The lover’s gaze of appreciation and his verbal rendering of what that gaze sees offer to the beloved his appreciation of her and, in making that offering, give to her a state of being she would not have given herself. That is the condition of being a beloved. … when you are given the gift of being delighted in, you are made new by it, transfigured in its light.
This is Paul J. Griffiths again, commenting on Song of Songs 4:1-7. I love the way he describes the transfigurative effect that love has upon the beloved.
Some further thoughts on beauty, this time in connection with intimacy. Paul J. Griffiths, in his commentary on the Song of Songs, notes that
it is rare for us to be dazzled by beauty … without seeking some kind of intimacy with it. [However,] appreciation of beauty can be heightened by certainty that there will be no physical intimacy with it; [and yet,] appreciation for and delight in beauty may not survive physical intimacy with it, and will certainly be altered thereby.
Griffiths’ commentary is a stimulating read, even if it is not one I would recommend to those seeking to acquaint themselves with the Song of Songs. Why? Because Griffiths comments on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew original, and he focuses quite strongly on figurative readings of the Song.
Not sure now where I found this, but what a brilliant illustration of the absurdity of literalistic interpretation.
The following is my still somewhat preliminary translation of Song of Songs 4:1-7. I especially love the wonderful way of referring to the break of day in v. 6, ‘until the day breathes / and the shadows flee’.
You are so beautiful, my love.
You are so beautiful.
Your eyes are doves
looking out from behind your locks.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
streaming down Mount Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock ready to be shorn
that have come up from the washing pool,
every one of them having twins,
not one of them bereaved of offspring.
Like a scarlet ribbon are your lips;
your mouth is beautiful.
Like a slice of pomegranate gleams your brow
from behind your locks.
Like the tower of David is your neck,
built to perfection.
A thousand bucklers hang on it,
all kinds of warriors’ shields.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
which feed among the lotuses.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee
I will go to the mountain of myrrh,
to the hill of frankincense.
All of you is beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.
… beauty is realized eschatology, the present glow of the sheer goodness that will be at the end.
Thus Robert W. Jenson in his commentary on the descriptive poem in Song of Songs 4:1-7. Beauty as realised eschatology – what an intriguing thought.