87. The Old Testament. The Song of Solomon.

Also called the Song of Songs, or the Canticles, this is the last of the Books of Wisdom in the Protestant Old Testament. It is a three way dialogue between a woman, her lover, and a chorus of her friends. While the chapter headings in my Bible and biblical scholars refer to the two lovers as Christ and the Church, it is hard not to believe that the author is describing the mutual, physical sexual desire between two lovers (Solomon and a shepherdess, possibly his concubine)

This is the first dedicated love poetry I have reached (excluding Sappho, which was mostly unrequited yearnings) and I found it quite sensual and erotic. Lots of natural imagery and symbolism especially gardening.

It is a little hard to tell who is talking when, and what is real or imagined or remembered. The verses breaks do not necessarily tell me when the dialogue switches from woman to man until a pronoun puts it in context again.

Favourite lines/passages:

“Rise up my love, my fair one and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone ; the flowers appear on the earth ; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.  The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise my love, my fair one and come away.”    Song 2:10-13.

(Turtle presumably meaning turtledove, as he calls her his dove in the next verse)

“My beloved is mine, and I am his ; he feedeth among the lilies until the day break, and the shadows flee away …”       Song 2:16-17

“Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of your eyes, with one chain of thy neck”   Song 4:9

“Awake, O north wind; and come thou south ; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden and eat his pleasant fruits”   Song 4:16

“Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm ; for love is strong as death ; jealousy as cruel as the grave ; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it …”     Song 12:6-7

Diversions/digressions:   Mentioned twice in this Book, spikenard is a luxurious perfumed oil obtained from a flower growing in the Himalayas. It’s exoticness not only suggests the special nature of the love between the two, but on a pragmatic level shows trade between two areas rarely connected in my thoughts – a trade route across Asia linking India or China with Israel in the centuries before the Roman Empire?

Personal rating:   The most literary and ‘non-Bible’ chapter of the Bible so far. Definitely a 6.

Next :  Back to me old mate Plato, and his post-Socratic dialogue Gorgias

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