Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Song of Songs by Marc Chagall. Oil on canvas, 1974
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks. Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
— Song of Songs 4:1-6
When we are so overwhelmed by the beauty of another we frequently lack the language to express our feelings, so resort to comparison with those things we know, and can be understood and appreciated by the one we are talking to. I wonder how it felt to have ones hair compared to a flock of goats, or one's teeth to shorn sheep. For us today these lines are somewhat comical, yet at the same time awesomely beautiful, rich in their imagery of a bucolic ideal.
The Shulamite's lover (established as a shepherd in verse 1:7) is drawing on all he knows to be wonderful in his pastoral world, weaving his love into his world, lifting her with the highest accolades he can muster. We feel his sense of awe as he looks upon her, and perhaps stuck for a rural metaphor for her necklace-adorned neck he finds comparison with the tower of David, a building he may have seen, or possibly only heard about, imagining the elements of her necklace to be the shields of mighty warriors, hanging in anticipation of battle. The metaphors used here speak as much to the quality of the woman he loves as to her outward beauty. We have the sense of strength, honour, order and dignity. This is more than just flattery, but a genuine sense of wonder of a woman who rises above her station, lifted by love and self-belief.
I invite you to read and reread these lines, going ever deeper into the metaphors, and considering your own lover in similar outward/inward metaphors, recognising most especially the beauty within.