A Red Shoes Collection

LH's comments on songs

2.2h. - "The Song of Solomon"

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Date: Wed, 9 Feb 1994 20:54:25 +119304228 (AST)
From: Fiona McQuarrie <fmcquarr@upei.ca>
Subject: Flowers (lily of the valley)

According to my husband's art book on symbolism in Christian art....

The lily of the valley is a sweet smelling flower with small bell shaped blooms. it is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring and is thus associated with rebirth and renewal.

Roses are associated with the virgin mary. i will look again to see if there is a more specific association for the rose of sharon.


From: wagreiner@ucdavis.ucdavis.edu
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 1994 09:11:16 GMT
Subject: Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valley

From the Bible's Song of Solomon Chapter 2, line one:

I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among maidens.

I don't know what it really means, and I'm not sure that Kate knows anything about them beyond that fact that they sound neat. It may have some deeper meaning, but I bet Kate was just reading SoS and liked the sound of them. Of course the Sharon part is a reference to the Plain of Sharon south of Nazareth and near the coast of the Mediterranean. I have always assumed this is just a way for her to say "I am really pretty." Ros and lillies are generally attractive things.



Date: Thu, 10 Feb 1994 16:06:20 -0700
From: Alex Gibbs <arg@kilimanjaro.opt-sci.Arizona.EDU>
Subject: Re: Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valley

That and rose *buds* fit rather nicely into lilies. Seen the erotically animated flowers in The Wall by Pink Floyd?


Date: Fri, 11 Feb 1994 01:59:52 -0500 (EST)
From: Peter Byrne Manchester <PMANCHESTER@ccmail.sunysb.edu>
Subject: SongSol 2:1-6, comments on text

NYC and Long Island are being punished for their many sins by heavy snow upon heavy snow, with interludes of sleet and ice in between, and tomorrow is the next one (number twelve this year, for those fond of biblical numerology). But since school will be wiped out once more tomorrow, I have time to compile some information on Song of Solomon (title in text, "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's," 1: 1). First the relevant passage, as translated for the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version). Modern literary study recognizes it as part of an extended dialogue; I mark for this, and adapt the notes of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary:


2:1 I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.

She compares herself to ordinary flowers of the plain (narcissus, lotus)


2 As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among maidens.

He turns the comparison into a compliment.


3 As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

She returns the compliment with a comparison in his favor, addressing him in the 3rd pers. She develops the metaphor of the apple tree in order to show the delights of his love.

4 He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his intention toward me was love.

The meaning of the 'house' (lit. "house of wine"),

5 Sustain me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.

and the 'intention toward me' (lit. 'emblem over me,' or "banner over me" [King James]...

6 O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embrace me!

is uncertain.


2:1. Most English versions have followed the KJV (King James Version) identifying the first flower as a "rose" of Sharon. The reference is to a common wildflower of the plains of Sharon whose Hebrew name is now seen as identifying the crocus or narcissus, but which was translated into the Greek of the LXX as anthos = Vulgate flos = 'rose'. The "lily of the valley" is the red Palestinian anemone, cf. Mt. 6:28. In the dialogue, the point is that both are wild and common--which her lover transforms into a compliment. In traditional allegory, they are taken to be symbolic of spring and the eschatological age (cf. Is. 35:1 and Ho 14:6).

2:3b The KJV and later translations in its tradition (RSV, NRSV) follow the LXX and Vulgate in using past tense ("sat in his shadow," "was sweet to my taste"). The Hebrew original uses present continuative ("I am seated," "is sweet"), as reflected in the Jerusalem Bible and the New English Bible.

2:4 Literally, he has brought her to the "house of wine," and the phrase is preserved in both the LXX and Vulgate. In allegorical tradition, the image is assimilated to one of the most important images of the messianic time (cf. Is 62:8, Jr 31:12, John 2:1-11). The KJV "banquetting house," followed by virtually all English versions, is plainly euphemistic. But KJV does better with 4b, "his banner over me was love," which translates the more accurate LXX "taxate ep' eme agapen" instead of the euphemistic Vulgate "ordinavit in me caritatem", on which the NRSV above is based. The word for 'banner' is also translated 'emblem' or 'signal' and can, as usual, be taken as an eschatological symbol (cf. Is. 11:12, 49:22, 62:10). If one refuses to wander away from the plain and concrete context of the poetic lovers' dialogue ("Don't want your bullshit, just want your sexuality"), however, the reference of the term is not in the slightest bit uncertain.

2:5b Whether to translate the phrase here as "sick with love" or "faint with love" is in one sense optional, since the Greek "tetromene agapes ego" and Latin "amore langueo" could go either way, but given the pungency of the term 'lovesick' I would go with "sick." More sticky is how to construe the fact that the Greek phrase says literally, "I: sick of love," using the genitive 'of love' with the same ambiguity that the KJV preserves with its translation, "for I am sick of love." My strong sense is that this is what is called subjective genitive in grammar, brought out correctly as 'sick with love', not 'sick of love' in the sense of tired of it.

But I have no Hebrew text to consult, and if I did I couldn't do anything with it, since I got a D- in Hebrew in graduate school. None of my references at hand comment on the phrase, other than to use the term 'lovesick' for it. I have colleagues with whom I could pursue the point, but for our purposes I think that Kate's use of the phrase as "sick of love" in her lyric establishes that she referred to the King James Version.

Let me sign off therefore by quoting the passage in that ever-influential version:

I am the rose of Sharon,
and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns,
so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples;
for I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand doth embrace me.


Date: Fri, 11 Feb 1994 10:04:00 +119304228 (AST)
From: Fiona McQuarrie <fmcquarr@upei.ca>
Subject: More Flowers

OK, after having re-consulted the book, here goes....

The lily of the valley, as mentioned, is one of the first flowers to bloom in spring. Thus it is associated with the Advent of Christ. It is also associated with Mary because of the whiteness of its flowers and the sweetness of its scent.

The rose is also associated with Mary and is often seen in the background of pictures including her. She is sometimes called "the rose without thorns" because of her freedom from sin.

I couldn't find any specific reference to the Rose of Sharon's significance, but going out on a limb (or a petal) we used to have one of these and they bloomed from early spring to well into the fall. Perhaps something to do with long life....

As others have noted, both flowers are specifically referenced in the Biblical Song of Solomon. Funny, in my edition of the Bible there's nothing about "coming in a hurricane" or "don't want your bullsh*t". That must be one of those new versions in "common" language :)


From: dambik@fnalo.fnal.gov (Ed Dambik)
Date: 11 Feb 94 12:14:56 -0600
Subject: Re: Flowers

The Rose of Sharon is a bushy flowering plant with large flowers. Very pretty but not really a rose at all.


From: btd@carina.cray.com (Bryan Dongray)
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 15:20:45 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Song of Solomon


I cannot find any references to "Isolde or Marion" or a hurricane,

Looks like some direct quotes to me!


From: kln@crl.com
Date: 13 Oct 1995 20:58:01 GMT
Subject: Song of Solomon

Isolde and Marian are both folk heroines in traditional British stories. Some folk tale researchers believe legends of Marian go back to Celtic times, as Robin Hood is an obvious Green Man figure (aka Cernunnos, Oakeanos, etc.) used as a symbolic advocate for the people and protector against the nasty invading rulers (the Normans.) Marian may orginally have had a more important part in these stories.

Many versions of Isolde's legend are available, such as Tristan and Iseult. It comes in poetic, fictional, operatic and painterly formats. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Tristan and Iseult CD-Rom interactive fantasy game!

I have not been able to make any literary placement for the "hurricane" image, but since Kate has always loved the Big Sky for flying her Kite, it may not have a literary source.



From: Robb McCaffree <nsrjm@nursepo.medctr.ucla.edu<
Date: 14 Oct 1995 04:39:51 GMT
Subject: Re: Song of Solomon

kln@crl.com wrote:

< I have not been able to make any literary placement for the "hurricane" image, but since Kate has always loved the Big Sky for flying her Kite, it may not have a literary source.

I've always thought "I'll come in a hurricane for you" was a sexual reference to...umm, carrying on in a demonstrative way at the peak moment. The only literal reference I can think of off the top of my head (not a sexual reference) is the Texas Tall Tale of Pecos Bill, who tamed and rode a tornado. I seriously doubt that Kate would be "Pecos Bill for you," no matter how much "poetry in motion" you wrote her.


On to Moments 2.2i. - "And So Is Love"

Written by Love-Hounds
compiled and edited
Wieland Willker
August 1995