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The Dirge of Coheleth. 533 


In an essay entitled The Dirge of Coheleth in Ecclesiastes 
XII. Discussed and Literally Interpreted, written in 1873, 
I proposed a literal rendering or explanation of certain 
verses which are usually taken " anatomically," the ex- 
pressions in them being supposed to allude to the several 
members of the human body in its decrepitude. Shortly 
after its publication (1874) the essay was discussed by 
Delitzsch^ in his Kohelet ; and I have to thank Dr. Cheyne 
for calling attention to it in his Job and Solomon, although 
(in an attempt to describe it briefly) he has very completely 
misrepresented it, his statement of my " dirge-theory " 
being contained in the foot-note, Namely, that w. 3-5 are 
cited from an authorised book of dirges (comp. 2 Chron. 
XXXV. 25). There seems, however, no assignable reason for 
separating these verses from the context. And how can the 
supposed mourners have sung the latter part of ver. 5 ? How 
indeed ? Before reading this note I had never imagined 
that any one could think of the mourners going about the 
streets singing, " The mourners go about the streets." The 
writer has mistaken for an enunciation of the dirge-theory 
a clause of the casual remark appended to my prefatory 
sketch of it, " The whole passage may allude, etc., or may 
have been cited from an authorised book of Dirges," &c. 

The dirge-theory is simply that what precedes " Be- 
cause man goeth to his long home, and the mourners 
go about in the streets " does when literally interpreted 
constitute a short poem suited to the occasion ; and if 
other interpreters maintain that the passage as they in- 
terpret it is no less poetical and suited to the occasion, all 

• It was also reviewed by Kuenen. See Tee Jewish Quakteelt 
Bbview, vol. iv., p. 478. 

534 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

that is distinctive of my theory is that the passage should 
be literally interpreted. If when its details have been fully 
looked into, the theory should be found to be an imprac- 
ticable one, it would then have to be abandoned ; but I do 
not know of any good reason for its abandonment as a 
theory and without examination in detail. The verses to 
be discussed (Eccl. xii. 1-7), run as follows in the 
Authorised Version : 

" 1. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth : 

" While the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, whett 
thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. 

" 2. While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be nob 
darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain ; 

" 3. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and 
the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because 
they are few [inary. the grinders fail because they grind little], and 
those that look out of the windows be darkened ; 

" 4. And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of 
the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and. 
all the daughters of music shall be brought low ; 

" 5. Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears 
shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grass- 
hopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail : because man goeth to 
his long home, and the mourners go about the streets : 

" 6. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, 
or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at 
the cistern. 

" 7. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was ; and the 
spirit shall return unto God who gave it." 

Dr. Cheyne writes in Job and Solomon, " We have now 
arrived at the conclusion of the meditations of our much- 
tried thinker. It is strongly poetic in colouring ; but when 
we compare it with the grandly simple overture of the 
book (i. 4-8), can we help confessing to a certain degree of 
disappointment? It is the allegory which spoils it for 
modern readers, and so completely spoils it that attempts 
have been made to expel the allegorical element altogether.' 
But what has led to these attempts to expel it is, perhaps 
not so much a distaste for the allegory in itself as the 

The Dirge of CoheUth. 535 

repeated and egregious failures of these interpreters to 
work out their theory consistently and in agreement with 
one another. An anatomist who is true to a form of the 
Rabbinic exposition is considered by one of a different 
persuasion to have "a critical nose degenerating into a 
hog's snout." Delitzsch introduces his own form of the 
allegory, on which something will be said in the latter part 
of this article, with the remark that previous anatomies 
have been failures, "Die bisherigen Deutungsversuche 
sind freilich ganz oder meistens verungliickt." Herzfeld 
goes further and writes, " Zum Schlusse dieser poetischen 
Beschreibung des Alters und des Todes bemerke ich noch, 
dass, wenn wir an ihr keine durchgefiihrte Allegoric, 
sondern ein von der unbildlichen Redeweise mehrfach 
durchgebrochenes Aggregat unvoUstandiger Vergleichungen 
haben, dieses Verfahren nicht vorzugsweise unserem Ver- 
fasser, sondern fast alien biblischen Schriftstellem mehr 
oder weniger eigen ist." On this I shall have something 
more to say presently. In the Dirge I remarked upon it 
that the fault was not with the Preacher but with his 
interpreters, who had mistaken a C?nT for a atrs, a piece of 
Midrash for a primary rendering. 

The mass of readers are disposed to adopt the anatomical 
view of the passage because they imagine that it has the 
decisive support of Jewish tradition. Then it is observed 
that some expressions in it, as that the grinders cease, are 
easily and attractively accounted for by the theory; and 
this is forthwith accepted as sufficiently probable, the less 
tractable details being left as puzzles for the critics. But 
the anatomical rendering belongs to the Haggadah literature 
(in the popular sense of the term), and in this we do not 
look for the simple or primary sense of Scripture; and, 
conversely, when the Haggadah gives us an allegorical 
interpretation, it does not thereby lay down that the 
passage so interpreted has no ratPD, or literal sense. 
" There was a little city, and few men within it ; and there 
came a great king against it and besieged it, and built 

536 TJie Jewish Quarterly Review. 

great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a 
poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city ; 
jj-et no man remembered that same poor man." The little 
city, to speak in modern phrase, was John Bunyan's city of 
Mansoid : the poor wise man was the good "IJJ"» or eTndvfiia 
or principle: the great king was the evil "I2"», which is 
congenital, and is therefore thirteen years senior to the good 
principle in man, the birth of which dates from the day 
when he becomes a son of the Torah. When it has been 
proved that the author of this pretty little parable was of 
opinion that Eccl. ix. 13-15 has no Qt»D, and that the 
writer of the book did not mean these verses to be taken in 
their obvious sense, then, and not till then, I shall be ready 
to grant that the ingenious originator of the anatomical 
explanation of Eccl. xii. 1-7 may have denied the possi- 
bility of a literal interpretation of the passage. Meanwhile 
(without in the first instance criticising the renderings of 
anatomists) I will give over again, with one or two 
improvements, some of my reasons for thinking that the 
passage taken literally is not devoid of meaning. 

The first thing to be noticed is its structure. It has for 
preface. Remember note thy Creator in the days of thy youth ; 
after which come three sections beginning with the same 
phrase, sb "iITS IV, while as yet not. In the Dirge (p. 2) I 

wrote Ere Ere Ere. The A.V. has " While," 

" While," " Or ever," at the beginnings of the three sections, 
and the R.V., "Or ever," in each case. In the first section 
of the three there is a simply expressed premonition of the 
" evil days," when youth, with its health, strength, and joyous- 
ness, will have departed. The third section begins with 
figures of dissolution, " Or ever .... the golden bowl .... 
or the pitcher be broken," etc., and ends literally, " Then 
shall the dust return to the earth as it was : and the spirit 
.shall return unto God who gave it." The longer inter- 
mediate section begins with familiar Biblical images, 
■" While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, 
be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain," 

TJie Dirge of CoJieleth. 537 

and ends literally, " Because man goeth to his long home, 
and the mourners go about the streets." The question to 
be answered is, Where in this second section is the point 
■of transition from figurative to literal expression ? and 
everything depends upon the answer which we give to 
that question. 

The obvious point of transition, if Biblical usage is to 
be allowed to decide, is at the words In the day tvhen (ver. 
3). The figure of the darkening of the heavens is at once 
followed by its explanation. Compare Isaiah xxx. 26, 
where the same formula of transition from the figurative 
to the literal is used, "Moreover the light of the moon 
shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun 
shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that 
the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth 
the stroke of their wound." A simple " when " takes the 
place of "in the day that" in Ezek. xxxii. 7-10, "And when 
I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the 
stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and 
the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of 
heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon 
thy land, saith the Lord God. I will also vex the hearts 
of many people, ichen I shall bring thy destruction among 
the nations, into the countries which thou hast not known. 
Yeaj I will make many peoples amazed at thee, and their 
kings shall be horribly afraid for thee, when I shall brandish 
my sword before them ; and they shall tremble at every 
moment, every man for his own life, in the day of thy fall." 
Here it is to be remarked that the person addressed, 
Pharaoh (ver. 2), is not warned simply of his own coming 
destruction, but of the impression which this will make 
upon " many peoples." It might be said that their feelings 
would not be of any interest to him then; nevertheless, 
the prophet, in apostrophising him, makes a point of fore- 
telling how others will be affected by his fall. Returning 
now to Eccl. xii. 2- .5, we may say that in accordance with 
the parallels just cited, all that comes between the formula 

538 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

of transition In tlie day when (ver. 3), and the concluding- 
words of the section because man goeth, etc., should be 
capable of interpretation as a literal description of what 
happens on the occasion when " the mourners go about the 
streets." The word Also (d2) divides what we have now 
to interpret in detail into subsections, consisting of verses 
3 and 4, and verse 5 respectively. 

Verse 3. Passing over the introductory 't& DVa, In the 
day when, we have remaining a description of the inmates 
of a house or palace, whose lord is lying dead in it on that 

The keepers of the house are men-servants, the men of 
\>">n those of higher rank; the grinders (fem.) are maid- 
servants, who prepare food ; the gazers at the lattices are 
the ladies of the house. Men and women of the lower and 
the higher degree respectively are mentioned in this order 
in Psalm cxxiii. 2, " As the eyes of servants look unto the 
hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the 
hand of her mistress" etc. ; and Isaiah xxiv. 2, " As with 
the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with 
her mistress." 

The grinding-maids " cease " from work because " they 
grind little " (A.V. marg.), or have little work to do, at a 
time when there are no festivities. This rendering implies 
that 'itOlJa is transitive, and means nSTItDn ns tlDVO, which 
is in accordance with the facts — (1) that the piel of t05?a 
(which is found here only in the Bible) is much used and 
is transitive iu the later Hebrew ; and (2) that Ecclesiastes, 
as all critics allow, approximates in its diction to the later 
Hebrew. It is to be noticed that the grinding-maids 
merely cease from work because none remains to be done. 

The Dirge of Coheleth. 539 

the word ibiai not meaning that they are past work or have 
suffered injiiry. 

On my rendering of the next dause Delitzseh has the 
remark, " Die Fensterguckerinnen soUen die ladies sein, die 
sich gem am Fenster amiisiren, und die nun verdunkelt 
sind. Gibt es etwas Komischeres als solche (ob ausserlich 
oder innerlich, bleibt unbestimmt) finster gewordene Dam- 
chen ? " I will therefore repeat some of the illustrations 
which I gave in support of the view that the clause refers 
to the ladies of the house : Jud. v. 28, 29, " The mother of 

Sisera looked out at a window Her wise ladies 

answered her," etc. ; 2 Sam. vi. 16, " Michal, Saul's daughter, 
looked through a window," etc. ; Jer. ix. 20, 21, " Yet 
hear the word of the Lord, O ye women, and let your ear 
receive the word of his mouth, and teach your daughters 
wailing, and every one her neighbour lamentation. For 
death is come up into our windoios, and is entered into our 
palaces." " This passage (I remarked) has not always been 

rationally explained If the windows were places of 

pleasant concourse, there would be no lack of significance 
in the coming in of death at the windows. The idea would 
be like that of its appearance in the theatre or the ball- 
room ; and we have no need of such far-fetched explana- 
tions as," etc. When we notice that ladies are addressed in 
the passage cited (ver. 20), and that it had been said in 
verse 17, " Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, 
that they may come, and send for cunning women, that 
they may come," we see in the words of Jeremiah a striking 
parallel to the dirge-passage in Ecel. xii., with its death in 
a palace, and its professional mourners, and the gloom that 
has fallen upon the ladies at the lattices. I do not think it 
very important to decide in what sense they " sit in dark- 
ness " (Mic. vii. 8) ; but if the windows were closed {Dirge, 
p. 73) for the occasion, that would have been no more un- 
natural than it is now to draw down blinds and shut 
shutters at the time of a funeral. I am told that it is a 
more or less prevalent Jewish custom even to cover up 

S40 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

mirrors as a sign of mourning. On the other hand, com- 
pare Eccl. V. 17, " All his days also he eateth in darkness, 
and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness." 
Verse 4. This verse (with ^"ip? for ^P?) runs thus : — 

piit&5 ts^riVi ^"'?^''! 

n^Tj^n bip bg?72 

The grinders cease (ver. 3), the sound of the mill falls, 
and concurrently with this "the doors are shut to the 
street." The symbolism of the closed door is obvious : it 
means the exclusion of visitors, whom the U^rhl (dual), 
the great double street-door, is not open to receive on the 
days of mourning; as it is said in Isaiah xxiv. 10, 11, 
" Every house is shut up, that no man may come in .... all 
joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone." The open 
door is expressive of hospitality, as in Job xxxi. 32, " The 
stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my 
doors to the traveller \inarg. way]." When visitors are not 
received, there is little food to be prepared, and little 
grinding therefore to be done. The "voice of the mill" 
accordingly falls, as in Jer. xxv. 10, 11, " Moreover I will 
take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of glad- 
ness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the 
bride, the voice of the millstones, and the light of the candle. 
And this whole land shall be a desolation." 

The Midrash on Ecclesiastes xii. and in the Introduction to 
Echah, even while it allegorises, testifies to the truth of this 
as the primary rendering of the hemistich 4 a. The doors 
shut to the street are (it says) the doors of Nehushta the 
daughter^ of Elnathan [2 Kings xxiv. 8], which ivere wont to 
he wide open. Compare the precept in Aboth I. 6 (p. 185 in 
the Authorised Daily Prayer Book), " Let thy house be open 

1 The reading danghtev (713 for IT'S or 13) of Elnathan is suggested by 
Loria on the Introduction to Eehah, § 23. 

The Dirge of Coheleth. 541 

wide; let the poor be the members of thy household." 
Thus the closed door in the dirge-passage is taken by the 
Midrash in its primary sense, as signifying the exclusion 
of persons who used to enter by it. 

In the Midrash, in explanation of the falling of the 
sound of the mill, it is said, " they ceased from, or did 
not occupy themselves in, words of Torah." Israel 
are like " the grinders " (ver. 3) ; these work at all 
hours, and so Israel cease not from the Torah day 
or night, for it is said nb"'bl DDV 13 ty^lTW Of 
" the grinders " it is also said that they are the great 
Mishnaioth as of B. Akiba, etc., and on l^ya "»3, " that 
is the talmud contained in them." They diminished or 
worked little at this, so that the " seers were darkened," 
not one of them being able to remember his talmud. In 
this we have a homiletical application of the dirge-passage 
with its literal sense presupposed : the mill of the Eastern 
household and the grinding women with their incessant 
toil are brought vividly before us, and by a simple and 
customary transition the Darshan passes from material 
bread, or corn, to the " true bread" of the Torah. It will, 
perhaps, be granted that he had no thought of attributing 
all this to the Preacher himself, and when the wni or 
application is taken away, the residuum consists of litei'al 
exegesis of expressions in the dirge-passage. 

T/ie bird. Taken by itself the first clause of the hemistich 
4 b, "iissrr blp*? mp"*!, seems to mean, " And he shall arise 
at the voice of tJie bird." But the following clause, " And 
all the daughters of song shall be brought low," suggests 
that " the bird " is the subject of nip"*, and that this 
creature rises into voice or audibility when the sound of 
music is brought low. Illustrative examples of Cip 
followed by ^ and i were given in the Dirge. Delitzsch 
having objected that the meaning " erhebt sich zu Geschx'ei " 
would i-equire the pointing bipy Dip'', I was led to consider 
the effect of this slight change, and found that it very 
much improved the rhythm of the verse, which it made to 

54'2 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

consist of four equal seven-syllable lines. Verse 5, as we 
shall see, has a no less pronounced metrical character ; and 
verse 3, if we take the poetic licence of not counting Sh'vas 
and the conjunction •"), consists very nearly of equal eight- 
syllable lines, the third of which is a little longer than the 
other three, but may be lightened by reading Its^a >? 
shortly as one word. In the Preface I paraphrased the 
clause " but the bird of evil omen raises his dirge." This, 
taken in the stricter sense, implies that the bird's voice 
tells of impending calamity ; and it is remarkable that the 
Midrash also, in a way peculiar to itself, arrives at that 
meaning of the voice. The clause (it says) refers to 
Nebuchadnezzar. For eighteen years hath kol was heard 
by him in his palace, sounding like a bird (nD2D2a), 
commanding him to go up and destroy the house of God : 
and all the daughters of song were brought low, for he 
went up, and made song to cease from the house of 
feasting, as it is said, With song they shall not drink wine 
(Isaiah xxiv. 9). Here, again, we have the sense of the 
dirge-theory : the house (ver. 3) was nrm;an IV% but now 
its songs are hushed. Some of these expressions are from 
Midr. Eccl. and some from Midr. JEchah. 

The idea that the voice of a bird may be ominous is 
akin to what is said in Eccl. x. 20, " Curse not the king, 
no not in thy thought ; and curse not the rich in thy 
bed-chamber ; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and 
that which hath icings shall tell the matter." But the phrase 
" of evil omen " may be taken rhetorically and with some 
latitude, the essential fact being that screeching bird- 
sounds in the Bible are concomitants of mourning and 
desolation, as in Job xxx. 29, 31, " I am .... a companion 
to owls. My harp also is turned to mourning, and my 
organ into the voice of them that weep"; Zeph. ii. 14, 
" The cormorant and the bittern [R.V., the pelican and the 
porcupine] shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their 
voice shall sing in the windows ; desolation shall be in the 
thresholds." Some critics (I suggested) had been led 

The Dirge of Goheleth. 543 

astray by the prophet's "nia?"', sing, which he only uses 
because it does not properly apply to birds and beasts. 
The windows being again singled out as the natural 
centres of gaiety, it is as if it were said that in the time of 
desolation their only music should be the doleful cries of 
screeching birds. 

The dirge-passage is strikingly illustrated by the New 
Testament, where we read in Kev. xviii. : — 

" 2. Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become 
the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, 
and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 8. Therefore 
shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and 
famine. 9-10. And the kings of the earth shall lament for her, 
saying, Alas, alas, etc. ; 11-13. And the merchants of the 
earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth 
their merchandise any more : the merchandise of ... . 
cinnamon, and spice, and incense (R.V.), etc. ; 22. And the 
voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and 
trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee .... 
and the voice of a millstone shall he heard no more at all in thee ; 
23. And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in 
thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride 
shall be heard no more at all in thee." 

Here we have a mourning for the dead, with all the 
features of the first subsection of the dirge-passage : the 
birds in place of the daughters of song, the end of busy life 
with its feasting and the " voice of the millstone," the ex- 
tinction of light and joy. And in the cessation of the 
merchandise of cinnamon, and spice, etc., we have some- 
thing not unlike what we shall find in the remaining 
subsection, which we have now to consider. 

Verse 5. Detaching the introductory D2, also, and 
writing V^?'!'] for the anomalous V^-?rl» we have the five 
equal lines, of two words and six syllables, 

544 The Jewish Quartcrli; Meview. 

And the verse ends with the Preacher's reason for thus 
•writing, " because the man goeth to his long home, and 
the mourners go about the streets." 

The scene has changed from the house to the garden, the 
almond, the locust and the caper berry being outdoor 
objects. The meaning of the first two lines is (I should 
say) obviously, they have a fear of something as from 
above or from the ground at their feet, as it is said,. 
" Terrors shall make him afraid on every side " (Job xviii. 11). 

The remaining three lines are of somewhat doubtful 
meaning; and we shall resort again to the principle of 
parallelism in attempting to explain them. 

Beginning with what is plain, we read that the caper- 
berry shall fail, namely, to produce its appetising effect. 
The preceding verb "be a burden," or drag heavily, 
whatever it means precisely, has at any rate a bad sense, 
like the following "fail," and we infer that the parallel 
VM3"» has likewise a bad sense. Accordingly we take it to 
be from VN3, to despise or spwrn, and read (with a slight 
change of pointing) V^a"*."). (for V^,"!). This happily mends 
the rhythm of the verse, and gives us, as above mentioned, 
five equal lines. We are now driven to make the almond, 
not (with the anatomists) a symbol of decay, but if possible 
something very desirable, which for the time has lost its 
charm: that is to say, we are driven to take it in it» 
natural sense, for the early blossoming almond is the 
harbinger of spring. One of several illustrations which I 
gave in the Dirge (p. 33) is, 

Dem Hoffnungstraum von schonrer Zeit, 
Der auf des Elends Stirn ergliiht 
Die Mandelbliithe ist ge-weiht, 
Die an dem kahlen Zweige bluht. 

In the time of mournin<r described in Eccl. xii., the 

The Dirge of Cohekth. 


almond, the choicest flower of spring, loses its charm, and 
is not sought, but spurned. 

In Wisdom ii. 7, we read, " Let us fill ourselves with 
costly wine and ointments : and let no flower of the spring 
pass by us." This book has been called Anti-Ecclesiastes, 
and has been thought — not without reason — to allude to and 
attempt to correct the teaching, or the apparent meaning 
of the teaching, of Ecclesiastes. Take as examples of 
parallels in the two books : — 


i. 18. In mnch wisdom is much 
grief : and he that increaseth 
knowledge increaseth sorrow. 

iv. 2. I praised the dead which 
are already dead. 

ill. 19. The sons of men are a 
chance, and the beasts are a 
chance .... as the one dieth,80 
dieth the other : yea, they have 
all one breath. 


viii. 16. . . . her conversation 

hath no bitterness ; and to live 
with her hath no sorrow, but 
mirth and joy. 

i. 12. Seek not death in the 
error of your life. 

ii. 1, 2. For they said, reason- 
ing with themselves, but not 
aright .... "We are born at all 
adventure, etc. For the breath 
in our nostrils, etc. 

The writer of Wisdom continues, " Which (breath) being 
extinguished, our body shall be turned into ashes, and our 
spirit shall vanish as the soft air [Eccl. xii. 7]. And no 
man shall have our works in remembrance [Eccl. ii. 16]. 
.... Come on, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that 
are present : and let us speedily use the creatures like as in 
youth [Eccl. xi. 9]. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and 
ointments : and let no flower of the spring pass by us." This 
is so like an express allusion to the flower of spring, the 
almond, in the " Dirge," that it may be claimed as favouring 
our interpretation of ^pB?^ V'^30, the spring blossom in 
spurned ; whereas in Wisdom the heedless rejoicers, as in 
their youth, say : " Let us not spurn it ; let its enjoyment 
not escape us." 

" The grasshopper shall be a burden." Our argument 
from the parallelism requires that the grasshopper should, 

VOL. IV. o o 

646 The Jetoish Quarterly Review. 

like the almond blossom and the caperberry, be something 
desirable, which has lost its attractiveness. An obvious 
solution of this problem is that, if the Hebrew 22n can 
possibly be taken in that sense, it is the tstti^ which is 
referred to, whose voice was much admired by the ancients. 
One of my illustrations was from Bar Hebrseus, On the 
Hose : — 

" Lo ! Nisan both come, and breathed consolation to the aflSicted, 
And with flow'rets hath clothed hill and field in glory. 
At the nuptials of the rose it hath invited and gathered the flowers 

as guests, 
And prepared the way that the bridegroom may go forth from the 

Like brides, lo ! the flowers of the field are adorned, 
And have gotten deliverance from the strong bands of winter. 
Lo ! the tongue of the rcmf is loosed and she ever sings. 
And ou the ^iifiara of the narcissus and the myrtle pipes to the 

Here the chirp of the Terrtf assumes prominence as a 
symbol of a time which brings consolation to the sad. 
Contrariwise, in Coheleth the mourners refuse to be com- 
forted by the voice of the Terrtf. The possible objections 
which occur to me are — (1) that this delight in the song of 
Tirrtf is Greek rather than Hebrew, and (2) that the 
Hebrew aan means aKpk, locmt, and not rcTTt^. The 
answer to objection (2) is that the Greek poets, when 
the metre demands it, use uKpk instead of rem^ {Dirge, 
p. 37) ; and so the Preacher, in default of a special Hebrew 
word for that insect, may have used a word meaning heust 
in the required sense, when even the Greeks, who have the 
special word rerri^, do not scruple to use OK/Jt? instead of 
it when it serves their purpose. Bar Hebraeus, writing in 
Syriac, transliterates rem^, and of course the author of 
Ecclesiastes might have done the same ; but (to say nothing 
of a few exceptional and more or less disputed instances) 
it was not customary so to transliterate in the Biblical 
writings. The objection (1) is, briefly, that (whatever word 
be used) aii allusion to the song of the Terrtf in the dirge- 

The Dirge of Cfohekth. 547 

passage would be of the nature of a Grsecism ; but this 
cannot be allowed to be decisive until a great controversy 
has been ended, and it has been agreed that there are abso- 
lutely no traces of Western thought in Coheleth. 

The caperberry shall fail (R.V.). Compare Rev. xviii. 
13, 14i, "And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and 
frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour .... And 
the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from 
thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all." The 
pungent caperberry fails to please and stimulate the palate. 
This rendering, which properly belongs to the literal and 
semi-literal interpreters, has been appropriated by some of 
the anatomists, who, in various places, reject the Haggadic 
renderings. Delitzsch, while adopting what is really my 
view of the clause as his own, credits me with a comparison 
of the old man to a caperberry, "welche, uberreif geworden, 
ihre Schale bricht und ihre Komer verstreut (Rosenm. 
Winer in R. W. Ew. Taylor u. A), wie auch," etc. Did he 
mistake "palls" for falls? Nothing could be more appro- 
priate to the occasion when "the mourners go about the 
streets" than the immediately pi'eceding caper berry -clause, 
as I interpret it. " Turn ye unto me," writes the prophet, 
'• with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning." 
Fasting and mourning go naturally together, and this is 
poetically expressed by : " the caperberry fails, because 
.... the mourners go about in the streets." It is added 
that the almond blossom, the glory of spring, and the 
song of the Terrt^ also fail to please, so that there is a 
general failure of the pleasures of sense, the pleasures of 
sight, sound and taste. The whole passage was paraphrased 
in the preface to the Dirge : 

" In that day the doorkeepers and the masters alike 
tremble : the maids cease from their work, and the mis- 
tresses from their amusements. Open liouse is not kept as 
heretofore, and the mill is no longer heard preparing food 
for the reveller : but the bird of evil omen raises his dirge, 
and the merry voice of the singing girl is silent. From 

o 2 

548 The Jewish Quarterly Renete. 

the house the scene now changes to the garden, or to the 
country at large. Here also terror encompasses the people. 
Lowering upon them from above and lurking at their feet, 
it deadens every sense : so that the almond-flower dis- 
pleases, and the TCTTtf sounds dull, and the caperberry 
palls : because the man passes to his eternal home, and 
the mourners go about in the street." 

On this paraphrase I have only to remark again that 
the bird is not necessarily of evil omen in the strict sense ; 
but may be merely a creature whose note, in accordance 
with Biblical analogy, is a fit accompaniment to the stroke 
of death. 

The cessation of grinding, and the shutting of the street 
door, go naturally together, as explained above ; but to the 
anatomists this hemistich is a source of great embarrass- 
ment. The Revised Version cuts it in two by an arbitrary 
punctuation different from that of the Hebrew, and thus (in 
effecfc) connects "the doors shall be shut to the street" with 
verse 3, leaving for the first hemistich of the next verse, 
" When the sound of the grinding is low," and destroying 
the rhythm of both verses. 

In reply to Dr. Cheyne's observation (if I understand it) 
that there seems to be no assignable reason for separating 
" these verses," or the parts of them which make the 
" dirge," from their context (p. 533), I can say that I find it 
quite easy to assign a motive, which I shall venture to con- 
sider valid until reason has been shown to the contrary. 
In the passage as printed above (p. 634), the words in italics 
belong merely to the framework, and the intermediate 
clauses (as even the allegorists allow) are " strongly poetic 
in colouring." Whether we interpret them literally or 
anatomically, they are so unlike anything else in the 
book that they may, it is fair to think, have been not com- 
posed but quoted by the writer, who, in the course of his 
reflections, brings before us so many thoughts not altogether 
his own ; and as a modern preacher might say in his own 
words, In that day, and then go on to quote words of 

The Dirge of Cohekth. 549 

Scripture, as "The keepers of the house shall tremble," 
etc., 80 the author of Coheleth might have written, " In the 
day when [as it is said] 7^e keepers of the house shall tremble, 
etc., and when [as it is said in another place] They shall be 
afraid of that which is high," etc. The poetic effect of the 
passage is heightened, I think, by its approximately 
metrical character. But, to lay no great stress upon this, the 
substance of the description is made to stand out in such a 
way from its context by frame-words, and its diction is so 
poetical, however we understand, or half understand it, 
that the passage may very well consist of snatches of song, 
quoted, whether from a " book" or not, by Coheleth. But 
all this is equally tnie or false, whether the passage be a 
" dirge" or an anatomy. In a word, the Dirge-book theory 
is no part of the Dirge theory. 

C. Taylor. 

(To be eontintted.)