Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Song of Songs which is of Solomon - Part I

1 א
שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמֹה
The Song of Songs which is of Solomon
Update 2014 Music begins here.
What is it that we can know of Songs that this is the best? There are 30 songs in the Psalter. (Psalms 30, 45, 46, 48, 65, 66, 67, 68, 75, 76, 83, 87, 88, 92, 108, and the Psalms of Ascent 120-134) And there are others in the Scripture - like The Song of the Sea Exodus 15:1, or of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:1 or of David in 2 Samuel 22:1 (= Psalm 18 - not named as a song!) This article by Chris Brady at Targuman lists the top ten from the Targum on the Song.  It is an intriguing list because it reveals how the compiler of the Targum read the Scripture as a whole. Chris Brady's article is very worth reading. (Midrash etc is also posting on the Song. Adam Couturier posting on Heschel is also worth noting in this respect.)

Why then is this the best? And how can we approach the text? Perhaps before starting, we should read all these other songs and see everywhere in Scripture where singing implies a song. Let's read every song. But we can't do it all at once so let the best be first. I am going to also mark the prefixes and suffixes. It forces me to read more slowly and see every particle.

See my 24 posts here for the 11 letters that form particles and affixes of grammatical significance.

There are three actors in this piece - the girl, the boy and the chorus. Imagine who the speaker is - it sometimes switches mid verse. And imagine to whom the speaker is addressing each word. The poet switches person like the psalmist does -e.g. verse 1 immediately. Like the psalms, it is possible to read the poem as prayer also. 

VerseHebrew textA translationWhat shall we say?
יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת פִּיהוּ
כִּי טוֹבִים דֹּדֶיךָ מִיָּיִן
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth
for good in multitude are your loves compared to wine
Perhaps in the spirit of the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, we should read the charge of Song 2:7 first. This charge ends four of the five parts of the Song. To read on, we must take on the persona of the daughters of Jerusalem and we are sworn by a hidden name not to rouse love till it please.
לְרֵיחַ שְׁמָנֶיךָ טוֹבִים
שֶׁמֶן תּוּרַק שְׁמֶךָ
עַל כֵּן עֲלָמוֹת אֲהֵבוּךָ
as for scent your oils are pleasing
an oil poured out is your name,
therefore maidens love you
I am looking at each verse to divide it into twos and threes - though perhaps four will sometimes be found.This is a check against some rather bizarre translation I did on my first pass 2 years ago.
הֱבִיאַנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ חֲדָרָיו
נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בָּךְ
נַזְכִּירָה דֹדֶיךָ מִיַּיִן
  מֵישָׁרִים אֲהֵבוּךָ
Draw me
after you
we will run
the king brought me into his rooms
We will rejoice and we will take pleasure in you
we will mention your loves more than wine
the upright have loved you.
How can we punctuate that line? I like to play with that word 'draw' - but I suspect it is too much of a stretch to see it in the 'I will draw all to myself'. But Jesus is the Bridegroom so don't put it out of mind. It would not surprise me to find additional allusions to John.
Rooms is plural (same word and form in 1 Chronicles 28:11)

There are several differing words for beloved, love, and companion - I do not know yet how I will distinguish the sounds and tones of these words in English.
For the verb אהב, I will use love as verb, but it also occurs as noun though only singular.
For דוד, likely love as noun and beloved but if plural as here, then loves. Caresses or affections would work here but would lose connections that may be desirable to keep. Not love in the abstract, as if there were such a thing.
שְׁחוֹרָה אֲנִי וְנָאוָה
בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם
כְּאָהֳלֵי קֵדָר
כִּירִיעוֹת שְׁלֹמֹה
Black am I but lovely
daughters of Jerusalem
like the tents of Kedar
like the curtains of Salmah
We will return to the place names. Place will be important in the overall scheme of things in a childish sort of a way.
ואַל תִּרְאוּנִי
שֶׁאֲנִי שְׁחַרְחֹרֶת שֶׁשְּׁזָפַתְנִי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ
בְּנֵי אִמִּי נִחֲרוּ בִי
שָׂמֻנִי נֹטֵרָה אֶת הַכְּרָמִים
  כַּרְמִי שֶׁלִּי לֹא נָטָרְתִּי
Do not stare at me
that I am swarthy
that the sun has scorched me
The sons of my mother were charred with me
They set me minding the vineyards
My own vineyard I could not mind.
minding/keeping the vineyards - the word is also a frame in the poem occurring twice here and Song 8:11-12.'Set' שׂוּם may also be significant in this frame - Song 6:12, 8:6.
הַגִּידָה לִּי
שֶׁאָהֲבָה נַפְשִׁי
אֵיכָה תִרְעֶה
אֵיכָה תַּרְבִּיץ בַּצָּהֳרָיִם
שַׁלָּמָה אֶהְיֶה כְּעֹטְיָה
עַל עֶדְרֵי חֲבֵרֶיךָ
Make known to me
you that are the love of my life
where will you graze?
where will you pasture at noon?
lest I become as one herself enwrapped
by the herds of your fellows?
Here and in the next verse are two additional similarities to John's gospel. Teacher, where do you live? (John 1:38)

חָבֵר fellow (this frame word occurs twice - once here and one at the end Song 8:13.)
I look for repeated words and sounds to see if they play a framing or a thematic role in the text.
אִם לֹא תֵדְעִי לָךְ
הַיָּפָה בַּנָּשִׁים
צְאִי לָךְ בְּעִקְבֵי הַצֹּאן
וּרְעִי אֶת גְּדִיֹּתַיִךְ
עַל מִשְׁכְּנוֹת הָרֹעִים
If you do not know for yourself
O most beautiful among the women
go for yourself in the footsteps of the flock
and graze your kids
by the shepherds' tents
Come and see. I think there is no possible way of seeing for yourself than doing this one commandment. Is it fair of me to translate לָךְ as for yourself? I hate to leave both of them out as the KJV does. There is an argument for ה in a vocative role here. At least vocative is the easiest way to express the definite in this verse.
טלְסֻסָתִי בְּרִכְבֵי פַרְעֹה
דִּמִּיתִיךְ רַעְיָתִי
To my mare in the chariots of Pharaoh
I have compared you, my companion
Is it one mare or my singular mare?
רעיה companion (occurs 9 times) - it may indeed be a term of endearment but I cannot lose the distinction with דּוֹדִי a term used to pathetic effect by Dickens in his David Copperfield. It is curious how often רע occurs in several words here (graze, shepherd, Pharaoh, companion, green, and rouse/arouse, awaken, disturb). Maybe some day we can study pairs of letters.
ינָאווּ לְחָיַיִךְ בַּתֹּרִים
צַוָּארֵךְ בַּחֲרוּזִים
lovely your cheeks in the circlets
your neck with strings of beads
Here we have the first of many epithets of praise on both sides. They will morph into long descriptions of the endearments each finds in the other. There's a technical term for these but I forget it.
תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ
עִם נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף
circlets of gold we will make for you
with drops of that silver
עַד שֶׁהַמֶּלֶךְ בִּמְסִבּוֹ
נִרְדִּי נָתַן רֵיחוֹ
While the king is on his couch
my spikenard gives its fragrance
In these verses there are several definitives that I have not translated. I hate to leave things out that the poet has put in. I think there is talk of things that are definite from outside the context of the poem What would be an equivalent in English? I have chosen 'that' as if there is a shared memory.
יגצְרוֹר הַמֹּר דּוֹדִי לִי
בֵּין שָׁדַי יָלִין
a pouch of that myrrh is my beloved to me
between my breasts he will spend the night

ידאֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר דּוֹדִי לִי
בְּכַרְמֵי עֵין גֶּדִי ס
a cluster of that camphire is my beloved to me
in the vineyards of my goat's eye
Well perhaps it is the place Engedi -but it might be a joke (Camphire here and in Song 4:14 only - each to the other)
הִנָּךְ יָפָה רַעְיָתִי
הִנָּךְ יָפָה
עֵינַיִךְ יוֹנִים
Look at you, beautiful, my companion
look at you, beautiful
your eyes are doves
Note the repetition of hinak and yapah
הִנְּךָ יָפֶה דוֹדִי
אַף נָעִים
אַף עַרְשֵׂנוּ רַעֲנָנָה
Look at you, beautiful, my love
indeed pleasant
indeed our bed is verdant
those letters are here reversed also! It may be insignificant.
קֹרוֹת בָּתֵּינוּ אֲרָזִים רַהִיטֵנוּ בְּרוֹתִים
the beams of our house are cedar
our rafters are fir

2 א
אֲנִי חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן
שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים
I am the crocus of the plain
the lily of the valleys

כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים
כֵּן רַעְיָתִי בֵּין הַבָּנוֹת
As a lily among those thorns
so is my companion among the daughters
Are you happy being compared to a definite set of thorns
כְּתַפּוּחַ בַּעֲצֵי הַיַּעַר
כֵּן דּוֹדִי בֵּין הַבָּנִים
בְּצִלּוֹ חִמַּדְתִּי וְיָשַׁבְתִּי
וּפִרְיוֹ מָתוֹק לְחִכִּי
As an apricot tree among the trees of the wood
so is my beloved among the sons
in his shadow I delighted and I sat
and his fruit was sweet to my taste
There are so many songs from these verses and those to come - here I remember Bairstow, I sat down.
הֱבִיאַנִי אֶל בֵּית הַיָּיִן
וְדִגְלוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה
He brought me to the wine house,
and his intent over me was love
There is a children's song on this verse.
סַמְּכוּנִי בָּאֲשִׁישׁוֹת
רַפְּדוּנִי בַּתַּפּוּחִים
כִּי חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה אָנִי
Support me with raisins,
spread me out with apricots,
for sick with love am I
The two dots are a placeholder and signify that I have nothing more to say here for the moment.
שְׂמֹאלוֹ תַּחַת לְרֹאשִׁי
וִימִינוֹ תְּחַבְּקֵנִי
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me.
A frame with Song 8:3
הִשְׁבַּעְתִּי אֶתְכֶם
בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם
בִּצְבָאוֹת אוֹ
בְּאַיְלוֹת הַשָּׂדֶה
אִם תָּעִירוּ
וְאִם תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת הָאַהֲבָה
עַד שֶׁתֶּחְפָּץ ס
I have charged You,
daughters of Jerusalem,
by the hosts of roe
or by the goodly hart of the field,
if you arouse
or if you rouse this love
till it please
The play on words in the Hebrew I have rendered in the English: the Lord of hosts is present in the text in the names of the animals. This refrain occurs 4 times. It seems that the song divides thus in five parts.  Of course you can take this as a negative admonition but it contains no negative.

The Samech is for Selah about which no one quite knows either.
[Update - PDF suitable for Bible study in English at these links  1,2,3,4,5]
This series on the Song I | 2:4 II 3:5 | III | 5:10 IV 8:4 V

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