Monday, September 28, 2009

Song of Songs, 6 [on spousal love]

[To see all of the earlier posts and this one gathered together in this my sporadic running commentary on the Song of Songs, look to the sidebar on the right under, "Labels," and click on Song of Songs.]

It's about time I continued commenting on the Song of Songs. So here goes.

Chapter 1, v 12

Here begins a section spanning verses 1:12--2:7 of short alternating statements of praise given first by one and then the other, the maiden and the bridegroom, for each other. It's a kind of alternating duet. This, after they have just finished uttering separate proclamations, the maiden first and then the bridegroom. This is perhaps slightly similar to the form of a contemporary love song duet that begins with one verse sung by one lover followed by the second verse by the other, and then a chorus where they come together and go back-and-forth singing single phrases in alternation with each other.

In verses 12-14 the maiden is speaking of her bridegroom. Verse 12 is perhaps suggestive that the bridegroom, though he has a homestead, lacks something. He may rest in his own room yet he does not have a wife with whom he might share his home. The contrast between the first and second half of verse 12 seems to resonate with this subtle tension. It is a tension meant to be resolved.

The man is content to a certain degree, but restless, for he senses the allure of the maiden--her "nard" calls to him. He cannot help but be aware of his desire for her. It is interesting that it is the maiden speaking here. This reveals that she is quite aware of her powers of attraction and their effects upon her bridegroom. The maiden's "nard" (which seems to symbolize the combined totality of all her womanly allure) is used with an active verb--it yields/gives forth its perfume. Thus, her beauty in all its various shades actively calls out to her lover. The maiden's beauty is like perfume that radiates out from its source--on an active mission--it seeks out and interrupts the awareness of the otherwise contented bridegroom; content, that is, until the perfume of her beauty reaches his heart and gains a firm place in his mind.

I would also suggest that the maiden does not have to try for this to happen. Her beauty calls out to him without her doing anything in particular. Her nard is active on its own and needs little extra help from her. Perfume, when the top is off the bottle, needs no help finding nostrils. It does so by its own powers.

Somehow, the maiden is aware that the entire bouquet of her particular womanly charms is meant for a particular man--her bridegroom. It is to him that the scent of her nard calls. It is this man and not any other, as he rests in his house, whose heart and mind are stirred inexorably in a special way by desire for her. Other women are attractive, but this woman's beauty speaks to him in a unique way, unlike any other. In the quiet of his abode he is aware of her presence, even when she is not physically near.

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