Song of Solomon

I happened to be browsing through some of my old journals the other day and found a short excerpt from the Bible – a few verses from Chapter 3 of the book Song of Solomon that must have caught my eye at the time. 

Simply stated, Song of Solomon is a book in the Bible that contains love poems.  It dates from about the 10th century BC.  There are various interpretations of it: love of Christ for his church or the human soul; a dramatic love story; a collection of songs related to the practice of marriage; or, simply a collection of poems that celebrate love between the sexes without any religious implications.  I like to think of them as a celebration of love.

Regardless of how you interpret them, these passages are beautiful.  Something I think I appreciate more now than when I first wrote those few short verses in my journal.  You’ll see what I mean. Here are the first 4 verses in Chapter 3:

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth
I sought him, but I found him not
I will rise now, and go about the city; in the streets and in the broad ways
I will seek him whom my soul loveth
I sought him, but I found him not
The watchmen that go about the city found me
To whom I said, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?”
It was but a little that I passed from them
But I found him whom my soul loveth
I held him and would not let him go
Until I brought him into my mother’s house
And into the chambers of her that conceived me.

Interestingly enough, I also came across an old book, published in 1758, written by a Reverend Ralph Erskine (1685 – 1752), Scottish poet and minister.  He had taken the verses in the Song of Solomon and paraphrased them into rhymed poetry.  What an exciting find !  A lovely set of verse as well…

When shadows dark and mountains
With stern united might, high
Conspired to hide him from mine eye
Whose absence is my night

Upon my drowsy beg alone
Amidst my slumbers tossed
I sought him, but my slothful moan
And lazy labour lost

Love acting such a languid part
I felt a strange disease
An absent Lord, a careless heart
And rest without relief

Justly the darling of my soul
Still rolling in my mind
Did my dull suit again control
I sought, but could not find

Since my beloved won’t be found
In such a sleepy road
I’ll rouse , I’ll rise, and go around
The city of my God

More life and vigour than before
Through grace, I will display
And in my search frequent no more
This lazy, formal way

But shaking off my drowsy chains
About his courts I’ll move
With more activity and pains
To seek my dearest love

I’ll ev’ry secret corner trace
And search the public street
The ordinances of his grace
Till I my Saviour meet

In mere resolves I did not fist
But sought him here and there
Yet ah, the God of Jacob missed
Even in the house of prayer

So much did former laziness
To present loss redound
That in the most devout address
He was not to be found

Then was I, while I roamed abroad
By faithful watchmen found
Who in the city of their God
Performed their painful round

To whom I cried, with great respect
“Ye pilots of the blind,
Can ye my wand’ring steps direct,
My dearest love to find?

“I hope ye who with heavenly art
Still tread the hold ground
Well know the darling of my heart
And where he may be found

“When my beloved is hid from you
What paths, what means of grace
What course do you yourselves pursue
To see his lovely face?

“Tell me, ye watchmen of the night
I pray you, tell me where
Did ye espy my soul’s delight?
That I may seek him there

“O happy stars, if ye might be
My guides to Jesus now!
Seers, did ye my Saviour see?
Pray tell me, where, and how?”

But, ah, no lips of saints or priests
My present ‘plaint could stay
All were but dry and empty breasts
While Jesus was away

My teachers left me still in doubt
While he withheld his grace
Even when their doctrine found me out
And touched my very case

Though public means no present stop
Put to my bleeding wound
Yet, lo, the healing dew they drop
I soon in private found

When public ordinances failed
In easing my complaints
When little to my help availed
Or minister or saints

When means and duties nought could do
Though useful in their place
As open inns, and precious too
As sweet canals of grace

Yet, proving as to success weak
Beyond them all I passed
A little further step to make
And found my love at last

When outward conduit-pipes could vent
No drop to help my need
The little step I further went
Was to the fountain head

For passing through the brittle reeds
And but a little space
And looking o’er the servants heads
I saw the Master’s face

My trust in means did from them pass
A higher rock to climb
But through them, as the looking glass,
I fixed mine eyes on him

How soon through gospel telescopes
Faith did his glory spy
Dismissing all inferior hopes
My heart pursued mine eye

I found my soul’s beloved chase
In all his pleasing charms
And joyful flew to his embrace
And grasped him in mine arms

Hi presence which by faith and prayer
I sought so much to gain
Now when enjoyed with equal care
I labour to retain

I wept for joy to see his face
And like a kindly bride
Enclosed him fast in mine embrace
And pressed him to abide

His presence did such bliss imply
His absence such a bane
I now resolved that he and I
Should never part again…