"The Little Foxes, That Spoil The Vines"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511

Context: The Song of Songs has been interpreted in many ways over the centuries. Read literally, it is a dialogue of endearments between a young girl and her lover; she is a keeper of the vineyards, he a shepherd. The vivid and striking imagery and great literary power of the work, combined with its freedom of expression, make it one of the great love poems of the ages. It was at one time thought by Jewish scholars to be an allegory symbolizing the love between the Lord and his chosen people, and probably became a part of Scripture for this reason. This view was accepted by some of the early Christian scholars; others thought it an allegory of Christ and His church. The chapter headings of the Authorized King James Version represent the latter opinion. The modern tendency among scholars is to accept the literal interpretation, and to consider the text a single love lyric, or more probably a collection of love songs edited and unified by its original compiler. In chapter 2, the girl recalls a time when her lover came to her house in the evening, spoke through the lattice to her, and begged her to go with him. The young man's ardor paints a vivid, idyllic picture of the springtime and its beauty. When she remains silent he adds another inducement: this is the season when foxes nibble at the young grapevines. By referring to this annual problem of the vineyards he is implying that she should come out and guard them; he of course will assist her. It is easy to imagine the girl smiling at this transparent approach; nonetheless she pledges herself to him, though not aloud. When she finally speaks to her suitor, it is only to tell that disappointed youth she will be happy to see him in the morning.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.

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