The Poets of the Old Testament

By Alex. R. Gordon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
The Book of Proverbs

WE have found song to be a natural and spontaneous expression of the human spirit, the origins of which must be sought on the misty mountain-tops of antiquity. But the simplest mental life is no mere bundle of feelings. It consists equally of observation and judgment. And as men have given universal voice to their feelings in song, they embody their judgments also in those terse, sententious sayings we call proverbs. Struck out in some hour of quiet meditation on life and its problems, or amid the strife of tongues around the camp-fires or by the gates, and constantly polished by the attrition of daily use, these sayings are real crystallizations of the practical wisdom of peoples. The individual proverb cannot indeed reflect the whole universe of truth. But to maintain its place in tradition, it must be a genuine mirror of experience, holding forth one aspect of life in brief, pointed, memorable language, that will appeal to the understanding even of the simplest of the people.

In its original impulse, therefore, the proverb has

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