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The Song of Songs

Valentine’s Day evokes as many tears as its does sighs of pleasure; love is the most desired, and yet the most difficult, emotion. We fall in love with people who do not love us, or who can’t stand us; or again we see that someone loves us and know that the relationship cannot work for practical reasons; and still other times we marry the person we imagine is right for us, only to find ourselves falling out of love with him or her, sometimes many years later.

We hunger for experience, for intensity, for connection–and nothing beats the sheer exhilaration of falling in love. It is the lifeforce itself, as people all over the world recognize.

Surely with mankind the appreciation of flowers must have been coeval with the poetry of love. 

—Kakuzo Okakura

And I can think of no better love poetry to celebrate this demanding but essential passion than the Song of Songs. Here is its opening:


The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.
I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.
Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.


Happy Valentine’s Day!       RT


Photo: Old Love Letters; Rachel Ashe; WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.

  1. aubrey
    February 21, 2012 at 2:19 am

    I have never read the Song of Songs; the words stare straight and boldly into the eyes of the reader. There is vocabulary yet simplicity in the lyrics, few adjectives are needed – the exotic, unknown, faraway nouns are enough.

    • February 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      Aubrey: Do I detect a bit of defensiveness in your comment? I mean, the SoS is famous for its beauty (like Shakespeare), but then there’s beauty and there’s beauty. R&J & the SoS are more for the straightforward admirer of the muse, say, someone like William Morris. But then we know what WM thought of your namesake. We need people who walk a bit farther down the path to bliss than the mainstreams do; you’re one of our guides into that fabled realm. RT

  2. aubrey
    February 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Never defensive! I do marvel at the lushness of the SoS; a rich vision that gazes straight down that path to bliss you speak of. It is a breath of fresh air. Morris has beauty, too, but it is thick and perfumed, like a VIctorian parlour.

    And yes, he probably gagged at the sight of Beardsley’s illustrations for Le Morte d’Arthur.

  1. February 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm

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