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38
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
symmetry in the members of its verse, in the structure of its fig­
ures and sounds?”
(The Spirit ofHebrewPoetry,
translated by James
Marsh [1833], vol. 1, p. 39). This balance appears to be regulated
by some sort of meter. We cannot picture the precise features of
the fox; but from the footprints we gather that a fox has passed
through.
LINES AND COUPLETS
Michael O’Connor
(Hebrew Verse Structure),
skeptical o f any
phonological meter in biblical verse, proposes tha t ancient
Hebrew line length was governed by syntactic limits. Each line
must contain at least one predicate but may not extend beyond a
variety of other syntactic combinations. As James Kugel, Stephen
Geller
(Jewish Quarterly Review
73/1 (July 1982]), and others have
said, O’Connor’s thesis begins with the line as the basic unit of
verse. But the line does not suffice to produce a unit of verse. One
needs at least a couplet. In a very important, linguistically ori­
ented analysis of biblical verse published in 1963, Luis Alonso
Schokel stressed that “parallelism is a binary expression of sen­
tences, in symmetrical or proportional form”
(Estudios de poetica
hebrea,
p. 210). Whatever it is that generates the symmetry or that
shapes the lines into pairs and longer series comprises the stuff of
parallelism.
Robert Lowth, as I said above, identified two features or agents
of parallelism: repetition of syntax, repetition of sense. The latter
is problematic — we shall take it up again below. The former has
been developed extensively by Stephen Geller
(Parallelism in Early
Biblical Poetry
[Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979]) and myself (“How
Does Parallelism Mean?,”
Jewish Quarterly Review Supplement,
1982). In fact, I coopted the term parallelism to refer to the repe­
tition of syntactic structure alone. I would have — and have —
used other terms to refer to any other types of linguistic patterns
between lines. O’Connor
(Hebrew Verse Structure)
abandoned the
term parallelism altogether, on account o f its various usages
among authors, and suggested “matching” to represent syntactic
repetition from line to line. A good example is the second couplet
of Psalm 23, cited above. We should note that although the two
lines say something different, they share the same syntactic struc­
ture. The linguistic pattern of repetition pairs the lines. When we