World Poetry: Some Hebrew Poetry form the Bronze and Iron Ages
As I mentioned in my earlier post on World Poetry , this book presents poetry chronology, further divided by culture. The first division is poets of Bronze and Iron Ages, which the book dates from 2200-250 BCE. That’s long period of time. The editors say they chose the poems for their ability to “surprise and delight the common reader.”
The next section deals the poetry written in Hebrew. The editors chose bits and pieces of poetry from the poetic books of the Christian Old Testament . I haven’t read this for a while and have forgotten how striking the poetry is. All poetry is attributed to that singularly prolific source, anonymous. Dating is always something of a squabble, so I’ll just use the dates the book gives:
1) An excerpt from the Song of Songs (c. 600 BCE): This seems to me very nicely presented, with vivid, poignant passages.
2) An excerpt from Ezekiel , specifically the “Valley of Dry Bones” (c. 550 BCE): This is the first time I can recall seeing this passage presented in verse format. My guess is the text has been massaged a little, but it makes for striking reading. No attempt to place any sort of context or interpretation is offered.
3) Psalm 137 (c. 530 BCE): This is presented in its entirety, from the familiar “By the waters of Babylon,” to the often ignored, “Blessed shall he be that taketh thy children/ and throweth them against the stones.”
4) Two excerpt from Job (c. 400 BCE): In the first excerpt, Job curses the day he was born. In the second, god answers Job out a whirlwind. The latter is taken from the King James Bible.
5) Some excerpts from Lamentations (c. 400 BCE): These include some modern language and, as one would expect, some mourning for a city that got smacked because people weren’t behaving themselves (or so the story goes…).
I think my favorite, and certainly the most fun to read was the Song of Songs :
“The sound of my lover coming from the hills quickly like a deer
upon the mountains
Now at my windows walking by the walls here at the lattices he calls—
Come with me, my love, come away …” (p. 25)
Though, of course, the passage of the “Valley of Dry Bones” is striking:
“The hand of the Lord held me transported
and spirited my spirit and set me down
in the fell of a valley filled with bones.
“And then he addressed me: Proffer this prophecy
over these bones: O dry bones!
welcome the Word:
“So I proffered the prophecy commanded of me
and as I uttered it a clacking clattered” (p. 28)
And the passage in Job is also quite powerful, even to an old heathen such as myself.
Thanks for reading.
World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time 1998
Eds: Katherine Washburn, John S. Major, and Clifton Fadiman
Image Credit » http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATrilingual_inscription_of_Xerxes%2C_Van%2C_1973.JPG