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“Stehe auff mein Braut und komm her zu mir” (Cant. 2.4. Song of Solomon 2:4)

CAT 61 Wagner Song of Solomon 2.4 Sudermann 1620.jpg

CAT 60. Hans Erhard Wagner. “Stehe auff mein Braut und komm her zu mir” Cant. 2.4 (Song of Solomon 2:4) in Daniel Sudermann, Schöne ausserlesene Figuren und hohe Lehren von der Begnadeten Liebhabenden Seele. Strasbourg: Jacob van der Heyden, c. 1620. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

Here a female beloved similar to the one who carries the cross to the foot of the hill in CAT 55 sits in meditation and supplication on the top of the hill, her arms gesturing as they were in CAT 53 and 57 but this time to God alone. The engraved words and numbers within the banner of light make a double allusion to the Song of Solomon. The Germanic text that cuts through the sky is from verse 2:10 of the Song of Solomon: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away” (“Stehe auff mein Braut und komm her zu mir”). The allusion to verse 2.4 below those words enacts a visual pun with the banner in the sky: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (2:4). The words and numbers engraved by Wagner on the blank white paper stand out dramatically against the fine gradations of the sky; so does the white of the beloved on the dark of the ground. 

Sudermann’s thematic title for this image in the 1620 collection indicates that the heart of Christ’s beloved has called out to him in prayer, to which he has answered in the words inscribed in the banner. Sudermann elaborates on those dynamics in the poem he prints under the engraving, whose marginal notations refer not only Canticles 1 and 2 but also chapters from texts as diverse as Job, Romans, Jeremiah, Ezekial, and 1 Corinthians. Two of van der Heyden’s engravings in Sudermann’s 1622 treatise treat a similar subject in a different way. The engraving on page 16 of that volume alludes to the same passage from Song of Solomon 2:4, but in that case the words “Stehe auff mein Freundin und komm” are printed in the inscription above the print, not within the image itself. That image features a shaft of pure light pointing down to the female beloved reclining on the hill, with a city in the distance. On page 42 of that volume, in relation to Canticle 5, van der Heyden depicted the female on the hill before the city in a more abandoned fashion; that was the aforementioned image in which van der Heyden literally pictures her soul in the form of an ethereal body ascending into heavenly realms.

In the Christian interpretation of the Song of Songs as summarized by Martin Pope in the Anchor Bible translation, “the banner of love was generally referred to as Christ’s love.” The image of the “banqueting house” (sometimes translated into English as the “wine house”) has inspired a whole host of Christian associations. It was “understood to mean admission into the Catholic Church where alone the wine of the Sprit is found. It was understood to refer to Holy Scripture. . . . The wine house was also explained as the Altar of God where the Cup of Salvation, the Wine that makes glad the heart of man, is given by the Bridegroom to His love. Again it was understood to refer to the mystery of the Incarnation because Christ’s body housed the Divine Word, the true Wine of the soul; and again to the contemplation of eternity in which the holy Angels, inebriated with the wine of wisdom, behold God face to face” (Pope 377). Many of these associations resonate within this group of three engravings—as well as with Sudermann’s commentary.