Saturday, May 06, 2017

Highest Love

The beauty of poetry is deep expression in ways that simple narrative does not permit. As simple as a haiku or elaborate as the heroic epic, poetry speaks to the heart in a language only the inner-most being can understand. Stories merely fill the ear (in the oral tradition) or strain the eye (in the written mode). 

A 16th Century Spanish mystic wrote a series of poems, one of which was so beautiful, so sensual, so simple that he was pressed to explain his work. He wrote two entire books (over three hundred pages, translated into English) clarifying, even teaching, from his poem. 

I make no attempt to explain "The Dark Night Of The Soul" (if the author had to write entire books, then a paragraph won't suffice) except to say that is perhaps the most human of any spiritual work, drawing a picture of desire found in the expression of the purest love imaginable. The range of emotion includes desire, excitement, happiness, hope, rapture, ecstasy, gentleness, and surrender. Thomas Moore observes a kind of pain hidden behind all these emotions and suggests that the main voice--The Lover--craves union with The Beloved over healing and deliverance from that pain. 

Since it's publication in the mid-1500's, many have dedicated their lives to studying the writings of St. John Of The Cross, seeking this mystical experience of love so divine that one feels they could lift to the Heavens and finally know what is unknown on earth. 

Here is a translation of "Dark Night Of The Soul":

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.


Since poetry and music enjoy their own mystical union, here is the poem set to music. 

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