Saturday, August 20, 2011
(Passion Flowers and Hummingbirds by Martin Johnson
Heade, 1819-1904, American artist)
One of the most beautiful lyric love poems in Western literature is The Song of Songs, also known as The Canticle of Canticles or The Song of Solomon. It is found in the Hebrew Bible and in the Christian Old Testament.
The poem is made up of some twenty-five distinct verses. “Scholars differ on the question of their possible interrelation and unity," write Amy and Leon Kass in their collection of readings on courting and marriage, Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar. “Although the Song of Songs contains no explicit divine or religious references, Jewish and Christian interpreters over the centuries have read the text theologically. For example, Jewish mystical readers see in the images of erotic longing the expression of the soul’s longing for God. . . . Christian tradition has interpreted the song as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church, or as symbolizing the experience of God’s love in the individual human soul.”
The editors raise an interesting question, “whether and how the passionate, sensuous love of man and woman may be related, not merely symbolically, to the love for and from the divine.”
from THE SONG OF SONGS
Hark! my beloved!
Behold, here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My beloved speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come away!
For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree pours forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come away!”