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Exploring Romantic Themes in Song of Songs Chapter 2

Andrea is a dating consultant who gives people advice on relationships and couple stuff. She's also a fan of traveling the world.

Spring in Israel

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Chapter 2 of Song of Songs

Moving ahead to chapter 2 in this series, the two lovers continue their dialogue. The woman also recalls a visit from the lover. The visit took place in spring. She again uses pastoral images to convey her thoughts, feelings, memories, and desire.

The second chapter of this book is my favorite. I've always been somewhat drawn to the language in it. I feel the second chapter has a stronger sense of imagery than the first chapter. It's beautiful to see how the two voices layer their flirtations for each other, that there is mutual attraction, and the multiple meanings that can be taken from their conversation.

In healthy relationships, couples have a balance of energy. They understand each other and can relate to each other with similar wording and physical expressions. It's apparent in this chapter that they both have a strong pull toward one another. Unrequited love takes place when one person's feelings are stronger than the other's and can't be reciprocated.

Notes and Insights into Song of Songs

  • Some see this book as more of an anthology. Some scholars argue each chapter is something different and there is no whole unified narrative.
  • The Song was accepted into the Jewish canon in the 2nd century CE.
  • The Kabbalah uses the text in its teachings.
  • Song of Songs refers to 15 geographical places from Lebanon in the north to Egypt in the south.
  • The book is arranged like scenes in a drama.
  • 21 species of plants are mentioned.
  • 15 species of animals are mentioned.
  • Writers and musicians across time have made reference to the book in their works including: Bach, Heinrich Schütz, Ádám Balázs Czinege, Arnold Rosner, Toni Morrison, and Madeleine L'Engle.
  • 4 copies of Song of Songs were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The text was in Hebrew. The Dead Sea Scrolls date back from the last 3 centuries BCE and the 1st century CE.
  • Song of Songs refers to hortus conclusus a Latin term for enclosed garden. The term was used in Medieval and Renaissance times. It's an emblematic attribute and title given to the Virgin Mary. The term is used in Song of Songs 4:12. It's often used to help depict the allegory of Christ and his connection to the church.

The Conversation Intensifies

The beginning of the chapter starts with the couple speaking to each other. They have about the same amount of words for each other. They're in synch. This conversation can be compared to Romeo and Juliet's first meeting, where they speak to each other back and forth in heroic couplets. Shakespeare used poetry in his plays to signal more important and significant moments; prose was used to explore more common experiences.

  • The beloved refers to Sharon in her opening address. Sharon is a Mediterranean coastal plain south of Mount Carmel. It was densely populated by settlers. The region is shaped like a triangle and extends about 55 miles from the beach at Mount Carmel to the Yarqon River at Tel Aviv–Yafo. Scholars believe the lily was likely either a lotus or anemone.
  • The lotus was often used as a symbol of rebirth, the sun, creation, and eternity. Anemone in Greek mythology and Christianity symbolizes death or forsaken love. The flower has also been used to symbolize anticipation.

The man tells the woman she is a rarity -- he compares her to a flower found among thorns. He compares her this way to other women signaling she stands out, she is of value, and there is something to her that's more appealing.

Apples in Literature

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The Secrets in Fruit and Flora

In this section, the beloved refers to food as a way to show flattery. She mentions apples and raisins. Apples have been used as a symbol for love for thousands of years.

Apples trees originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. The apple may have originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan. Apples are often a symbol of desire. The fruit is often a catalyst for more to come in literature.

  • An apple may have started the Trojan War.
  • Odysseus during his journey yearns for the apple orchards of his childhood.
  • Norse Gods owed their immortality to the fruit.
  • A magic apple is in Arabian Nights. It was said to cure any disease or ailment.
  • The apple as a forbidden fruit was popularized in western Europe around the 12th century CE.
  • Apples are members of the Rosaceae family which also includes strawberries, peaches, cherries, and plums.
  • Fruit is often used as an aphrodisiac or as part of a love spell.

The Beloved's Word Choice

The beloved uses the same kind of metaphor the man used. He called her a lily among thorns. She called him an apple tree among essentially plain trees of the forest. They both are acknowledging that the person of their interest stands out to them. They're also mirroring each other -- a classic technique to show interest.

The exact nature of the tree the beloved mentions is actually unclear in the original language. There is a chance a later translation and understanding of apples was imprinted into the text. But it was likely some kind of desirable fruit.

In this passage, the imagery goes from pastoral landscapes to the interior of a king's estate. The king's love for her is made public: "he has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love."

The fruit mentioned in this section can be interpreted in a number of ways. It's meant to be romantic and passionate. Fruit has a higher water content than other foods -- water is a symbol for emotions.

A Repeated Refrain

The beloved says: "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" multiple times throughout the book. She is trying to teach others to be patient with love. Don't try to artificially create it or will it with your free-will. Accept that love comes in its own time. When we try to force it before it's time, it can be harmful to us. Trying to grow flowers or fruit during winter might not yield any flora at all.

  • The allegory in Judaism is for Israel to wait for God and be patient... in Christianity, for people to wait for Christ's return and that these things happen and unfold in their own ways. You cannot force them. You must allow for the elements around you to give consent.
  • Love isn't something you force. It happens naturally of its own accord. Just like the landscapes, the fruits, the flowers, and the fragrances come from nature so does love. It comes in its own season and timing.

Reflections Back to the Garden of Eden

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The Mysteries of Spring

The beloved paints a scene switching from the last dregs of winter to spring. She mentions a gazelle -- this animal was celebrated in Mesopotamia for beauty, form, and youth. This animal in the poem signals a change in season, when the animals come out of hibernation, the time when flora gains its color back. These images signal it is time for love. Things are in agreement in the world, which means the woman and man can be together and enjoy each other.

Flowers have appeared, the birds are singing their songs again, the fig tree has its fruit, the vines have blossoms and are spreading fragrance.

Spring is often seen as the season of falling in love and young love. The changes in seasons are a reminder that things can be good again and not just stuck in winter, coldness, and death. Life has a way of moving forward.

Aries, Taurus, and Gemini are the first signs of the Zodiac in Western Astrology, and the person or people who wrote Song of Songs would be familiar with some of these concepts that come from Babylon and Hellenistic traditions.

Aries, Taurus, and Gemini are all about youth and the excitement of new energy, hope, beauty, and innocence. The change in spring starts in Aries, Taurus works hard to maintain that beauty, and Gemini explores that beauty. This season is tied to many religions because the changes to the planet are so mysterious to observe. We have to trust that winter isn't forever... that tomorrow will lead into the next day and season.

There is hope in the next season, there is love. Song of Songs is about waiting for love and the right time for it. You can't have spring too early, there is a purpose and need for winter as well. We have to respect that time will unfold. We have to remember that spring is in destiny.

Follow the Five Senses

The beloved's response to the lover incorporates all five senses: the sights of spring with flora and fauna returning, the sounds of spring with birds cooing, the fragrances of flowers, the taste of fruits, and the touches of the young man. These garden like images also connect back to Genesis. That initial romance felt in the Garden of Eden is also spring-like with an abundance of fruits, flora, and fauna. Because Adam and Eve fell out of favor with God they can no longer stay there. If we do not respect spring and our planet -- we will lose precious ecosystems and environments. We need temperance, self-control, and discipline to live in balance with love and spring.

Song of Songs is in a way about a return to the Garden of Eden. The suffering and quiet has finally ended. There is a place now to go that's awakening with life.

Ending the Chapter Together

  • These two people mirror each other. They're in synch with each other's words.
  • These two people have similar energies and respond to each accordingly.
  • Both use poetic language to express flattery.
  • Connections to spring is a central part of Chapter 2.

Song of Songs starts with those initial signals of spring, and as we get into Chapter 2, the season gets richer and more vibrant. The lover responds to the beloved's spring allusions by also commenting on the season.

The man speaks of the rocks, the hiding places in the mountain. Crag is a difficult landscape to travel through. It's harder to keep your footing. We move through mountainous areas slower than we do the plains. The beloved is seen as a dove, someone who can help guide him through the challenging landscape. He wants to see her face, he wants to hear her voice because it helps guide him. He also doesn't want their romance and feelings for each other to be ruined. He wants there to be some protection from the foxes that try to ruin the vineyards.

  • Vineyards is a loaded symbol in the text. It's meant to express their love for each other, to put it simply. The vineyards are full of fragrance and a kind of energy that draws people to it. Wine is an expression of desire.

The declarations of feelings they have for each other signal a need for each other and exclusivity. The chapter begins with the two having a conversation. It ends with them embracing each other.