Canticles iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. How. Christ again praises the beauty of his Church. (Worthington) — The dialogue takes place in the country. (Haydock) — From corporal beauty, which is often dangerous, and the portion of the most dissolute, we must raise our minds to spiritual advantages, which the Holy Ghost has here in view. — Within. St. Ambrose, “besides thy taciturnity.” Septuagint, “silence.” Rabbins, &c., “hair.” Protestants, “within thy locks.” But what renders this version of tsammathec (Haydock) suspicious is, that none of the ancients knew of it, and the hair is afterwards specified, chap. vi. 4. Moreover, Isaias, (xlvii. 2.) uses it for (Calmet) “turpitude,” (St. Jerome) or the parts which are usually “covered.” (Septuagint) (Haydock) — Si qua latent, meliora putat. ([Ovid?] Met. 1500.) — All the glory of the king’s daughter is within, Psalm xliv. 14. Modesty and silence are the best encomium. (Calmet) — The Lord praises the intention, occupations and doctrine of the Church, the twins of faith and good works; the preaching of Christ’s passion without shame, (ver. 3.) and the administration of the sacraments, which, like the neck, unite the members to their head; so that they become invincible, (ver. 4.) whether they be of Jewish or Gentile extraction, ver. 5. (Worthington) — Up. Hebrew and Septuagint, “appear.” Jerusalem was the highest part of the country; (Haydock) and coming up and down often means no more than coming or going, Judges xi. 3., and xv. 11. (Calmet) — The hair of goats in Lycia was beautifully curled. (Ælian xvi. 30.) — Women used such false hair. (Martial xii. 45.) — Though the hair be only an ornament, it is not to be neglected; so the pious Christian will always treat with respect the ceremonies established chiefly for the instruction of the ignorant. (Calmet) — Those simple and fervent souls, by their numbers, adorn the Church, as hair does the body. (St. Gregory) — The external and internal perfections of the spouse deserve commendation. (Menochius)

Ver. 2. Them. Those who lay aside the old man, and receive baptism, are filled with grace, to bring forth the fruits of virtue. (St. Augustine, Doct. ii. 6.) — Pastors in particular, must lay aside worldly cares, and attend to their flocks. (Menochius)

Ver. 3. Scarlet. Preachers of the gospel (St. Gregory) must speak with elegance, and have their lips dyed with the blood of Christ, and purified with coals from the altar. (Calmet) — So, if we may use the words of a living critic, who is sometimes accurate, “a commentator ought to study at the foot of his crucifix, and write with ink drawn from the heart of Jesus.” (Haydock) — Pomegranate. Plump and ruddy, representing the purity of the Church, and of virgins, who are its “flower,” (St. Cyprian) and bring forth fruits of good works. (St. Augustine, de Virg.)

Ver. 4. Bulwarks. Hebrew Thalpiyoth, “at the height of the defiles,” probably in Libanus, when David conquered Syria. Thalassar, Thelmela, &c., were such “heights.” Bucklers, to be used in case of need, or for ornament. Thus the neck of the spouse was adorned with chains and pearls. The Church is this tower, the pillar of truth, 1 Timothy iii., and Matthew xvi. 18. Apostles and prelates are her bucklers.

Ver. 5. Roes. This comparison does not seem happy: but exactitude is not required. (Calmet) — Indeed if we were to take all in the literal sense, a very grotesque figure would arise, with a head like Carmel, a nose like a tower, &c., which shews that the tropological or allegorical sense must be adopted. (Du Hamel) — The two Testaments given for our instruction, (chap. i. 2.) or the charity towards God and our neighbour, may be meant. (Theodoret)

Ver. 6. Retire. In the morning, (Sanctius) or rather the bridegroom takes his leave early, promising to return in the evening, chap. ii. 17. (Calmet) — Myrrh. To Calvary, where the fervent will pour forth their prayers, and learn mortification. (Calmet) — Christ dwells in mortified and devout minds.

Ver. 7. Thee. All must be pure before they enter heaven, as the blessed Virgin [Mary] was on earth, (Worthington) and the Church is still, Ephesians v. 27. (Calmet) — Before his departure, Christ heaps praises on her.

Ver. 8. Thou. Hebrew, “look from.” — Libanus. So Jerusalem is called, Zacharias xi. 3. (Ribera) (Menochius) — Amana. Septuagint, “faith.” By it and charity, we must do good. (St. Augustine, Psalm lxvii.) Amanus separates Cilicia from Syria. — Sanir is the name given by the Phenicians to Hermon, (Eusebius) beyond the Jordan, 1 Paralipomenon v. 23. — Leopards. It is not fit for women to hunt such beasts. Ovid (Met. x. 10.) thus speaks of Venus: Nuda genu, vestemque ritu succincta Dianæ, &c. The Church leaves Jerusalem to preach the gospel without fear. (Menochius)

Ver. 9. Wounded. Symmachus, “given.” Septuagint, Protestants, “ravished.” Mystic writers suppose, that the spouse had been guilty of some negligence; or, on the contrary, that her deportment was most enchanting, bent on God, and on good works. (Calmet) — Sister. So Assuerus styles himself brother of Esther, xv. 12. Christ died for the unity of his Church. (Menochius)

Ver. 10. Spices. He returns her compliment, chap. i. 2.

Ver. 11. Lips. Teachers who accommodate their instructions to the capacity of their audience, (Calmet) giving milk to children, Hebrews v. 13., (Haydock) and 1 Corinthians iii. 2. — In allusion, perhaps, to this passage, (Calmet) it was customary to give milk and honey to the new baptized. (Tertullian, coron.) — Garments. Which were perfumed, (Genesis xxvii. 17., and Psalm xliv. 9.) and imply good works, (2 Corinthians v. 3., and Romans xiii. 14.; Calmet) and the external service and prayers of the Church, which ascend like incense, Psalm cxl. 2. (Menochius)

Ver. 12. Up. She is perfectly chaste, Proverbs v. 14. The Church excludes from her society all unbelievers and schismatics. The wicked serve to exercise the virtuous. Her pastors explain the Scriptures, the fountains of saving knowledge. (Calmet) — Christ is also a fountain, Zacharias xiii. 1., and John vii. 37. (Menochius)

Ver. 13. Plants. The various orders of clergy and laity. — Cyprus, (chap. i. 13.; Calmet) whence a healing oil is extracted. (Theodoret) — Protestants, “camphire.” (Haydock) — Spikenard is twice mentioned, as it may be well mixed with cyprus and saffron. (Menochius)

Ver. 14. Cinnamon. Very rare, Exodus xxx. 23. — Libanus, or “incense.” (Hebrew)

Ver. 15. Libanus. The law of the gospel was proclaimed by the apostles, who were Jews. They explained the pure doctrine of the Scriptures, and converted many.

Ver. 16. Wind. At different times. Let all nations be convinced of thy beauty. (Calmet) — The holy Spirit enabled the apostles to convert the world. (Nys. Rupert.) — All temptations, whether proceeding from cruelty or deceit, “make constant souls more grateful to God.” (Worthington)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Christ sets forth the graces of his spouse: and declares his love for her.

1 How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou! thy eyes are doves’ eyes, besides what is hid within. Thy hair is as flocks of goats, which come up from Mount Galaad.

2 Thy teeth as flocks of sheep, that are shorn, which come up from the washing, all with twins, and there is none barren among them.

3 Thy lips are as a scarlet lace: and thy speech sweet. Thy cheeks are as a piece of a pomegranate, besides that which lieth hid within.

4 Thy neck is as the tower of David, which is built with bulwarks: a thousand bucklers hang upon it, all the armour of valiant men.

5 Thy two breasts like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

6 Till the day break, and the shadows retire, I will go to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

7 Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee.

8 Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come: thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards.

9 Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of thy neck.

10 How beautiful are thy breasts, my sister, my spouse! thy breasts are more beautiful than wine, and the sweet smell of thy ointments above all aromatical spices.

11 Thy lips, my spouse, are as a dropping honey-comb, honey and milk are under thy tongue: and the smell of thy garments, as the smell of frankincense.

12 My sister, my spouse is a garden inclosed, a garden inclosed, a fountain sealed up.

13 Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates with the fruits of the orchard. Cyprus with spikenard.

14 Spikenard and saffron, sweet cane and cinnamon, with all the trees of Libanus, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief perfumes.

15 The fountain of gardens: the well of living waters, which run with a strong stream from Libanus.

16 Arise, O north wind, and come, O south wind, blow through my garden, and let the aromatical spices thereof flow.