Cantique des cantiques (Song of Songs)

4 female voices
Duration : env. 33’
Commissioned by the quartett Méliades
First performance on october 3d 2014 at the Theater of Brive by the quartett Méliades

Recording : CD Ad Vitam records (AV 180315) – May 2018
CHOC Classica – 4 Diapason (juillet 2018)

To get the scores, send an email to the association Alcmène : Contact

Listen the complete work : clic here

“Y say to you..” (video extr)

“How beautiful..” (video extr)

The integration of the “Song of Songs” in the Torah scrolls was late and hardly disputed because of the huge sensualism in loving evocations. The augustinian tradition read all that as a metaphor, the spiritual wedding between Christ and Church ; therefore this text owes its place in the liturgy.

It is indeed a great matter of love, desire and pleasure in this poetic drama which stages people, girls, shepherd, young woman, and king Salomon himself (who is said to have written this famous text).

Some cuts were necessary to establish the libretto which takes its source in several translations for a better musical adequacy.

The result is a play of about 12 boards 35 minutes length, where only 4 female voices undertake the diverse characters, draw the multicolour outlines of the numerous poetic images, and lead a narrative flow which goes from sensual sweetnesses to the most violent anxiety.

Patrick Burgan


Choir :
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s

Her :
Let him give me the kisses of his mouth !
Young girls :
For his love is better than wine,
Sweet is the smell of your perfumes ;
your name is as perfume running out ;
so the young girls give you their love.
Take me to you, and we will go after you !
Her :
The king has taken me into his house…
Young girls :
We will be glad and full of joy in you ;
we will give more thought to your love than to wine.
Rightly are they your lovers..

Her :
I am dark, but fair of form, O daughters of Jerusalem,
as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Let not your eyes be turned on me, because I am dark :
because I was looked on by the sun ;
my mother’s children were angry with me ;
they made me the keeper of the vine-gardens ;
but my vine-garden I have not kept.
Say, O love of my soul,
where you give food to your flock,
and where you make them take their rest in the heat of the day;
Young girls :
If you have not knowledge, O most beautiful among women,
go on your way in the footsteps of the flock,
and give your young goats food
by the tents of the keepers.

The king :
I have made a comparison of you, O my love,
to a horse in Pharaoh’s carriages..
Your face is a delight with rings of hair,
your neck with chains of jewels.
We will make you chains of gold with ornaments of silver.
Her :
While the king is seated at his table,
my spices send out their perfume.
As a bag of myrrh is my well-loved one to me,
when he is at rest between my breasts.
The king :
See, you are fair, my love, you are fair !
You have the eyes of a dove.
Her :
See, you are fair, my loved one!
Our bed is green.
Cedar-trees are the pillars of our house,
and our boards are made of fir-trees.
I am a rose of Sharon,
a flower of the valleys.
The king :
As the lily-flower among the thorns of the waste,
so is my love among the daughters.
Her :
As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my loved one among the sons.
I took my rest under his shade with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
Make me strong with wine-cakes,
let me be comforted with apples ;
I am overcome with love.
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand is round about me !

Him :
I say to you, O daughters of Jerusalem :
by the roes of the field,
do not let love be moved,
till it is ready.
Her :
The voice of my loved one !
See, he comes,
dancing on the mountains,
stepping quickly on the hills.
My loved one is like a roe
see, he is on the other side of our wall,
he is looking in at the windows,
letting himself be seen through the spaces.
Him :
Get up, my love, my fair one, and come away !
For, see, the winter is past ;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers are come on the earth,
he time of cutting the vines is come,
and the voice of the dove is sounding in our land.
The king :
Get up from your bed, my beautiful one, and come away !
O my dove, you are in the holes of the mountain sides,
let me see your face,
let your voice come to my ears ;
for sweet is your voice, and your face is fair.
Her :
My loved one is mine, and I am his ;
he takes his food among the flowers.
Till the evening comes,
and the sky slowly becomes dark,
come, my loved one,
and be like a roe,
on the mountains of Bether.
By night on my bed,
I was looking for him who is the love of my soul ;
I was looking for him, but I did not see him…
I will get up now and go about the town ;
in the streets and in the wide ways,
I will go after him who is the love of my soul…
went after him, but I did not see him.
The watchmen who go about the town came by me :
« Have you seen him who is my heart’s desire ? »
Him :
I say to you, O daughters of Jerusalem :
by the roes of the field,
let not love be moved,
till it is ready.

Choir :
Who is this coming out of the waste places,
like pillars of smoke,
perfumed with sweet spices,
with all the spices of the trader ?
See, it is the bed of Solomon,
sixty men of war are about it,
of the army of Israel.
Go out, O daughters of Sion, and see
King Solomon,
with the crown which his mother put on his head
on the day when he was married,
and on the day of the joy of his heart.
The king :
See, you are fair, my love, you are fair !
you have the eyes of a dove,
under your veil.
Your red lips are like a bright thread,
and your mouth is fair of form ;
the sides of your head are like pomegranate fruit,
under your veil.
Your two breasts are like two young roes,
of the same birth,
which take their food among the lilies.
Her :
Till the evening comes,
and the sky slowly becomes dark,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh,
and to the hill of frankincense.
The king :
You are all fair, my love,
there is no mark on you.
Him :
You have taken away my heart, my sister, my bride,
The king :
you have taken away my heart, with one look,
with one chain of your neck.
Him :
How fair is your love, my sister, my bride !
The king :
How much better is your love than wine.
Him :
and the smell of your oils than any perfume !
The king :
A garden walled-in,
Him :
is my sister, my bride,
The king :
a garden shut up, a spring of water stopped.

Her :
Be awake, O north wind ; and come, O south !
blowing on my garden, so that its spices may come out !
Let my loved one come into his garden,
and take of his good fruits !
Him :
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride ;
to take my myrrh with my spice,
my wax with my honey,
my wine with my milk…
Take meat, O friends ; take wine, yes, be overcome with love !

Her :
I am sleeping, but my heart is awake…
it is the sound of my loved one at the door :
Him :
« Be open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my very beautiful one !
my head is wet with dew,
and my hair with the drops of the night. »
Her :
« I have put off my coat; how may I put it on ?
My feet are washed; how may I make them unclean ? »
My loved one put his hand on the door,
and my heart was moved for him.
I got up to let my loved one in ;
and my hands were dropping with myrrh,
nd my fingers with liquid myrrh,
on the lock of the door.
I made the door open to my loved one ;
but my loved one had taken himself away, and was gone.
my soul was feeble when his back was turned on me.
I went after him, but I did not come near him ;
I said his name, but he gave me no answer.
The keepers who go about the town overtook me ;
they gave me blows and wounds ;
the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.
I say to you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you see my loved one,
what will you say to him ?…
That I am overcome with love !
Young girls :
What is your loved one more than another,
O fairest among women ?
What is your loved one more than another,
that you say this to us ?
Her :
My loved one is white and red ;
His head is as the most delicate gold ;
His eyes are as the eyes of doves,
His face is as beds of spices,
giving out perfumes of every sort ;
his lips like lilies,
His hands are as rings of gold,
his body is as a smooth plate of ivory,
His legs are as pillars of stone,
on a base of delicate gold.
His mouth is most sweet,
yes, he is all beautiful.
This is my loved one, and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem !
Young girls :
Where is your loved one gone,
O most fair among women ?
Where is your loved one turned away,
that we may go looking for him with you ?
Her :
My loved one is gone down into his garden,
to the beds of spices,
to take food in the gardens,
and to get lilies.
I am for my loved one, and my loved one is for me ;
he takes food among the lilies.

The king :
You are beautiful, O my love ;
as fair as Jerusalem,
you are to be feared like an army with flags.
Let your eyes be turned away from me; see, they have overcome me.
Like pomegranate fruit are the sides of your head,
under your veil.
There are sixty queens, and eighty servant-wives,
and young girls without number.
My dove, my very beautiful one, is but one.
The daughters saw her, and gave her a blessing ;
yes, the queens and the servant-wives, and they gave her praises.
Choir :
Who is she, looking down as the morning light,
fair as the moon, clear as the sun,
who is to be feared like an army with flags ?
Her :
I went down into the garden of nuts,
to see the green plants of the valley,
and to see if the vine was in bud,
and the pomegranate-trees were in flower.
In spite of myself, my soul pushed me
On my noble people’s carriages.
Choir :
Come back, come back, O Shulammite !
come back, come back, so that our eyes may see you.
Him :
What will you see in the Shulammite
A sword-dance ?
The king :
How beautiful are your feet in their shoes !
The curves of your legs are like jewels.
Your belly button is a round cup
full of wine.
Your two breasts are like two young roes,
of the same birth.
Your neck is as a tower of ivory;
Your head is like Carmel,
and the hair of your head is like purple !
Him :
in whose net the king is prisoner…

Him – The king :
How beautiful and how sweet you are !
O love, for delight !
You are tall like a palm-tree,
and your breasts are like the fruit of the vine.
I said : « Let me go up the palm-tree,
and let me take its branches in my hands ! »
your breasts will be as the fruit of the vine,
and the smell of your breath like apples,
And the roof of your mouth like good wine…
Her :
… flowing down smoothly for my loved one,
moving gently over my lips and my teeth !
I am for my loved one,
and his desire is for me.
Come, my loved one, let us go out into the field,
let us take rest among the cypress-trees !
Him – The king :
Let us go out early to the vine-gardens ;
let us see if the vine is in bud, if it has put out its young fruit,
and the pomegranate is in flower.
Her :
There I will give you my love.
Him – The king :
I would give you drink of spiced wine,
drink of the pomegranate.
Her :
His left hand would be under my head,
and his right hand about me !
I say to you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
do not let love be moved
till it is ready.

Him :
You who have your resting-place in the gardens !
the friends give ear to your voice.
make me give ear to it !

Her :
Come quickly, my loved one !
and be like a roe
on the mountains of spice !

“O daughters of Jérusalem” (extr)
“Take meat, take wine!” (extr)
“Come quickly, my love..” (extr)