Mel’s Meme: You Have Stolen My Heart

Literary pickup lines? Seriously? Who wrote this meme?

Oh. Yeah. Ahem.

That was me.

Sorry.

This is one that I deliberately left open. It requires some personal definition. And when it comes down to testing it, it all depends on the people involved.

I like to protest that I am not a romantic person, and keep a slightly cynical cloak about me to protect myself from the world.

But when pushed, I find that I do have a penchant for the sweet and sincere and lovely.

I admit that almost any line from John Donne makes my heart beat quickly. A particularly good reading of “The Flea” makes laugh and smile, capturing both my attention and my affection.

And I would swoon over the man who can deliver  the line, “I will live in thy heart, die in the lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle’s!”

Because there is something that line that encapsulates the heart of romance for me. It has the dual strength of poetic devotion and practical aid; the promise of union in both spiritual and material worlds.

Which brings to me to The One Reference To Rule . . .  er, My Heart, Mind, and Soul:

The Song of Songs

(Aka: The Song of Solomon, The Canticle of Canticles)

This is book is, frankly, hilarious. I first read it when I was about twelve or thirteen, and could not stop giggling. “Your hair is like a flock of goats”? Strange. How is that a compliment?

Any woman drawn by these descriptions would look pretty odd. (Like here.)

But at the heart of the Song of Songs is a deep, dramatic, devoted adoration of the beloved. The similes may sound a tad amusing, but they are rooted in deep affection and deep reality.

Like the above quote from my man Benedick, this poem unites two worlds. It is rooted in the “material world”. It addresses the physical beauties and difficulties that we know, from the immediately accessible similes, to the earnest admiration and desire beneath the words. It is deeply, deeply sensual. Often this is all read as a pure allegory, for when taken as literal truth it feels a bit . . . uncomfortable to read.

There is certainly that level of meaning, the allusion to the sacred union of God and the church, the devotion that we the Bride should feel for our intensely loving bridegroom. In Aquinas’ commentary, he opens up the meanings of the phrases that I find ridiculous, and layers their sweet expression with the sublime gravity and intensity of spiritual truth.

But it maintains both worlds, full in of themselves, within the same imagery. As poetry, it achieves what Allen calls the “symbolic imagination”.

And in doing so, it becomes one of the most beautiful books of the Bible.

It has the romantic devotion rightly ordered, the spiritual truth, the unity of spiritual and practical meaning, and the simplicity of two loving  hearts aching to be as one.

Er, simple. Yes.

It is, ultimately the most poetic retelling of the greatest love story.

Some phrases might make me laugh, still. But that is not a bad thing.

This poem it is intensely, devotedly, beautifully romantic.

Once a friend found me reading this, and he warned me quite seriously, “Be careful! That book might teach you to love!”

He

1 How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
and the mountain haunts of leopards.
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How delightful is your love , my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
more than any spice!
11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
with choice fruits,
with henna and nard,
14     nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes
and all the finest spices.
15 You are a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water
streaming down from Lebanon.

She

16 Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.

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9 thoughts on “Mel’s Meme: You Have Stolen My Heart

  1. I’ve always rather liked the flock-of-goats simile, perhaps because I’ve seen a flock of goats moving together from a distance. It makes sense to me. I still wonder about the pomegranate one though… I can’t figure that one out. O_o

    • The pomegranate makes more sense to me than tower/neck hung round with shields. But really, I do find them all very sweet now. Very earthy, human, and sincere.

      And sincerity is the most important point in any attempt at wooing!

  2. “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth and the time of the singing of birds is come…”

    Some of the sweetest words in the whole wide world. I love the Song of Songs. Good post.

    Oh, and I love the Benedick quote, too. :D

    • This really is the best love poem EVER! I am glad you like it too!

      “You ravish my heart with one glance of your eyes.” Oh, swoon! And anything Benedick says after his “conversion” is brilliant and gorgeous and sweet!

      But also, I must admit that I do really like some of e.e. cummings’ love poetry, particularly:

      since feeling is first
      who pays any attention
      to the syntax of things
      will never wholly kiss you;
      wholly to be a fool
      while Spring is in the world

      my blood approves,
      and kisses are a better fate
      than wisdom
      lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
      —the best gesture of my brain is less than
      your eyelids’ flutter which says

      we are for each other: then
      laugh, leaning back in my arms
      for life’s not a paragraph

      And death i think is no parenthesis

      • e.e. cummings is fun. There’s something so playful and joyous about his work, at least the bits I’ve read. And I LOVE that Benedick line.

  3. I swear solemnly, upon my honor as a gentleman and a geek, that I did not read your post before writing mine! I mean, I knew the book you’d chosen, but not how you’d approach it. It just so happens that Chapter 4 is one of the most amazing expressions of love in all poetry, and so we both had to feature it.

    You’re right that many of the phrases just sound hilarious and ridiculous to us nowadays. It’s hard to know exactly how they would have read it back then, but the culture being so much more rural, comparisons to flocks of goats and towers and such may not have sounded as awkward. And even now, we can see the beauty in them. I’m with Jubilare on the hair-as-flock-of-goats. Not that I’ve actually seen a flock of goats descending a hillside, but I can imagine a tightly packed wave of soft blacks and browns undulating down a hillside almost like hair in a light breeze. I wouldn’t have used that metaphor myself, though, if Solomon hadn’t rather proved its worth beforehand. +) The pomegranate is a bit more confusing to me, but I guess it has to do with smoothness and shine, or something.

  4. Pingback: Conclusion « Egotist's Club

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