Dark Night / Living Flame

Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz)
Translated by Sister Marjorie Flower OCD

Two poems by the 16th century Spanish mystic and doctor of the Church, read in English and in the original Spanish.

The Dark Night of the Soul (Noche oscura del alma)

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En una noche oscura

con ansias en amores inflamada

¡oh dichosa ventura!

salí sin ser notada

estando ya mi casa sosegada;

So dark the night! At rest

and hushed my house, I went with no one knowing

upon a lover’s quest

–Ah, the sheer grace!–so blest,
my eager heart with love aflame and glowing.

a escuras, y segura

por la secreta escala disfrazada

¡oh dichosa ventura!

a escuras y en celada

estando ya mi casa sosegada.

In darkness, hid from sight

I went by secret ladder safe and sure

–Ah, grace of sheer delight!–

so softly veiled by night

hushed now my house, in darkness and secure.

En la noche dichosa

en secreto que nadie me veía

ni yo miraba cosa,

sin otra luz ni guía

sino la que en el corazón ardía.

Hidden in that glad night,

regarding nothing as I stole away,

no-one to see my flight,

no other guide or light

save one that in my heart burned bright as day.

Aquésta me guiaba

más cierto que la luz del mediodía

adonde me esperaba

quien yo bien me sabía

en parte donde nadie parecía.

Surer than noonday sun,

guiding me from the start this radiant light

led me to that dear One,

waiting for me, well-known,

somewhere apart where no-one came in sight.

¡Oh noche que guiaste!,

¡Oh noche amable más que el alborada!,

¡Oh noche que juntaste

Amado con amada,

amada en el Amado transformada!

Dark of the night, my guide,

fairer by far than dawn when stars grow dim!

Night that has unified

the Lover and the Bride,

transforming the Beloved into him.

En mi pecho florido

que entero para él solo se guardaba,

allí quedó dormido

y yo le regalaba

y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.

There on my flowered breast

that none but he might ever own or keep,

he stayed, sinking to rest,

and softly I caressed

my Love while cedars gently fanned his sleep.

El aire de la almena

cuando yo sus cabellos esparcía

con su mano serena

en mi cuello hería

y todos mis sentidos suspendía.

Breeze from the turret blew

ruffling his hair. Then with his tranquil hand

wounding my neck, I knew

nothing: my senses flew

at touch of peace too deep to understand.

Quedéme y olvidéme,

el rostro recliné sobre el amado,

cesó todo, y dejéme,

dejando mi cuidado

entre las azucenas olvidado.

Forgetting all, my quest

ended, I stayed lost to myself at last.

All ceased: my face was pressed

upon my Love, at rest,

with all my cares among the lilies cast.

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The Living Flame of Love (La llama de amor viva)

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¡Oh llama de amor viva

que tiernamente hieres

de mi alma en el más profundo centro,

pues ya no eres esquiva,

acaba ya si quieres;

rompe la tela deste dulce encuentro!

Flame, living flame, compelling,

yet tender past all telling,

reaching the secret centre of my soul!

Since now evasion’s over,

finish your work, my Lover,

break the last thread, wound me and make me whole!

¡Oh cauterio süave!

¡Oh regalada llaga!

¡Oh mano blanda! ¡Oh toque delicado

que a vida eterna sabe

y toda deuda paga;

matando, muerte en vida la has trocado!

Burn that is for my healing!

Wound of delight past feeling!

Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,

foretaste of heaven conveying

and every debt repaying:

killing, you give me life for death’s distress.

¡Oh lámparas de fuego

en cuyos resplandores

las profundas cavernas del sentido,

que estaba oscuro y ciego,

con extraños primores

color y luz dan junto a su querido!

O lamps of fire bright-burning

with splendid brilliance, turning

deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!

Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,

now their strange new-found glowing

gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.

¡Cuán manso y amoroso

recuerdas en mi seno

donde secretamente solo moras

y en tu aspirar sabroso

de bien y gloria lleno

cuán delicadamente me enamoras!

Ah, gentle and so loving

you wake within me, proving

that you are there in secret and alone;

your fragrant breathing stills me,

your grace, your glory fills me

so tenderly your love becomes my own.

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Read for the Matheson Trust by Judith Pena and Guy Ogilvy.
This library item is part of our Mystical Poetry Collection.