or hemistichs, of a line by placing in each the same
number of accents. The number of syllables to an
accent may vary from one to even four or five, and
there may be a secondary accent. This is true in gen-
eral of English verse also, as Coleridge stated in the
Preface to Christabel, a poem in which the number of
syllables varies from four to twelve, with the same time
length for the lines. 1
The acrostic or alphabetic psalms are especially
important in the study of Hebrew meter because,
owing to the succession of letters of the alphabet, the
beginning and end of each line can be fixed definitely. 2
Other verse divisions are not so easily determined, be-
cause the older poetry has come down to us written
continuously as prose, and not divided into lines.
Lines vary in length according to the number of accents,
not the number of syllables. The commonest measure
is the trimeter, but there are also tetrameters, pen-
1 This subject is discussed, on the basis of music, by Sidney Lanier in
The Science of English Verse, New York, 1890, pp. 195-198.
2 This fact was noted and discussed by Bishop Lowth in the Preliminary
Dissertation to his translation of Isaiah. Isaiah, a New Translation, London,
1848, 14th ed., pp. iii-viii.
POETIC FORMS IN THE BIBLE 89
tameters and hexameters, and combinations of these,
sometimes in the same poem.
The twenty-third Psalm is an example of stanza
structure, which is concealed by the manner in which
it is usually printed, even in the Revised Versions.
The stanzas are in different meters, being respectively,
trimeter, tetrameter and pentameter. As translated
and arranged by Dr. C. A. Briggs, 1 who has by hyphens
joined the words of each accent group in Hebrew, the
Psalm appears as follows: ā
"Yahweh is-my-shepherd : I-cannot-want.
In-pastures of-green-grass He-causeth-me-to-lie-down;
Untowaters of- refreshment He-leadeth-me;
Me-myself He-restoreth . . .
" He-guideth-me in-paths of-righteousness for-his-name's-
Also when-I-walk in-the-valley of-dense-darkness
I-fear-not evil, for-Thou-art with-me:
Thy-rod and-Thy-staff they comfort-me.
" He-prepareth before-me a-table in-the-presence-of my-
Has-He-anointed with-oil my-head; my-cup is-abundance.
Surely-goodness and-mercy pursue-me all-the-days of-
And-I-sh all-return (to-dwell)-in-the-house-of Yahweh for-
1 The Study of Holy Scripture, p. 384.
90 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
The effect of Hebrew rhythm may be obtained, but
not, of course, the tone-color, by reading aloud these
poems translated, as nearly as possible, in the meters of
the originals. 1 The following ode is in the pathetic
meter 3x2, found also in Lamentations 1-4: ā
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,
Saith your God.
Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
And call to her.
" How that her service is fulfilled,
Her guilt made good;
That she has received from the hands of Yahwe
Full double for her sins."
An example of the 3x3 measure is the following ode:
"Hark! one saying, cry!
And I said, What shall I cry? ā
All that is flesh is grass,
And all its beauty like the bloom of the field.
"The grass dries, the blossom fades,
If the breath of Yahwe do blow on it;
The grass dries, the blossom fades,
But our God's word shall stand forever."
The 2x2 measure, with 3X2 in the middle of the
poem, is found in this ode: ā
1 The poems are used by the kind permission of my colleague Dr. James
Alan Montgomery, and are taken from his unpublished version of Isaiah
40-66 in the original metres.
POETIC FORMS IN THE BIBLE 91
"Bring on your case!
Advance your proofs!
Demands Jacob's King.
" Let them approach and inform us
Of the things which shall happen;
The causes ā what are they? ā announce,
That we may give heed !
" Or what is to come declare,
That we know their result!
Announce what comes hereafter,
That we know ye are gods!
" Yea do good or do evil,
That we wonder and fear!
Behold ye are nil,
And your work is naught!"
The pathetic measure 3 X2 in stanzas of five lines each
is exemplified in the ode: ā
"Thou no more wilt be called Forsaken.
Nor Lonely thy land;
But called, My Delight is in Her,
And Married thy land;
For in thee will Yahwe delight,
And thy land will be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So thy builder will marry thee;
And with the joy of the groom o'er the bride,
Thy God will delight in thee.
92 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
" On thy battlements, O Jerusalem,
Have I stationed Watchers;
All day and all night long,
They are never silent.
Ye, Yahwe's Remembrancers
Take ye no rest,
And never give ye Him rest,
Until He establish,
And until he set
Jerusalem a praise in the earth!
" By his right hand has sworn Yahwe,
And by the arm of His might:
No more will I give thy grain
As food to thy foes,
Nor shall strangers drink thy new wine,
Whereon thou hast toiled;
But those who garner shall eat it,
And praise Yahwe,
And those who gather shall drink it
In My holy confines."
Of the sublime ode, familiar as the fifty-third chapter
of Isaiah, Dr. Montgomery says that "in its original
form it had probably fifteen stanzas of a distich apiece.
The meter is trimeter, 3x3, as in the first two Servant
Songs, but in some lines the pathetic meter, 3x2, ap-
pears, at all events at the end of stanza 8. In addition
to the ethical and theological interest of the ode comes
the dramatic charm of its composition. It may be
divided into three acts. In the first, 52:13-15, is
sketched the exaltation of the Servant from his pro-
found misery to be the wonder of peoples and kings,
Yahwe being the speaker. In the second, 53:1-10 the
Gentiles, by a fine bit of dramatic art, are made to
tell the story in the form of self-reproachful confession ;
POETIC FORMS IN THE BIBLE 93
they saw the whole sad drama enacting, but thought
naught about it. Probably in 53:11 the Epilogue be-
gins, in which Yahwe pronounces the triumph of
Israel, given him as his reward for voluntary self-
sacrifice." As translated by Dr. Montgomery the
ode is : ā
Behold My Servant will prosper,
He will rise, be exalted on high.
As many were astounded before him,
So ... .
" His figure was marred from man's shape,
And his form from human likeness,
Yet many peoples will tremble,
Before him Kings will be silenced.
" For what was ne'er told them they see,
And what they ne'er heard they discern.
Who can believe our news,
And who marked the arm of Yahwe?
" For before us he grew up like a sapling
Or a root from a drought-stricken land;
Without form, without beauty to look at,
No sight for us to delight in,
" Despised and outlawed of men,
Sorrow's man and acquainted with sickness;
94 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
Like one from whom men hide the face,
Despised, and we gave him no thought.
" Yet surely our sickness he bore,
And he our sorrows did carry;
While we ā we accounted him stricken,
Plagued of God and afflicted.
" Yea he was pierced for our faults,
For our trespasses' sake was he bruised;
The chastisement for our peace was upon him,
And by his stripes is healing made ours.
" We all like sheep have ofFstrayed,
Each one his own way turning,
And Yahwe did inflict upon him
The sin of us all.
" Oppressed was he and afflicted,
Yet he never opened his mouth,
Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter,
As a ewe with her shearers is dumb.
11 By force he was judged and taken;
And his way, who is there regards it?
Cut off from the land of the living,
Smitten to death for our sin.
" And they made his grave with the wicked,
Along with the transgressors his tomb;
POETIC FORMS IN THE BIBLE 95
Despite that he did no wrong,
And deceit was not found in his mouth.
12, 13, 14
" And it was Yahwe's will to bruise him ... so that if he
should make his life a guilt-offering, he would see a posterity,
would prolong his days, and the will of Yahwe would prosper
in his hand. From the travail of his soul he will see, he
will be satisfied; by his knowledge My Servant will jus-
tify . . . many, and their sins he will bear.
" Therefore he will inherit among many,
And the spoil he will divide with the strong.
" Because he poured out his soul,
And among the sinners was counted,
Yet he bore the fault of many,
And for sinners makes intervention. ,,
The emotional element of poetry causes modifica-
tions in the manner and forms of expression. Whether
there was or was not rhyme, other than accidental,
or occasional, in Hebrew poetry is a subject on which
critics do not quite agree. A statement of Professor
Torrey is very suggestive in this connection for there
is in it the idea, which must be borne in mind in any
treatment of Hebrew literature, that what we have
in the Bible is only a small part of Hebrew writing,
and it may be that rhyme was common enough in
kinds of poetry not included in the Bible. "The
Hebrews, in the very small fragment of their literature
known to us make hardly any use of rhyme in poetry,
seeming to regard it as too cheap a device to be em-
ployed in serious compositions. Now and then, espe-
96 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
daily in prayers and other formulae suitable for popular
recitation rhyme appears. Thus Judges 16:24 which
Moore (com.) calls 'a hymn formed upon a single
rhyme.' The repeated rhyme in the first verses of
Psalm 14 was probably designed. The great poet of
Isaiah 40-66, who had an unusually strong feeling
for the sound of words occasionally drops into rhyme
for a moment." * In the English versions this does not
1 C. C. Torrey, "A Possible Metrical Original of the Lord's Prayer,"
Zeiischrijt fur Assyriologie, 1913, p. 315.
THE USES AND SOURCES OF IMAGERY AND ALLUSION IN
In reading the Bible we must always bear in mind
the fact that it has come to us from an Oriental people
whose modes of life and manner of thought were deter-
mined largely by their race and environment and there-
fore differ in some respects from those of the Western
world. If one has not already had this fact impressed
on his mind by actual contact with Orientals, he will
readily be brought to realize the immense importance
of it in the study of the Bible by reading such a book
as The Syrian Christ, the author of which says truly: ā
"You cannot study the life of a people successfully
from the outside. You may by so doing succeed in
discerning the few fundamental traits of character
in their local colors, and in satisfying your curiosity
with surface observations of the general modes of be-
havior; but the little things, the common things, those
subtle connectives in the social vocabulary of a people,
those agencies, which are born and not made, and which
give a race its rich distinctiveness, are bound to elude
your grasp. There is so much in the life of a people
which a stranger to that people must receive by way
of unconscious absorption." l "And it is those common
things of Syrian life, so indissolubly interwoven with
the spiritual truths of the Bible which cause the Western
readers of holy writ to stumble and which rob those
1 A. M. Rihbany, The Syrian Christy Boston, 1916, p. 7.
98 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
truths for them of much of their richness. By sheer
force of genius, the aggressive systematic Anglo-Saxon
mind seeks to press into logical unity and creedal
uniformity those undesigned, artless, and most natural
manifestations of Oriental life, in order to ā¢ under-
stand the Scriptures.' ' To the Oriental the Annuncia-
tion was "in perfect harmony with the prevailing modes
of thought and the current speech of the land" ā "I do
not know how many times I heard it stated in my
native land [Syria] and at our own fireside that heavenly
messengers in the form of patron saints or angels
came to pious, childless wives, in dreams and visions
and cheered them with the promise of maternity."
"To the Orientals 'the heavens declare the glory of
God' and the stars reveal many wondrous things to
men." "Deeps beyond deeps are revealed through
that dry, soft and clear atmosphere of the 'land of
promise/ yet the constellations seem as near to the
beholder as parlor lamps." "So great is the host of the
stars seen by the naked eye in that land that the people
of Syria have always likened a great multitude to the
stars of heaven or the sand of the sea." 1
Ordinary ideas of the Oriental often seem to the
Anglo-Saxon extraordinary, demanding analysis and ex-
planation. The physical characteristics of Palestine
and the customs of the inhabitants are the natural
reasons for many of the modes of expression, and figures
of speech employed in the Bible, which present in-
teresting questions not only in regard to the source oi
the imagery, but also in regard to the constant use of it.
Much of the finest poetry of the Bible is contained
in single lines or couplets, in which the poet by his use
of imagery, or allusion, rises into the higher regions
1 A. M. Rihbany, The Syrian Christ, pp. II, 12, 31, 32.
IMAGERY AND ALLUSION IN THE BIBLE 99
of the imagination, and gives us a wonderfully beautiful
and significant picture. The following verses illustrate
the use of familiar sights of Palestine. They tell of the
great out-of-doors world so characteristic of the Bible: ā
"The trees of Jehovah are filled with moisture.
The cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted;
Where the birds make their nests:
As for the stork, the fir-trees are her house." Psalm 104:
"As willows by the water-courses." Isaiah 44:4.
"A tree planted by the streams of water." Psalm 1 13.
"For he grew up before him as a tender plant, And as a
root out of a dry ground." Isaiah 53 :2.
"In the morning they are like grass which groweth up,
In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; In the evening
it is cut down and withereth." Psalm 90:5-6.
"Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the
bands of Orion?" Job 38:31.
"He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoar frost
like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: Who can
stand before his cold ? He sendeth out his word and melteth
them: He causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow."
"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; But the word of
our God shall stand forever." Isaiah 40:8.
"We do all fade as a leaf." Isaiah 64:6.
"The fading flower of his glorious beauty." Isaiah 28:4.
"As a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daugh-
ters." Song of Solomon 2:2.
"He feedeth his flock among the lilies." Song of Solomon
6: 3 .
IOO A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
"And his heart trembled, and the heart of his people, As
the trees of the forest tremble with the wind." Isaiah 7:2.
"I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail
in all the work of your hands." Haggai, 2:17.
The ordinary figures of speech used in the Bible re-
quire no special discussion, but there is one figure which
is used constantly with the result of increasing greatly
the appeal to the imagination by presenting, sometimes
in considerable detail, a dramatic picture instead of
an abstract idea. The common name of this figure is
"personification," which usually means that inanimate
objects or abstract ideas are spoken of as though they
were persons. The use of this figure is characteristic
of the writings of Dickens, for example, and gives them
much of their highly imaginative character. As em-
ployed in the Bible, the figure is better described by
its Greek name "prosopopoeia," for, in one of its most
important uses, it consists, not in the endowing of
inanimate objects, or abstractions, with personality,
but in representing an actual person as present, or as
speaking, when this will add force or vividness to what
is said. The effect is usually very beautiful as in these
examples : ā
"Mercy and truth are met together;
"Righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
"Then justice shall dwell in the wilderness;
"And righteousness shall abide in the fruitful field."
"The deep saith, It is not in me;
"And the sea saith, It is not with me." Job 28:14.
" Doth not wisdom cry,
"And understanding put forth her voice?" Proverbs 8:1.
IMAGERY AND ALLUSION IN THE BIBLE IOI
These give us dramatic scenes. There are persons,
and" there is" a<JlioTTT~ This sort of prosopopoeia is
common enough. There is, however, another sort,
equally common, which, though not generally so thought
of, is really a literary device to increase the force of
what is said. It consists in putting a fictitious but
appropriate speech into the mouth of a real person, as
Thucydides did in writing his History of the Peloponne-
sian War. It is asserted by critics that the speeches of
Paul, in Acts, are of this kind. 1 This second variety
of prosopopoeia is found in the Song of Deborah,
Judges 5, which is a song of triumph, containing a
series of pictures. We see Jehovah marching "out
of the field of Edom," and the earth trembling, and
the mountains quaking at his presence (vs. 4-5). We
see also the street or road, with people on it, riding on
white asses, sitting on rich carpets, or walking by the
way (v. 10). We see the battle (vs. 19-23), the rout,
and then the terrible scene in the tent (vs. 24-27). The
description of the fall of Sisera is for power unexcelled
in literature: ā
"He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
She brought him butter in a lordly dish.
She put her hand to the tent-pin,
And her right hand to the workmen's hammer;
And with the hammer she smote Sisera,
She smote through his head;
Yea, she pierced and struck through his temples.
At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay;
At her feet he bowed, he fell;
Where he bowed, there he fell down dead." Judges, 5 125-27.
1 See Percy Gardner, Cambridge Biblical Essays, London, 1909, pp. 381-
419. Essay XII, "The Speeches of St. Paul in Acts."
102 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
Of those closing lines Lowell wrote: ā } "Are we not
made to see as with our eyes the slow collapse of Sisera's
body, as life and will forsake it, and then to hear his
sudden fall at last in the dull thud of 'he fell down dead,'
where every word sinks lower and lower, to stop short
with the last?"
And now we come to the example of prosopopoeia,
by which the poet suddenly turns our thoughts to
another scene in a distant place. The man lying there
dead had a devoted mother, proud of her son, and at
this very moment eagerly awaiting his return in triumph
bringing his share of the spoils of battle. Using the
device known well to-day, and employed with great
effect by those who represent plays by means of
moving-pictures, we are not merely reminded of the
anxious mother, actually far away, but we are made
to see her, with her attendants, peering out through
the lattice, and not only see her, but hear the words
in which she tells her wise ladies what spoils Sisera will
probably bring home: ā
"Through the window she looked forth, and cried,
The mother of Sisera cried through the lattice,
'Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?'
Her wise ladies answered her,
Yea she returned answer to herself,
'Have they not found, have they not divided the spoil?
A damsel, two damsels to every man;
To Sisera a spoil of dyed garments,
A spoil of dyed garments embroidered,
Of dyed garments embroidered on both sides, on the necks
of the spoil ? ' " Judges, 5 128-30.
Here, as in the companion picture, we have the
1 In his essay on Milton's Areopagitica.
IMAGERY AND ALLUSION IN THE BIBLE IO3
description proceeding gradually to a climax. Does
the poet wish us to understand that this is the record
of an actual conversation? Not at all. The whole
scene is described as it is to make vivid the picture,
to make the reader an eye-witness of both scenes.
The same kind of prosopopoeia is employed re-
peatedly in Psalms where the actual words of Jehovah
purport to be given in passages in which the poet is
simply expressing what he believed to be the thought
of Jehovah. This putting of words into the form of a
direct speech increases greatly both the picturesque
and the dramatic features, in which the Hebrew poet
delighted. The change of person, and consequently
of speaker, is a feature of many Psalms that is too often
practically ignored by readers. As an example we may
take Psalm 91 in which the "I" of the second verse is
one man speaking to another man, the "thee" of the
third verse. Beginning with the fourteenth verse is a
different "I," who is Jehovah, soliloquizing as he looks
down from heaven on the two men and hears what
is said. The poet cannot be supposed to be quoting
literally an actual speech of Jehovah. He makes
wonderfully impressive the attitude of Jehovah to-
wards men by giving us a speech in the first person.
A similar dramatic use of the first person occurs for
example, in these lines: ā
"Who is this that cometh from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah?"
"I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Isaiah
Characteristic of Hebrew poetry is its out-of-doors
setting. It is redolent of the fields, gives us pictures
104 A BOOK ABOUT THE ENGLISH BIBLE
in almost every line of something in nature upon which
the eyes of the poet were accustomed to rest, or inter-
prets the scenes and natural features of Palestine as the
work of God who created all things. The general
aspects of the starry heavens, the sun and the moon,
the changes in the sky, suggest the power and also
mystery of God. Light and darkness, day and night,
the changes of the seasons, storms, clouds, rain, the
sea, rivers, floods common among mountains, snow, ice,
the dew, these all are used as illustrations of pros-
perity and adversity, knowledge and ignorance, hap-
piness and calamity, and other conditions and events
in the lives of men and of nations. Much of the use
made of nature and of great events is not strictly fig-
urative. It is rather allusion with an implied com-
parison or teaching.
The Story of Creation is ever in the mind of the Bible
poet. Of this examples will be found in: ā
"O Jehovah, our Lord,
How excellent is thy name in all the earth,
Who hast set thy glory upon the heavens! . . .
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
The moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;
What is man that thou art mindful of him?" Psalm
8:1,3, e tc
"The Heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament showeth his handiwork." * Psalm 19:1.
" By terrible things thou wilt answer us in righteousness,
God of our salvation,
Thou that art the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
1 The meaning of this Psalm is discussed by Ruskin in Modern Painters,
Part VII, at the close of chapter IV, The Angel of the Sea. He says, "We saw
long ago, how its [Nature's] various powers of appeal to the mind of men
might be traced to some typical expression of Divine attributes."
IMAGERY AND ALLUSION IN THE BIBLE IO5
And of them that are afar off upon the sea:
Who by his strength setteth fast the mountains,
Being girded about with might:
Who stilleth the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples." Psalm 65 '.5-7.
When Jesus wished to impress upon his disciples the
folly of worry about the morrow he said : ā
"Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither
do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father
feedeth them. . . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they
grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you,
that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one
of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field,
which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall
he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" Mat-
In all these passages God is mentioned as the Creator
and controller of the universe.
Common scenes are used as figures, or analogies, to
illustrate moral or spiritual truth. Jesus, telling his
disciples that their duties and opportunities were at
hand, said: ā
"Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are
white already unto harvest." John 4:35.
For illustrations which should help to make clear the
doctrine of the resurrection of the body, Paul turns to
the fields and to the heavens : ā
"... and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the
body that shall be, but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat,