The Word Made Fresh
1I come to my garden, my sister, my bride.
I gather my myrrh with spices
I taste of my honeycomb with its honey.
I drink my wine with my milk.
Eat, friends! Drink! Be drunk with love!
2I slept, even though my heart remained awake.
Listen! My lover is knocking!
I hear him say, “Open to me, my sister, my love.
Open to me, my dove, my perfect one;
My head is wet with dew,
my hair soaked with the evening mist.”
3I had removed my clothing; could I get dressed again?
I had bathed my feet; dare I soil them again?
4My lover reached through the opening with his hand,
and I yearned for him deeply.
5I arose to greet my beloved, my hands dripping with fragrance,
my fingers reaching for the lock.
6I opened for my beloved, but he had turned and was gone.
I grew faint when he spoke.
I searched for him but didn’t find him.
I called out to him, but he didn’t answer.
7The guards, making their rounds in the city, found me;
they beat me and wounded me.
They stripped me bare, those guards.
8I beg you, daughters of Jerusalem;
if you find my beloved, tell him I am faint with love.
9“Is your beloved better than others who are loved?
You are the most beautiful of women,
but why is you lover better than other lovers?
What makes you beg us to find him?”
10“My love is radiant and tanned,
standing tall among ten thousand others.
11His head is like the finest gold,
covered with wavy locks black as raven.
12His eyes are like doves’ eyes reflected in streams of water.
Bathed in milk, they are set firmly.
13His cheeks are like fragrant beds of spices.
His lips are lilies tasting of liquid myrrh.
14His bejeweled arms are golden and jeweled.
His torso is like ivory work studded with sapphires.
15His legs are like carved gypsum set upon feet of gold.
His appearance reminds us of Lebanon,
and is as wonderful as the cedars.
16He speaks so sweetly, which makes him completely desirable.
This is my beloved friend, daughters of Jerusalem!
1: So, he feasts on her beauty, inviting his friends to admire her.
2-7: She engages in another romantic fantasy: her lover comes to her chamber while she sleeps. She longs for him and arises to open the door but finds that he is gone. She searches for him in the city and is beaten by guards, although no explanation is given as to why she should be so punished — but again, this is a fantasy or a dream. Her suffering at the hands of the sentinels is perhaps a subconscious admission that the affair she is imagining is somewhat taboo.
8-9: In her fantasy she asks the women of the city to help her find him, and they want to know what’s so special about him.
10-16: She describes him with the same kind of excessive imagery that he used in describing her. His attributes are compared to ravens, doves, lilies, and cedars. Much of her image of him, though, involves precious metals and jewels: gold, ivory, sapphires (or lapis lazuli), and alabaster. Frankly, I wouldn’t care to have my eyes compared to doves or my lips to lilies, but whatever turns you on.
The romance continues with each of them describing the other in what would have passed in those days as romantic exchanges. Each of them is enamored of the other. All that has gone before has been their imagination about each other. The stage is set for an actual encounter.