Below you will find King Solomon’s famous erotic poem restored to what is most likely its original sequence. I believe you’ll find both the translation and the re-ordering of the poem to be much easier to understand than the “charming confusion” found in our modern Bibles.
The Song of Songs.
Ascribed to King Solomon.
Translated from the Hebrew by Ernest Renan (1860).
1. Procession of the Bride
Who is this that ariseth out of the desert, like a pillar of smoke, giving forth the fragrance of myrrh, of frankincense, and of all the powders of the perfumers?
Behold the palanquin of Solomon. Threescore valiant men from amongst the valiant of Israel surround it; these all bear swords and are practiced in war; each hath his sword upon his hip in order to dispel the terrors of the night.
King Solomon had made for himself a couch of the wood of Lebanon. The posts were of silver, the pilasters of gold, the curtains of purple. In the centre sparkled a beauty chosen from amongst the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go forth, O daughters of Sion, and behold King Solomon, wearing the crown wherewith his mother crowned him on the day of his espousals, the day of the gladness of his heart.
2. Charms of the Bride during her Sword-dance.
Who is this whose countenance is as Aurora, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, yet terrible as an army in battle?
In mercy, in mercy, O Shulammite, in mercy turn thou, that we may look on thee.
Why look at the Shulammite, in preference to a Mahanaim1 dance?
How beautiful are thy feet in thy sandals, O prince’s daughter. The curves of thy thighs are like that of a necklace, the work of a skilled hand.
Thy stature is like unto a palm tree, and, thy breasts unto grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree; I will cluster its branches. Thy breasts are to me as clusters of grapes; thy breath as the odour of apples.
Thy head is like Carmel; thy locks are like threads of purple; a king is enchained to their boucles.
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thy eyes are as the fishpools of Heshbon, near the gate Fille de la foule. Thy nose is erect and proud, like the tower of Lebanon, as seen from the side of Damascus.
Thy mouth [is] like the most exquisite wine, which droppeth sweetly and moistens the lips of the eager lover!
How fair and how pleasant art thou, O my love, in the moments of embrace!
Thy belly is as a heap of wheat encircled with lilies; thy navel is as a round goblet, full of aromatic wine.
3. Brothers of the Bride.
I am my beloved’s, and he is mine, therefore it is that his desire is towards me.
I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys!
As a lily among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens.
I am black, but I am comely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the pavilions of Solomon. Despise me not, because I am a little black, because the sun has scorched me. My mother’s sons held me in contempt: they sent me into the fields to keep vineyards. But, alas! mine own vineyard have I indeed badly kept.
Take us those foxes, the little foxes, that ravage the vines, for our vineyard is in blossom.
We have a little sister who has no paps. What shall we do with our sister, the day in which she shall be sought after?
If she be a wall, let us make her towers of silver; if she be a door, let us make her panels of cedar.
I have been a wall; my breasts have been my towers; and this is why I have been allowed by him to depart in peace.
O! that thou wert as my brother, who has sucked the breasts of my mother, so that I could, when I should meet you without, embrace thee, and not be despised therefor! I would lead you, bring you into my mother’s house; there thou wouldst instruct me in everything. There I will give thee my caresses; and I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine, the juice of my pomegranates.
His left hand sustains my head, and his right embraces me.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, awake not, awake not my well-beloved until it pleases her.
4. [Solomon’s Vineyard]
Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-Hamon; he let it out to keepers, each of whom gave him a thousand pieces for his portion. Behold, my vineyard, in front of me! A thousand pieces for thee, Solomon, and two hundred pieces for the keepers of the vineyard.
There are threescore queens and fourscore concubines, besides young maidens without number. But the jewel is my dove, my undefiled; she is the only one of her mother, the chosen one of her who gave her birth. The young maidens saw her, and proclaimed her blessed; the queens and the concubines saw her and praised her.
5. Protection from all Dangers
Come with me, come with me, my spouse! Come with me from Lebanon: look upon me from the top of Amana, from the summit of Shenir and Hermon, from the depths of the lions’ dens, from the tops of the mountains which the leopards inhabit.
6. Beauty of the Lover.
I sleep, but my heart is awake… It is the voice of my well-beloved. He knocketh, saying, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled, for my head is all covered with dew, the locks of my hair are all dropping with the night mists. I have cast off my coat; wherefore wouldst thou that I put it on again? I have washed my feet: wherefore should I defile them?” My beloved now put his hand through the lattice, and my bosom quivered thereat. I arose to open to my beloved. My hands were found to be dripping with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, which covered the handle of the lock. I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had vanished, he had fled. The sound of his voice had bereft me of reason. I issued forth; I sought for him and found him not; I called after him, and he answered me not. The watchmen who go about the city encountered me: they smote me; they bruised me; the keepers of the wall stripped me of my veil. I beseech you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him that I am dying of love.
Whither is thy beloved gone, O fairest among women? Whither has he turned aside, that we may seek for him with thee? In what is thy beloved better (than another), O thou fairest of women? In what is thy beloved better (than another), that thou dost so charge us?
My beloved is white and ruddy; you would tell him amongst a thousand. His head is as fine gold; the locks of his hair are as fexible as palm leaves, and as black as a raven. His eyes are as doves’ eyes reflected in streams of running water, like pigeons bathing themselves in milk, perched on the rim of a full vase. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, like unto a bank of sweet-smelling plants; his lips are as lilies gushing with myrrh; his hands are as rings of gold enamelled with stones of Tharis; his reins are as a masterpiece in ivory; overlaid with sapphires; his legs are as pillars of marble set on pedestals of gold; his countenance is as Lebanon, beautiful as the cedars. From his palate is diffused sweetness; his person is altogether lovely. Such is my beloved, such is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
7. The Bride to the Bridegroom on the Morrow after the Marriage
Yeah, thou are fair, my love; yes, thou art fair. Thy eyes are as doves’ eyes.
Yea, thou art fair, my beloved; yes, thou art charming. Our bed is a bed of green.
The beams of our palace are of cedar, our panels of cypress.
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest2, so is my beloved among the youths. I have longed to sit under his shadow, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
He brought me into his wine house, and the banner3 he raised over me was love. Stay me with grapes, fortify me with fruits, for I am dying of love.
His left hand sustains my head, and his right embraces me.
While the king is in his divan, the spikenard wherewith I am scented sent forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me as a bundle of myrrh; he shall repose betwixt my breasts. My beloved is to me as a cluster of camphire, from the vineyards of Engedi.
Thy caresses are sweeter than wine, when they are mingled with the fragrance of thy exquisite odours; thy name is as oil poured out. Hence it is the young maidens love thee.
Draw me after thee: let us flee. The king has brought me into his harem.
Our transports and our delights are for thee alone. Better far are thy caresses than wine. Right are they in loving thee.
My beloved is mine, and I am his… my beloved, who maketh his flock to feed among the lilies. At the hour when the day shall cool, and the shadows lengthen, return, my beloved, and be thou unto a roe or a hind’s fawn upon the clefted mountains.
Flee, my beloved, and be like unto a roe or to a hind’s fawn upon the mountains of spices.
I beseech you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and the hinds of the fields, awake not, awake not my beloved until it pleases her.
8. The Maiden’s Beauty
Of a truth thou art fair, my love; yea thou art fair. Thy eyes are as doves’ eyes under the folds of thy veil. Thy hair is like a flock of goats, depending from the sides of Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep newly shorn, which have just been washed, each of which bears twins, and none is barren. Thy lips are like a thread of purple, and thy mouth is charming. Thy cheek is like the one side of a pomegranate behind thy veil. Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded up to serve as an armoury, in which are suspended a thousand breastplates, and all the bucklers of the valiant.
I have likened thee, O my love, to my young cavale (mare), when she is yoked to the chariots sent me by Pharoah. Thy cheeks are adorned with rows of pearls, thy neck with strings of corals.
Thy two breasts are like the two twins of a hind, which feed among the lilies. When the day shall cool, and the shadows lengthen, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love, and there is no blemish in thee.
Thou art beautiful, my love, as Tirzah, charming as Jerusalem; yet terrible as an army in battle. Turn thine eyes away from me, for they distress me.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one of the ringlets which encircle thy neck. How pleasant is thy love, my sister, my spouse. How sweet are thy embraces. They are better than wine, and the odour of thy perfumes than all balsams. Thy lips, my spouse, distil honey; honey and milk are concealed under thy tongue, and the odour of the garments is as the odour of Lebanon. My espoused sister is a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed; a fountain in a garden, a spring of living water, a stream which descends from Lebanon; a grove where the pomegranate blossoms together with the most pleasant fruits, camphire with spikenard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, with all manner of fragrant trees; myrrh and aloes, with all manner of sweet-smelling plants. Awake, north winds, come, south winds, blow upon my garden, that its fragrance may be be diffused.
9. The Bride’s fair Garden
Let my beloved enter into his garden, and let him taste of its choicest fruits. Come, my beloved; let us go forth into the fields, let us sleep in the village. Let us arise early to go to the vines; let us see whether the vine stocks have budded, whether the shoots have opened, whether the pomegranates are in flower. The apple of love gave forth its perfume; at our gate are heaped up the most beautiful fruits; new and old, I have guarded them for thee, O my beloved.
I descended into the garden of nuts, to see the herbs of the valley, to see whether the vine had budded, whether the pomegranates were in flower. I have entered my garden, my sister, my spouse. I have gathered my myrrh and my balsam: I have eaten my sweets and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk.
My beloved has descended into his garden; he has reached the beds of balsam, that he may feed his flock in the gardens, and gather lilies.
10. Springtide of Love
It is the voice of my beloved; behold he cometh bounding over the mountains and skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like to a roe or a hind’s fawn. Behold him who standeth behind the wall, who looketh forth of the window, who peepeth through the lattice. He said unto me, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. For behold the winter is ended, the rain is past, it has gone. The flowers begin to appear on the earth. The time of the singing [of birds] is at hand. The voice of the turtle has been heard in our fields; the tender shoots of the fig tree begin to ripen; the vine is in bloom and exhales its fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. My dove, nestled in the clefts of the rock, concealed on the summit of the high places, show me thy countenance, make me to hear thy voice; for thy voice is sweet, and thy countenance is lovely.”
11. Pasture thy Kids!
Tell me, O thou whom my heart loveth, whither thou leadest thy sheep, where thou makest them repose at noon, so that I stray not, as one wandered, around the flocks of thy companions.
If thou knowest not this, O thou fairest of women, get thee again to the footsteps of thy flock, and cause thy kids to pasture beside the shepherds’ tents.
12. Ominia vinert Amor.
On my bed by night, I sought him whom my heart loveth: I sought him and I found him not… I said to myself: “I will arise; make the circuit of the city; pass through the market places and the highways, and seek for him whom my heart loveth.” I sought for him and I found him not. The watchmen who make the round of the city encountered me. I said to them: “Hast thou seen him whom my heart loveth?” Hardly had I passed from them when I found him whom my heart loveth. I laid hold of him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, into the chamber of her that had given me birth.
Set me now as a seal upon thy heart, as a bracelet about thy arm, for love is strong as death; passion inflexible as hell4. Its brands are the brands of fire, its arrows the fire of Jehovah.5
Great waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot extinguish it. If a man would seek to purchase love at the sacrifice of his whole substance, he would only reap confusion.
- An ancient city celebrated for its bayaderes [dancing girls] and for the orgiastic cults which were practiced there.
- That is to say, a tree with fruit among trees which have none.
- A flag was hoisted over the wine house, in which the wine was distributed.
- Which never relaxes its prey.
- That is to say, lightning.