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TO THIS EDITION.
The following paraphrase, was published in 4to, 1768. The name of the Author, does not appear in any part of the book. That he was not, however, unknown at the time, will appear by the following extract, from the Journals of the late Rev. J. Wesley, A. M.:
“Monday, Feb. 8, 1768. I met with a surprising poem, intituled Choheleth, or the Preacher : it is a paraphrase in tolerable verse, on the Book of Ecclesiastes. I really think the Author of it, (a Turkey merchant) understands both the difficult expressions, and the connection of the whole, better than any other, either ancient or modern writer, whom I have seen. He was at Lisbon du: ring the great earthquake, just then sitting in his night gown and slippers. Before he could dress himself, part of the house he was in fell, and blocked bim up. By this means, his life was saved ; for all who had run out were dashed to pieces by the falling houses."
The Rev. A. Clarke, LL. D. in his introduction to Ecclesiastes, gives 1778, as the date of the work ; and attempts to account for Mr. Wesley's having seen it ten years before, by supposing, 1. that there might have been a second edition, or a second title printed in 1778: or 2. that Mr W. read the work in MS. From the
in the Editor's possession bearing the date of 1968, it will appear that Mr. W. might have seen it very soon after it was published. Dr. Clarke's supposition, however, that there was a second title printed, appears to be founded in truth; and by this nieans his copy might be dated 1778.
The distinguished author just mentioned, thus proceeds: “About the year 1789, that eminent man recommended the work to me; and told me several particulars relative to it, which have escaped my memory. I procured the book the first opportunity, and read it with great satisfaction; and from it derived no small portion of in
formation. Having now examined it anew, I can most cordially subscribe to Mr. Wesley's opinion. I really believe that the Author understood both the difficult expressions, and the connection of the whole, better than any other writer, whether ancient or modern, at least known to me. Had it comported with my plan, I should have thought a reprint of his work, with the text, (which he does not insert) and a few philological notes, would have been quite sufficient to have given my readers a safe and general view of the whole work and its design."*
Both the preface and paraphrase have been made to contribute to Dr. A. Clarke's very excellent Family Bible; the former to his introduction to Ecclesiastes, and the latter to his notes on that book of scripture: furnishing additional proofs of his high estimation of the
To the above testimonies, the Editor feels great pleasure in adding that of the Rev. Samuel Lee, A, M., Professor of Arabic, in the University of Cambridge; who has not only expressed his opinion, that it is "a work of great merit,” but very kindly granted permission, that this edition should be inscribed to him.
The present edition has been carefully printed from the one before mentioned, without any omission whatever. And with a desire to render the work more useful, the Editor has added the Text of the authorized translation, which is printed underneath the paraphrase, with letters of reference. These, it is hoped, have been so placed, as to enable the reader to refer to the paraphrase on any particular passage. To facilitate reference to both, an index is given at the end. Some additional notes have also been supplied ; distinguished from those of the Author, by Brackets.
* Introduction to the Book of Ecclesiastes, in Dr. A. Clarke's Bible. 1 See also, the Bibliographical Dictionary, and A Concise View of the Succession of Sacred Literature ; by the same Author.
What first induced me to attempt the present work, was the sight of a Poem, which accidentally fell into my hands, published in the year 1691, with this title, The Design of part of the book of Ecclesiastes, or, The Unreasonableness of Men's restless Contentions for present Enjoyments. The anonymous Author, whoever he was, appears to have been a man of learning and piety; but as to Poetry, it was none of his talent, as he truly observes himself; and, indeed, the specimen he has given us, is so very indifferent, that, were it our design to make the Reader smile, we might quote a great number of passages. Moreover, though he seems to have taken the original plan for his guide, so far as he goes, yet the me thod he has pursued, is far from judicious, and many of his excursi, ons, not only exceeding tedious, but some quite foreign to the subject; having so managed the matter, as to have spun out a fourth part of this book, (that is, the three first chapters, which is all he undertakes to versify,) to a much greater length than we have done the entire piece : nor is it easy to conceive, why he should entitle his Poem the design of Part of Ecclesiastes, when the same design so evidently runs through the whole Book. This Gentleman, at the close of a long introductory Preface, expresses his regret at having fettered himself with Rhyme; and, indeed, it must be owned, that Poetry, which has nothing else to recommend it, but a mere jingle of words, and this, for the most part, extremely harsh and dissonant, is but a dull entertainment. In this particular we have followed his advice, and, at the same time, must do him the justice to acknowledge, that there are about six or eight lines spirited enough, which we have made some use of, as also of two or three of his notes, which are the most valuable part of the work, to clear up some obscurities in the text,
As the principal design I had in view, was, to give a just idea of this venerable monument of antiquity, whose exquisite beauties and admirable constructure are so little understood or observed by cursory readers, and, at the same time, to set the whole piece in the most agreeable light I could, without deviating from its original plan, I was tempted to read over again Prior's Solomon, which I had not looked into, since I was capable of forming any judgment of such kind of performances. This admired Poem is thus prefaced : “The oble images and reflections, the profound reasonings upon human actions, and excellent maxims for the government of life, which are found in the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and other Books, commonly attributed to Solomon, afford subjects for finer Poems than have, I think, yet appeared in Greek or Latin, or any modern language. Out of this great treasure, which lies heaped up together in a confused magnificence, 1 had a mind to collect and digest such observations and apothegms as might naturally tend to the proof of that great assertion laid down in the beginning of Ecclesiastes, All is vanity. But as precepts, however true in themselves, or useful in practice, would be but dry and tedious in verse, especially if the recital be tong, I found it necessary to form some Story, and give a kind of body to the Poem.”
I must confess, I was not a little surprised at such an introduction. Every one, but moderately acquainted with the sacred volumes, well knows, that there are but three Books now extant, attributed to Solomon, viz. The Canticles, or, Song of Songs, generally supposed to have been written by him in his youth; the Book of Proverbs, in his riper age; and Ecclesiastes, in the decline of life. As to the first, which is of the Pastoral kind, though to be understood in a spiritual sense, notwithstanding the attempts of some late writers to prove the contrary, it is, without all dispute, a most regular and perfect composition, far exceeding any thing of the same nature among the ancients, and from whence, it has been conjectured, with the highest probability, that Theocritus borrowed some of the finest passages in his Idylliums, which he might easily do, by help of the Greek Version, published at Alexandria. But nothing, as I apprehend, can be extracted from this piece, that has any relation to Prior's