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adopted by Mr. Mason Good d, or, more strictly speaking, that adopted by Signior Melesigenio. What is commonly called the Song of Solomon, is considered as a collection of distinct idyls, or little poems, perfectly detached and separate from each other, with no other connexion than what they derive from a common subject, the peculiarities of the style of a common author, and perhaps some unity of design in regard of the mystic sense which they are intended to bear.
This notion of what is commonly called the Song of Solomon is certainly a most important discovery. The mistake of considering a number of distinct pieces, in an ancient language, as one continued work, and endeavouring to interpret them upon that principle, is in itself sufficient to account for much of the obscurity so generally complained of in reading the Canticles.
The improbability, however, that the true nature of the Song of Solomon should be left to be a modern discovery, will perhaps strike my readers. But it may be observed, that though the notion be indeed a discovery, in respect of the ages just elapsed, yet there is still surviving evidence enough to lead to the conclusion, that
See Song of Songs, or sacred Idyls, by John Mason Good, London, 1803.
the same notion was entertained respecting this work by the ancients.
The plural appellation given to the song among the Latins, Cantica Salomonis,' whence our Canticles,' seems to argue that they considered it as a collection of several songs, and not as one continued poem. The title of this book in the Chaldee paraphrase, is a still more remarkable evidence; “ The Songs and Hymns which Solomon the Prophet, the King of Israel, uttered in the Spirit of Prophecy before the Lord.” Not to mention that, according to the opinion of some Hebrew scholars, the title of the book, as it stands in the original Hebrew
, Song of Songs, and understood to signify the most excellent of songs, should be translated A Series of Songs o.
It is in this view of the Canticles that the following exposition is attempted. I may borrow the language of Mr. Good, though I shall often see occasion to differ from him in its application; • I have finished the Idyl where the subject seems
which has been usually rendered The ,שיד השירים
e now Nonnullis Series alicujus rei( ut Arab. Synon. est-series lapidum (murus), series pergulata vitis; unde sec. quosdam S'70 7'w Series Carminum.-Simonis Lex. Heb.
Salomonis sanctissimum carmen inter Idyllia Hebrea recensendum puto.—Sir WILLIAM Jones.
naturally to close, and I have recommenced it where a new subject is introduced.” In
respect to the nature and design of these sacred songs, they are considered in the present publication as so many sacred allegories, intended by the Divine Spirit for our instruction and edification in the mysteries of our holy religion.
An allegory is defined by Bishop Lowth to be a figure, which, under the literal sense of the words, conceals a foreign or a distant meaning.” Of allegories in the Hebrew poetry, his Lordship reckons three kinds:-" The continued Metaphor, the parabolic Allegory, and the mystical or historic Allegory.” He observes, “Supposing the Song of Solomon to be an allegory, a question will arise, to which of the three species it belongs.” And considering the song as one continued drama, he places it in the third class; the nature of which sort of allegory is, under the veil of some historical fact, to conceal a meaning more sacred and sublime. The historical fact he supposes to be the marriage-feast of Solomon; the more sacred and spiritual meaning,
“ the Prince of Peace, whom Solomon typified espousing his church.”
But upon the plan now proposed, of considering the Canticles as a collection of many distinct idyls and allegories, we shall perhaps see reason to conclude, that only a very few of them can be properly said to belong to this class of allegories : but that they are, for the most part, of the parabolical kind-of that species of allegories, according to Bishop Lowth's definition, “ which consist of a continued narration of a fictitious event, applied, by way of simile, to the illustration of some important truth.”
For the better understanding of the distinction between these two species of allegories, we may observe, from the same admirable writer, “ that, in the parabolical allegory, the exterior or ostensible imagery is fiction only; the truth lies altogether in the interior and remote sense which is veiled as it were under this thin and pellucid covering. But in the historical allegory, the exterior or ostensible image is not a shadowy colouring of the interior sense, but is itself a reality; and although it sustains another character, it does wholly lay aside its own." The one, in short, is a fable, with its intended moralparable contrived only for the sake of its interpretation : of which sort were probably all the parables of our blessed Saviour. The other is some event or occurrence in the history of the times, moralized or spiritualized, or considered as destined by divine Providence to typify some
similar but more important event to come to pass in a future age. Of this species of allegory the Scriptures of the Old Testament afford us many instances; and the fourth chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians may be referred to for a particular examples
The historical events, upon which it may be supposed some few of these allegories are built, will be noticed, when the particular idyl is considered which contains the allusion. Speaking of them generally, and the exceptions are very few, we may pronounce them to be allegories of the parabolical kind.
And here my readers, who are acquainted with some of the existing expositions of the Canticles, will perceive that we escape a great deal of very useless and uninteresting inquiry — respecting who was the literal bride, whether Pharaoh's daughter, or some other woman; with a variety of vague conjecture and disgusting detail, not less offensive to true taste, than unprofitable to every practical purpose. Since, if we suppose them to be parabolical allegories, it is obviously as unnecessary to ask—who was the particular bride, and what the particular marriage; as to
f Ver. 24, &c.