The Word Made Fresh
1I wish you were like my brother who nursed at my mother’s breasts.
Then if I met you in public I could kiss you,
and no one would disapprove.
2I would bring you into my mother’s house,
and into the bedroom of the one who gave me birth.
I would give you wine to drink,
spiced with my pomegranate juice.
3I imagine his left hand beneath my head
and his right hand embracing me.
4I urge you, daughters of Jerusalem,
do not arouse or stir up love until it desires.
5Who is that coming up from the desert,
leaning on her lover’s arm?
I awakened you beneath the apple tree
where your mother had been in labor with you,
and where she gave you birth.
6Let me be like a seal over your heart, or upon your arm.
For love is strong as death itself,
and passion as unyielding as the grave,
with flashes of fire, a raging flame.
7Deep waters cannot quench love nor floods drown it.
If you should offer all your wealth, it would be turned down.
8We have a little sister, too young to have breasts.
What, then, should we do for her on the day she is claimed?
9We can treat her like a wall and build silver parapets for her.
If she is like a door, we’ll surround her with cedar boards.
10I was a wall, with breasts as its towers;
and I was to him as one who brings peace and contentment.
11Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-Hamon.
He assigned keepers for it,
and each was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.
12But my personal vineyard is just for me;
you, Solomon, can have the thousand.
The keepers can each have two hundred.
13My friends are listening for you who live in the gardens.
They are listening for your voice; O let me hear it!
14Hurry, my love, like a gazelle,
or a young deer upon the deep piles of spices!
1-4: She expresses the wish that they were close enough kin that they could engage in public displays of affection. Her fantasy is that, were they like brother and sister they could enter the privacy of her mother’s house without raising eyebrows, and there freely engage in lovemaking. Once again, the expression about not awakening love until it is ready is a way of saying she has found her true love and that makes all her previous relationships meaningless by comparison.
5-7: The poem plunges again into obscure images that seem disconnected from one another as well as from the preceding scene. The apple tree reference is impossible to explain and the reference to his mother in labor is just as troublesome. But verses 6 and 7 seem to be a summary of their affair. Love is indeed more valuable than all the wealth one might possess.
8-10: Again, it is hard to find any connection between these verses and the rest of the book. It seems to me that the “daughters of Jerusalem” are reflecting on girlhood, puberty, and emerging womanhood.
11-14: The book ends with an invitation to young lovers everywhere to enter into the delightful twists and turns of romantic love.
You may be wondering, having read the book, why it is in the Bible to begin with. The best answer I can offer is that the Song of Songs is an exuberant celebration of Genesis 2:18-25.