First, love leads lovers to poetic expression. Simply saying “I love
you” isn’t always enough — sometimes the poetic fire flashes and the
lover must erupt into evocative language: “Tell me, my soul’s beloved,
where do you graze?” (1:7) Now she could have asked “What is your
address?” No, she evokes his earthy vocation along with his sexual
energy and we are left wondering what she means. That’s poetry.
Second, love leads lovers to delight in one another. As I read the
Song I am continually impressed with their delight in one another —
they’ve got something between them no one else knows and something no
one else can share. Their eyes are attached; their hearts yearn for and
know one another; what they share is theirs and theirs alone. They
bring one another deep pleasures and joys.
Third, love leads lovers to playfulness with one another. If you get
too serious and too reverent with the Song of Songs you’ll ruin it —
it records delightful linguistic play between two lovers. I love the
question of 1:7 because of the response it gets in 1:8 — and I tend to
think the response is said by the women of Jerusalem — they
women/chorus say what is obvious: “You want to know where your man will
be at midday? Well, think about it Ms. Beautiful. He’s a shepherd.
He’ll be where the sheep are.” I think this is playful; it’s not
directions for a lost lover.
Fourth, love leads lovers to trustful words. She sticks her neck
out; he does too. The choir participates in the trusting relationship.
They say things to one another that are vulnerable, risky, and
heart-felt — for words like this to work the listener must not only
delight in such words, but the listener must be ready to come back with
words as delightfully trustful and vulnerable.
And what to do if you and your lover are not right now capable of
I suggest you ask yourself these questions: Does your love for your
loved one evoke imagination of that person’s presence? Does your love
create dialogues that spar in degrees of admiration? Do you wait for
love to mature? Do you see your love as delightful?
1. The evocative power of imagination. This woman is intoxicated
with her love for her shepherd-lover. His absence leads her to dream
about him and to imagine his embraces. She imagines him as myrrh and
henna blossoms and she imagines lying with him in a verdant wooded
location, and she imagines herself as a rose and lily — and his love
as sweet fruit. We are unsure when we read this section if the woman is
in the presence of the man or if she only imagines him.
2. The need for admiration dialogues: they banter back and forth
between themselves almost vying for who can say the nicest line or
create the most poetic expression for the other. “Look at you!,” he
says, “Your eyes are doves.” She relishes this and echoes back, “Look
at you! … our bed is verdant.”
3. The importance of letting love happen: her words to the daughters
of Jerusalem are not strict moralistic teaching so much as profound
wisdom. Love comes; you can’t control that, but you should wait for it,
nurture it, be ready, but don’t rush it. (So I read 2:7.)
4. Most importantly, we watch — a bit like voyeurs — as this
couple tenderly, emotively, and erotically toys with one another in
loving delight of the person and body of the other.