Sunday, November 11, 2007

Searching the City

The Song of Songs is very much the expression of longing, and of feeling separated from the Beloved. Part of the symbolism related to this theme comes from a growing tension between what is perceived as the simple pastoral life of wandering nomadic tribes, and the emergence of the city, symbolized by Jerusalem. The shepherd lover has died, and in his place a new figure in the form of a king, who is Solomon, claims Wisdom as his bride.

A similar tension is found in Indian legends concerning the tribal hero Krishna, who is described as living in the gardens of Brindavan, and sporting with the milk maids of a pastoral community, and a later tradition of the King who is Krishna, involved in the great battle of the Mahabharata, and connected with the emerging principality of Mathura. The fact that both these figures are given the same name, and linked by an over arching myth that spans the folk tradition of tribal communities living in the wild, and an emerging civilization based on city centres, and kingly lineage, shows that there is a basic pattern that the epic tries to connect. One way of doing this is to create a narrative that spans Kingdom and exile, seeing the two in a dynamic relationship which has a deeper meaning in complementary centres of power.

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