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Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Song of Solomon

Sir William Russell-Flint's 'Song of Solomon' 1909
It is not generally realised how much the Old Testament's Song of Solomon pervades modern culture. It contains some of the most beautiful love poetry ever written:

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.
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.

It is important to know that this is just the first chapter and that the 'voice' of the poem switches from person to person. Biblical scholars argue whether or not this was written by Solomon or for him. Here are just a few of the references that have been made:


  • Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy's 1985 song  Kiss Me quotes directly from the Song of Solomon.
  • Toni Morrison's novel Song of Solomon was instrumental in her winning a Nobel Prize.
  • Chapter 2, verse 15 (not reproduced here) provided the title for Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play Little Foxes.
  • Also the opening line of Chapter 2 provides the name 'Rose of Sharon' used by Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Countless number of (mostly obscure) rock groups have taken their names and song titles from Song of Solomon.
  • One of Kate Bush's song from The Red Shoes  is Song of Solomon
  • In his poem When I Hear You Sing, Leonard Cohen refers to the Song of Solomon.
  • Many writers and composers through history have taken inspiration from this work. They include Geoffrey Chaucer, JS Bach and up to Steeleye Span and Neil Diamond (in Holly Holy).
Finally I wish all visitors to the blog a peaceful and healthy New Year. Be inspired by this poetry and remember that love is better than hate!

12 comments:

David said...

Dear bazza,
And I was going to tell you about Toni Morrison! Oh well, disappointed once again. However, I did like the Stephen "tin tin" Duffy reference, which I believe goes as follows: "kiss me with your mouth, your love is better than wine". And, incidentally, I believe, at some point, "tin tin" Duffy had a song writing partnership with Robbie Williams, who comes from Stoke. Such a small world, bazza. And absolutely, love is better than hate.
Hoping you have a wonderful New Year,
David.

bazza said...

David: I forgot to say that the names in red link to You Tube videos of those tunes.
My wife knew that Robbie Williams came from Stoke - now I know too!
All the best for the New Year David.

klahanie said...

Hey bazza,
Once again, an interesting and most information packed article by your good self.
I thank you for this and here's wishing you and your nearest and dearest, a most peaceful 2012.
In kindness, Gary.

Mimi Lenox said...

You have captured my imagination with the painting and this, one of my favorite books of the Bible, Song of Solomon.
Thank you for refreshing my soul today, dear Bazza.
It is a beautiful post.

bazza said...

Gary: Thank you Gary and I, of course, wish you the same.

bazza said...

Mimi: Hello there. I am honoured by your presence! All the best to you for a peaceful New Year filled with love.

dcrelief said...

Nothing finer than a Leonard Cohen song...amazing voice.
The Song of Solomon always makes me blush :]
"To Discover Ice' has enriched my life; Happy New Year friend. :)

bazza said...

dcrelief: Happy top oblige Ma'am....and a Happy New Year to You and Yours!

joanne fox said...

Whoever wrote it, I think the Song of Solomon is a stunning piece of writing.

Wishing you and yours all the best for the New Year.

bazza said...

joanne: Agreed! Thank you for the greetings which I reciprocate with great pleasure.

Kelly said...

This is very cool poetry. I do wonder, though, if the words (at least some of them) were truly written by Solomon. You're pretty thorough in your info on the references from this or that band or source. Good post!

I'll check out those YouTube links, Bazza.

Happy belated New Year to ya!

bazza said...

Kezza: I can't believe he actually wrote it himself. It seems much more likely to have been written for him.
It's similar to the way in which Henry VIII is supposed to have written 'Greensleeves'. If you are the top man you get all the credit!