There be dragons!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Song of Songs

Most people when they put down the Bible or Christianity or religion seem to have failed to read the greatness of the poetry in Song of Songs. Even believers tend to gloss over it as though it were the bastard cousin - too much sensuality - not moral or fitting for polite conversation. But the elegance, the longing, the joy of the poem are remarkable. It is a sensual work, delighting in the emotions and the physical sensations of love; the taste of dates and figs; the sweetness of wine; the sounds of birds or animals; and the wonderful, overpowering joy of being alive. That is remarkable. Christianity (and Judaism) proclaim that this life is a great joy, the sensations of this life being goods themselves and not to be despised. This poem seems to confirm that talking about a "little sister who has no breasts" or a lover who has "dove's eyes" or the thighs of the beloved as he leaps down the hill. But after creation itself what situation provides a greater sense of love and joy than human connection; the sensuality of being with the beloved - loving the details of the smoothness of their nape, the hairs on their arms - and yet the longing to be with them even when with them. I've always been moved by this passage in particular which describes the young girl searching for her beloved in the streets:

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?

It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

There are several excellent recordings of this poetry set to music. My favorite is this one by tapestry:

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