Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Song of Songs

Go To

Also known as the Canticle of Canticles or the Song of Solomon. It is a book of The Bible that is a series of love poems written about the Shulamite and her Beloved (most commonly credited as King Solomon). Bible students tend to view this as a metaphor of God's love for Israel (to Jewish readers) or Jesus Christ's love for the church (to Christians).

Because of its language, it is usually not read to children until they are in their early teens, although a children's worship song "His Banner Over Me Is Love" is based on a verse from this book.

For the Toni Morrison book, see Song of Solomon.

Structure of the book:

  • Introduction (Song of Songs 1:1)
  • The Shulamite confesses her love (Song of Songs 1:2-2:7)
  • The Shulamite adores her Beloved (Song of Songs 2:8-17)
  • The Shulamite's dream (Song of Songs 3:1-5)
  • The arrival of King Solomon (Song of Songs 3:6-11)
  • The Beloved adores the Shulamite's beauty (Song of Songs 4:1-15)
  • Together in the garden of love (Song of Songs 4:16-5:1)
  • The Shulamite searches for her Beloved (Song of Songs 5:2-8)
  • The Shulamite praises her Beloved (Song of Songs 5:9-16)
  • Together again in the garden of love (Song of Songs 6:1-3)
  • The Beloved and the Shulamite delight in each other (Song of Songs 6:4-7:10)
  • The Shulamite gives her love (Song of Songs 7:11-13)
  • Longing for her Beloved (Song of Songs 8:1-7)
  • Final advice (Song of Songs 8:8-14)

This book provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: An odd third-person example, in Song 8:8:
    We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?
  • Amazonian Beauty: While the Shulamite isn't an Action Girl, she gives the impression of one to her Beloved in Song 6:4-5.
    You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love,
    comely as Jerusalem,
    awesome as an army with banners!
    Turn your eyes away from me,
    for they overwhelm me!
  • Arc Words: "I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases."
  • Aroused by Their Voice:
    • Either the Shulamite or the Beloved in Song 2:14:
      O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
      in the secret places of the cliffs,
      let me see your face,
      let me hear your voice;
      for your voice is sweet,
      and your face is lovely.
    • The Beloved in Song 8:13:
      O you who dwell in the gardens,
      my companions listen for your voice;
      let me hear it!
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Or at least an allusion to one in Song 3:11:
    Go forth, O daughters of Zion,
    and see King Solomon with the crown
    with which his mother crowned him
    on the day of his wedding,
    on the day of the gladness of his heart.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The Shulamite's brothers chime in at Song 8:8-9 about what they would do when their sister who has no breasts is spoken for in marriage: "If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar."
  • Big Entrance: King Solomon makes one in Song 3:6-11, carried on a litter with sixty men surrounding him, armed with swords, and with incense wafting in the air.
  • Bowdlerise: As Leftover Soup puts it, "The part of a woman comparable to a cup overflowing with yummy juices is not the navel."
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: The Beloved describes the Shulamite's breasts a few times in some interesting ways. The Shulamite herself near the end of the story says that her breasts are like towers, which contrasts the Shulamite's brothers' comment about their sister that has no breasts.
  • Composite Character: The Shulamite is believed by certain Bible students to be the amalgamation of all the women Solomon had loved and married to be part of his harem.
  • Description Porn: Done a few times, with at least two of them about the Shulamite and one about her Beloved.
  • Don't Look At Me: In Song 1:6:
    Do not gaze at me, because I am dark,
    because the sun has looked upon me.
  • Erotic Dream: The Shulamite seems to have two of them — one about meeting her Beloved on the street and taking him into the bedroom, and another about her Beloved paying her a visit at night. Or maybe the last one wasn't a dream.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: The Beloved in Song 4:2 and 6:6 says that the Shulamite's teeth are like freshly-washed ewes, each having a twin, and none being barren among them — a compliment in an age before modern dentistry.
  • Farmer's Daughter: The Shulamite is depicted as this, growing up in an agriculture-based family.
  • Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Song 8:6-7 say that love is a very strong fire that many waters cannot put out and floods cannot drown.
  • Flames of Love: From Song 8:6:
    Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm;
    for love is strong as death,
    passion fierce as the grave.
    Its fires of desire are as ardent flames,
    a most intense flame.
  • Garden of Love: The Song extensively employs garden imagery to describe the erotic love between the speaker and her beloved.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery:
    • Chapter 7 describes the Shulamite's navel as "a rounded cup, never lacking in sweet wine." Some scholars argue that "navel" may in fact refer to the vagina.
    • "I sat down in his shadow [i.e., sat down while he was standing up] …and his fruit was sweet to my taste."
    • "My beloved put his hand by the hole [of the door] and my bowels were moved for him." That has to actually mean more than it lets on.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: Many interpreters read this book as an allegory of God's love for His people. That interpretation requires some judicious reimagining, if not outright Bowdlerizing, of what taken at face value is some explicit erotic imagery.
  • Hot Consort: The Shulamite, whom the Beloved in this book is after to marry.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Compared to the other biblical books of poetry, this one is far and away the most sexually charged.
  • Incest Subtext: The Shulamite wishes that in Song 8:1-2 that her Beloved was like her twin brother, that she could kiss and no one would look down on her for that.note 
  • Jesus Taboo: In some translations, God's name is never mentioned; in others: Song 8:6 mentions the flame of love being like "a flame of the Lord." (A comparison of translations can be seen HERE)
  • Leg Focus: The Beloved in Song 7:1 compares the curves of the Shulamite's thighs to being like jewels shaped by a master craftsman.
  • Lemon: A very poetic one, but a lemon nonetheless.
  • Love Is a Drug: Song 1:2 has the Shulamite saying, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for your love is better than wine." The Beloved in Song 4:10 responds with, "How fair is your love, my sister, my spouse! How much better is your love than wine!"
  • Love Is Like Religion: According to many prominent interpretations, both Jewish and Christian, the love imagery of the poem is metaphorical for God's love for His people.
  • Love Triangle: An alternate interpretation is that the Shulamite's Beloved isn't actually Solomon, but a shepherd, and the whole story plays out as the Shulamite dealing with two suitors vying for her attention.
  • Marry for Love: If the Love Triangle interpretation is to be believed, the Shulamite at the end of the story rejects King Solomon in favor of the shepherd, saying to the effect that all the money in the world wouldn't be enough to buy her love.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Poetically implied in Song 1:13:
    A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. (King James Version)
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: The Shulamite in the first chapter worries that her Beloved is going to mistake her for "one who veils herself", which in that time period is usually the sign of a prostitute.
  • Money Is Not Power: The Shulamite in Song 8:7 says "If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly condemned."
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Song 5:3, if what was going on at that point was the Shulamite having an Erotic Dream:
    I had taken off my garment;
    how could I put it on again?
    I had bathed my feet;
    how could I soil them?
  • Oddball in the Series: This book is notably different from any of the other books in The Bible. It is a highly erotic love poem (even if many modern readers won't understand all the innuendo), which has no mention of God. Traditionally, it has been believed that King Solomon wrote it. But still, some people have argued that this book should not be taken at face value, but rather as an allegory for the bond between God and Israel, or maybe for the bond between Christ and the Church. Because it can be hard to see why it should be in the Bible otherwise.
  • One True Love: The Shulamite and the Beloved, to each other.
  • Plucky Girl: The Shulamite, who would risk being beaten by "the watchmen of the walls" in order to go after her Beloved when he pays her a visit at night. Or maybe she was just dreaming he was there.
  • Police Brutality: What the Shulamite goes through with the watchmen in Song 5:7 could be interpreted as this.
    The watchmen found me
    as they went about the city;
    they struck me, they wounded me;
    they took away my mantle,
    those watchmen of the walls.
  • Poor Man's Porn: This book is usually labeled as this, of the religious type.
  • Property of Love: The Shulamite first says, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." Later on she says, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me."
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: King Solomon (the rich suitor) and the shepherd (the poor suitor) in the Love Triangle interpretation of this book.
  • Royal Harem: In Song 6:8, the Beloved says there are "sixty queens and eighty concubines, and virgins without number."
  • Sex Is Good: This book in the Bible is very pro-sex, although the Shulamite does repeatedly say "do not awaken, nor arouse my love, until he pleases."
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Chapter 4 cuts out just before the couple gets it on.
  • Sleeps in the Nude: Implied in Song 5:3 when the Shulamite hears the Beloved knocking on her door late at night and she is thinking, "I have taken off my robe — how can I put it back on?"
  • Smells Sexy:
    • The Shulamite starts it off with Song 1:3:
      Your anointing oils are fragrant,
      your name is oil poured out;
      therefore the virgins love you.
    • The Beloved in Song 4:10-11:
      How fair is your love, my sister, my bride!
      How much better than wine is your love,
      and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
      Your lips drip honey, my bride;
      honey and milk are under your tongue;
      and the fragrance of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.
    • The Shulamite in Song 4:16:
      Wake up, North Wind.
      South Wind, blow on my garden;
      fill the air with fragrance.
      Let my lover come to his garden
      and eat the best of its fruits.
      (Good News Translation)
    • The Beloved says in Song 7:8 that the scent of the Shulamite's breath is like apples.
    • In the Message translation, the Shulamite woman says her Beloved's beard smells like sage.
  • Title Drop: Song 1:1 usually has "The song of songs, which is Solomon's." The title itself is a Hebrew idiom for "the most wonderful song of all."
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: The Beloved makes a big deal out of how beautiful the Shulamite's eyes are in very descriptive ways. The Shulamite returns the compliment by saying how beautiful her Beloved's eyes are.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: The Shulamite, according to her Beloved. The Shulamite compliments that her Beloved is "white and ruddy" and that he stands out among ten thousand.