Where have you fled and vanished,
Beloved, since you left me here to moan?
Deer-like you leaped; then, banished
and wounded by my own,
I followed you with cries, but you had flown.

Shepherds, if you discover,
going about this knoll to tend your sheep,
the dwelling of that lover
whose memory I keep,
tell him I sicken unto death and weep.

To seek him, I shall scour
these trackless woods to where the rivers flow”
not stop to pick a flower,
not run from beasts”but go
past every fort and border that I know.

O forests darkly glooming,
seeded by my beloved’s very hand!
O pasture richly blooming,
you flower-jeweled band!
I beg you, say if he has crossed your land.

Yes, with his thousand graces
streaming from him, he crossed these groves with speed,
and, glancing at these places”
with no more word or deed”
left them in his own beauty liveried.

Alas, who can content me?
Give yourself up to me, at last, entire;
nor send, as you have sent me,
those messengers you hire
who cannot tell me all that I desire.

And those who pass make clamor,
your thousand graces to my ear relaying,
wound me with words they stammer,
and kill me, ill-conveying
the who-knows-what that baffles all their saying.

But how do you persever,
O life! in life not living, as you do,
pursued to death forever
by arrows that strike true,
aimed by that love the lover sows in you?
And why, having arrived
home to my heart, not heal it with relieving?
Why, since you have deprived
me of it, leave it grieving,
rather than grasp the plunder of your thieving?

Extinguish all my plight,
since there is none but you alone to do it;
Be present to my sight,
Since you alone renew it,
and you alone, when seen, give value to it.

Be present, drop your veil,
and let me die your beauty apprehending;
this grief that makes me pale
with love, can have no ending
without your presence, every joy transcending.

O crystal fountain flowing,
if in your silver stream I might discern
them there, suddenly glowing”
those eyes that make me burn,
deep in my heart inscribed”for which I yearn!

Turn them, Beloved, from me,
or I must fly to find you!
Turn, my dove,
love’s wound has overcome me;
Deer-like, I stand above,
cooled by the breezes stirred by wings of love.

My lover is the highlands,
he is the wooded valleys lone and deep,
the far, mysterious islands,
the streams that sing and leap,
whispering winds that court the fields they sweep,

the night whose stillness pleases
and ushers morning and the rising sun,
silence whose music eases,
music from silence spun,
and supper that delights when day is done.

Hunt the quick foxes finding
our vineyard, where the tender shoots abound,
while we make garlands, binding
the stems of roses round,
and let no man be seen on the high ground.

Halt, you North wind, death-maker;
now come, wind from the South, by love beguiled,
breathe on my flowered acre,
spreading your fragrance mild,
and my Lover shall graze where blooms grow wild.

O, you Judean maidens!
Now that the rosetrees and the garden’s flowers
with rich perfume are laden,
keep to your distant bowers
and do not tread these thresholds that are ours.

My dear one, hide, take shelter,
turn your face to the hills that stand in rows,
and speak not; see the welter
of maids about her where she goes,
wandering the strange islands no one knows.

Birds who fly hither lightly,
you lions, fawns, and leaping fallow deer,
woods, vales, and rivers sprightly,
winds, waters, heats that sear,
and terrors that surround the night with fear:

By lyres and their soft sighing
I do beseech you, by the sirens’ song:
silence your angry crying,
halt where the walls rise strong,
to keep the sleeping bride secure from wrong.

The bride has come to rest in
the pleasant garden’s most alluring space,
and at her ease to nest in
her quiet leaning place,
within the sweetness of the groom’s embrace.

Under the apple boughs,
there did I take you when our troth was plighted,
there gave my hand and vows,
and there you were requited,
where once your mother was abased and slighted.

Our marriage-couch, made festive
with flowers, with lion’s grottoes posted round,
all purple-hung, suggestive
of peace within it bound,
and with a thousand golden emblems crowned.

There where your steps precede them,
the maidens follow in an eager line
where torches lead them,
and the spiced wine,
and the balsamic scent of the divine.

In my Beloved’s cellar
I drank, and after tasting from his store,
wandered those fields, a dweller
in bliss, and cared no more
for the lost flocks that were my care before.

There at his breast he fed me,
there taught me knowledge sweet, with pleasure rife;
there where he led me
I gave myself for life
entirely, and pledged to be his wife.

My soul, in his employment,
spends all its wealth, forsakes its own affairs;
no flocks provide enjoyment,
no task, but that which bears
on love alone, and on no other cares.

If, where the flocks are feeding,
from this day forth I am no longer found,
say Love is leading
me a dizzy round,
and I have let myself be lost”and bound.

We shall weave emeralds, flowers
picked when the earliest rays of morning shine,
garlands grown by the powers
of your own love, to twine
about a single strand, a hair of mine.

One hair you chanced to note,
about my neck, that did your glance awaken.
You glimpsed it at my throat,
were snared and shaken,
and wounded by my eye and wholly taken.

Whenever you beheld me,
your eyes imprinted all their graces there,
mastered and quelled me;
and my eyes earned their share:
to worship all in you that sight laid bare.

Do not, I beg, despise
the swarthy skin in which your sight first knew me;
look on me now: your eyes
have scattered through me
the beauty of the gaze with which you drew me.

That snowy little dove
bearing the branch back to the ark is flying”
the turtle, high above”
happily spying
on the green banks the Love for which she’s sighing.

She once lived lonely,
and now, alone, has settled in her nest,
guided alone and only
by One she loves the best,
who, wounded for love’s sake, has come to rest.

Let us find joy together,
Beloved, in your beauty find our looks
reflected, whether
on hills or in pure brooks;
let us go deep into those wooded nooks.

Then to high, hidden
crevices in stony desert waste”
caves none can find unbidden”
we’ll go, untraced,
where pomegranate wine is ours to taste.

You would delight me, showing
me, there, those things my spirit yearns to know,
and later by bestowing,
O Love I treasure so!
what first you gave to me some days ago.

Air, in its even breathing;
the song sweet Philomel sings in her flight;
the grove, its peace bequeathing
to gentle night,
with flames consuming all in painless light.

And none to apprehend it;
Aminadab quite gone, without a trace;
the siege quietly ended,
horsemen halting their race,
dismounting near the waters of that place.

Articles by St. John of the Cross, translated by Rhina P. Espaillat

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