Our translation of the Song of Songs attempts to adhere as closely as pos- sible to the Hebrew text. As such, we follow the lead set by Everett Fox, most. The Song of Songs stands alone among the books of the Jewish and Christian canons as an unabashed exploration of sensual human love. Yet this. This translation of the Song of Songs follows the critical Greek text provided in my and Interpretation in Old Greek Song of Songs and its Earliest Manuscript.
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Bible students have long recognized that the Song of Songs is one of the most enigmatic books Converted to PDF by Robert I. Bradshaw, March The Song of Songs. 1 5. Title/Superscription. Solomon's Most Excellent Love. Song. 1 tn The preposition ל in הֹמֹל ְׁש ִל ר ֶ ׁשֲא ('asher lishlomoh) has. In the Hebrew Bible the title of this book is "The Song of Songs. 5Victor Sasson, "King Solomon and the Dark Lady in the Song of Songs," Vetus Testamentum.
Those who hold it to be a single poem point out that it has no internal signs of composite origins, and view the repetitions and similarities among its parts as evidence of unity. Some claim to find a conscious artistic design underlying it, but there is no agreement among them on what this might be. The question therefore remains unresolved. It was accepted as canonical because of its supposed authorship by Solomon and based on an allegorical reading where the subject-matter was taken to be not sexual desire but God's love for Israel.
He reportedly said, "He who sings the Song of Songs in wine taverns, treating it as if it were a vulgar song, forfeits his share in the world to come". Following the dissemination of the Zohar in the 13th century, Jewish mysticism took on a metaphorically anthropomorphic erotic element, and Song of Songs is an example of this. In Zoharic Kabbalah, God is represented by a system of ten sephirot emanations, each symbolizing a different attribute of God, comprising both male and female.
Song of Songs (Old Testament Library)
The Shechina indwelling Divine presence was identified with the feminine sephira Malchut , the vessel of Kingship. This symbolizes the Jewish people, and in the body, the female form, identified with the woman in Song of Songs.
Her beloved was identified with the male sephira Tiferet , the "Holy One Blessed be He", central principle in the beneficent Heavenly flow of Divine emotion. In the body, this represents the male torso, uniting through the sephira Yesod of the male sign of the covenant organ of procreation. Through beneficent deeds and Jewish observance , the Jewish people restore cosmic harmony in the Divine realm, healing the exile of the Shechina with God's transcendence, revealing the essential Unity of God.
This elevation of the World is aroused from Above on the Sabbath, a foretaste of the redeemed purpose of Creation. The text thus became a description, depending on the aspect, of the creation of the world, the passage of Shabbat, the covenant with Israel, and the coming of the Messianic age. Indeed, must I put it on?
I have washed my feet. Indeed, must I soil them? My heart pounded for him. My hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the lock. My heart went out when he spoke. I looked for him, but I didn't find him. I called him, but he didn't answer. They beat me.
The keepers of the walls took my cloak away from me. Friends 9How is your beloved better than another beloved, you fairest among women? How is your beloved better than another beloved, that you do so adjure us? Beloved 10My beloved is white and ruddy. The best among ten thousand. His hair is bushy, black as a raven.
Studies in the Vocabulary of the Old Testament. Emerton, J.
Graeme Auld, — Emmerson, Grace I. Goulder, ed. Stanley E. Porter, Paul Joyce, and David E.
Orton, Eslinger, Lyle. Exum, J. On Reading the Poetry of Desire. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, forthcoming. Clines, ed. Cheryl Exum and H. Williamson, James L. Mays, Fontaine, Carole R. Goitein, S. Good, Edwin M. Goodspeed, Edgar J. Gordon, Cyrus H. Greenfield, Jonas C. Hallo, William W. Hansen, Eric. Haupt, Paul. Hicks, R. Pope, ed. John H. Marks and Robert M. Good, Guilford, CT: Four Quarters, Hirschberg, Harris H.
Holman, Jan. Klaus-Dietrich Schunck and Matthias Augustin, Honeyman, A. Isserlin, B. Jacob, Irene, and Walter Jacob. Keefer, Kyle, and Tod Linafelt. Kuhn, Gottfried. Landsberger, Franz. Ingrid Rosa Kitzberger, Leiden: Deo Publishing, Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, Cambridge: Belknap Press, Lavoie, Jean-Jacques.
Linafelt, Tod. Livingstone, Alasdair. Long, Gary Alan. Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. May, Herbert G. Merkin, Daphne. Christina Buchmann and Celina Spiegel, New York: Fawcett Columbine, Gottwald on His Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed.
David Jobling, Peggy L. Day, and Gerald T. Sheppard, 3 9 - 5 1. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, Moore, Stephen D. Select Bibliography xxi Murphy, Roland E.
Nissinen, Martti. Manfried Dietrich and Ingo Kottsieper. AO AT Ohler, Annemarie. Rudolf Mosis and Lothar Ruppert, Ostriker, Alicia. Pardee, Dennis. Pardes, liana.
Pelletier, Anne-Marie. Phipps, William E. Polaski, Donald C. Childs, ed. Gene M. Tucker, David L. Petersen, and Robert R. Wilson, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, Rogerson, John W. Bach's Church Cantatas. Rowley, H. Rundgren, Frithiof. Michael V. Klein, Baruch J.
Schwartz, and Nili Shupak, Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, Sasson, Jack M. JAOS : Pope's Song of Songs [AB 7c]. Gordon on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. Harry A. Hoffner Jr. Shea, William H. Sonnet, Jean-Pierre. Soulen, Richard N. Stephan, St. Tanner, J. Trible, Phyllis. Tuell, Steven S.
Van Beek, G. Viviers, Hendrik. Porter and Dennis L. Stamps, JSNTSup London: Sheffield Academic Press, Waldman, Nahum M. Watson, Wilfred G.
Sawyer, ed. Watson, Wendland, Ernst R. Westenholz, Joan Goodnick. Sasson, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, ; repr. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Joan Goodnick Westenholz, Jerusalem: Bible Lands Museum, Whedbee, J. Winandy, Jacques. A Love Poem The Song of Songs is a long lyric poem about erotic love and sexual desire—a poem in which the body is both object of desire and source of delight, and lovers engage in a continual game of seeking and finding in anticipation, enjoyment, and assurance of sensual gratification.
A love poem. The poem's genius lies in the way it shows us as well as tells us that "love is strong as death" , and in the way it explores the nature of love.
It looks at what it is like to be in love from both a woman's and a man's point of view, and it relies exclusively on dialogue, so that we learn about love through what lovers say about it.
To me my lover is a sachet of myrrh, lying all night between my breasts. To me my lover is a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En-gedi. Let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely. His mouth is sweet, and all of him desirable.
This is my lover; this, my friend. I sought him but I did not find him. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek my soul's beloved. That I am faint with love. Let's go early to the vineyards, we'll see if the vine has budded, if the grape blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates have bloomed. There I will give you my love.
But it is not just the lovers who speak. A third speaking voice belongs to a group, the women of Jerusalem, a kind of women's chorus who function as an audience within the poem and whose presence facilitates the reader's entry into the lovers' intimate world of eroticism.
Love and Death Only once does the poet offer an observation about the nature of love in general, and it is of the utmost importance for understanding the Song of Songs.
Bible (World English)/Song of Solomon
Like everything else that is said in the poem, it appears in the mouth of one of the speakers not as the voice of the poet and it is addressed to another character in the poem and not directly to the reader, though its readers are the poem's ultimate audience. Place me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm, for love is strong as death.. Though death is mentioned only once, and that near the poem's end, everything in the poem converges upon and serves to illustrate the affirmation that love is as strong as death.
The proof is the poem. Perhaps all literature is a defense against mortality; certainly the Song of Songs is. The desiring subject of Song may be a character in the poem, but it is also the poet, whose desire to preserve a particular vision of love gives rise to the poem. Real lovers die, but the love that is celebrated here lives on, preserved on the page. It still seems fresh and alive centuries after it was written down, because it is love in progress, not a story about famous lovers of the past.
The Song is too engrossed in how glorious it is to be alive and in love to voice bitterness or melancholy about death.
Ever discovering their pleasure anew and ever rejoicing in each other and in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangibility of the world around them, the textual lovers and the vision of love they embody live on so long as the poem is read. Controlling Poetic Strategies By "controlling poetic strategies" I refer to how the poetry of desire works, the tactics and techniques it employs, and the effects it produces; in other words, to the way the poet shows us, as well as tells us, that love is as strong as death.
In poetry in general, and certainly in the Song, the medium is the message, as the saying goes. We cannot understand the Song, much less appreciate how it succeeds as a love poem, without paying attention to the way it presents its vision of love, to its emotional sequences in time and the accompanying shifts in technical management.
Attention to the Song's guiding poetic strategies, therefore, forms a major part of this commentary, and the reader is referred to the Commentary section especially the general introduction to each section of the Song for a fuller discussion of them in context. These codes of structure and meaning in the text belong to its translatable structure; that is to say, they are reproducible in English, unlike many of the Song's other aesthetic features such as assonance, alliteration, and wordplay see under "A Masterpiece of Pure Poetry," pp.
Employed across the space of the poem, these manifold and interconnected strategies are the means by which the poet strives to make present, through language, what cannot be captured on the page: the lovers whose multiple identities enable them to stand for all lovers and, ultimately, love itself.
The Illusion of Immediacy The most striking and successful way in which the Song of Songs immortalizes the love it celebrates is by creating the illusion of immediacy, the impression that, 4 Introduction far from being simply reported, the action is taking place in the present, unfolding before the reader.
It does this through the exclusive use of direct speech; unlike other biblical texts, there is no narrative description. The poem presents its readers with a vision of love, not in the abstract but in the concrete, through showing us what lovers do, or, more precisely, by telling us what they say.
By presenting the lovers in the act of addressing each other, the poem gives us the impression that we are overhearing them and observing their love unfold. The key to this unfolding is the dialogue. The dialogue format, though not unique, is certainly unusual. Most love poetry is written from a single point of view, with the poet or narrator implicitly or explicitly speaking to or about the object of her or his desire.
Even in the closest parallel to the Song of Songs from the ancient world, the Egyptian love poems, there is no dialogue such as we find in the Song of Songs, only soliloquies or monologues or, in some of the longer songs, "double monologues," where a monologue of one lover is joined to that of the other Fox The Song is a dialogue between a man and a woman and occasionally the women of Jerusalem.
It represents itself as offering both points of view, a woman's and a man's. This is part of its supreme artifice and artistry, for a moment's reflection tells us the Song is not a transcription of a lovers' tryst. Nor is it likely that the Song is a joint composition in which a woman wrote the woman's words and a man, the man's, or that someone recorded from memory a lovers' conversation. The voices that seem unmediated are the voices of lovers created for us by the poet.
As is the case with any good writer, their voices seem authentic. Perhaps the poet writes from personal experience, influenced and inspired by a distinguished succession of poetic precursors see "Literary Context: Ancient Near Eastern Love Poetry," pp. Conceivably the dialogue format of the Song reflects performance cf.
Fox or even cultic ritual—for what do all poets work with, if not their cultural heritage? Surely the poet responsible for shir hashirim, "the best of songs," is a strong poet in Harold Bloom's sense, one who has overwritten the tradition with a fresh vision of desire. Whatever its irretrievable sources of inspiration, the Song as we now have it is a written text, an artistic creation, and the man and woman who appear in it are literary personae.
This commentary takes seriously the implications of this fact for interpretation, asking not only what the lovers are like but also how the poet presents them to us cf. Fox The illusion of immediacy in the Song might be compared to the situation John Keats describes upon observing figures on a Grecian urn: 1 1. Introduction 5 Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" Like Keats's lovers, those of the Song are captured in language on the brink of attaining their bliss though they also—through double entendre and the blurring of distinctions between wishing and having, longing and fulfillment— achieve their heart's desire; see "Blurring Distinctions between Anticipation and Enjoyment of Love," pp.
The love that unfolds before us in the Song as the lovers speak is a love that is being celebrated in the present. The poem is not a recollection in tranquility of bygone days of romance, nor a fantasy about what it might be like to obtain that obscure object of desire. Here the lovers are always taking their pleasure or just about to do so.
The erotic imperative—the call to love by means of grammatical imperatives, jussives, and cohortatives— lends urgency to the moment: "draw me after you," "let us run" , "tell me" , "rise up," "come away" ,13 , "turn" , "open to me" , "let me hear" ; The Song begins with the erotic imperative "let him kiss me," and ends with it "take flight. Not least, the climactic affirmation of love in is grounded in the erotic imperative: "place me like a seal on your heart, for love is strong as death.
Coupled with imperatives, vocatives strengthen the impression of the lovers' presence at the moment of utterance: "my soul's beloved," "my sister, bride," "my dove, my perfect one," "most beautiful of women. Someone or something is coming up from the wilderness ; The illusion is that we are watching along with the speaker, our eyes riveted upon the apparition just entering our field of vision, poised between the wilderness and the unspecified location of the speaker.
Always in progress, love also unfolds as the poem progresses. The progression is not linear, however, for the Song is a lyric, not a dramatic, poem. Sudden temporal shifts are characteristic of the Song and strengthen the impression of immediacy see, e.
Munro In the garden of eroticism and the realm of the senses, both time and place collapse. Past events are of the recent past "the king has brought me to his chambers," b and the future is about to be realized "we will delight and rejoice in you," c.
The lovers move effortlessly over the poetic 6 Introduction landscape—vineyards, gardens, palaces, houses, rocky cliffs, the wilderness, Lebanon—finding pleasure wherever they materialize. One moment the woman is in the king's chambers, the next, the lovers are in their pleasure garden. The immediacy arising from the sensation of desire on the verge of gratification precludes the melancholy that we find in Keats's poem, with its consciousness of the fragility and transience of the physical world.
Not that a reader could not supply it by reflecting on the voice as something ephemeral love is strong as death, and conversely death is strong as love. But absent in the Song is the interfusion of joy and sadness we find not only in Keats expressed often through oxymoron, as in "sweet pain," "aching pleasure" but in numerous other love poems as well.
Whereas Keats longs to retreat to a visionary world of unmingled bliss, the Song gives the impression that the lovers already inhabit such a world. This is not to say the Song's world is completely idyllic, but, like all besotted lovers, its lovers do not let the weariness, the fever, and the fret of the world around them intrude upon their bliss.
Conjuring "Conjuring you up and letting you disappear, that's the game I'm always playing," writes a poet about her lover. It is the game the Song's lovers are always playing too. The Song casts a spell with words: through seductively beautiful poetry the lovers materialize and demateriahze in a continual play of seeking and finding.
The man conjures his lover up repeatedly by describing her bit by bit, in densely metaphorical language, until she materializes before us, a body clad in metaphor , ; ; [ H].
The woman calls her lover forth through her poetic powers of representation only to let him disappear so that she can conjure him up again see under ; ; ; She is a consummate conjurer, for she also puts words in his mouth ; She imagines what he says to her, whereas he does not imagine her words. In , for example, she conjures him up as a suitor begging entry to her chamber she is the narrator of these events; he speaks as a character in her story , and, seemingly, she lets him disappear.
Then, by means of the language of praise, which she uses to describe his body in extravagant detail to the women of Jerusalem, she conjures him up again. Elsewhere she conjures him up as a Solomonic figure, approaching from the desert in a magnificent sedan chair The lovers are always present for each other because they are always speaking or being spoken about; in other words, they are continually desiring and desired.
Throughout the Song, speech embodies desire by calling bodies into 2 2. Introduction 7 being and playing with their disappearance in an infinite deferral of presence. Conjuring seeks to make immanent through language what is absent, to construct the lovers as "real" that is, present before us and endow them with meaning. This is how it all begins, with the woman conjuring up her lover: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your caresses are better than wine" She begins by speaking of "him" and "his mouth" as if he is not there with her, and in the next breath she addresses him directly, "your caresses.
As if in response to articulated desire, the lover materializes, brought into being, as he is elsewhere ; , by poetic imagination. The Invitation to the Reader For the poet's vision of love to live on, the poem must be read. For readers, however, a certain element of voyeurism is involved in being privy to the intimate exchanges of lovers. Presenting the lovers as aware of and in conversation with an audience is a poetic strategy that makes the relationship between the lovers less private, less closed and the Song less voyeuristic , and thus facilitates the reader's entry into the lovers' seemingly private world of erotic intimacy.
The audience, the women of Jerusalem see under , are sometimes addressed directly ; ; , ; , 16; and sometimes speak , 9; ; ; and perhaps ; [ H]. At times their presence is simply assumed.
When the woman says, for example, "Listen! My lover! He's coming! In the world of the poem, her audience is the women of Jerusalem, but ultimately, of course, it is the poem's readers.
At other times, we are reminded of the women's presence when the lovers seem to be enjoying the most intimate pleasures —7; ; 5:lef; ; S The lovers do not view the presence of these women as either intrusive or embarrassing, and, by addressing them, the woman invites their active participation. The invitation to the women of Jerusalem to participate in the lovers' bliss is also an invitation to the reader.
The women's presence is always a reminder that what seems to be a closed dialogue between two perpetually desiring lovers is addressed to us, for our pleasure and possibly our enlightenment. The poem needs us in order to be actualized here and now, in the acts of reading and of appreciation.
And so the poem encourages its readers to join the women in their approbation of the lovers, and, by showing us how marvelous it is to be in love, invites us to become lovers too: "Eat, friends, drink yourselves drunk on caresses! Readers bring the lovers to life when, by overhearing them, they observe their love unfold and when they answer the poem's invitation to participate in the lovers' joy. To judge from the admiration, and even adoration, it has elicited over the centuries, the Song is very effective in seducing most readers with its poetic vision of desire, though recently the number of resistant readers seems to be increasing.
We might ask, how can a poem about desire not arouse readerly desire? Readerly desire, of course, can take as many forms as there are real readers see "The Song of Songs and Its Readers," pp. They are identified neither by name nor by association with any particular time or place except for the vaguest connections to Solomon and Jerusalem; see the Commentary under The Song's lovers are archetypal lovers—composite figures, types of lovers rather than any specific lovers.
The Book of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs): Full Text
In the course of the poem, they take on various guises or personalities and assume different roles. The man is a king and a shepherd; the woman is a member of the royal court and an outsider who tends vineyards or keeps sheep.
She is black , as well as like the white moon and radiant sun , with a neck like an ivory tower [5 H] —an impossible combination in one person according to many commentators. By providing access only to the voices of the lovers, to what they say not who they are, the poet is able to identify them with all lovers.
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Their love is timeless. All this makes it easier for readers to relate the Song's lovers' experience to their own experience of love, real or fantasized.However, the natural interpretation sometimes fails to appreciate the larger theological and redemptive-historical context of Song of Solomon. A dialogue between the lovers follows: the woman asks the man to meet; he replies with a lightly teasing tone. There is simply not enough information to support any of the stories that have been suggested.
Was the allegorical interpretation of the Song just an excuse in order to include the book in Scripture? There is no transcendent quality to the allegory.
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