From David Huerta's "Song of Money," my thoughts immediately jump to the Bible's "Song of Songs." The association may seem strange for an atheist, but 1) I was not always an atheist, and 2) this section of the Bible remains one of the few I find genuinely interesting in itself, as opposed to necessary as cultural collateral.
Specifically, the loving enumeration of physical beauties and the metaphors employed to describe them strike me as both strange and familiar. Strange because the comparisons are so different from those I would have chosen, because of the geographic and cultural disjunct between writer and reader; but familiar because my brain tends to zero in on details to the exclusion of sensible wholes.
I won't reproduce the entire book or even chapters here, although here's the wikisource link
. What I'll focus on are the descriptive passages that still captivate me years after having first read them.
excerpts from Song of Songs
Behold, you are beautiful.
Your eyes are doves behind your veil.
Your hair is as a flock of goats,
that descend from Mount Gilead.
Your teeth are like a newly shorn flock,
which have come up from the washing,
where every one of them has twins.
None is bereaved among them.
Your lips are like scarlet thread.
Your mouth is lovely.
Your temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind your veil.
Your neck is like David's tower built for an armory,
whereon a thousand shields hang,
all the shields of the mighty men.
Your two breasts are like two fawns
that are twins of a roe,
which feed among the lilies.
Until the day is cool, and the shadows flee away,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh,
to the hill of frankincense.
You are all beautiful, my love.
There is no spot in you.
My beloved is white and ruddy.
The best among ten thousand.
His head is like the purest gold.
His hair is bushy, black as a raven.
His eyes are like doves beside the water brooks,
washed with milk, mounted like jewels.
His cheeks are like a bed of spices with towers of perfumes.
His lips are like lilies, dropping liquid myrrh.
His hands are like rings of gold set with beryl.
His body is like ivory work overlaid with sapphires.
His legs are like pillars of marble set on sockets of fine gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.
His mouth is sweetness yes, he is altogether lovely.
My cynical side says these lovers would feel right at home beneath Joyce Kilmer's trees. Teeth like sheep, hair like goats, lips like lilies. At least the Song's author(s) only liken the lovers' attributes to such disparate things, rather than saying that their eyes *are* doves or their temples pomegranates.
But I'm reminded of lines from Plato's Republic
, nevertheless. Regarding a statue, its hypothetical painter says: "...please do not suppose that we must paint eyes so beautiful that they do not even look like eyes, nor again the other parts, but consider whether by giving what is fitting to each, we make beautiful the whole." Aside from the allegorical valence of Plato's words, I must admit, "Hey, I resemble that remark!"
When I look at things or people, I tend to focus so intensely on details that I can't remember what the whole looks like without repeated, sustained viewing. (I may be "faceblind.") When I describe a person or thing in my writing, I often feel as though the elements are dead-on but the whole is a surreal mish-mash. Which might be why I like writing poetry, where my inability to synthesize visual info can be turned into the poetic virtues of merism, synecdoche, and metonymy.
I like the complication of Song of Songs, which presents me with comparisons beyond my usual purview and thereby highlights my own dependence on cultural stock. I am forced to consider how strange my own metaphors and similes may strike readers/listeners. But I'm also relieved to see my neurological quirks "canonized" and I appreciate being able to observe them from the outside, as it were. I feel I am entering a new world through a familiar door.