Monday, August 18, 2008

How Solomon Broke the Curse

I am certainly not the type to read the Song of Solomon allegorically; it's a dirty/sacred poem about sex, and I don't see a way around that fact--or a reason to find one. But I'm reading through what may be the most neglected book in the Old Testament--except, of course, by amorous teenagers seeking a respite from boring sermons--and I'm noticing some interesting echoes with the rest of the Bible, both Hebrew and Christian.

God's famous curse on Eve, for example, goes like this:
I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Yet your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you. (Genesis 3:16, NAS)
I take the curse to mean that Adam will henceforth seek a power relationship in regard to his wife, and that he will thus maintain a certain aloofness from her--whereas all she will ever want from him is genuine emotional and spiritual connection. She wants him to love her, but he wants to push her around. (Well, he will.)

Compare this idea with the Bride's lament in Song of Solomon:
On my bed night after night I sought him
Whom my soul loves;
I sought him but did not find him.
'I must arise now and go about the city;
In the city streets and in the squares
I must seek him whom my soul loves.'
I sought him but did not find him. (3:1,2)
The Bride, then, is a living embodiment of God's curse on Eve. She is frantic here, waking up alone and searching desperately for Solomon, who is surely making time and God knows what else with one of his 699 other wives. She's not special; she's property. But then something wonderful happens:
I found him whom my soul loves;
I held on to him and would not let him go,
Until I had brought him to my mother's house,
And into the room of her who conceived me. (3:4)
The power relationship has been shattered; the Bride leads the Groom into some sort of bizarre uber-feminine bower, and I suppose if we're using the toothless Evangelical allegory of Christ's love for the Church, we have to connect it with that most Catholic of verses, Matthew 18:18 ("Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven").

But I'm more interested in connecting it to my previous post on the noetic effects of love. If I'm on the right track here, love not only has a noetic power, but it is also capable of breaking humanity's earliest curse. Love--even what the Greeks would later term eros--apparently is a symbol for the Atonement and thus a firstfruit of the New Creation. In that sense, Song of Solomon is indeed an allegory--but only inasmuch as love itself is an allegory.

1 comment:

Nathan P. Gilmour said...

What, are you holding out on your next post until someone comments? Well THERE! I commented! :)

I'll be honest that I've not thought much about the uber-feminine bower, but I do wonder whether Spenser was pulling on any of that.