Me? Do you think me dark, oh daughters of Jerusalem?
Oh, I am; but I’m lovely, yes?
Dark as the night inside a tent in Kedar;
dark as the secrets inside of Solomon’s tents.
You wonder why I’m so dark? I’ll tell you:
it was my brothers – they thought I was loose
and wild – they put me to work in the vineyards,
hoping I would neglect my own vineyard.
The sun turned me brown like a grape;
but, oh, the fire that burns inside me now!
Song of Songs 1:5-6
It is the voice of an audacious female which is raised in this song. She is “dark” or “black” as other translations render, and she is beautiful. She celebrates and rejoices in the beauty and sensuousness of her body. The female lover of this song is black because her brothers sequestered her as a domestic servant in their fields where the sun bled into her skin.
Society will not support her desire for a beloved who deserves more than a working class girl. She is a peasant and should be satisfied with a peasant’s lot. Boldly she faces down society’s disapproval. Courageously she asserts that being black is not ugly but a mark of beauty. Her work in the fields does not detract from her sensuousness but rather augments and accentuates her sexuality. This extraordinary black and beautiful woman stands strong in the face of cultural norms and dares to transgress societal boundaries of eroticism.
During a milieu steeped in arranged marriages this female celebrates her heart’s desire. It is her determination to share intimacy with the lover of her choice. We can safely assume he is not the affianced of her family’s choosing.
Our proud sister also resists the proscription of sexual etiquette. Her brothers have set her to work in their vineyards to guard her virginity and consequently, the family honor. Yet, she unequivocally proclaims she has not kept her own vineyard – her own virginity, or the family honor.
The Song celebrates the consummation of forbidden love. While queer love knows well the proscriptions and dynamics faced by our audacious sister in these verses, we must not miss what is most impudent here. The voice of the female lover has, through sacred writing, become the voice of God to us. The bible, in celebrating forbidden eroticism, leads us to rejoice in that which resists culture’s prohibitions.
Thank you my black and beautiful sister for singing and raising your voice among the scriptures. You are a part of our spiritual ancestry. May your daring spirit of pride live on through us.