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Song of Songs [4/15]; Arise, my love, my fair one

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posted on Jun, 16 2013 @ 05:04 PM
I’m still exploring the intended meaning of the Song of Songs.
The next passage I’m considering is the rest of the second chapter, ch.2 vv8-17.
(The translation being used is the RSV)

I need to explain my naming of the “speakers” in these passages.
The two main characters of the Song are frequently called “the Lover” and “the Beloved”, giving the first name to the male.
Those labels make the male the active pursuer, following the conventions of romance.
They mask the reality of this poem, that the woman is patently doing most of the pursuing.
That should be one of the clues that this is not a conventional romance.
So I’m calling these characters “the Woman” and “the Loved One” in that order.

I’ve already proposed that the relationship between them is the relationship between God and his people.

v8 One of the features of this poem is the way the relation fluctuates between “togetherness” and separation.
When the poem began, the Woman was pursuing the Loved One, wanting to know where he was.
They came together at the end of the first chapter.
In the first part of this chapter, they were resting in each other’s company, among the trees.

This verse brings a change of scene.
The “separation” theme has returned.
The premise of the new scene is that the Woman is keeping herself indoors, remaining at home in seclusion..
So the Woman’s thoughts now turn from the presence of the Loved One to the absence of the Loved One.
She sees him as a sleek gazelle, leaping around the mountains.
Even in his role as a gazelle, he behaves like any anxious human suitor, standing on the other side of the walls that keep him away from the Woman he loves, trying to gain a sight of her.

It is rather typical of this poem, which is mainly about the Woman’s experience of the relationship, that we don’t hear the words of the Loved One in his own voice.
We hear them in the voice of the Woman, reporting what she’s heard him say.

vv10-13 The gazelle’s appeal to the Woman is a self-contained poem, beginning and ending with the words “Arise…and come away”.
He invites her to leave her house and join him in the countryside, now that the winter is over and the land is coming back to life.
The early rains have done their work and gone away.
The flowers can be seen.
The song of the turtle-dove and the other birds can be heard.
The fragrance of the vines can be smelt.
The figs on the fig-trees are ready to be tasted.
Come out, my love, and share in the enjoyment of all these things.

v14 The same kind of invitation, with a different image.
Now he sees her as one of the wild doves which nest in the crevices of the rock-face.
He calls her to come out of this protective home, so that he can see her beautiful face and hear her sweet voice.

v15 We might wonder if this verse has been misplaced.
At first glance, it looks like the kind of instruction which could have been given by the woman’s brothers when they were leaving her in charge of the vineyards.
However, the Loved One’s theme is the arrival of spring, and the vines are now in blossom.
This is precisely the time when the vineyards need to be protected against intruders.
Therefore the instruction has a valid place exactly where it is.
To that extent, at least, the will of the “brothers” coincides with the will of the Loved One.

v16 At the end of the chapter, the Woman has finished reporting his words, and now speaks in her own person.
This verse is repeated in ch.6v3, and can be regarded as one of the refrains of the Song of Songs.
In fact that line- “My beloved is mine and I am his”- could be taken as a brief summary of the entire message of this poem.

The second line appears, in some translations, in the form “he pastures his flock”, but that’s a mistranslation which suggests a misleading picture.
The word “flock” is not there in the Hebrew, which just says “feeds”.
The same words are used in ch.4 v5 to describe what the gazelle is doing.
So this is not a one-verse return to the image of the shepherd.
In fact the shepherd, who looms so large in the romantic interpretations of this poem, makes one appearance (ch1 vv7-8), and then doesn’t return at all, apart from the repetitions of this mistranslation.

The Woman has clearly not finished with the image of the gazelle.
It is the gazelle that “feeds among the lilies”, whenever that line is repeated.
We’ve already discovered that the Woman is a lily, and we know from the beginning of the poem that she’s not alone in pursuing the Loved One.
So if the gazelle, which represents the Loved One, is “feeding among them”, that suggests a relationship of some kind with all his pursuers.

v17 What is the meaning of the clause “Until the day breathes and the shadows flee”?
The obvious answer is “Until the dawn comes”.
But I’ve also seen the suggestion that it means the end of the day, when the sunset breeze arrives and the shadows lengthen.
That would certainly make more sense in terms of the gazelle’s activity, which would then be taking place in daylight instead of in darkness.

In the last words of the chapter, the Woman is encouraging the Loved One to be a gazelle or a stag upon the mountains.
When she says “Turn”, I think this means the repeated action of turning, running backwards and forwards, and round and round, in joyful exuberance.
When the gazelle was appealing to the woman, he was celebrating the arrival of new life in the land, and this looks like a physical expression of the same thing, another aspect of the sensory enjoyment.

Sight and sound, smell, taste, and touch.
This chapter appeals to all five senses.
The first part of the chapter was about the mutual enjoyment of the Woman and the Loved One.
In the second part of the chapter, they come together in a shared enjoyment of the Creation.


posted on Jun, 17 2013 @ 04:41 PM
The previous threads in this series were;
Draw me after you
Tell me where you rest at noon
Feed me with raisins

posted on Jun, 18 2013 @ 05:01 PM
My interest in the Song of Songs was originally inspired by the reading of the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux.
Especially by his comments on the words “I am black, but beautiful”, as applied to the spiritual state of the church or the individual soul. The idea of being sinful and imperfect, but still beloved by God.
Knowing the history of the church, I was very conscious of its imperfections, so it all rang very true.
However, my own interpretation obviously strikes out a very different line from Bernard, in all sorts of different ways.
Nor is there space for me to take the devotional approach.
But I would argue that gaining a good sense of the writer’s conscious intentions would provide the most sure foundation of any approach, including the devotional.

posted on Jun, 19 2013 @ 05:03 PM
For information;
The next thread in this series will cover the first portion of the third chapter.

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 04:37 PM
This whole series is now indexed at the following location;

The Unseen Husband

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