Song of Songs, also called Song of Solomon, has sometimes been a source of embarrassment for western Christianity. The sensual language found in Song of Songs reflects the common experiences of human love, lust and sexuality. The passage below is typical of the wider book in that it uses similes to move repeatedly between descriptions of animals, fruits, jewels, human creation and the human form. The writer is trying to convey a sense of great desire and beauty and in order to do this needs to draw on every part of creation to convey the greatness or his or her love.
Expressions of Praise
1 How graceful are your feet in sandals,
O queenly maiden!
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
the work of a master hand.
2 Your navel is a rounded bowl
that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat,
encircled with lilies.
3 Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
4 Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,
by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
5 Your head crowns you like Carmel,
and your flowing locks are like purple;
a king is held captive in the tresses.
6 How fair and pleasant you are,
O loved one, delectable maiden!
7 You are stately as a palm tree,
and your breasts are like its clusters.
8 I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its branches.
O may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
and the scent of your breath like apples,
9 and your kisses like the best wine
that goes down smoothly,
gliding over lips and teeth.
10 I am my beloved’s,
and his desire is for me.
11 Come, my beloved,
let us go forth into the fields,
and lodge in the villages;
12 let us go out early to the vineyards,
and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened
and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
13 The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
and over our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old,
which I have laid up for you, O my beloved
Questions for reflection
- The relationship between lovers, or a husband and wife, is often used in the New Testament as a metaphor for the relationship between Jesus and the Church. How could this reading be used as a metaphor for the relationship between humanity and nature?
- What amongst creation generates in you the kind of intense desire as expressed in this passage? What do these desires say about you and God’s desire for all of creation?
Some further reading
Margery Kempe (1438), The Book of Margery Kempe