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Either spoils a steady lifting. Thrice: then, ‘Laugh at Hell

who list, I can't! God's no fable either. Did this boy's eye wink once ?

No! There's no standing him and Hell and God, all three against me


I did cheat!'

And down he threw the pistol.” 1

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In the Essay the principle is elucidated ; in the Novel it is illustrated; in the Drama it is simply portrayed. In the Essay the author interprets; in the Novel he portrays and interprets; in the Drama his portrayal is left to be self-interpretative. This self-interpretative nature of the drama is one of the characteristics which fit it for presentation on the stage, but by no means the only one. The drama

may be a story so constructed that it can be told “by actual representation of persons by persons, with imitation of language, voice, gesture, dress, and accessories or surrounding conditions ; but this is by no means essential. Browning's “Ring and the Book," which could by no possibility be acted on the stage, is as truly a drama as is “Hamlet or “Faust." The real distinction between the dramatic and the epic poem is well defined by Boucicault: "In the epic poem there is only one speaker - the poet himself. The action is bygone. The scene is described. The persons are spoken of as third persons. There are only two concerned in it, the poet and the reader. In the drama the action is present, the scene is visible, the persons are speakers, the sentiments and passions are theirs.” 1

1 Dramatic Idylls, “ Clive,” Browning's Works, Riverside Edition, vol. vi. p. 160.

2 Century Dictionary.

It is in this sense that the “ Song of Songs” is a drama. It is a portrayal of woman's love resisting the enticements of ambition. In it there are three characters : a Shulamite 2 maiden ; her peasant lover, to whom she is betrothed, and to whose love she remains faithful under strong temptations to abandon him for a supreme place at the court of King Solomon, as the head of his harem ; and Solomon himself. There is also a chorus of women attached to the court, who lend their influences in coöperation with the endeavors of the king to win the maiden from her betrothed. No moral is drawn; no characterizations are furnished ; no interpretation is afforded ; the poet is unseen; an

l invisible artist summons us to look on while the royal lover endeavors by every blandishment to win the peasant girl; we are invited to listen to her replies, to witness even her night-dreams, and to see at last the victory which her love, never for a moment vacillating, wins for her and for woman. In studying this book there are three considerations which must be constantly in the mind of the student.

I. This is a drama only in the largest sense of that word : it was not probably composed to be i Quoted in Century Dictionary under Drama. 2 Chap. vi. 13; a form of Shunammite, a native of Shunem (Shulem).

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enacted on a stage, and is not adapted for that purpose, though it might lend itself to performance as a musical interlude, with the simplest scenic effects, or with none at all. There are clearly different songs to be sung by different singers, some male, some female; but these songs are not assigned by the author to their respective characters. Except King Solomon, no personage is named. There are no stage directions; and except in the account of Solomon's entrance into Jerusalem no scenic descriptions. There is no conversation; nothing that can properly be called a dialogue. The interplay of thought and emotion is effected by the contrast between monologues. The Song of Songs is indeed rather a cycle of dramatic love songs than a drama in the modern sense of the word. It resembles an oratorio rather than an opera, though it cannot properly be said to resemble either; except that, as in the oratorio, the scenery, the occasion, the distinctive character of the three principal personages are all left to the imagination of the auditor. It is for this reason the commentators have differed so widely in their interpretation : that some have conceived that there are but two characters, others that there are three; that some suppose the description of Solomon in Jerusalem 1 to be furnished dramatically by a trio representing different citizens, others regard it as a piece of description furnished by the poet himself and to be interpreted either by a kind of Greek chorus, or in recitative by an interpreter; that some regard the duet in chapter iv. 8-v. 1 as representing an ideal, others as representing a real, interview between the Shulamite and her peasant lover; that in some instances the same song is attributed to different characters by different interpreters. In the interpretation of the Song of Songs given in this chapter I follow the dramatic interpreter; but the reader must remember that it is impossible to give such an interpretation without modernizing and occidentalizing an ancient and Oriental songcycle, and that in such an interpretation much necessarily depends upon the temper of the interpreter.2

1 The dramatic critics generally introduce a dialogue element in chap. i., where they represent the Shulamite's song, depreciating her beauty, as interpreted by the chorus with the words “but comely,” and in chap. iii., which they conceive to be a dialogue between different citizens commenting on the splendor of the royal procession. This appears to me too modern and artificial to be a probable interpretation of the design of the author.

II. The reader must also constantly bear in mind the difference between the language of imagination and the language of symbolism. The language of imagination is framed for the purpose of calling up in the mind of the auditor or reader some image. It ought always to be possible to translate the figure of speech into a figure on canvas. It is intended to be a picture, and it is imperfect if it cannot be translated into a picture. But the language of symbolism is not intended to call up in the mind of the auditor or reader a picture ; it cannot be translated into a figure on canvas; it is not, and is not intended to be, pictorial. It uses things to represent ideas, much as in the earliest hieroglyphic writing things were used to represent ideas. When, for example, the Hebrew poet says God is a rock, he does not mean to call up

1 Song of Songs, iii. 6–11.

2 “ In case some surprise should be felt at the amount which (upon either view) has, as it were, to be read between the lines, it may be pointed out that, if the poem is to be made intelligible, its different parts must, in one way or another, be assigned to different characters; and as no names mark the beginning of the several speeches, these must be supplied, npon the basis of such clues as the poem contains, by the commentator.” Driver's Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, sixth ed., p. 438.

in the mind of the reader the picture of a rock and compare God therewith; he means to call up the idea of strength and stability; he uses a concrete thing to represent an abstract idea. The language of these love songs is not the language of imagination, and they are not only despoiled of their meaning, but in some instances a grotesque meaning is imported into them, by reading them as though they were imaginative. They are symbolical. Thus when the maiden sings of her lover, “His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars," she does not mean to call up an image of the mountain or the trees; she means to call up the ideas of strength and beauty which they represent, and the emotions which they evoke: the sight of him would be exhilarating to her as would be the view of her beloved cedar-clad mountains in her rural home. So when Solomon, praising the maiden,

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