the unity of the poem has first to be con sidered. A certain external unity, not merely in the general tone and colour of the language and in the repetition of similar sentences by way of refrain, but also in the order of the matter, is not denied by the followers of Herder, who, however, maintain that the constituent lyrics were originally distinct poems, and that they owe all appearance of continuity to the arrangement and interpolations of an editor. The correctness of this view would be positively demonstrated if its adherents were able, without arbitrary treatment of the text, to digest the Canticles into a series of lyrics, each complete in itself and independent of the rest. But no commentator has hitherto done this in a satisfactory way, and the most ingenious attempts espe cially that of Magnus involve the assumption that the editor often displaced part of a song, sacrificing the unity of the original lyrics to an artificial composition of the whole. It is plain that, if assumptions of this kind are to be made at all, they may also be used in favour of a theory of original unity, marred by subsequent misconception.
Have, then, the supporters of the continuity of the poem come nearer to a positive proof of their position 1 ? Our starting-point, in looking at this question, is the fact that the composition takes for the most part the form of dialogue. Even if the book is to be broken up into dis tinct lyrics, it must be granted that several of these pieces have an amoebean structure. Is it possible to show that throughout the book the same persons reappear in these lyrical dialogues? And, again, since the scene of the dialogue certainly varies in different parts of the book between the city of Jerusalem and the open country of Northern Israel, is it possible to find in the poem itself a thread of narrative sufficient to account for the change of place 1 The centre of attraction is throughout a female figure, and the unity of this figure is the chief test of the unity of the book. In the long canto, i. 1-ii. 7, the heroine appears in a royal palace (i. 4) among the daughters of Jerusalem, who are thus presumably ladies of the court of Zion. At i. 9, an additional interlocutor is introduced, who is plainly a king, and apparently Solomon (i. 9, 12). He has just risen from table, and praises the charms of the heroine with the air of a judge of beauty, but without warmth. He addresses her simply as " my friend " (not as English version, " my love "). The heroine on the contrary is passionately in love, but nothing can be plainer than that the object of her affection is not the king. She is not at home in the palace, for she explains (i. 6) that she has spent her life as a peasant girl in the care of vineyards. Her beloved, whom she knows not where to find (i. 7), but who lies constantly on her heart and is cherished in her bosom like a spray of the sweet henna flowers which Oriental ladies delight to wear (i. 13, 14), is like herself a peasant a shepherd lad (i. 7) with whom she was wont to sit in the fresh greenwood under the mighty boughs of the cedars (i. 16, 17). Even before the king s entrance the ladies of the court are impatient at so silly an affection, and advise her, " if she is really so witless," to begone and rejoin her plebeian lover (i. 8). The idea that from i. 12 onwards the heroine exchanges compliments with the king is inconsistent with what precedes, and psychologically impossible in view of ii. 5, 6, where her self-control, strung to the highest pitch as she meets the compliments of the king with reminiscences of her absent lover, breaks down in a fit of half delirious sickness. The only words directed to the king are those of i. 12, which, if past tenses are substituted for the pre sents of the English version, contain a pointed rebuff. Finally, ii. 7 is, on the plainest translation, a charge not to arouse love tiil it please. The moral of the scene is the spontaneity of true affection.
Nothing can be plainer than that the motive of this piece is dramatical and not lyrical. It is a complete scene, but not a complete poem, and if it is not a fragment, we must expect to find the denouement at the close of the book. Now, at viii. 5, a female figure advances leaning upon her beloved, with whom she claims inseparable union, " for love is strong as death, its passion inflexible as the grave, its fire a divine flame which no waters can quench or floods drown. Yea, if a man would give all his wealth for love he would only be contemned." This is obviously the sentiment of ii. 7, and the suitor, whose wealth is despised, must almost of necessity be identified with the king of chapter i., if, as seems reasonable, we place viii. 11, 1 2 in the mouth of the same speaker " King Solomon has vineyards which bring him a princely revenue, and enrich even the farmers. Let him and them keep their wealth ; my vineyard is before me " (i.e., I possess it in present fruition). The last expression is plainly to be con nected with i. 6. But this happiness has not been reached without a struggle. The speaker has proved herself an impregnable fortress (ver. 10), and, armed only with her own beauty and innocence, has been in his eyes as one that found peace. The English version is quite arbitrary in rendering favour for peace. The sense is that, like a virgin fortress, she has compelled her assailant to leave her in peace. To these marks of identity with the heroine of ch. i. are to be added that she appears here as dwelling in gardens, there as a keeper of vineyards (i. 6, and viii. 13), and that as there it was her brethren that prescribed her duties, so here she apparently quotes words in which her brothers, while she was still a child, speculated as to her future conduct and its reward (viii. 8, 9).
If this analysis of the commencement and close of the book is correct, it is certain that the poem is in a sense dramatic, that is, that it uses dialogue and monologue to develop a story. The heroine appears in the opening scene in a difficult and painful situation, from which in the last chapter she is happily extricated. But the dramatic progress which the poem exhibits scarcely involves a plot in the usual sense of that word. The words of viii. 9, 10 clearly indicate that the deliverance of the heroine is due to no combination of favouring circumstances, but to her own inflexible fidelity and virtue. In accordance with this her role throughout the poem is simply a steadfast adherence to the position which she takes up in the opening scene, where she is represented as concentrating her thoughts on her absent lover with all that stubborn force of will which is characteristic of the Hebrews, and as frustrating the advances of the king by the mere naive intensity of pre-occupied affection. This conception of the principal part in the poem implies a very elementary amount of dramatic skill. But it is just the conception which tho analogy of Hebrew poetry in general, and especially of the book of Job, leads us to expect. The characters of Job and his friends are carefully dis criminated. But there is no action and reaction between the speakers. Each adheres to his own vein of thought almost untouched by what the others say, and the skill of the author appears only in the variety of poetical develop ments in which the fundamental idea of each character expresses itself. The reader who, with this analogy to guide him, runs through the parts of Canticles which must be assigned to a female speaker, cannot fail to see that the role indicated at the beginning and close of the book is carried out with perfect consistency.
The constant direction of the maiden s mind to her true love is partly expressed in dialogue with the ladies of the court (the daughters of Jerusalem), who have no dramatic individuality, and whose only function in the economy of the piece is to give the heroine opportunity for a more varied expression of her feelings. In i. 8 we found them contemptuous. In chapter iii. they appear to be still indifferent ; for when the heroine relates a dream in which the dull pain of separation and the uneasy consciousness of confinement and danger in the unsympathetic city disappear for a moment in imagined reunion with her lover, they are either altogether silent or reply only by taking up a festal part song describing the marriage pro cession of King Solomon (iii. 6-11), which stands i jarring contrast to the feelings of the maiden. A second dream (v. 2-8), more weird and melancholy, and con structed with that singular psychological felicity which characterizes the dreams of the Old Testament, gains more sympathy, and the heroine is encouraged to describe her beloved at large (v. 10- vi. 3). The structure of these dialogues is so simple, and their purpose is so strictly limited to the exhibition of the character and affection of the maiden, that it is only natural to find them supplemented by a free use of pure monologue, in which the heroine recalls the happiness of past days, or expresses her rising hope of reunion with her shepherd, and restora tion to the simple joys of her rustic life. The vivid reminiscence of ii. 8-17 takes the form of a dialogue within the main dialogue of the poem, a picture within a picture the picture of her beloved as he stood at her window in the early spring time, and of her own merry heart as she laughingly answered him in the song with which watchers of the vineyards frighten away the foxes. It is, of course, a fault of perspective that this reminiscence is as sharp in outline and as strong in colour as the main action. But no one can expect perspective in such early art, and recollection of the past is clearly enough separated from present reality by ii. 16, 17. The last monologue (vii. 10-viii. 3), in which the hope of immediate return with her lover is tempered by maidenly shame, and a maiden s desire for her mother s counsel, is of special value for a right appreciation of the psychology of the love which the poem celebrates, and completes a picture of thid flower of the northern valleys, which is not only firm in outline but delicate in touch. The subordinate action which supports the portraiture of the maiden of Galilee is by no means easy to understand. It may be regarded as certain that, in iv. 1-7, the king is again introduced, and describes the personal charms of the heroine. His language is still that of cold admiration, suitable enough to the character of Solomon, and strongly contrasted with the beautiful and passionate outburst which follows (iv. 8- v, 1), and which suits no lips but those of the true lover. The latter passage offers great difficulties on any theory which finds a strict drama in Canticles. To sup pose that the shepherd appears in Jerusalem at so early a point in the action is not plausible, and it seems equally violent to assume with Ewald that the whole passage is to be put in the mouth of the heroine rehearsing words of her beloved. Perhaps the plan of the poem did not forbid the author to place a song of the absent shepherd in juxtaposition with the words of Solomon so as to bring out the contrast between mere sensual admiration and genuine passion. But the passage presents on any theory diffi culties of detail which no critic has satisfactorily removed.
We come next to chapter vi., which again sings the praises of the heroine, and takes occasion in this connection to introduce, with the same want of perspective as wo observed in ch, ii., a dialogue descriptive of Solomon s first meeting with the maiden. We learn that she was an inhabitant of Shulem or Shunem in Issachar, whom the king and his train surprised in a garden on the occasion of a royal progress through the north. Her beauty drew from the ladies of the court a cry of admiration. The maiden shrinks back with the reply " I was gone down into my garden to see its growth. .... I know not how my soul hath brought me among the chariots of princes;" but she is commanded to turn and let herself be seen in spite of her bashful protest, "Why do ye gaze on the Shulamite as at a dance of Mahanaim (a spectacle)." Now the person in whose mouth this relation is placed must be an eye-witness of the scene, and so none other than the king. But in spite of _the verbal repetition of several of the figures of ch._iv., which, if not due to corruption of the text, is probably a mere artifice to express the identity of the speaker in the two passages, the tone in which the king now addresses the Shulamite is quite changed. She is not only beautiful but terrible, her eyes trouble him, and he cannot endure their gaze. She is unique among women, the choice and only one of her mother. In this change of language Ewald and others recognize only a greater intensity of sensuous admiration, and accordingly assume that the king continues, in vii. 1-9, to describe the charms of the maiden, and to express his sensual desires in the shameless language of a voluptuary. But how can the king hold such language to a woman whose eyes he is afraid to face, and whom he addresses in chapter vi. with unmistakably respectful admiration 1 Moreover, the figure described in chapter vii. appears to be displayed in the dance ; and, like the daughter of Herodias in the gospels, she is a lady of princely lineage. Again, if the last words of the king are a fresh attack expressed in language which under the circumstances is positively brutal, the maiden s immediate outburst of joyful hope (vii. 10) is singularly out of place, and the turning- point of the story is left an absolute blank. The unity of action can only be maintained by ignoring vii. 1-9, and taking the words of Solomon in chapter vi. in their obvious sense as implying that the king at length recognizes in the maiden qualities of soul unknown in the harem, a character which compels respect, as well as a beauty that inflames desire. The change of feeling which was wrought in the daughters of Jerusalem in the previous scene now extends to Solomon himself, and thus the glad utterances of vii. 10, seq., have a sufficient motive, and the denouement is no longer violent and unprepared.
It is remarkable that the only passage which can hardly be freed from a charge of sensuality .hangs so entirely loose from the proper action of the poem. Some critics (especially Hitzig) have seen similar phenomena in other parts of the book, and have thought themselves able to show that a sort of by- play exhibiting the sensual love of the harem runs through the whole action of the piece. The various hypotheses by which this idea has been carried out are all far too arbitrary to carry conviction, and an unprejudiced analysis justifies the persuasion that the dramatic structure of the book is of the very simplest kind, hardly rising above amoebean lyric, and affording no room for elaborate by -play or other complications. The nodus of the action is fully given in chapter i., the final issue in chapter viii. The solution lies entirely in the character and constancy of the heroine, v/hich prevail, in the simplest possible way, first over the ladies of the court and then over the king. There is nothing extravagant in the progress of the action ; for though the king has never before conceived the idea that any woman could refuse a place in his harem, his admiration does not reach the pitch of passion, and his sen- suousness nowhere degenerates into grossness, except in the imagination of commentators, who have been apt to detect a double entendre in every passage they did not understand.
A more legitimate explanation of difficulties seems, at least in some cases, to lie in the state of the text. When even Ewald finds a voluptuous idea in iv. 6, it ought to be observed that the words in question, which seriously inter rupt the sense, were no part of the original LXX., or of the text of Theodotion, but were subsequently added from the version of A.quila, which substantially represents the Mas- soretic text. Yet the false reading has established itself so firmly in MSS. of the LXX. that our knowledge of the interpolation is almost accidental, and we have no certainty that other interpolations of the same kind have not been made without our knowledge. In these circumstances the argument drawn from the versions for the purity of the Hebrew text has no great value. On the other hand the a priori probability of interpolations and corruptions is very great in a poem like Canticles, passages from which were used among the Jews as amatory songs at least till the close of the 1st Christian century. Of course the supremacy of the allegorical exegesis fixed the text, but naturally tended to fix it in its longest and presumably most interpolated form. Thus it is not inconceivable thut the sensual passage in chapter vii., which, if genuine, can only be an interlude of some unexplained kind, is nothing more than the insertion of an early reader a propos of the mention of the dance of Mahanaim.
Whatever difficulties still remain in the Canticles, it is at least no arbitrary construction which has convinced the majority of critics that an internal dramatic unity runs through the book, and that Solomon is not the true love of the Shulamite. The assertion of Delitzsch that the shepherd is a mere imaginary Doppelgdnycr of Solomon is even more violent than the opposite attempt of Gra tz to eliminate the king altogether and reduce the dramatic action to a narrative of idyllic love told by the Shulamite (Das Salomonische Hohelicd, Vienna, 1871). And it is a special merit of the current theory that it at once places the authorship and purpose of the book in a strong his torical light. A poem in the northern dialect, with a northern heroine and scenery, contrasting the pure sim plicity of Galilee with the corrupt splendour of the court of Solomon, is clearly the embodiment of one phase of the feeling which separated the ten tribes from the house of David. The kingdom of Solomon was an innovation on old traditions partly for good and partly for evil. But novelties of progress and novelties of corruption were alike distasteful to the north, which had long been proud of its loyalty to the principles of the good old times. The conservative revolution of Jeroboam was in great measure the work of the prophets, and must therefore have carried with it the religious and moral convictions of the people. An important element in these convictions, which still claims our fullest sympathy, is powerfully set forth in the Canticles, and the deletion of the book from the canon, providentially averted by the allegorical theory, would leave us without a most necessary complement to the Judean view of the conduct of the ten tribes which we get in the historical books. Written in a spirit of protest against the court of Zion, and probably based on recollection of an actual occurrence, the poem cannot be dated long after the death of Solomon. The mention of Tirzah in vi. 4 points to the brief period when that city was the capital of the dynasty of Baasha, for Tirzah seems never to have recovered the siege and conflagration in which Zimri perished. Thus the book must have been written about the middle of the 10th century B.C. The attempt of Gra tz to bring down the date to the Grecian period (about 230 B.C.) is ingenious but nothing more.
tioned. A copious Elcnchus intcrprctum is given in Kosenmiiller a Scholia. More recent works are enumerated by Griitz and Zockler, and Green s translation of Zockler adds a list of English and Ameri can expositors. Specimens of the exegesis of various periods are given in the elaborate introduction to Dr Ginsburg s commentary. While the thoroughly perverse theory of Delitzsch and Zockler is represented in English by translations, and by Mr Kingsbury in the Speaker s Commentary, the admirable exposition of Ewald in his Dichter des Alien Bundes (2d ed. 1867) remains untranslated. This is, the more to be regretted, that Kenan s French translation and Etude, and Dr Ginsburg s English commentary, represent extreme forms of the modern theory. Reville s sketch of the book, of which an English translation appeared in 1873, is slight, but less artificial. The student of the original cannot dispense with Ewald, Hitzig,Delitzsch, and Magnus.
(w. r. s.)
- An argument for the allegorical interpretation has been often drawn from Mahometan mysticism, from the poems of Hafiz, and the songs still sung by dervishes. See Jones, Poeseos Asiaticce Com., pt. iii. cap. 9; Rosenmiiller s remarks on Lo wili sPrcelectio xxxi., and Lane s Modern Egyptians, ch. xxiv. But there is no true analogy between the Old Testament and the pantheistic mysticism of Islam, and there is every reason to believe that, where the allegory takes a form really analogous to Canticles, tlie original sense of these songs was purely erotic.
- The chief passages of Jewish writings referring to this dispute are Mishna. Jadaim iii. 5 and Tor>ifta Sanhedrin xii. For other passages see Gratz s Commentary, p. 115, and in control of his criticism the introduction to the commentary of Delitzsch.
- The text of the Targum in the Polyglotts and in Buxtorf s Rabbinic Bible is not complete. The complete text is given in the Venice editions, and in Lagarde s Hosjioyrapha Chaldaice, Lipsiae, 1873. The Polyglotts add a Latin version.
- In comparing these remarks with the text, the English reader must remember that the authorized version is influenced in its renderings by a theory of the book. The translation of ii. 7 is quite false. The second half of i. 13 is simply "which rests upon my heart ;" i. 4 should probably run, " Draw me after thee, let us flee;" i. 9 "to my horses."
- Ewald and others make this song a distinct scene in the action of the poem, supposing that the author here exhibits the honourable form of espousal by which Solomon thought to vanquish the scruples of the damsel. This view, however, seems to introduce a complication foreign to the plan of the book.
- " My beloved is mine, and I am his, who feedeth his flock among lilies. Before the day cool and the shadows fly, haste thee hither, my love, . . . over the mountains of separation."
- The rose (narcissus) of Sharon (ii. 1) must be placed in the north ern Sharon between Tabor and the Lake of Tiberias. Onom. Sacra, ed, Lagarde, pp. 154,296.
- The purport of these verses was divined by Ewald.
- The analogy of Arabic literature is instructive. Cf. Noldeke s Ueitrdge zur Kenntniss der Foesie der Araber (1864), pp. vi. sqq.
- Cf. Wellhausen on 2 Sam. xx. 18, 19, where the Hebrew text must be corrected by the LXX.