[reaction to OYB’s Sep. 6-8 readings]
Today’s readings–I guess obviously–include the Song of Songs, sometimes called the Song of Solomon. It basically a love poem that focuses overwhelmingly on the physical aspects of the “Beloved” and her “Lover”. The poem is explicitly lustful, although I’m not sure that the poem alludes to intercourse. For example, we have this from chapter 2:
3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
4 Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
and let his banner over me be love.
5 Strengthen me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.
6 His left arm is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
7 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.
I don’t know. If you are tasting a guy’s fruit does that mean you’re having sex, or just making out? Depending on what you want to use this book for it might matter. Similarly, there is nothing to suggest Beloved and Lover (renamed She & He in the more recent NIV translation 🙁 ) are married. Also, although Beloved talks about Solomon’s carriage and warriors it isn’t at all clear to me that Lover is Solomon. In fact, I kind of assume he is not.
I take this book first and foremost to acknowledge that sexual passion is a good thing. Sure, we have plenty of stories about how it can be abused and misused. But, nonetheless, almost pure physical lust is okay. (Beloved and Lover do love each other, but more time is spent on her breasts and describing his stag-like nature than on their inner beauty.)
There is also some weirdness in the poem. Beloved goes out looking for Lover twice (something that sort of reminded me of Proust’s passage in Swann in Love where Swann desperately seeks the woman he realizes he is in love with), but the second time, this happens in chapter 5:
6 I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.
7 The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they bruised me;
they took away my cloak,
those watchmen of the walls!
8 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you—
if you find my beloved,
what will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love.
More strange is this toward the very end from Beloved’s friends:
8 We have a little sister,
and her breasts are not yet grown.
What shall we do for our sister
on the day she is spoken for?
9 If she is a wall,
we will build towers of silver on her.
If she is a door,
we will enclose her with panels of cedar.
Uh, okay. We know this isn’t Beloved since much space has been devoted to her gazelle like breasts. So, not exactly sure what the point of bringing up your sister is. I don’t know how Song of Songs compares to “To the Virgins“, “Shall I compare thee“, or other sexy literary works. I also don’t know how it compares to contemporary writings about passion. Maybe something to look into another day.