The Beauty of the Beloved
1D? Turn, turn, O Shulammite!*
turn, turn that we may gaze upon you!
W How can you gaze upon the Shulammite
as at the dance of the two camps?
2M How beautiful are your feet in sandals,*
O noble daughter!
Your curving thighs like jewels,
the product of skilled hands.
3Your valley,* a round bowl
that should never lack mixed wine.
Your belly, a mound of wheat,
encircled with lilies.
4a Your breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.
5b Your neck like a tower of ivory;
your eyes, pools in Heshbon
by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose like the tower of Lebanon
that looks toward Damascus.*
6Your head rises upon you like Carmel;*
your hair is like purple;
a king is caught in its locks.
7How beautiful you are, how fair,
my love, daughter of delights!
8Your very form resembles a date-palm,*
and your breasts, clusters.
9I thought, “Let me climb the date-palm!
Let me take hold of its branches!
Let your breasts be like clusters of the vine
and the fragrance of your breath like apples,
10And your mouth like the best wine—
Wthat flows down smoothly for my lover,
gliding* over my lips and teeth.
his yearning is for me.
12Come, my lover! Let us go out to the fields,
let us pass the night among the henna.
13d Let us go early to the vineyards, and see
if the vines are in bloom,
If the buds have opened,
if the pomegranates have blossomed;
There will I give you my love.
14The mandrakes* give forth fragrance,
and over our doors are all choice fruits;
Fruits both fresh and dried, my lover,
have I kept in store for you.
* [7:1] Shulammite: the woman is so designated because she is considered to be from Shulam (or Shunem) in the plain of Esdraelon (cf. 1 Kgs 1:3), or because the name may mean “the peaceful one,” and thus recall the name of Solomon. Turn: she is asked to face the speaker(s). How…: she refuses to be regarded as a spectacle (“the dance of the two camps” is unknown). Some interpret the episode as an invitation to her to dance.
* [7:2–6] Another description of the woman’s charms. Sandals: the woman’s sandaled foot was apparently considered quite seductive (Jdt 16:9). Noble: a possible connection to the enigmatic “prince” of 6:12. Curving…jewels: the meaning of these Hebrew words is not certain. Wine and wheat suggest fertility.
* [7:3] Valley: lit., navel; a discreet allusion to her sex.
* [7:5] The comparison emphasizes the stateliness of her neck, and the clarity of her eyes. Bath-rabbim: a proper name which occurs only here; there was a city of Rabbah northeast of Heshbon in Transjordan. Cf. Jer 49:3.
* [7:6] Carmel: a prominent set of cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.
* [7:8–9] Date-palm: a figure of stateliness. The lover is eager to enjoy the possession of his beloved.
* [7:10] Gliding: the beloved interrupts her partner’s compliment by referring to the intoxication of their union. The translation rests on an emendation of the enigmatic “the lips of the sleepers.”
* [7:11–14] The woman’s answer assures him of her love, and invites him to return with her to the rural delights associated with their love (cf. also 6:11–12). Yearning: used only here and in Gn 3:16; 4:7. The dependency and subordination of woman to man presented as a consequence of sin in the Genesis story is here transcended in the mutuality of true love.
* [7:14] Mandrakes: herbs believed to have power to arouse love and promote fertility; cf. Gn 30:14–16.