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to show is that in Palestine those phenomena, both natural and moral, which inspire spiritual poetry, are more numerous, beautiful, and suggestive than elsewhere; and further, that they are all found concentrated in this very small territory. Palestine contains within itself specimens, hand-specimens if you choose, of all which elsewhere lies scattered and dispersed over regions vast and widely separated. Here all are grouped together, and arranged, as in a cabinet, for the hand. of the artist, or the eye of the poet. Sufficient for our purpose, however, is the historic fact, that Palestine is the true birthplace of the sacred psalm, the devout hymn. For this and no more we here contend. For this we believe the Divine Author of our religious life and language made special provision when creating, furnishing, and adorning this home of the Bible.
No elaborate description of the physical features of the country is needed, and we merely remark in passing that there is something eminently poetic in much of the natural scenery of the holy land. Though visited a hundred times it always awakens the same emotions. By some subtile and mysterious influence many of these scenes diffuse over the soul a delicious mental repose, or a dreamy spiritual exaltation, ever and irresistibly inclining the heart to adore and worship, to break forth in songs of praise, and even to shout out aloud, as did the poets and worshippers of old. And this devout and poetic inspiration is clearly traceable to the direct influence of these external influences. In a word, God made both the holy land and the sacred poet, the one for the other. Both were necessary. Neither could realize the divine intention alone. They must be brought together and act and react upon each other. Without this grand Palestinian orchestra, built by the Creator, no poet, however gifted, could have called forth the heavenly harmonies that lie slumbering in the bosom of nature's vast organ. But this external and physical machinery was not enough. It needed, and it was actually associated with, an endless array of moral influences and historic incidents of transcendent interest.
In no other country have these been so numerous, so impressive, or so admirably adapted to the wants of the sacred poet. Nowhere else have the alternations in human experience been so extreme and violent, from the utmost prosperity and the highest material happiness to the deepest abyss of poverty and wretchedness. Every chord in the human harp has here been struck in turn by the great Performer - now evoking sweetest symphony, now crushing down its thousand strings in harshest discord. There is not an emotion, desire, fear or hope possible to man's heart, but has here been awakened and expressed. In this field there is nothing left for him that cometh after the king to know or make experiment upon. Between these wide extremes, and all along the vast domain that lies within them, there can be no new regions to explore and possess. There is no untrodden height to which the poet can soar, no depths unfathomable in which to sink, no unknown joy to gladden, no untasted cup of sorrow to drain. The entire material out of which poets build their lofty verse has been gathered up and appropriated. Love more fervent and delicious, hatred more intense, jealousy more cruel and consuming, ambition more intoxicating, piety purer and more godlike, wickedness more satanic, ingratitude and treachery more base, affection more constant and reliable, benevolence more comprehensive and self-sacrificing, no other land has either known or shown. Choicer specimens the poet himself can neither find nor fancy. On the other hand, does he ask for scenic beauty? The hills and valleys of Palestine are baptized with it. The magnificent and the sublime? Lebanon with his cedars, and Hermon with his head among the stars, overpower and captivate the imagination. He need not wander far nor toil hard to find or fashion an appropriate theatre, or suitable machinery. The whole are furnished ready made, and need only to be worked up by the plastic power of his muse. The land of the Bible contains, or did contain, in itself all the machinery, all the natural and moral elements requisite for the very highest style of poetry.
VOL. XXIX. No. 113.
It may be objected: If this be so, how comes it that Palestine has never produced any great poet, or grand epic? The answer is, that biblical poets had a different and far higher mission than Homer or Virgil, Milton or Shakespeare, or any other name among these sons of song. They were commissioned and inspired to reveal to man the thoughts of God, to be his interpreters and messengers to a benighted world. On this high plane they stand unrivalled and alone. In the lofty region of sacred song the prophet-poets of the Bible have no peers and no parallels. But it is no part of our present task to substantiate this high claim. We must leave this to others, and turn at once to the specific aim and purpose of this inquiry, which is not to establish the superiority of Hebrew poets or poetry, but to show in what ways and to what extent our religious vocabulary has been enriched from this poetic source. For this purpose we may begin with the beginning, that is, with the very first Psalm, as well as anywhere else. A very simple process of analysis and comment will show, that in these sacred lyrics not only the illustrative comparisons, metaphors, and figures entire ornamental drapery and costume-are specifically Palestinian, but that the very thoughts themselves were commonly suggested by things and conditions in this land. Let any one take the first verse in the collection, and carefully analyse it with this idea in view. To walk in the counsel of a person, to stand in the way, to sit in the seat, are forms of expression so familiar that one can scarcely realize the fact that he is not using words and phrases in their original prosaic sense; and yet they are, one and all, employed in this verse figuratively, transferred by easy and obvious analogy from things natural to those which are moral and spiritual. Nor is this the whole truth in the case. There is a distinct Palestinian air about these and such like analogical transferences from the visible and natural to the moral and spiritual. In many such examples it may be difficult to put this fact into verbal expression sufficiently definite and tangible to enable one not familiar with this country to ap
preciate it, yet it is none the less real and important. The author of this first Psalm-no matter who he was, or when he wrote must have been an inhabitant of this country. The figures, phrases, and comparisons would not have occured to any one residing in climes essentially different from this; in a country, for example, cold and stormy, with ways wet and muddy, used merely to pass from one place to another. Along such uncomfortable ways men do not saunter in converse and counsel; neither do they stand idly plotting mischief in such paths, nor are seats placed there for the accommodation of scorners, or any body else. One may wander for hours even in ornamental parks, in such lands without finding so much as a stone upon which to sit and rest. Very different is the case and the custom in such mild and seductive climates as this of Palestine. Here people pass a great portion of their time in the open air. They ramble at leisure along their pleasant and picturesque paths, stand in groups gathered under cool shade-trees planted by the wayside, and there prepare they their seats, and pass away the time in mirth or mischief. Now, no poet of frigid Siberia for example, or in the burning desert of Sahara, could or would have written this first verse of the first Psalm. Neither the thoughts nor the figures would have occurred to him. Nor, on the other hand, could one born and bred on the banks of the Mississippi, or the shores of Lake Superior, have composed the third verse: "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither." Where the writer of this essay passed his early life, the greatest trouble and toil of the inhabitants were to cut down, burn and destroy the trees; and no body would have thought of comparing the man that was blessed to one of these formidable giants of the forest. Then, this tree of the Psalm was planted, and by the rivers, or rather, by the water canals, made for irrigation; all very appropriate to this country, but not to lands overshadowed by dark primeval woods, or where the chief anxiety is to get safely rid of a
superabundance of water. In such regions trees grow without being planted, anywhere and everywhere, quite as well as "by the rivers of water." Again, this was a fruit tree, an incident eminently natural here, where, as the Arab proverb tells us, many trees are planted, but only that is preserved which bears fruit. Few things in this country struck the writer more forcibly when he first came to it, than this high estimate of trees founded simply upon their fruit. The reason for this, however, is obvious enough. A large part of the daily food of the people is derived from the various kinds of fruit which these planted trees produce. In many parts of the country it is the chief dependence. No explanation is needed of the additional fact mentioned. by the poet, that the leaf of a tree thus planted by the watercourses would not wither, or of the implied fact, that in this burning climate the case would be very different with trees standing in the parched deserts of Southern Palestine.
Finally, no one can read, in this country, the fourth verse of the Psalm, without having instantly presented to his imagination the summer threshing-floor, in the open air, upon some exposed hill-top, with the vehement wind catching up in its wings the useless chaff, and whisking it away amongst the ragged rocks. This doom is in vivid contrast to the green tree by the water-channels, with fadeless leaf and branches bending beneath their burden of delicious fruit.
Here, as well as anywhere, we may dwell for a moment on the ever-recurring use of the word "fruit." Whatever results from a person's course of conduct, whether good or bad, is said to be the fruit of it. The transfer from the natural to the moral and the spiritual idea is made without the least conscious effort. The Great Teacher, therefore, did not need to explain his language, when he said: "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into