Stringed Instruments – Kithros

KITHROS, cithara , is one of the instruments mentioned in Dan. iii. 5, 7, 10, 15 : the Greek form of the name, as before remarked, strengthens the argument that the instrument itself was a foreign importation. In Ezek. xxvii., the prophet, in giving the many sources of luxury and greatness open to Tyre, distinctly alludes to Grecian traffic ; and, moreover, in the succeeding age to the fall of Troy Aeolian and Ionian colonies were transplanted into Asia. There is, therefore, more than one channel through which Greek names of musical instruments could become familiar in Asia. From the Latin cithara our word guitar is derived, but this is only one of a large family of words sprung from a common origin. The Arabians have their kuitra, a kind of lute ; the Persians, kitar, a long-necked guitar. The Nubian kissar, which is a lyre, has already been described, but it may be well to add that the Egyptians call the kissar ” gytarah barbaryeh,” or the Berbers’ guitar. In Europe the name has undergone many changes ; the old French form is guiterne ; the old English, gittern, cithern, cither, cythorn, or gythorn ; Italian, ghiterra or chiterra (chitarrone, a big cithara, was a long-necked theorbo or bass lute) ; German, zither, but this is not the instrument now called by this name. It is remarkable that Sanskrit katur means four, and that chutara in Persian may mean four strings, and also that the Hindus have a name implying a numerical value, si-tar, ” the three – stringed,” which is given to a very popular instrument with three strings and a long neck, invented, it is said, in the 12th century A.D., but in reality an offshoot of the ancient Asiatic tanboura.

As a lyre and a guitar have been depicted in Figs. 17 and 18, pages 23, 25, and the upper part of the neck of a modern European guitar in Fig. 22, page 36, it will only be necessary now to give some illustrations of old kitharas, which are simply elaborated lyres possessing greater resonance and musical capabilities (see Figs. 38, 39, 40, 41, 42).

Fig. 41, which appears in a painting discovered at Herculaneum, is remarkable in that there are evidently two strings to each note.

Some authors have affirmed that without doubt the Hebrews had kitharas of this classical form, and appeal in proof of their assertion to the devices on Maccabæan medals shown in Figs. 43, 44, 45. But putting the late date of these medals out of the question, it ‘would be most unsafe to attach so much importance to anything found on coins. It is true that ancient nations were more in the habit of depicting objects of art from things round about themselves than we are, but on the other hand the lyre had no doubt become established as a common ornament. It has been well remarked that should the statue of Handel, now in Westminster Abbey, survive all around it, and be the happy discovery of remote antiquaries, they will certainly believe that our great composer played on, and wrote for, the lyre, because he holds one in his hands. And should it also happen to be known that he actually did include a part for a theorbo, or arch-lute, in one of his works, the supposed fact will be considered firmly established.

We have now given an account of the stringed instruments mentioned in the Bible, and although opinions are still very conflicting as to their exact nature, it is hoped a strong probability has been established that (I) the kinnor was a portable lyre ; (2) the nebel, a harp of moderate size, but portable ; (3) the nebel-azor, a ten-stringed nebel ; (4.) the sabeca, a triangular harp ; (5) the psanterin, a psaltery or a dulcimer; (6) the kithros, a more fully developed lyre.

Before, however, leaving this division of our subject it seems necessary to say a few words on several expressions used in the headings of the Psalms and elsewhere, some of which are thought by learned writers to contain definite directions as to the stringed-instrument to be used, or to the method of its tuning, &c.; in any case, they are now generally considered to have some reference to the musical accompaniment.*

Alamoth, one of these obscure words, occurs in the title of Ps. xlvii., and also in Ps. Ixviii. 25. But as it is met with in the next quotation, in juxtaposition with sheminith, it will be convenient to consider them together. ” So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass and Zechariah, and Aziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, and Eliab, and Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with psalteries on Alamoth ; and Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obed-edom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith to excel” (1 Chron. xv. 19-21). Thus we see whilst some were set aside as players of cymbals, others were to play with nebels on alamoth, and others with kinnors on the sheminith.

Alamoth may mean ” hidden things,” or ” things pertaining to youths ” or ” virgins.” The first is adopted by St. Augustine, who applies it to the mysteries of the Gospel. But many authors, adopting the last meanings, have considered alamoth to mean songs for boys or virgins, or, in fact, for treble voices. But Dr. Jebb, in his learned dissertation on this word, points out that the signification of ” hidden things,” or ” mysteries,” is inapplicable to its appearance in Ps. lxviii. 25 : ” First go the sharim (singers), then follow the neginim (players) ; in the midst are the alamoth,” where our version renders it ” the damsels playing with timbrels.” There is also one more reason why virgins ” or ” boys ” should not necessarily be implied in the term, namely, from a consideration of the passage above quoted (I Chron. xv. 19-2i), where the names of men are given as players on nebels on alamoth. It may, however, mean of a treble or high pitch, and it has been explained vox clara et acuta quasi virginum ” ; but if this explanation refers to the nebel with which alamoth is associated, it will make nebel appear to be of a higher pitch than the kinnor which is associated with sheminith. This is a conclusion to which we should very unwillingly be driven ; because the kinnor is the more ancient of the two, being (as has before been stated) the only stringed instrument mentioned in the Pentateuch, while the nebel is not named till we reach i Sam. X. 5 ; and, moreover, the kinnor, as being carried about hither and thither in the wanderings of the early tribes, must necessarily have been light and portable. If the nebel were of a pitch much higher than that of the kinnor, the kinnor must have been considerably larger to have made a suitable bass to it. Is it likely that a nation would succeed in carrying into captivity and preserving large harps ? Yet the Israelites hung their kinnors in the willow branches which shadowed Babylon’s waters. No ; the kinnor was smaller than the nebel. Of course it may be urged that the nebel, even if a larger instrument than the kinnor, might have had so great an upward compass as to enable the performer on it to play above the pitch of the kinnor. But if this were the case, why should sheminith be associated with kinnor ?

It is to this relation between sheminith and alamoth that we must look for the meaning of the latter, and as sheminith signifies ” eighth,” it is certainly fair to assume that alamoth, when connected with nebel, suggested also some numerical value, even if all traces of its precise meaning are now lost.

The exact application of the expression ” on the eighth ” (sheminith) with reference to kinnors is most difficult, or rather impossible to determine. The following seem to be the most important conjectures which have been hazarded—namely, that it refers (I) to the pitch of an octave ; or (2) to the name of a scale or tune ; or (3) to the number of strings on the instrument. As to the first of these, it must be admitted that it is ingenious, but a little consideration will show that there are serious objections to its acceptation. For although it is true that the octave is not only one of the best known intervals in music, as being the distance between the singing-pitch of men and women, but also the most important naturally, being produced by the simplest ratio of vibrations I : 2, yet the name ” octave” could only be given to it by those who possessed a scale in which eight steps led from a note to its octave. Such a sound-ladder is of comparatively modern origin. The Greeks called the interval of an octave diapason ; the position of an octave on a string mese , that is, “middle,” because half the length of any string will produce the octave above the sound of the whole length ; and two sounds forming an octave they called, as to their relation to each other, antiihonoi, as being ” over against ” or ” responsive to ” each other. But their scale consisted of a series of tetrachords, or groups of four notes in succession, some overlapping, that is, having one note common to two ; others being disjunct.

It is true that the Ambrosian chant, in the fourth century, and, two centuries later, the Gregorian modes, were to a certain extent limited in more than one way by the octave, but at the same time it was always attempted by teachers of music to graft the new on to the old system, although the former had indeed departed vastly from the principles of the latter. Thus it will be found that a knowledge of ecclesiastical modes, and of the Greek tetrachords and harmonic ratios, formed the material of music-lore until the Guidonian system of hexachords became established in the eleventh century. This system held its own for five or six centuries ; in fact, its system of nomenclature seems to have been retained long after modern key-tonality was firmly settled. It may then be safely said that ” on the eighth ” would not have directed the Levites to play in octaves.

As to the second explanation of sheminith which has been mentioned—namely, that it referred to an eighth ” mode ” or scale—all that need be said is, that even if the Hebrews did use various modes known by their numbers, there seems to be no reason for giving general directions that such and such men should play on nebels in one particular key, and other men on kinnors in some other key ; because if these instruments were always used and intended to be used in particular definite keys, why was it necessary to specify in which key ? The fact would be known. But, on the other hand, if these instruments were capable of being tuned to many keys (as certainly was the case), why give command to certain Levites to play upon them only in one key?

To believe that the expression refers to a special melody is equally impossible, as nothing could be more absurd than to suppose that such skilled musicians were set apart to play one tune. It might be so for one ceremony, but the close of chap. xvi. (I Chron.) distinctly intimates that these Levites were chosen to be before the ark ” continually,” and those were chosen who were expressed by name to give thanks to the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever.”

If ” on the eighth ” or the eighth ” refers to the number of the strings of the kinnor, we must be led to the interesting and natural conclusion, that these nebels and kinnors were used at different times, or at the will of different players, with various numbers of strings, and that the object was to procure uniformity in this respect.

Gittith or Ha-Gittith, appears over Psalms viii., lxxxi., and lxxxiv. As being derived from a root signifying ” wine-press,” it has been translated in the Septuagint, and Vulgate by torcularia, both meaning ” wine-presses,” and some have thought it shows that the psalm is a vintage-song, or to be sung to some well-known vintage-song tune. But the word is also connected with Gath,” and it may have been an instrument brought from the city of Gath.

Aijeleth-shahar or Aijeleth-he-shahar, which occurs in Ps. xxii., signifies ” hind of the morning,” ” dawn of day,” or morning twilight,” supposed by many commentators to be the first line of words of a well-recognized tune to which this Psalm was to be sung; just as the Germans now call their chorales by the first line of the original words, even when other sets of words are adapted to them, as in the well-known instances, ” O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden,” ” In alien meinen Thaten.”

Alluding to the three words Alamoth, Aijeleth, and Gittith, Dr. Jebb contributes the following suggestion : It is to be observed that there are three Levitical cities, whose names resemble three designations in the titles [of the Psalms], Alemeth, Aijelon, and Gath-Rimmon. What is there, then, to hinder us from supposing that the designation A Alamoth may mean harps that were constructed or improved by some Levite of Alemeth; that A Aijeleth-he-shahar means a harp of Aijelon; and Gittith, one of Gath ; just as we now speak of a German flute or a Cremona violin ? “—(Literal Translation of the Psalms. Dissertations.)

Neginoth, in the singular neginah, occurs over several Psalms : as the root from which it is derived signifies ” to strike a chord ” (much the same as psallere), it probably is the collective term for stringed instruments. It is often joined with kinnor, though not with rebel. But if not joined with kinnor it often refers to that instrument, as, for example :—” And Saul’s servants said unto him

. . Let our lord now command thy servants . . . to seek out a man, who is a cunning player [lit. striker] on an harp (kinnor). . . . And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing,” &c. (I Sam. xvi. 15-18 ; see also xviii. Io, and elsewhere). Dr. Jebb says neginoth, sheminith, and kinnor all refer to the same instrument : the first, to the mode of playing it ; the second, to its compass ; the last is its specific designation.

Shushan may mean change,” or more commonly ” lily “; the latter, if it contains a musical reference, can only refer to the shape of an instrument—some have thought to cymbals, as being generally circular, with a deep central indentation. But it would be more applicable to the elegant outline of some of the lyres as shown in classical sculptures—such, for instance, as that in the celebrated ” Apollo citharoedos.” But it also may have a numerical meaning, suggesting the number six. It is often joined with the word eduth, which signified ” testimony ” ; hence shushan eduth has been translated by Schleusner (quoted by Dr. Jebb) ” the hexachord of testimony “—a highly poetical rendering, doubtless, but one which does not convey much definite information. As it is recorded in Chron. xvi. 37-42 that part of the Levitical choir was stationed at Gibeon, where the tabernacle was pitched, and another part—the company of Asaph —at Jerusalem, to do honour to the ark of the testimony, it is possible that the shushan eduth meant the harp of six strings played at the latter, its distinctive name being retained after the junction of the two choral divisions.

Higgaion, translated in the Septuagint appears in the Bible version of Ps. ix. 16— ” The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth : the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.” The marginal note translates Higgaion as a “meditation.” As the root of the word suggests ” meditation,” or ” murmuring,” and as it is used in Lam. iii. 62 of the murmurings of malicious enemies, the term can hardly be considered as a musical direction. But on the other hand it occurs in Ps. xcii. 3, in such an association as to render a musical reference almost necessary : Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery ; upon the harp with a solemn sound,” or, as the margin has it, more correctly, upon the higgaion (solemn sound) with the harp.” The Prayer-book version, it will be remembered, here reads ” upon a loud instrument.” It may possibly allude to a solemn and deep-toned performance on harps, which was found conducive to private meditation. Its conjunction with Selah makes this explanation the more probable.

The term Selah, which occurs three times in the Book of Habakkuk, and no less than seventy-one times in the Psalms, has been variously interpreted as indicating (1) a pause ; (2) repetition (like Da Cabo) ; (3) the end of a strophe ; (4) a playing with full power ( fortissimo) ; (5) a bending of the body, an obeisance ; (6) a short recurring symphony (a ritornello). Of all these the last seems the most probable. In a lecture on the subject, given by Sir F. Ouseley; a Psalm was sung into which such ritornelli on stringed instruments and trumpets were introduced at every occurrence of the word Selah. The effect was considered imposing and devotional. The fact that twenty-eight of the thirty-nine Psalms in which this word occurs have musical superscriptions seems to compel belief that it was a direction to the musical performers.

Minnim, which is derived from a root signifying ” divided out,” hence ” a graded arrangement of strings,” seems on all sides to be allowed to be a poetical allusion to stringed instruments generally, and is so translated in the last Psalm :—” Praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” The word also occurs in Ps. xlv. 8, which would be better rendered thus : Out of the ivory palaces the stringed instruments have made thee glad.”

In conclusion, it may be said with regret that our information on the subject of Hebrew stringed-instruments is very scanty, so scanty as to warn us against entering into elaborate arguments on the exact shape and stringing in any particular case. The kinnor and the rebel appear to have been the only instruments of this class anciently consecrated to sacred uses, but there is no reason for doubting that other kinds became known to the Hebrews—such as the nebel-azor—and were included by them under the ancient names so intimately bound up with their religious worship. Minute details cannot be expected when the search is among occasional hints or allusions, which are in them-selves accidental and not intended for the special information of the reader. We have reason to congratulate ourselves that modern writers have learned to distrust a vast amount of statements made by certain writers of the three or perhaps four last centuries. Some, who were for a long period held in much esteem (Kircher, for example), seem to have drawn largely upon their imagination when describing ancient musical instruments, and to have thought that the best argument in favour of any supposititious form of an instrument was to give a good wood-cut of it !

The gradual development of stringed instruments into various species is a subject of so great interest, that a Plate is here appended giving the outline of the more important of each group, starting from the primitive hunting-bow, the playful twanging of the strings of which in idle moments most probably led to the construction of all musical instruments of this class. This suggestion is painfully unpoetical, and cannot for one moment hold its own, as far as romance goes, against the pretty stories as to the origin of such instruments handed down from remote times amongst nearly every great race of mankind. But it is, nevertheless, practically true ; and moreover its truth is not overthrown by the fact that several species may occasionally be merged into one another, or from time to time have over-lapped in their growth. Of the evolutionary series depicted on page 85, (a) is a hunting-bow, the string of which is at such a tension that it would emit a musical sound on being plucked ; (b) shows a primitive harp, formed by placing other strings in a bow, parallel to the longest. Here, however, is shown also the great improvement of a hollow body or resonance-box for increasing the power of the sounds—a discovery perhaps accidentally made by placing a bow with several strings on a hollow floor or empty inverted tub. (c) represents the outline of the ancient instrument now used by the negroes, and called a nanga; it consists of a primitive bow-shaped body formed of a more extended arc than its predecessor, probably on account of its greater convenience for general use and for its portability.

It is distinctly the link between the harp (b) and the lute or guitar (d), known in Egypt perhaps as the nefer, and having counterparts in nearly every nation, civilised or savage, on the globe. The thin upper portion of the body of the harp, made some-what straighter in the nanga (c), has now become in the nefer (d) a veritable neck, and available as a finger-board. But again it must have been found at a very early period, that if the two sides of a bow are drawn very closely together by a rigid material, as shown at (e), strings can be drawn at right-angles to those in the primitive harp ; thus would the first lyre be formed, the circular base being formed into a resonance-box. When once, however, the theory of a resonance-box was understood, the existence of a lute (f) having a much larger resonance-box than a lyre and a much shorter neck than a nefer, became a mere matter of time. The transition from (f) to (g), that is from a lute to a guitar, is so natural as to call for no remark ; the indentations in the sides of the guitar, primarily intended to make it lie comfortably on one leg of the player, seem to have suggested the indentations in the side of the violin family (h), so necessary for the free movement of the bow. – At (i) there will be seen an early fiddle, the Asiatic rehab, afterwards the rebec, or three-stringed viol of Europe, in which the absence of deep curved indentations is noticeable ; also, the shape of the resonance-box is interesting as suggesting that when strings stretched over a resonance-box were hit with hammers the uselessness of the neck would be apparent ; such a box, deprived of its head and tail, would form the body of a dulcimer, as at (k). When the hammers of a dulcimer are connected with levers termed ” keys ” we call it a pianoforte.

It will be well to say at once that the above sketch of the development of musical instruments is not meant to be chronologically true : it is merely intended to illustrate the remarkable correlation of all stringed-instruments, ancient and modern. The use of a bow as a means of exciting vibrations of strings is in itself a most interesting fact, and suggests that the rubbing of one simple bow against another may have led to its discovery. Certainly bows are of great antiquity, many savage nations having instruments constructed like a nefer (d), but played with a bow. A glance at the same series will show how important a part of the growth of musical stringed-instruments is due to the resonance-box. In its early state it was merely formed by stretching a membrane of skin (commonlysnake-skin) across a rounded open piece of wood or half a dried gourd. In its more elaborate form it was adjusted to the requirements of the compass of sounds to be produced by the strings, to their thickness, tension, and position ; also by carefully selecting the finest specimens of wood for use, by giving consideration to its weight, closeness of fibre, &c., and finally, by determining the best model or ” shape of the resonance-box.” By innumerable experiments in such things, extending perhaps over thousands of years, we are at last in possession of an almost ideal type of violin, as turned out by the great Italian masters (Stradivarius in particular), who have so perfected the construction of this instrument with relation to its requirements, that the most skilful of modern workmen can make no better effort than to imitate their models, without indulging in a hope of, ever surpassing them in general excellence.

The most primitive material used for strings was probably twisted grass ; next in time, the guts of animals ; lastly, wire or silk. Stringed-instruments closely allied to two or more of the family-types already depicted on page 85 are both numerous and interesting. The harp-lute, a favourite instrument at the close of the 18th century, good specimens of which may often even now be found in the shops of instrument-makers, possessed characteristics of both harp and lute, having certain strings passing over a fretted finger-board, while others were open at the back. In the harpsichord, keys acted on little plectra which plucked the strings ; what the ancient lyrists were compelled to do with their fingers assisted by a plectrum, is here done by the leverage of keys. In the pianoforte the hammers are no longer left in the hands of the player, but are also placed under the control of levers. The old German Streich-zither was a link between the guitar and fiddle ; it was, as its name implies, a bowed-guitar. A similar transition is suggested by the old Italian viola-lyra (lyra-viol), once a favourite instrument in this country. This transition is also implied by the fact that all early viols had frets like a lute or guitar ; the frets were still in use when the instrument was called a violin and no longer a viol. Nor have efforts been wanting to combine the effects of keys and bows ; several instruments have from time to time been made in shape like a pianoforte, but containing catgut strings, bowed” by a rotating resined wheel against which the action of the keys forced the strings. The modern zither combines the use of the plectrum of the ancient lyrist with the flat resonance-box and wire strings of the dulcimer. It has also certain strings over frets, thus possessing something in common with the lute family.

It will plainly be seen from what has been said that there are probably but few original progenitors —perhaps, indeed, only one—of the very large number of stringed-instruments now in existence.


(1.) In dealing with the difficult question of the Hebrew expressions used in the titles to the Psalms and elsewhere, the Rev. F. L. Cohen, who is well versed in the music of his race, when reading a paper before the Musical Association on the ancient musical traditions of the Synagogue, stated that in his opinion such words as Gittith, Aijeleth, Jonath, Shushan, Alamoth, refer to the ” modes ” or forms of chants to be used. These titles were added at a later date than the composition of the poems, and the vowels (in the shape of ” points “) were not inserted till the 7th century A.D. Hence he would read the words as Gittith, Aiolith, Javanith, Susan, Elamith, and they would mean the Gathite, . Aeolian, Ionian, Susian, and Elamite modes, corresponding to and paralleled by the geographical titles of the Greek modes. It is well known that in later times the teachers of the Temple music were principally Greeks. Professor Cheyne, in the Encyclopoedia Biblica (s.v. Psalms, §26), offers another explanation of these Hebrew expressions. He considers that they are generally corruptions of the names of clans or guilds ; thus Alamoth means ” of Salmath ” or the Salmæans, a division of the Temple singers, and Sheminith, according to him, stands for ” of the Ethanim ” or Nethinim, a well-known body of Temple servants. (See, however, the following note.)

(2.) With regard to Alamoth and Sheminith, when applied to the rebel and kinnor respectively, the ordinary explanation, with a necessary qualification, seems to be correct. For Alamoth, while meaning maidens, or ” those kept apart,” was very probably the title of a school or company of trained female singers and dancers attached to the religious worship of the Jews. In Egypt at the present day the Al’meh is a highly cultivated singer and performer—a truly “learned woman ” as the Arabic name now implies—far removed from the common low-caste dancing girls (ghawazee). In ancient Egypt a small bow-shaped harp (Fig. 26) was especially used by these female singers, and to it they chanted as the Jews did to the sound of the nebel (Amos vi. 5), the Hebrew instrument with which I have already identified it (Chapter ii., Supplementary Note 1). Amongst the Temple musicians, therefore, there were players on the nebel for accompanying the girl singers and on the kinnor for the men’s voices for Sheminith may well mean ” the octave,” since both in Egypt and Assyria a seven-note scale of diatonic form was recognised by the cultured musicians, the five-note scale (pentaphonic rather than pentatonic)—for which Engel claimed so extensive and exclusive a use—being relegated to the populace after having been derived from the older form. It will be noticed that this qualified interpretation of the words Alamoth and Sheminith does not express the pitch of the instruments (treble or bass), about which Dr. Stainer found so much difficulty, but merely states that the nebel was considered the better accompaniment for female voices, and the kinnor for those of men. Nor is there any reason why men should not have been set apart to accompany on their nebels the girl singers, notwithstanding the objection urged on page 76.

(3.) Baethgen and other commentators consider that Selah is an attempt on the part of Hebrew scribes to represent the Greek word Psallé (*AXE) meaning ” play,” derived from some Greek bandmaster and used as the direction for a musical interlude. I am, however, greatly indebted to the Rev. E. Capel Cure, who has made an especial study of the poetry and musical allusions of the Psalter, for the clearest and most convincing account of the actual use of the Selah. His explanation is as follows, the quotations being made from the Revised Version :—” To say that Selah—whatever its derivation—is a musical interlude throws no light on the difficult problem which such passages present as are to be found in Psalm lv., verses 7, 19: for here there seems little sense in orchestral interludes rushing in upon incomplete similes and unfinished sentences, reducing both to meaningless incoherence. Surely the introduction of music in these and similar passages cannot have been intended for idle interruption, but for a definite purpose, that is, for an illustration in sound of the words sung, in the same way as a picture would present an illustration in line and colour of the letterpress. Such a sound-picture at once delays and sustains the imagination, filling (in the first instance mentioned above) the ears and mind of the listeners with the fury and noise of the storm through which the frightened dove beats its way to a peaceful wilderness : the longer the storm of clapping hands and beating feet lasted (imitating the roll of thunder and hiss of hail), the more the pulse of the harp arpeggios (so singularly like the beat of the dove’s wing) was heard, now lost in the turmoil of these mingled means of musical description and now, as the rushing wind and rain lulled and lessened, rising with a triumphal sense of final safety, the more meaning did this intrusion of picture-music carry into the words with which at length the choir enter ` I would haste me to a shelter from the stormy wind and tempest.’ So also in the 19th verse of the same Psalm, ` God shall hear and answer them ‘ : thus sing the choir ; and there is no need for the poet to say more, for the instruments with an impressive eloquence indicate the horror of the answer. As in the Selah the reed-pipes wail out the familar funeral dirge, all men know what God’s answer is : and when the dirge is finished and silence reigns, the choir complete the sentence to which this significant interruption has given such subtle irony, ` God will answer . . . the men who have no changes’ with the change of Death. Selah then is always a musical interlude, but not always what is known to modern critics as ` pure music.’ Where it separates stanzas, it may be mere sound appealing by the beauty of its melody or combination of instruments : more often it represents what we now call programme music,’ and is consciously and deliberately descriptive of the text which it accompanies.

” Besides the Flight and Storm motive, which we ascribe to the harps and clapping hands and feet, and which may be found very effectively employed also in Psalm lxi. after the 4th verse, ‘ I will take refuge in the covert of thy wings. Selah,’ and besides the Death motive (probably given out on the reed-pipes) which illustrates so many Psalms with its cruel suggestiveness (Ps. lii. 5 ; lvii. 3 ; lix. 5, 13 ; &c.), there are two other Selahs in constant use—the Sacrifice and War Selahs with trumpets, though probably with different sorts of trumpets.

” It is known that the sound of trumpets accompanied the ritual of the altar, a blare of silver trumpets blowing, as it were, the sacrificial smoke heavenwards : once the victim was consumed the offertory music was silent. Here then is the explanation of the difficult words ` God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet ‘ (Ps. xlvii. 5). The Selah preceding this verse was the sacrificial interlude of trumpets augmented with loud hallelujahs, which die away as the smoke grows thinner until, over the dying embers of the sacrifice, the Levites come in again to say that Jehovah, who had seemed to them to stoop from highest heaven to receive the gift, had returned once more to His lofty throne.

“The Selah in Psalm lxvi. 15, proves the poem to be a true service of the altar. ‘ I will offer bullocks with goats ‘ is sung, and straightway, in a pause which the priests fill with their trumpets, the bullocks and goats are really offered, after which the singers resume their song.

“The War motive is found picturesquely enough in Psalm lx. 4 and lxxvi. 3, and less certainly in Psalm 1. 6. It would probably be given out on the shophar, the curved ram’s horn, which had its own tremendous associations of alarm and terror (Exodus xix.). In Psalm xlix. there is a striking combination of motives : between verses 13 and 14 comes the Death Selah to emphasise the awful threat ` Death shall be their shepherd,’ while the words of the later verse, 15, ` He shall receive me,’ find their explanation in the Sacrificial Selah, trumpets declaring the favour of God on the living sacrifice of the worshipper’s self and soul.

“With what eloquent effect the Selah could be used by one who was both artist and prophet may be seen in Habakkuk’s hymn (Habakkuk, Ch. 3). Nowhere else in the Old Testament is anything so like our modern libretto to be found, where obviously the words are written with conscious regard to the effect and colour of the accompanying music.

” It is a most vivid word-picture of a tropical storm, which, however, depends on the orchestra for its fullest effect. The storm motive with its mimic thunder rushes in in the first Selah (verse 3) to explain how ` God came from Teman.’ Always for the Israelite the Creator was behind His creation, but here His presence is audible. The music makes its own picture of heavy thunder-clouds, which envelop Mount Teman and come sweeping upward from the western horizon. Soon, however, words are introduced to give a clear description of the path and progress of the devastating storm, the wild melody being sustained and reinforced by a restless agitato of the string accompaniment. In effective contrast to this the composer provides a double opportunity for new orchestral colour in two other Selahs, intended not merely to relieve the ear, but, as it were, to illuminate and emblazon the truths which he wished to enforce. God’s power, as exhibited in the rush of wind and roll of thunder, is the measure alike of His unbroken word and His awful justice. ` The oaths to the tribes were a sure word’ (verse 9)—at once the strings are hushed before a blast of trumpets, carrying with it the solemn associations of the Sacrifice and all it implied of God’s covenant of protection. But if there is mercy, there is also judgment; and the terrible vision of the battlefield, where the sweeping scimitar has exposed the very bones of the severed neck, receives a thrilling intensification, from the Death Selah, which immediately follows (verse 13).

” In this interpretation of the word Selah, it will be seen that no excessive demand is made on the technique or resources of primitive performers : but—while every effect was produced by the simplest means — the instrumentalists of the Temple did for the singers what the artist does when he adds colour to the outline : in fact, so much do some of the Psalms depend upon their instrumental performance, that many of the phrases are only intelligible with the due understanding of their Selahs; while in all cases where the Selah is not a mere symphony between stanzas, the interludes deepen the glowing intensity of the words as much as Wagner’s music glorifies his libretti.”

(4.) The origin of our present forms of musical instruments is a subject of great interest, and reference should be made to Mr. H. Balfour’s Natural History of the Musical Bow (Clarendon Press, 1899) and the other recent works mentioned on page 12. As to Dr. Stainer’s statements it may be observed that the emanation of the lyre from a closely bent hunting bow is hardly likely : it is more probable that it had an independent origin, and began with the tortoise-shell of popular story or some other receptacle across which strings were stretched, a form still found among some primitive African tribes and enshrined in the psalteries and dulcimers of Asia and Europe. To the tortoise-shell, extensions in the shape of two arms were added, united by a cross-bar, which permitted the use of longer strings. The koto or Japanese psaltery is said by tradition to have been first constructed out of a series of hunting-bows placed side by side, and that later on they were merged into the one long sounding body across which the strings are drawn. It appears altogether unreasonable to suppose that the psaltery and dulcimer form was derived from the rebab or an instrument with a neck, as the author would suggest. The incurvations to which we are accustomed in the sides of the modern violin and guitar have their counterpart in a sculpture found in the ruins of the Hittite palace of Eyuk near Sinope, and dated about the year 1,000 B.C. (Plate III.).