Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poetry, Young Love and New Year’s Eve

One of the odd applications I often find from studying the Scriptures is a desire to write in the manner that the biblical authors did. For example, when I first began reading and analyzing closely Paul’s epistles to the Mediterranean churches, I developed the habit and skills of writing meaningful letters. Though correspondence is often considered a weak spot among men, I was inspired by Paul to also write “epistles” in addition to imbibing the content of his writings. In addition, upon closer examination of Psalms this last year, I was driven to attempt writing “psalms” (i.e. Psalm 23 - Firefighter version and Psalm “343”). Though I would never suppose to write Scripture, it is symptomatic of my high bibliology that I want to write as eloquently as the inspired authors did.

Having said that, I am now completing a course of close study and analysis of the biblical Song of Songs. As a collection of love poetry, the Song of Songs constitutes an anthology of poems compiled by Solomon to express young love. Each of the poetic sections appears to celebrate a young couple in love, whose longing affection for each other culminates in a wedding night. While the song does not express the totality of love that a married couple will experience over the course of their lifetime together, it certainly does showcase the young love shared by the lovesick couple in the “spring” of life.

Because of the literary beauty of the Song of Songs, and because of its inspired place in the biblical canon, I am likewise moved to write in that fashion too. Only yesterday I wrote a love poem for my wife that was guided in form and function by the Song of Songs. Its content was for her eyes only, so I’ll not reveal it here. Nevertheless, it was difficult to compose not because I find expressing love to Naomi cumbersome, but because the Song of Songs expresses young love. However, we have been married for fifteen years now. The love expressed by young people infatuated with each other has distinct limits that the mature couple has grown beyond. Not that the middle-aged couple neglects the category of physical attraction that leads to sexual fulfillment, but the Song of Songs traffics exclusively in this limited arena. Therefore, to write a love poem in the genre of the Song, but also to express the love of fifteen years, requires extra skill and attention.

The extra attention was necessary because the love of fifteen years is deeper and more mature than that expressed in the Song. If I had simply written my poem to Naomi in a manner that sounded just like the Song, she would have found that flighty and devoid of the deeper love we have developed over the years. Good love poetry should be idealic to a degree, but also it requires a degree of believability. This is a delicate balance to be sure, but the tension between idealic love and mature love is an absolute necessity for a vibrant marriage of any age.

For new year’s eve, the whole genre of young love finds appropriate expression. The focus is on new life stages and benchmarks. New years are timely reminders to renew life trends that might have grown stale. Not that mature love is by nature stale, but it must be vigilantly guarded against growing tepid and boring. As a result, it is fitting that the Song of Songs motivated my poetry to Naomi near the New Year’s celebration. The reminder to conjure aspects of idealic love as part of a maturing love was a welcome application of God’s Word. I’m sure Solomon would consider it an apt lesson from his collection of love poetry as well.

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