No one can read attentively the poorest version of the Old Testament without feeling how strong a vein of poetry runs through its pages. We need not venture on a definition of what poetry means; it is a peculiar form of imagination and expression which bears witness to itself. Ernest Hello called verse “that rare splendor, born of music and the word”; now assuredly in writings such as many of the Psalms, in the Prophets, the Book of Job, and Proverbs we recognize its presence. On the other hand, from the great collection of documents which we term Chronicles (Paralipomena), Ezra, and Nehemias, this quality is almost entirely absent; matter and style an-nounce that we are dealing with prose. We open the Hebrew Bible, and we find our judgment confirmed by the editors of the Massora — the received and vocalized text. Conspicuously, where the title indicates “songs” (shirim, Ex. 15:1; Num. 21:17), the lines are parted into verse; for instance, Deut. 32, Judges 5, II Kings xxii. But more. As Ginsburg tells us, “In the best M.S.S. the lines are poetically divided and arranged in hemistichs” throughout the Psalter, Prov-erbs, and Job. And the Synagogue enjoined this.
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