Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

than to violate the feelings of sanctity with which we are disposed to contemplate it. Yet, surely, this must be received with some abatement; that, I mean, which will be made on recollecting, that though a translation may excite our veneration more, as it becomes older; yet, as Biblical knowledge will most probably increase with the lapse of years, the reason why the translation should remain untouched would in that case increase at the same time that the necessity for a change would be shewn with increasing evidence.

Nor is this all: a distinct consideration being evidently due to those portions of Sacred Writ, which in the original are poetical, and of which some are found even in the Pentateuch,* and other historical books; besides the avowedly poetical books of Job, the Psalms, the Canticles, the Proverbs, &c. and most of the writings of the Prophets. Now, with regard to these, the observations of Lowth are peculiarly applicable. “It is incumbent on every translator to study the manner of his author, to mark the peculiarities of his style, to imitate his features, his air, his gesture, and, as far as the difference of language will permit, even his voice; in a word, to give a just and expressive resemblance of the original. If he does not carefully attend to this, he will sometimes fail of entering into his meaning; he will always exhibit him unlike himself, in a dress that will appear strange and unbecoming to all that are in any degree acquainted

* As in Genesis, chap. iv. 23, 24; ix. 25—29; xxvii

. 28, 29, 37-40; xlix. 1-27; Exod. xv. 1—21; various chapters in Deuteronomy; Judges, chap. v.; 1 Sam. 1--10; 2 Sam. i. 19-27; xxii, xxiii. 1-7; 2 Kings xix. 21-34; 1 Chron. xvi. 8—36, &c.

with him.” Thus it happens that no man of taste feels satisfied with a prose translation of Homer, or Virgil, or Horace; but regards as singularly flat and insipid, so marked a deviation from the native manner of the respective originals. And if disappointment be experienced when a profane author is thus treated, why should it not be felt in the case when the author is really divine? If, in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who dictated the Scriptures, considerable portions of them exhibit a rhythmical construction, abound in artificially composed acrostic stanzas, and in “parallelisms synonymous, antithetic, and constructive,” serving to make a more vivid impression upon the imagination and memory, and thus facilitating the recollection of the momentous verities which they contain ; are we shewing adequate reverence for this Great Source of Inspiration, while we continue satisfied with a version in which comparatively few vestiges of these peculiarities are to be traced ? so satisfied, at least, as to fancy it almost a species of heresy to hint at the possibility of improvement ? An attention to the artificial structure of the Hebrew original, has in many instances, as Lowth and others have shewn, suggested the true reading, where the text in our present copies is faulty; and a like attention to the structure, in the business of translation, has also in many instances given to the sacred writings a force and beauty of which the unlearned reader previously knew not. Why should not his mental pleasure and his religious benefit be augmented, when it may be safely accomplished, by simply doing justice to the Sacred Scriptures, and dealing as scrupulously with the translations of them as we are wont to do with the

translations of the books which have been transmitted to us from Greece and Rome?

The preceding strain of observation may perhaps be considered by some as unduly protracted, by others as altogether superfluous and out of place : it will, however, have answered the designed purpose, if it incline reflecting men to admit, that, at a period when the general current of opinion runs counter to the expediency

of an authoritative revision of the received version of the Scriptures, they ought, notwithstanding, to accept candidly, and, when a due combination of learning and integrity are evinced, to encourage liberally, every fresh translation of those portions of the Bible, namely, the poetical and the prophetical, which critics and commentators unanimously allow to admit of improvement.

Solomon's “Song of Songs,” of Dr. Good's translation of which I must now speak, has from the earliest ages of its existence been regarded as genuine and authentic; yet it would be wrong to deny that great differences of opinion have existed amongst the wisest and best expositors of Scripture, as to its inspiration. The authority of this book was expressly allowed by Melito, in the second century; and several of the Christian fathers, as Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyprian, Augustine, and Jerome, wrote commentaries upon it, or upon select portions of it. The father of English literature, Venerable Bede, wrote six books upon this Song: and in later ages, Alsted, Mercer, Bossuet, and Gill, have done much to elucidate its nature and object. There have been published several translations into the English language, of which the best known are those of Dr. Percy, in 1764; of Miss Francis, in 1781 ; of

Mr. Green, in the same year; of Mr. Hodgson, in 1785; of Döderlein, in 1795; and of Williams, in 1801. It would not seem that Dr. Good had an opportunity of examining all these: to those of Green, Percy, and Hodgson, he acknowledges himself indebted; as well as to the Spanish version of Luis de Leon, and the Italian of Melesigenio. He frequently also expresses his obligations to Lowth, whose sentiments, in reference to the character of the book, he adopts; and whose circumspection, with regard to minutiæ of interpretation, he seems closely to have followed.*

The opinions of learned men have differed greatly as to the precise nature of the “Song of Songs,” considered as an artificial composition, and of course as to the subdivisions to be traced in its structure. Bossuet regarded it as a regular drama, divided into seven portions, corresponding with the seven days of the Jewish marriage festivals; and Lowth, Percy, and Mr. Williams adopted this sentiment; but Jahn, Sir W. Jones, and our author, with some others, regard it as a series of sacred Idyls, the number of which Jahn supposes to be eight, while Dr. Good traces twelve.

With regard to the language, Dr. Good remarks, that in no translation which he has seen, is the rendering

*“Concerning the explanation of this allegory, (says the bishop, Lect. xxxi.) I will only add, that in the first place we ought to be cautious of carrying the figurative application too far, and of entering into a precise explication of every particular. Again, I would advise that this production be treated according to the established rules of allegory in the sacred writings, and that the author be permitted to be his own interpreter. In this respect the errors of critics and divines have been as numerous as they have been pernicious. Not to mention other absurdities, they have taken the allegory, not as denoting the universal state of the church, but the spiritual state individuals; than which nothing can be more inconsistent with the very nature and groundwork of the allegory itself, as well as with the general practice of the Hebrew poets on these occasions."

presented with all the delicacy of diction to which the original is fairly entitled: this main defect, in his opinion, has resulted from close verbal renderings of Hebrew terms being given, when they ought to have been translated equivalently; and in the plan pursued by himself, we therefore find our cool northerly taste less frequently offended. He exhibits two translations in opposite pages, one of them resembling, as closely as the idioms of the respective languages will allow, the rhythmical structure of the original, the other in heroic verse.

In the preface, he sketches his own views of the nature of Solomon's (or, as he assigns reasons for spelling it, Soloman's,) Song: from this preface, therefore, I shall select a passage, and then present a short specimen of each of his versions.

“It has been a question in all ages, whether the literal and obvious meaning of these sacred amorets be the whole that was ever intended by the royal bard? or, whether they afford not at the same time, the veil of a sublime and mystical allegory, delineating the bridal union subsisting between Jehovah and his pure and uncorrupted church? Upon this subject we have no sufficient data to build a decisive opinion. To those who disbelieve the existence of such an allegory, they still afford a happy example of the pleasures of holy and virtuous love; they inculcate, beyond the power of didactic poetry, the tenderness which the husband should manifest for his wife, and the deference, modesty, and fidelity with which his affection should be returned ;-and, considered even in this sense alone, they are fully entitled to the honour of constituting a part of the sacred scriptures.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »