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we may have only the rough notes of the prophet, made yet more disconnected by the illegitimate glosses of some wholly superfluous editor.
From the Modern Reader's Bible questions of authorship are excluded: what is elsewhere claimed to be a Second Isaiah will here appear in its place as a seventh book, nothing more being postulated than what all schools of criticism may admit — that we have in these chapters a separate literary composition complete in itself. In applying the plan of the present series to the Biblical Isaiah, all other discussion must be subordinated to the settlement of the text. Not indeed in the ordinary sense of that phrase: for the critical determination of the Hebrew text, and the translation of its sentences into their English equivalents, it is a principle of this edition to accept the Revised Version (text or margins). But an editor's work is only half completed when he has printed his author in solid columns of type, like a newspaper without the assistance that even a newspaper gives with its headings. The true form of the literary work must be presented to the eye. At present the effusion of a poetaster in the corner of a provincial journal is printed with more discrimination of poetic form than the masterpieces of the Bible. The task of the present edition is to ascertain, from internal evidence and the analogy of other prophecy, what are the separate compositions of which the whole book is made up, and what is the true literary form of each, and to pre
sent these to the eye with the conventional external arrangement to which a modern reader is accustomed.
It has been no easy task: the morphology of Hebrew literature goes far outside that which has been made familiar to us in a criticism founded upon modern and classical authors. I have in former volumes dwelt upon the distinction of Hebrew among the great literatures of the world: how its verse is based upon a parallelism of clauses which also belongs to rhetoric; how there is therefore an overlapping in Hebrew of verse and prose, and also of those modes of thought to which verse and prose serve but as outer expression. In the Introduction to Job I endeavoured to describe how marvellous an instrument of literary power is found in this infinite flexibility of Hebrew style. But what is true of Job is true in an equal degree of Isaiah. In this writer it is easy to see that we have an orator, who wields with ease the whole armoury of rhetoric. It is easy to see also that with him imagery and poetic expression are much more than accessories : he loves to linger upon his images, and rapidly shift them, until they become lovely pictures which we dwell upon for their own sake. But Isaiah goes far beyond this: he is essentially a creative writer, and regularly conveys his thought in indirect forms of dramatic presentation. And I would suggest further that we find in his writings a fusion of all other literary forms in that new form which is here called a Rhapsody.
I am sensible of the awkwardness of attempting to introduce a new technical term in connection with literature so sacred and so familiar. But the new term is needed because the matter to be described is not paralleled in other literatures. If we are to be limited to received nomenclature, perhaps it would be best to describe the compositions which I have in view as spiritual dramas.' The highly dramatic instinct of the Hebrew mind, denied its natural outlet of a theatre, permeates all branches of literature alike; and so prophecy has special forms which certainly leave on our minds as we read the general effect of dramatic realisation. But these prophetic dramas are such as no theatre could compass. For their stage they need all space; and the time of their action extends to the end of all things. The speakers include God and the Celestial Hosts; Israel appears, Israel Suffering or Israel Repentant; Sinners in Zion, the Godly in Zion; the Saved and the Doomed, the East and the West, answer one another. There is often one who speaks in the name of God, yet is not God — the Voice of Prophecy may express the idea; at times the same personality seems to be present in the scene of his ministry, and becomes the Prophetic Spectator. Not infrequently Voices' Cries," with no more of personality than these words imply, carry on some part of the movement. Monologue is made to do the work of dramatic dialogue; especially where the Divine monologue, apostrophising nations or classes,
makes them thereby present to the scene; or where it alternates between judgment and mercy, indignation and tenderness. Nay, paradoxical though it may sound, Silence itself is a speaker in these dramas: when, in the great Isaiahan rhapsody, Jehovah challenges the idols, their dumb impotence is made by him a step in the action of the scene; similarly in the Awakening of Zion, the movement of this realistic vision is made by reiterated appeals to Zion which are met with no response, until at the very end the Watchmen of Jerusalem awake and rouse their city to the glad tidings.
Thus what of drama these prophecies contain is purely spiritual drama. But they contain also elements that are distinctly non-dramatic. The discourse of God, or of some other speaker, will be interrupted by lyric songs, rejoicing over or emphasising what has been said : and with these lyrics no personality can possibly be associated, but they come, like the chorales of an oratorio, as abstract meditations upon the situation that has been dramatically presented. Even prose discourse may have at least a prefatory place in the rhapsodies. At times, again, the movement may be carried on by fragments of narrated vision; or critical points may be announced by the author in his own words, like the elaborate-stage directions of the theatrical drama: in both these cases the work of drama being done by the narration which is the very antithesis of dramatic presentation. There is a difference greater even than this
between the sacred rhapsodies and the drama of secular literature. In the nature of things dramatic action can never go back: the acts of a play must succeed one another in order of time. This characteristic is found in some rhapsodies, in others it is markedly absent: there may be an advance in the movement of such a rhapsody, but it is an advance which is logical and not temporal. The ‘Rhapsody of Judgment with which Isaiah concludes his • Dooms of the Nations' falls naturally into three parts. In the first we have a destruction that embraces the whole earth ; in the second it has extended to take in heaven as well as earth. The scope of the prophecy cannot be further enlarged, but in the third section there is an advance in intensity: what before was a whole picture is now seen in the steps of its progress; the destruction which was complete in part two, is only threatening to fall upon the world at the commencement of part three; yet through this third part the quickened alternation of doom and hope makes an adequate climax. Dramatically such retrogression in time would be impossible: we have here a spiritual literature which transcends the limits of dramatic form.
Thus Hebrew prophecy obliges us to make an addition to the nomenclature of literature; and the term “Rhapsody' - consecrated alike by poetry and music to express the most vivid presentation, and that a subjective or spiritual presentation, combined with the smallest limitation of form — may serve the purpose. It is to be observed that