Many people have responded that Bilaam was not the author of these lines, he was nothing more than a conduit for the words of Hashem. Unlike other nevi'im, the words he enunciated were stripped of all personal influence. When other neviim said Shira, it stemmed from their holy enthusiasm and passion, but Bilaam's shira was not a refinement of his words, it was totally extrinsic. One might say that the shira of other neviim, even that of Moshe Rabbeinu, was yeish mi'yeish, but the "shira of Bilaam" was yeish mei'ayin.
I respond to them that this is clearly not the case, as shown in Rashi. Rashi brings Reb Yochanan from Sanhedrin 105b, that מברכתו של אותו רשע אתה למד מה היה בלבו - from Bilaam's words, we can see what curses he was trying to enunciate, but his words were forced to come out as brachos. Clearly, the words we see were influenced by and filtered through the instrument called Bilaam.
For a long time, I worried that perhaps my feeling arose from some kind of spiritual kinship, a harmony between Bilaam and me. Hoping that this is not the case, I have, for years, wondered why Bilaam words are uniquely beautiful.
This year, Dr. Meir Zahtz pointed out to me that there is another case that is remarkably similar. I was relieved beyond words- it's not just me and Bilaam, Chazal say the same thing about Nevuchadnetzar. Sanhedrin 92b:
תנו רבנן בשעה שהפיל נבוכדנצר הרשע את חנניה מישאל ועזריה לכבשן האש אמר לו הקב"ה ליחזקאל לך והחייה מתים בבקעת דורא כיון שהחייה אותן באו עצמות וטפחו לו לאותו רשע על פניו אמר מה טיבן של אלו אמרו לו חבריהן של אלו מחיה מתים בבקעת דורא פתח ואמר (דניאל ג, לג) אתוהי כמה רברבין ותמהוהי כמה תקיפין מלכותיה מלכות עלם ושלטניה עם דר ודר וגו' א"ר יצחק יוצק זהב רותח לתוך פיו של אותו רשע שאילמלא (לא) בא מלאך וסטרו על פיו ביקש לגנות כל שירות ותושבחות שאמר דוד בספר תהלים
פתח ואמר - להקב"ה אתוהי כמה רברבין פסוק הוא (דניאל נ):
יוצק זהב רותח - משום דקא מיירי בשבחו דנבוכדנצר נקיט נמי לישנא מעליא ולשון קללה:
סטרו - הכהו מאחורי ידו:
לגנות - שהיה מסדר שבחות נאות יותר מדוד ואילו אמרן הקב"ה היה נוטה אחריהן יותר מאחרי השירות שעשה דוד:
When Nevuchadnetzar saw Shadrach, Mishak, and Abednego saved from the furnace, and he saw Yechezkel's resurrection of the dry bones in the Valley of Dura, he was moved to sing praise to Hashem. An angel immediately silenced him with a backhanded slap across the face. Had he not been silenced, his songs of praise would have shamed all the songs of David in Tehillim.
These were murderous and wicked men. They were directly responsible for horrible suffering and innumerable deaths, and they were unspeakably immoral and depraved. Why were their songs so beautiful?
I think that Freud (Jenseits des Lustprinzips, 1920,) might have intuited a truth when he asserted that the artistic creation of beauty is an expression of the Id, it is at best a sublimation of a visceral drive for the satisfaction of animalistic desire. Beyond that, he adds, it can be a mechanism of self-consolation for the occasional frustration of those desires, for the times one could not satisfy his lust.
Of course, beauty can be created by Tzadikim, but I think that the discipline and re-direction of those impulses takes off the edge. Shlomo HaMelech and Reb Yehuda HaLevi were truly lovsesick for the Ribono shel Olam, and that love flows through their words, but it's not the same. Bilaam and Nevuchadnzetzar, their visceral, carnal, even bestial lust was never denied, it was ferociously inflamed in every possible way. When they said Shira, it was the paragon of Shira. There's a reason that Wagner's so good. There's a reason why Schubert's trill in the eighth measure of his Sonata in B Flat is so mesmerizing. And there's a reason why they played the merry Rosamunde (the polka, not Schubert,) and the sentimental Blue Danube at Majdanek and Auschwitz during death marches and slaughter.
Please note: I didn't say this teretz because I saw Freud's "Beyond the Pleasure Principle." I said it myself, and then realized that Freud says something very similar. Why, then, do I mention (as my wife describes him,) that discredited sheigitz? Only because both my question and certainly my answer are easy to dismiss, and I wanted to demonstrate that I'm not just talking out of my hat.
Also: A certain individual, by nature somewhat disposed to negation, suggested that I shouldn't be bringing proof that Balaam was an incomparable lyricist from, and I quote, "A PARSHA WHERE A !#%$% DONKEY TALKS, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!!!" My response is, "Thank you for your elegantly stated and temperate criticism, but please note that the Gemara in Sanhedrin cited by Dr. Zahtz supports my position."
Also: Rabbi Dr. NJS of Maaleh Adumim tells me the following:
10 days ago in my shiur [ we're a week ahead] i suggested that perhaps the meaning of משה כתב את ספרו וכו is what bekhor shor and rashbam meant when they say that moshe CHOSE THE WORDING of the torah not that it was literally dictated letter by letter
After picking myself up off of the floor, I was reminded of how the Malbim, in his introduction to Yirmiahu, castigates the Abarbanel for saying that the beginning of Yirmiahu was written in a different style and with less artistry than the end because it was written when the Navi was young and inexperienced. Man, what would the Malbim say about the Bechor Shor and the Rashbam! Probably that they are forgeries.
But אחרי ככלות הכל, the fact remains that we have several places in Chazal that indicate that Bilaam's personality and intent do come out in his words, and it is on that I base this post.