Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
verse, the surface syntactic parallelism between the clauses in the
last sentence reinforces their association. As Berlin herse lf
acknowledges: “Two contiguous lines which have the same syn­
tactic structure tend to be viewed as having some correlation in
meaning . . . even when there is no obvious semantic connection
between them” (p. 100). Any two lines, in the right context, can be
associated. The excessive generality o f Berlin’s approach to
semantics becomes evident when she states that “The semantic
equivalence between parallel lines may be perceived as either par­
adigmatic or syntagmatic” (p. 90). Since those two relations are
the only ones possible, the isolation o f semantics as a structural
component is meaningless.
Berlin cannot decide whether parallelism is what the poet
makes or the audience feels. Revealing that semantic association
is the effect, not the form, o f parallelism, Berlin speaks here o f
the perception, not the production, o f semantic equivalence.
Throughout her study she confuses production and perception.
She will say, on the one hand (p. 79), that “It is parallelism that
activates word pairs” and, on the other (p. 88), that “Parallelism is
the result o f the effects o f its many aspects.”What all modern stu­
dents o f parallelism understand, however, is that parallelism —
especially if one includes some sort o f metrical aspect to parallel­
ism — is the definitive convention o f biblical verse, and its pri­
mary function is to associate and dissociate lines.
If we then return to the distinction between verse as a formal
notion and poetry as a way o f seeing, it is for the most part the
case that the Bible expresses its poetry in verse. To pursue this
point and ask, with Robert Alter and with the excellent and con­
cise summary o f Murray H. Lichtenstein in
Back to the Sources
(ed.
Barry W. Holtz; New York: Summit, 1984), why biblical verse
should have served as such an effective medium for biblical
poetry, would carry us beyond the scope o f this essay. In compari­
son with the considerable efforts that have been expended in
analyzing the many facets o f biblical verse, little has yet been writ­
ten on the poetry per se. But it is to that pursuit that our studies
must increasingly turn.