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The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
ye stir not up, nor awaken love, Until it please.”
The scene once more changes back to Northern Palestine. Love has won. The Shulamite maiden appears, leaning upon the arm of her peasant lover. The village maidens sing a song of greeting to village bride and groom, as they come back to her birthplace, to the home beneath the apple-tree where she was given birth by her mother, and given a second birth by love. For no woman is truly born into womanhood until she is born anew by love. Chorus of Village Maidens. “Who is this that cometh up from
the wilderness, Leaning upon her beloved ? Song of Peasant Lover. “ Under the apple-tree I awakened
thee: There thy mother was in travail with thee, There was she in travail that brought thee forth. Shulamite's Love Song. "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as
a seal upon thine arm : For love is strong as death;
Jealousy is cruel as the grave :
Love is strong as death ; many waters cannot quench it; floods cannot drown it; and if a man would give all the substance of his house in exchange for love he would utterly be condemned ; that is the moral and meaning of this cycle of dramatic love songs.
Remembering what life was in the Orient, how far men had strayed away from the first marriage law, one husband wedded to one wife till death do them part, — how love had died and licentiousness had taken its place in that awful system of polygamy which created the harem, can we say that there was no need of an inspired drama to produce the impression of the “Song of Songs” on the Eastern world? Are we sure, as we look at life in America, that there is no need that this impression be produced to-day on our own world? Is marriage à la mode unknown with us? Are there no parents who think a good match for the daughter is a match to a wealthy or a titled suitor? Are there no men who weigh love against houses and lands and call love the lighter weight of the two ? Are there no
women who find themselves distraught between the plea of ambition and the plea of love and know not which plea to accept? It may be said that it is the commonplace of drama and fiction to contrast love and ambition and exalt love. But what shall we say of the writer who first told the story of this battle between love and ambition and put love first? And I doubt whether there can be found anywhere in ancient literature a story of pure womanly love antedating the Song of Songs.
I cannot but think that its lesson needs especial emphasis in our time and in our country. The higher education and the larger life of woman bring with them special temptation. Entering into literature, business, politics, woman is tempted by ambitions of which formerly she knew nothing. In public address the home is often scoffed at, the husband is treated as a slaveocrat, and the notion is sedulously advocated that woman rises into a larger life if she turns from wifehood and motherhood to the lecture-room, the professional career, the business office. These doors ought not to be shut against her ; but it is impossible that these doors should be opened, and that larger life given, and all the powers quickened by a broader education, without subjecting her to the temptation to take ambition in place of love. Against the notion that it is a nobler thing to be in business, in a profession, in politics, in literature, or on the platform than to be the life-companion of one man, loving him with fidelity and loved by him, this Song of Songs exerts its sweet and sacred influence in behalf of love strong as death,
flame of the Lord.
In some true sense to every one of us, man or woman, come love and ambition: God who is love, and the world which is ambition. As Hercules was invited in one direction by pleasure and in the other by wisdom, so every one of us is called in one direction by ambition and in the other direction by love; and the great and final message of the Song of Songs is that love is the supreme factor in human life. And this truth of life is itself a parable, interpreting the still deeper truth that to love God and to be united to him is at once the supreme end and the supreme felicity of life. For the Song of Songs is an allegory in the same sense in which marriage is a symbol. The lesson of the Song of Songs is the strength and the joy of human love; but that is itself a prophetic interpretation of the strength and the joy of God's love for his own, and of their love for him.
1 “The typical interpretation is perfectly compatible with Ewald's view, and, indeed, if combined with it, is materially improved; the heroine's true love then represents God, and Solomon, in better agreement with his historical position and character, represents the blandishments of the world, unable to divert the hearts of his faithful servants from him." An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, by S. R. Driver, D. D., p. 451.
A SPIRITUAL TRAGEDY
The Book of Job is unique in literature. It is almost impossible to classify it. Professor Genung calls it “The Epic of the Inner Life.” It is, however, only by a kind of figure that it can be so called. The epic poem is supposed to relate at length and in metrical form “a series of heroic achievements or events under supernatural guid
This the Book of Job does not do. Professor Genung explains the title which he gives to the book, and with the explanation the title is exceedingly felicitous: “I regard,” he says, “this ancient book as the record of a sublime epic action,
vhose scene is not the tumultuous battle-field, nor the arena of rash adventure, but the solitary soul of a righteous man.” 2 But on the one hand, to designate the narrative of such a struggle in the soul of a righteous man as an epic is to give to the word a new, though a not inappropriate meaning; and on the other, this description of the poem indicates but one phase, and not the most important nor even the most interesting phase, of the book.
1 Century Dictionary. 2 The Epic of the Inner Life, by John F. Genung, pp. 20–26.