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sings to her, “ Thy neck is like a tower of David builded for an armoury,” he does not intend to call up an image of that tower, and trace a parallel between the two; he intends to call up the emotions which are aroused by the beauty and perfection of the finest piece of architecture in the city, and affirm that like emotions are evoked by the beauty and perfection of the maiden's neck and shoulders. Such symbolical use of language is not as common with us as it was with the ancient Hebrews, yet it is not uncommon. When we say
of a person, has a sunny disposition,” we do not wish to call up a reminiscence of the sunshine ; we use the sunshine as a symbol, because the disposition we desire to describe produces on our spirits an effect something analogous to that produced by sunshine breaking through a cold, lowering, and gloomy day. The reader must resolutely get rid of the idea that the language of these love songs is the language of imagination. He must get from the symbol the idea or emotion it is calculated to produce and translate it into that idea or emotion.
III. The reader must remember also, in reading this cycle of dramatic love songs, that they are dramatic not didactic. The object of the essayist is to teach a lesson, the object of the dramatist is to produce an impression. The reader is not to look in this drama for a lesson taught; he is to be receptive to the impression intended to be produced. That impression is the spontaneity and the fidelity
of love. It is expressed in the refrain “Stir not up nor awaken love until it please," and in the closing song; “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would utterly be contemned.” The reader must remember, too, that the dramatist describes life as he sees it, not as a moralist might idealize it; that this dramatist is an Oriental and is writing for Oriental readers; and that in the Orient love is warmer and more passionate, and its expression is both cruder and more unreserved, than in the modern life of the West. In short, the reader must remember that the Song of Songs is not a sermon but a drama; that in it the author, an Oriental, uses Oriental symbolism, in portraying Oriental life, for the purpose of producing an impression of the purity and the strength of woman's love.
Bearing these considerations in mind let the reader turn to the Song of Songs itself, as it is here interpreted in a series of dramatic love songs, with occasional chorus. The scene opens in Northern Palestine, whither Solomon, with his court and his harem, has come upon a summer excursion. The listener to the love songs which follow must imagine for himself the scene: the royal encampment, the white tents set out upon the plain, the royal tent in the centre, the military bands, the court officers, the ladies of the harem in their gorgeous apparel. In the midst of them is a sunburned peasant girl, with that fresh beauty which appears all the more striking in contrast with the formal and artificial and somewhat worn beauties of the women who make up the Oriental court. The women of the harem in solos and chorus glorify the king; the Shulamite maiden depreciates her beauty, which is her peril, yet cannot resist the temptation coyly to qualify her self-depreciation.
1 In this interpretative rendering of this cycle of dramatic love songs, I follow the Revised Version, sometimes adopting the marginal reading, and in one or two instances varying the translation on the authority of eminent scholars, to make the meaning clearer.
CHORUS WITH SOLOS: COURT WOMEN AND THE SHULAMITE,1
Chorus. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth ;
Shulamite. “I am black- but comely –
1 Chap. i. 2-8.
Then she turns from the women of the court and addresses herself, in imagination, to her absent lover. Tell me,
O thou whom my soul loveth, Where thou feedest thy flock, where thou makest it to rest at noon: For why should I be as one that wandereth Beside the flocks of thy companions ? Chorus (satirically). “ If thou know not, O thou fairest among
women, Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, And feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents."
Solomon enters and prefers his suit in person. Then follows a duet between the two: he promises her jewels, she longs for her lover; he flatters her beauty, she recalls her peasant home; he promises her a dwelling-place in a palace of cedar, she replies that she is but a lily of the valley; he answers that such a lily in such peasant and poor surroundings is as a lily among thorns, she responds with reminiscences of the simple joys of her village life and her village lover.
DUO: SOLOMON AND THE SHULAMITE.1 Solomon. “I have compared thee, O my love, To a steed in Pharaoh's chariots. Thy cheeks are comely with plaits of hair, Thy neck with strings of jewels. We will make thee plaits of gold With studs of silver.
Shulamite. “ While the king sat at his table, My spikenard sent forth its fragrance. My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh, That lieth betwixt my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna-flowers In the vineyards of En-gedi.
1 Chap. i. 9-ii. 7.
Solomon. “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; Thou hast doves' eyes. Shulamite (recalling her lover). “Behold, thou art fair, my
beloved, yea pleasant: Also our couch is green.
Solomon. “ The beams of our house are cedars, And our rafters are firs.
Shulamite. “I am a rose of Sharon, A lily of the valleys.
Solomon. “ As a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daughters.
Shulamite. As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, So is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, And his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Stay ye me with cakes of raisins, comfort me with apples : For I am sick with love. Let his left hand be under my head, And his right hand embrace me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the roes, and by the hinds of the field, That ye stir not up, nor awaken love, Until it please.”
Love is spontaneous; love springs up of itself. Jewels cannot buy it, gold cannot purchase it, ambition cannot arouse it, courtly offers cannot win it. “I adjure you that you try not to stir or awaken love." It springs spontaneously or not at all. Then follows a reminiscent song, in which the Shulamite, as in a day-dream, sees her lover coming to her, and hears his love song at her latticed window, and imagines herself replying to him with a familiar verse from their shepherd life: “ Take us the foxes, the little foxes."