Question number four is of particular interest for this week's reading: the "Song of Solomon" or "Song of Songs." This short biblical book details in rich poetry the relationship between two young lovers. Anyway, that is the surface reading (and very possible the Song's original intention).
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!This love song, however, does not square well with religious hierarchy of many denominations. Why would an erotic poem - one that does not even mention God - be featured among scripture? In his introduction to the poem in a the Harper Collins Study Bible, Michael V. Fox explains that the Song is traditionally interpreted as describing the relationship between God and his followers. For Jews, this mean's God's love for Israel. For Christians, this means God's love for the Church. These explanations affirm God's love, but do so at great peril. The language, as we see above, is sexually-charged. It is no wonder that Song is attributed to Solomon, who was known for his great wisdom and love of women!
For your love is better than wine,
your anointing oils are fragrant,
your name is perfume poured out;
therefore the maidens love you.
Draw me after you, let us make haste.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
We will exult and rejoice in you;
we will extol your love more than wine;
rightly do they love you.
(Song of Solomon 1.2-4)
By some strange confluence of literature and teachers, many English majors are able to read sex in anything (and if not, some are more than happy to inject it themselves). I had a fantastic English professor in college who was very much into feminism interpretation but very conscious of Freudian psychology. It made for intriguing courses about the role of women in male-dominated societies. Song of Solomon is remarkable for the equality of the two lovers. This is not the sort of unequal relationship we see in the sex-libertine Restoration comedies, but rather the parity of two young lovers more typical of Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, for instance. But even millennia before Freud, the sexual imagery seems undeniable.
The praises the two lavish on one another seem to demonstrate complete equality. The society they live in, however, is not so accommodating. The girl is even beaten and stripped for wandering the city at night. Perhaps they thought she was a prostitute, but in any case this is a strong example of misogyny within the culture. The girl, prostitute or not, did nothing to deserve her injury and humiliation. It is worth noting that the boy does not suffer the same test of love. The girl faces much stronger oppression, and must remain within certain physical and social constraints.
The girl, soon to be a young woman, is warded over by her two brothers, who guard her womanhood (read: virginity) jealously:
My mother's sons were angry with me;Patriarchal rule ensures that she only marries a man that is approved by the men of her family. This sentiment is typical of the times (and many times later!), but not echoed in her lover. Still, the sentiment is restated at the end of the Song, fencing the girl in a textual corral from which she cannot escape. The two brothers, at the end of the song:
they made me keeper of the vineyards,
but my own vineyard I have not kept!
(Song of Solomon 1.6)
We have a little sister,Even non English-majors should be able to identify what is symbolized by the wall versus the door. But by this point, with all the loving-tenderness that passes between the lovers, the girl-woman is ready to respond to her brothers, and finds herself ready for marriage:
and she has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister,
on the day when she is spoken for?
If she is a wall,
we will build upon her a battlement of silver;
but if she is a door,
we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
(Song of Solomon 8.8-9)
I was a wall,The girl-woman is prepared for marriage, as is the boy-man:
and my breasts were like towers;
then I was in his eyes
as one who brings peace.
Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;The boy takes up the girl's image of the vineyard and...wait. It's his? As in he owns it?
he entrusted the vineyard to keepers;
each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.
My vineyard, my very own, is for myself;
you, O Solomon, may have the thousand,
and the keepers of the fruit two hundred!
(Song of Solomon 8.10-12)
I don't think we can blame the guy - he is acting informed by the culture around him. And as far as misogynistic statements go, this is pretty tame, as they will be each other's eventually. If you would like to argue against the institution of marriage, you might have a case for misogyny. I am taking this instance of marriage for granted, because, well, it makes my argument a lot neater. Here is something to consider, though:
Paul Varjak (Fred): "I love you. You belong to me."