The collection of love poetry which forms the Old Testament’s Song of Songs has always presented a conundrum to scholars. The orthodox understanding of its presence in the Canon of Scripture was the widespread use in the Prophets of the concept of God as the husband of Israel. For the Christian mystical tradition, the dialogue between the lover and the beloved gave voice to the relationship of the soul to Christ. Bernard of Clairvaux preached over fifty sermons on them! Jesus called himself ‘the Bridegroom’ giving authority to this reading. Some have seen Mary the Mother of Jesus in the references to the ‘room where my mother conceived me.’ The relationship of romantic and erotic love to spirituality is the subject of these songs. They express desire, hope, confusion and joy; the whole range of emotions experienced by the lover - but there is no final consummation. The metaphors of vine, wine, garden and fountain are ones that prefigure the language of Christian spirituality. They provide Christian spirituality with a language of love that is both sensual and spiritual, of earth and of heaven. The text for these songs is faithful to the text of the Bible but poetic licence has provided a narrative structure and the development of some metaphors. The cry of the lover to the beloved, the heightening of the senses through sumptuous smells and tastes, and the imagery of fire and nature provide a rich basis for a certain type of music - music born out of our time, yes, but
which also draws upon the timelessness of tonality, consonance and balance.
Notes by Andrew and Patrick Hawes, 2009