The Dark Night of the Soul

St John Of the Cross

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.

The Dark Night of the Soul

Dark Night of the Soul is the title given to a poem by 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. The poem was originally untitled. The journey is referred to as “The Dark Night” as darkness is symbolic of the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable.

John of the Cross was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila,  a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He is best known for his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul, which are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature.

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