Honey through the Comb Sifting

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If I were a musician, here’s what I’d do: I’d take the music of Borodin and set the Song of Songs to it.  Because that’s basically what Robert Wright and George Forrest did with Kismet.  Yes, I know that a) it’s schlocky 20th C. Broadway, and b) it only even ATTEMPTS to be “middle eastern” via a vaguely Arabian Nights/pop-Islamic set of cultural references.

But still.  I’m pretty sure that if you want to get at least a hint, as much as you can, as a modern person, of what the culture and images and emotion and juice were that Solomon was working with in the Song, you could do worse than to listen to “And This is My Beloved” and “Night of My Nights.”

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At the very least the former might help the poor long-suffering youth pastors among us have some answers when the fourteen-year-old boys start giggling about “Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes…Your temples are like a slice of pomegranate… Your belly is like a heap of wheat.”

Imagine the father of the Shulamite (if he were around, which he apparently is not) prompting her, as the Poet prompts Marsinah:

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“You’d said his eyes were…”
“…sometimes bright.”
“But only sometimes?”
“Often dark.”
“Well, that is plain.”
“Plain words can’t tell the thrill…”
“Then tell it how you will.”

She:

His arms are rods of gold30
set with topaz.
His body is like polished ivory
decorated with lapis lazuli.
His legs are pillars of marble
set on bases of pure gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as its cedars.
His mouth is sweetness itself;
he is altogether lovely.

This is my beloved, this is my friend,

daughters of Jerusalem.

Dawn’s promising skies30-d
Petals on a pool drifting
Imagine these in one pair of eyes
And this is my beloved.

Strange spice from the south
Honey through the comb sifting
Imagine these in one eager mouth
And this is my beloved.

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I’ll just also point out, for those of you who insist on skipping straight to Christ and the Church when you read Song of Songs, that in fact in the Stranger in Paradise scene, Marsinah does mistake the Caliph for a gardener.

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