Foxes and Song of Solomon

October 31, 2010

When I was reading the Fox sequence, certain pieces reminded me very much of passages in the Song of Solomon in the Bible.  In ‘fox,’ Clifton writes, “Master Of The Hunt, why am i / not feeding, not being fed?”.  In Song of Solomon (SOS?) the woman says to the king, “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” (SOS 1:7)–asking that he tend to her himself and replenish her.  In “leaving fox” the speaker isolates herself from the fox, locking the door.  This resonates with the end of SOS 2, where the woman also isolates herself from her lover who wants her to come with him, but she replies, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes…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” (15 & 17)–in SOS the woman does not want to deal with the foxes (symbolic for any small obstacle that they might face) and sends her lover off by himself, waiting for him to return.  It also resonates with chapter five of SOS when he wants to come in to her house, but she’s tired and does not want to get out of bed to open the door for him…he puts his hand over the lock of the door (SOS5:4).  The verses following these scenes show her seeking “him whom her soul loveth” and unable to find him, while Clifton’s next poem, “one year later,” is her imagining what it would have been like and how good it could have been had she “reared up baying, / and followed her off into vixen country”.  Following, in “a dream of foxes” Clifton references “a procession of women / clean as good children,” which falls closely in line with the Daughters of Jerusalem as well as the transformed woman in SOS.

When I read this sequence, I feel like the fox is the individual inside that must be neglected for society, maternity, etc., as well as poetic inspiration.  The speaker wants to fall in love with it but cannot, or will not, allow complete abandonment for it, so she settles for the dreams of what it would have been like.  This connection to SOS shows the connection of the speaker to herself, and poetry, as a love story–but one that she does not see as realistic or possible.  The relation to the Bible makes it a divine relationship, but also an imaginary or out of reach one–beautiful, wild supernatural that cannot fit with this world.

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