Biblical lyric structure: parallelism and variation; intensification and contrast—accumulation of intensity—spinning a bolo or a rock at the end of rope faster and faster and letting go

Back to Proverbs

Chapter 3: Love as ladder; wisdom and love

Chapter 5: Real vs. false love

Chapter 7: The evil prostitute

Chapter 31: True love; the perfect wife


compare to Song of Songs and Proverbs and
Symposium—Paul as Roman citizen and speaker of Greek


Section 1: comparison with a great thing diminished by a greater

Section 2: Love is…is not

Section 3: The imperfect vs. the perfect(=love)—Love as eternal/out of time; love and wisdom—cf. Symposium and Proverbs—I shall understand fully as I have been understood—seeing, understanding

Section 4: Love as the greatest of three eternal qualities

[1]If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

[2] And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

[3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.


[4]Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

[5] it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

[6] it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

[7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


[8]Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

[9] For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;

[10 ] but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

[11 ] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

[12 ] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.


[13 ] So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Song of Songs(=Song of Solomon=Canticles)

Fragmented text; confusion of pronouns

Solos and Dialogues and Choruses—see Falk translation


Chap 1. –-pleasure; lost and found; pastoral shepherds

O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!
For your love is better than wine,
7] Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
where you pasture your flock,
where you make it lie down at noon;
for why should I be like one who wanders
beside the flocks of your companions?

Chap.2 --lovesickness

[1] I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
[2] As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among maidens.
[3] As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
[4] He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
[5] Sustain me with raisins,
refresh me with apples;
for I am sick with love.
[6] O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embraced me!


The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
[9] My beloved is like a gazelle,
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
[10 ] My beloved speaks and says to me:
"Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
[11 ] for lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
[12 ] The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
[13 ] The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.

Hiding and being lured again

14 ] O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is comely.

Chap 3. Desire and satisfaction—lost and found; see also 5:1-8

1] Upon my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
[2] "I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves."
I sought him, but found him not.
[3] The watchmen found me,
as they went about in the city.
"Have you seen him whom my soul loves?"
[4] Scarcely had I passed them,
when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
until I had brought him into my mother's house,
and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

Chap.4 – blazon—also 7:1-9

[1] Behold, you are beautiful, my love,
behold, you are beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
moving down the slopes of Gilead.
[2] Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
and not one among them is bereaved.
[3] Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
and your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
behind your veil.
[4] Your neck is like the tower of David,
built for an arsenal,
whereon hang a thousand bucklers,
all of them shields of warriors.
[5] Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
that feed among the lilies.

The garden

[12 ] A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a garden locked, a fountain sealed.
[13 ] Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates
with all choicest fruits,
henna with nard,
[14 ] nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
with all trees of frankincense,
myrrh and aloes,
with all chief spices --
[15 ] a garden fountain, a well of living water,
and flowing streams from Lebanon.
[16 ] Awake, O north wind,
and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden,
let its fragrance be wafted abroad.
Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits.

Chapter 8

6] Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is cruel as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a most vehement flame.
[7] Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
it would be utterly scorned.



(Sappho reading)

(Sappho and Alcaeus)

Norton Introd

Born 630, tenth muse, nine books each a thousand lines in 3rd c. bc, one  complete poem left,

Girlhood society and departure for marriage

Throned in splendor O deathless Aphrodite

Prayer in poem

Begging for protection

Sparrows drawing her chariot like beating heart

Complimenting Aphrodite: Splendor, deathless, child of father, blessed

Evoking previous experience—nostalgia, eden, help—comfort and power provided—even unwilling she will love you

Stand at my shoulder

Like the very gods

Indirection—blessed is the other one to be near you—intermediary

Jealousy and envy

Underneath my breast the heart is shaken—contrast to speaker

Can say nothing—silent suffering; hidden below surface: lips tongue eyes ears, sweat

Love and Death: Paler than grass is? …death has come near—closeness of death—brushing by

Some there are who say

Love more powerful than war

Helen desertion of family

Speaker like her, like brides

Return to conclusion—prefering Anaktoria to Lydia’s chariots


Norton Introd.

84-54 BCE

Tribute to Sappho—imitation #51 and “Lesbia”

Sequence of love affair—happy to sad—relate to Eden story

Desire and betrayal

Complexity; dramatic situation and pose


financial metaphor—cf. Song of Songs—money and love

carpe diem

prolific, endless kisses by contrast

cry bankrupt—and hide assets: making believe they’re exhausted or limited to trick others

exclusion of the world; intimacy—address to her only; secrets


sparrow—Venus’ bird

imagining sex play graphically; its vulnerability and exhaustion

her ardor and desire

his is stronger


imitation of  Sappho; then self correction—inner dialogue


comparing Lesbia to Quintia


greatest fidelity ever…parallel hyprbole


pledge and fear that it wont be kept or isnt sincere

prayer to heaven…undying compact of holy friendship


reassuring reverse interpretation of her behavior—complexity and trap


what she says…and his cynicism


former declarations of love contrasted to present

he burns for her more fiercely though regards her as worthless

lust forced to assume shrunken place of affection

—but burning is lust?

Paradox—desire increased by frustration and betrayal


I hate and love


ruined by devotion…cant think kindly of her if she were good, nor cease to love if she were worse


inner conflict; addressing self

admit it’s over

we is he and Lesbia and his divided self

recollection of good times

now must stop

he shifts person to her—goodbye

then to bitter curse: so much for you bitch

you’ve got no one to play with…imagines her playing

urges himself to resist


calling her whore


male friendship and military imperial bragging enlisted to curse Lesbia as the whore of the army—graphic language, contrasted then to his tenderness


imagining a time in old age when he will feel good for moral decent behavior and that pleasure will compensate present pain of unrequited love

he’s done everything and got nothing from her and is therefore owed

so tells himself to stop tormenting self—the gods havent imposed it, because he’s been righteous [doubtful]

Urges himself despite difficulty

Switches to prayer—gods should reward him for decent life, giving up desire and asking only to be relieved from sickness—in exchange for worship

Now become both moral and religious, since he’s lost in love