The beauty that can be eyed
will never be my undoing,
but rather what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

The taste of what can’t endure
does no more, when it’s diminished
desire, than make impure
the palate, whose joys are finished;
sweets whose sweet cannot abide
will never be my undoing,
but rather what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

A generous heart disdains
to loiter where travel’s restful:
it prefers to take the stressful
route, where, beset by pains,
it will not be turned aside
from its undeterred pursuing
of what it knows, without viewing,
only fortune can provide.

He who knows the pain of love
by the divine hand ignited
finds himself no more delighted
by tastes he has wearied of,
as the sick man, satisfied
with no mess of potage stewing,
hungers for what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

Do not find it strange to learn
such a taste can so persever;
so unlike all else whatever
is the food for which you yearn
that all creatures far and wide
are torn from themselves with ruing
the lack of what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

For if once the will has known
the touch of the true divine,
for nothing less can it pine
than divinity alone.
Such beauty cannot be spied
but by faith itself, close hewing
to delights that, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

Tell me, then, how such a lover
should not give you grief to bear,
since no substance does he wear”
no form or feature for cover”
of all who on earth reside,
kinship and support eschewing,
seeking for what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

Do not believe that the core,
whose value is so much higher,
finds the joy that lights desire
in what here we hunger for:
present beauty”and, beside,
past and future, all accruing”
is less than what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

Better does he swell his hoard
who labors for future reaping,
than one more busy with heaping
harvest he has lately stored.
Therefore to be magnified
I am ever up and doing,
to gain the prize beyond viewing
only fortune can provide.

Which is why I take my stand
that what our senses perceive
as beauty”though we believe
it fair and pronounce it grand”
the beauty that can be eyed
will never be my undoing,
but rather what, beyond viewing,
only fortune can provide.

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

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