April 06, 2004

Good for the Jews?

Not that the world was exactly waiting breathlessly for this one, but the UVa Victorianist Chip Tucker has very obligingly helped me to pin down the meaning of the  reference to "a Semitic guess" in Browning's "Easter Day," which I was puzzling over in an earlier posting. According to a note in Ian Jack et al.'s 1991 Oxford edition of Browning, the phrase evokes "a hypothesis about some difficult point in Hebrew, or some other Semitic language," and a note in the Yale Poets edition more-or-less concurs -- hence, I suppose, it's a conjecture about some obscure philological nicety. Even given Browning's demonstrated interest in philology, it sounds a little far-fetched, but then so do the explanations of most of Browning's references -- it's Semitic guesses all the way down.

Posted by Geoff Nunberg at April 6, 2004 01:11 PM