The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Solomon

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Solomon

The principal Apocrypha current under this name are the famous Book of Wisdom, the Psalms and Odes, the less known Testament, a number of quite late magical books, and a dialogue with the Queen of Sheba (tr. Issaverdens).

There is a romance, too, in Slavonic, the story of Solomon and Kitovras, of which I know no version in a readable language, and this is connected with the dialogue-literature that goes under Solomon's name in the Salomon and Saturn and Salomon and Marcolphus. The latter exists in most European vernaculars, and, as time goes on, becomes more and more coarse and burlesque. The former, Salomon and Saturn, is best represented by certain Anglo-Saxon texts which Kemble edited with a valuable collection of illustrative documents for the Ælfric Society, while A. von Vincenti issued the prolegomena of a new edition in 1904. I cannot tell whether his work has been completed.

This Salomon and Saturn is mentioned here because I believe it to be the text called in the Gelasian Decree the Interdictio or Contradictio Salomonis. It is not universally allowed to be the same. Kemble thought it was. The Interdictio is mentioned in the decree along with magical "phylacteries," and some have thought that it was a magical text.

The case cannot be positively settled by any evidence we have at present. Whether or not, however, the Salomon and Saturn is identical with the Interdictio, it represents an old book, and a strange one.

The first portion, partly in verse and partly in prose, is occupied with a description of the glories of the "Palm-twigged Paternoster" (the prayer being personified) and of the combat between the devil and the Paternoster. This is quite unique, so far as I know. Then we have a second part in verse, which is in the riddle form, predominantly. In it is that possible allusion to the story of Og which has been quoted, and also a curious description of a monstrous bird called Vasa Mortis; most of the questions, however, relate to life and morals. It is fairly certain, says Vincenti (p. 124), that a Latin original lies behind the poem. If he is right, the case would be like that of the amazing Irish book called the Evernew Tongue, where a Latin original has been overlaid, thickly, by Celtic imagery. (See J. T. S., 1918.)

Very different in character is the prose Anglo-Saxon Salomon and Saturn, which asks such questions as, which is the blessedest bird, where the sun sets, who first planted the vine, etc., etc. Of this pedestrian class of catechisms there are many specimens in East and West, running down to the very end of the mediæval period, and beyond it. The whole class deserves collection and examination, from the pagan and philosophical dialogue of Hadrian and Secundus to the "Master of Oxenford's" Catechism.