Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry

By Frank Moore Cross Jr.; David Noel Freedman | Go to book overview
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Notes to the Text
In the reconstruction of the text, marks of accentuation have been omitted. The problems of early Hebrew vocalization and accentuation have not entirely been solved. While the Massoretic pointing provides an adequate basis for the indication of stress-syllables, it is not correct in a large number of cases. It is clear, furthermore, that in poetry there was considerably more freedom with regard to the placing of the tone than in prose, and that accentuation was influenced seriously by metrical considerations.

The number of stresses in each colon is indicated in the right-hand margin. The prevailing metrical form in the Blessing of Moses is a bicolon, 3:3, as in vs. 14-17, etc. A considerable number of tricola, 3: 3:3, occur as well, e.g., vss. 2-3, 12, 26. On the prevalence of this form in Ugaritic and early Hebrew poetry, see Albright, "The Old Testament and the Canaanite Language and Literature", pp. 23ff., and the forthcoming article on "The Psalm of Habakkuk". There are also a few cases of bicola, 2:2, e.g. , vss. 22, 29.

Symmetry (parallelismus membrorum) is the dominant feature of Hebrew poetry. This is true not only with regard to the meaning of parallel cola, but also their structure and length. While early Israelite poets, in all probability, did not count syllables, their verses nevertheless were carefully balanced. Parallel cola frequently have the same number of syllables (cf. the discussion in Chapter I). In the Blessing of Moses, there is an average maximum divergence of one syllable. Other general conclusions are as follows: 1) There may be one or two syllables between stresses, but not three; 2) As a result, a two-stress colon will contain from four to six syllables, a three-stress colon, from six to nine syllables.

It must be emphasized that these rules cannot be applied rigidly. In the first place, we may expect to find a number of exceptions, deliberately introduced into the text to produce special effects; e.g., vs. 22, where three of the four cola have three syllables, while the first consists of the monosyllable dān, and receives added emphasis. In the second place, we know very little about the word-forms peculiar to Hebrew poetry. Irregularities in meter may be due to the fact that normal prose forms have been substituted in the Massoretic text for longer


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Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry


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