Topic: Which literary references would win your heart?
This is a difficult meme topic for me because I don’t tend to conceive of literary references in this way. I worry about how to woo, not how I might be wooed. There are some references that I dream of using in wooing a woman, and many that a woman could use while capturing my heart, but the effectiveness of any of these would be determined entirely by the context of the relationship and the situation. There is no literary reference a woman could make that, on its own, would cause me to fall in love with her. Some could impress me, perhaps. Perk my interest at the possibility of a kindred spirit, even. Make me want to know more about her. But that hardly means my heart is pounding, my mind’s eye full of her beautiful face, and my mind concocting grand shows of virtue by which I hope to win her admiration.
But maybe that’s it, then. Not allusion as a love potion, but as a revealer of character. What sort of literary reference could an eligible young lady make that would open my eyes to her amazingness and make me desire her for my lifelong lover and companion?
…I think I have it.
The Song of Solomon in the Bible, containing poems of dialogue between King Solomon and his wife.
…for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave,
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
All the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
The Bible is not typically thought of as a romantic book, nor as one that celebrates passionate, sensual love. And for good reason – most of God’s instructions on the subjects of love and sex are warnings against how not to do it. It makes sense, when you consider what powerful emotions they involve. It also makes sense when you realize that God values them so highly that He designed them for the most intimate of human relationships, marriage, in which two people become as one, and which is the foundation of the family. Romantic love is intended to complement a holy marriage, not to be taken lightly. God goes to great lengths to show us how to avoid screwing it up.
But He also shows us pictures of how it should look when done right. Nowhere is this picture of holy romantic love so prominent – and so unbelievably sensual – as in The Song of Solomon.
There are so many things I love about this book:
1. How Solomon and his wife are best friends as well as lovers.
This is my lover, this is my friend.
Like a lily among the thorns
is my darling among the maidens.
2. How they are so comfortable with each other that they can quite frankly praise each others’ God-given bodies, in such a way that becomes an act of praise to God as well as of each other…
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[a];
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.
Listen! My lover!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.
My lover spoke and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.’
3. …even when they don’t match the fashions of the day.
Dark am I, yet lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
dark like the tents of Kedar,
like the tent curtains of Solomon.
Do not stare at me because I am dark,
because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
and made me take care of the vineyards;
my own vineyard have I neglected.
Tell me, you whom I love, where you graze your flock
and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
beside the flocks of your friends?
4. How they rest comfortably in each others’ arms.
Strengthen me with raisins,
refresh me with apples,
for I am faint with love.
His left arm is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
~Ch. 2: 5-6
5. How they bring peace to each other, describing the effect each has on the other with metaphors of beautiful gardens, gentle deer, dependable towers, pure doves, and shading fruit trees. (skip to any verse at random and you’ll see some such imagery)
6. How they don’t neglect their friends, but their friends are active supporters of their love.
Where has your lover gone,
most beautiful of women?
Which way did your lover turn,
that we may look for him with you?
7. How they sometimes seem hopelessly idealistic with their dramatic declarations of love…
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.
~Ch. 4:9 [N.B. No, it’s not incest. “Sister” here is used to emphasize how utterly close in spirit the lovers are—they aren’t just romantic “partners,” but are actual family.]
8. …while still being wise.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.
~Ch. 2:7 and 3:5, both times said by the woman
It’s this last point which impresses me so much. Here are these two lovers – throughout the poem often in each others’ arms and in various states of undress – pausing to tell we readers not to force love, nor to seek it out, nor even to make it an unduly important part of your life. They know well how reckless our passions are. When you fall in love, your logic and good sense may as well just shut up because your heart sure isn’t going to want to listen to them. Which at times can be good, of course – human reason is faulty and often cannot understand what a heart led by God can sense. But likewise our hearts are faulty, and reason led by God can become wisdom, which is not at all the enemy of romance, but rather its protector, and hopefully its cultivator.
God doesn’t just want romance for us – He wants the best romance for us. The kind that leads to a lifelong companionship, a union of lovers who glorify Him and are thus free to glory in each other. God doesn’t give us easy, clear-cut steps, because He knows that each individual is different. But He does give us Himself, and the principles on which He designed life and love. I’m still struggling to understand this kind of wise romance, this God-led approach to love, courtship, and marriage. I want it badly. And I want a woman who wants to struggle to understand it alongside me.
What’s this? Wisdom is sexy? Yes. Yes it is.