- SONG OF SONGS. The love dreamed by God

The love dreamed by God

1. The Song of Songs is the best of the songs. It has been attributed to Salomon. But the author could be other one. We can find parallel in old Egyptian songs. In the Jewish synod of Jamnia (at the end of century I a. D.) discussion about the sanctity of the song took place. Rabi Akiba  settled the question saying: “In Israel nobody has brought it into question, as if it stained the hands”, “all the sacred writings are saint, but the Song is sacrosanct”. Christian tradition has assumed it as inspired. It sings the love dreamed by God.

2. For centuries, the Song has received an allegoric, spiritual interpretation. It has been applied to the relationship between God and his people. It is said in the Bible: “I shall marry you for ever” (Hos 2, 21). It was applied to Christ, who he makes himself “only one flesh” with the Church: “Large mystery is this, says Saint Paul, I am talking about Christ and the Church” (Eph 5, 32). “The one who has the wife is the husband”, affirms John the Baptist (Jn 3, 29). In a marriage, in Cana´s  marriage, Jesus begins his signals (Jn 2, 11). The Revelation celebrates the “marriages of the Lamb” (Ap 19, 7). According with the cases, the wife is Mary, the Church, the humanity, the soul

3. Saint John of the Cross Song is inspired in the Song: they are “songs between the soul and the husband”, “the order of these songs goes from when a soul begins to serve to God until she reaches the last stage of perfection, that is the spiritual marriage”, “the sayings of love is better to leave them in their width so that everyone of them takes advantage according to their mood and flow of spirit, that to abbreviate them to a sense to which any palate cannot accommodate”. The poetry of the Song seems insuperable. Many verses were composed by fray John in Toledo’s  jail, between December 1577 and August 1578. He was 35 years old. Being in jail and beginning to sing that song: “Where did you hide, Love” it seemed to him that God had talked to him and that he had told him: “Here I am with you. I shall free you of any evil”. This consoled him so much that “he seemed to be in the glory”. The day before his death, the prior of the convent began to read him the recommendation of the soul, but he said to fray John: “Tell me, father, of the Songs, that that is not necessary”. The Song was not published in Madrid till 1630

4. There are many that give the Song a literal interpretation. In this sense, the Son celebrates the human love such as God had wanted it between man and woman: “God created the human being to his image, to his image God created him, man and woman created them” (Gn 1, 27). It is absurd to think that God has nothing to do with human love: “Darts of fire his darts, a flame of the Lord” (Cc 8, 6). The original project of God is to make “only one flesh” from man and woman (Gn 2, 24). The Song has a message able to get the youngsters to be excited: “At the rearguard of your footprint, / the youngsters walk the way/ in the touch of a sparkle,/ to the marinated wine/ emissions of divine balsam” (Song. 25; second draft, Jaen´s codex)

5. Obviously, the Song is a set of love poems. It perhaps sings something that overflows; “the way of the man in the maid” (Pr 30, 19) or, better, the way of both, the vicissitude of their love: the desire, the attraction, the look, the difficulties, the search, meetings and disagreements, questions and doubts, the secret appointment, the marriage, the consent, the fidelity. Who is she? She is the Sulamite (Cc 7, 1), perhaps from the Palestine city of Sunem, today Solem. Who is he? It is not well known: a shepherd (1, 7), a king (7,6), Salomon (3, 7 – 11). The poems present themselves without apparent order. Let us see some sequences, establishing a comparison between the Song and the poetic composition. The order of the verses in the poem was totally changed. We here cite them following the Jaen´s codex

6. The desire, the attraction. In the Song: “Shower me with kisses of your mouth: your love is more delicious than wine. Your oil smells sweeter than any perfume, your name spreads out like balm; no wonder the maidens long for you.  Lure me to you, let us fly! (1, 2 -4), “If only you were my brother, nursed at my mother’s breasts, I could kiss you outside if we met, without anyone despising me for it. I would lead and bring you  into the house of my mother, and you would teach me there.  I would give you wine with spice and the juice of my pomegranates”. (8, 1 – 2)

7. In the Poem: “Oh crystalline fountain, /if in those your silvery faces/ you would suddenly form / the desired eyes / that I have in my bowels drawn!” (12) “one thousand graces spilling / he went with haste through these groves / and, going on looking at them, with only her figure / dressed left them of her beauty” (5). “And all who wander / about you one thousand graces relate me, / and all causing more sores to me, / and leave me dying /some thing I don’t  know that are left stammering” (7)

8. The look, the figure. In the Song: “You are beautiful, my love, oh, how beautiful you are! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Before the dawn breaks and shadows flee, I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of frankincense. You are wholly beautiful, my love, perfect and unblemished. Come from Lebanon, my bride … You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one of your glances” (4, 1 – 9), “Your neck is an ivory tower… your flowing hair is royal purple, which holds a king captive in its tresses.” (7, 5 – 6)

9. In the Poem: “When you looked at me / your eyes imprinted your grace in me; / for this you loved me ardently; / and thus my eyes deserved / to adore what they beheld in you.” (32), “you considered that only that hair / fluttering at my neck; / you gazed at it upon my neck / and it captivated you; / and one of my eyes wounded you.”(31), “Reveal your presence, and may the vision of your beauty be my death; for the sickness of love is not cured except by your very presence and image.” (11)

10. Difficulties, family opposition, search. In the Song: “I am sunburned yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, Stare not at my dark complexion; it is the sun that has darkened me. My mother’s sons were angry with me  and made me work in the vineyards; for I had failed to tend my own. Tell me, my soul’s beloved, where do you graze your flock, where do you rest your sheep at noon? Why must I be wandering beside the flocks of your companions?”, “if you do not know yourself, most beautiful woman, follow the tracks of the flock and pasture your young goats beside the shepherds’ tents.” (1, 5 -8) In some sense, the beloved one is inaccessible: “You are a garden enclosed, my sister”, “a sealed fountain.” (4, 12)
11. In the Poem: “Do not despise me; for if, before, you found me dark, now truly you can look at me since you have looked and left in me grace and beauty.” (33), “Seeking my Love I will head for the mountains and for watersides, I will not gather flowers, nor fear wild beasts; I will go beyond strong men and frontiers.” (3), “shepherds, you who go up through the sheepfolds to the hill, if by chance you see him I love most, tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die” (2), “oh woods and thickets, planted by the hand of my Beloved! O green meadow, coated, bright, with flowers, tell me, has he passed by you? (4)

12. Meetings and disagreements. In the Song: “On my bed at night  I looked for the one I love, I sought him without finding him; I will rise and go about the city, through the streets and the squares; I will seek the love of my heart I sought him without finding him;  the watchmen came upon me, those who patrol the city. “Have you seen the love of my heart?” As soon as I left them, I found the love of my heart.” (3, 1 – 4), “I slept, but my heart kept vigil. I heard the knock of my beloved.  “Open to me, my sister, my love, my perfect one, my dove! My head is wet with dew, my hair with the drops of the night.” My lover thrust his hand through the lock opening and my heart thrilled for him. I rose to open the door. Myrrh from my hands dripped on the handle of the lock. I opened to my lover but he had turned and gone my soul went after him! I sought him but did not find him; I called him but he did not answer. The watchmen came upon me those who patrol the city; they beat me…  I beg you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you ever find my lover tell him that love makes me sick.”

13. In the Poem: “How do you endure O life, / not living where you live, / and being brought near death / by the arrows you receive / from that which you conceive of your Beloved?” (8), “extinguish these miseries,
/ since no one else can stamp them out; / and may my eyes behold you, / because you are their light, / and I would open them to you alone.” (10), “Where have you hidden, / Beloved, and left me moaning? / You fled like the stag / after wounding me; / I went out calling you, but you were gone.” (1), “Ah, who has the power to heal me? / now wholly surrender yourself! / Do not send me / any more messengers, they cannot tell me what I want to hear.!” (6), Why, since you wounded / this heart, don’t you heal it? / And why, since you stole it from me, / do you leave it so, / and fail to carry off what you have stolen?” (9)

14. Questions and doubts. What does it have is special?, what does he do? Where is he?. In the Song: “How is your lover better than others?”, “Radiant and ruddy, my lover stands out among thousands.” (5, 9 – 10). “Where has your lover gone, most beautiful woman? Where has your lover turned, that we may help you look for him?”. My lover has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the garden and to gather lilies. My lover is mine, and I am his; he shepherds his flock among the lilies.” (5, 9 – 10)
15. In the Poem: “My Beloved, the mountains, / and lonely wooded valleys, / strange islands, / and resounding rivers, / the whistling of love-stirring breeze” (14), “Be still, deadening north wind; south wind, come, you that waken love, / breathe through my garden, / let its fragrance flow, / and the Beloved will feed amid the flowers” (17), “With flowers and emeralds / chosen on cool mornings / we shall weave garlands / flowering in your love, / and bound with one hair of mine.” (30)

16. Secret appointment. In the Song: “The voice of my lover! Behold he comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Now he stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice. My lover speaks to me, and he tells me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come… O my dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice.” (2, 8 – 14)

17. In the Poem: “Return, dove, / the wounded stag is in sight on the hill, / cooled by the breeze of your flight.” (13), “Let us rejoice, Beloved, / and let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty, / to the mountain and to the hill, / to where the pure water flows,  / and further, deep into the thicket” (36). “And then we will go on to the high caverns in the rock / which are so well concealed; / there we shall enter / and taste the fresh juice of the pomegranates.” (37) “Catch us the foxes, / for our vineyard is now in flower, / while we fashion a cone of roses / intricate as the pine’s; / and let no one appear on the hill.” (16), “the tranquil night / at the time of the rising dawn, / silent music, / sounding solitude, / the supper that refreshes, and deepens love” (15). In the inner wine cellar /I drank of my Beloved,/ and, when I went abroad /through all this valley /I no longer knew anything, / and lost the herd that I was following. (26), “There he gave me his breast; / there he taught me a sweet and living knowledge;/ and I gave myself to him, keeping nothing back;/ there I promised to be his bride.” (27), “If, then, I am no longer seen or found on the common,/ you will say that I am lost;/ that, stricken by love,/ I lost myself, and was found. (29), “The small white dove/ has returned to the ark with an olive branch;/ and now the turtledove/ has found its longed-for mate/ by the green river banks.” (34)

18.- Wedding, union. In the Song. The bridegroom: “Who is this coming from the wilderness? There seems to be a pillar of smoke, with fumes of myrrh and frankincense. King Solomon has made for himself a carriage of wood from Lebanon, its columns of silver, its back of gold, its seat of purple cloth, its framework inlaid with love of Jerusalem’s daughters . Come, daughters of Zion, see King Solomon wearing the diadem with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, on the day his heart rejoiced.” (3, 6 – 11). Who is this coming from the wilderness leaning upon her lover? (8, 5). “Who is this coming like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as bannered troops?” (6, 10). “thus I have become, in his eyes, like one who brings peace.” (8, 10)

19. In the Poem: “Our bed is in flower, / bound round with linking dens of lions, / hung with purple, / built up in peace, / and crowned with a thousand shields of gold” (24), “You girls of Judea, while among flowers and roses / the amber spreads its perfume, / stay away, there on the outskirts: / do not so much as seek to touch our thresholds.” (18), Swift-winged birds, / lions, stags, and leaping roes, / mountains, lowlands, and river banks, / waters, winds, and ardour, /  watching fears of night: (20), By the pleasant lyres / and the siren’s song, I conjure you / to cease your anger / and not touch the wall, / that the bride may sleep in deeper peace” (21), “She lived in solitude, / and now in solitude has built her nest; /  and in solitude he guides her, / he alone, who also bears / in solitude the wound of love.” (35), “There you will show me / what my soul has been seeking, /  and then you will give me, / you, my life, will give me there / what you gave me on that other day” (38)

20. Consent, fidelity, In the Song: “I woke you under the apple tree,  where you were conceived by your mother, where she who bore you was in travail. Set me as a seal on your heart, set me as a seal on your arm. For love is strong as death; its jealousy lasting as the power of death, it burns like a blazing fire, it blazes like a mighty flame. No flood can extinguish love nor river submerge it. If a man were to buy love with all the wealth of his house, contempt is all he would purchase.” (8, 5-7)

21. In the Poem: “The bride has entered / the sweet garden of her desire, / and she rests in delight, / laying her neck on the gentle arms of her Beloved” (22), “Beneath the apple tree, / there I took you for my own, / there I offered you my hand, / and restored you, / where your mother was corrupted” (23), The breathing of the air, / the song of the sweet nightingale, / the grove and its living beauty / in the serene night, / with a flame that is consuming and painless” (39), “Now I occupy my soul /  and all my energy in his service; /  I no longer tend the herd, / nor have I any other work / now that my every act is love.” (28)

* Dialogue: The Song of songs
- allegoric, spiritual interpretation
- literal interpretation, love poems
- the love dreamed by God, able to excite the youngsters
- comparison between the Song and the Poem

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