En una noche oscura

Today we have a poem by St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz), the Spanish priest from the mid-16th century who became a saint. He was a religious mystic, seeking God through reflection and introspection and he produced some of the finest poetry in a century when there were many fine poets writing in Spanish. This poem is very clever as you can read it both as a metaphor for the religious experience or as a description of an illicit encounter between two lovers. The rhythms and repetitions create a momentum which carries the reader along, while the opening stanzas also create a suspense which grabs the reader’s attention. I recommend reading this poem silently and aloud to enjoy the words and the rhythms which make up this beautiful poem.

En una noche oscura
con ansias en amores inflamada
¡oh dichosa ventura!
salí sin ser notada
estando ya mi casa sosegada,

a oscuras y segura
por la secreta escala disfrazada,
¡oh dichosa ventura!
a oscuras y en celada
estando ya mi casa sosegada.

En la noche dichosa
en secreto que nadie me veía
ni yo miraba cosa
sin otra luz y guía
sino la que en el corazón ardía.

Aquesta me guiaba
más cierto que la luz del mediodía
adonde me esperaba
quien yo bien me sabía
en sitio donde nadie aparecía.

¡Oh noche, que guiaste!
¡Oh noche amable más que la alborada!
¡Oh noche que juntaste
amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!

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.

El aire de la almena
cuando yo sus cabellos esparcía
con su mano serena
y en mi cuello hería
y todos mis sentidos suspendía.

Quedéme y olvidéme
el rostro recliné sobre el amado;
cesó todo, y dejéme
dejando mi cuidado
entre las azucenas olvidado.

From <http://www.los-poetas.com/f/cruz1.htm&gt;

The sense of suspense is established immediately as the first stanza describes someone creeping out of their house in the dead of night. This is carried on in the next two stanzas where suspense is joined by growing excitement indicated by the adjectives and exclamations. This is an adventure of illicit love as the protagonist finally meets the loved one and they embrace under the stars with the wind blowing through their hair, and all cares are forgotten.

But the whole description is also a metaphor for the search for transcendental religious experience and finding inner peace through Christ, made understandable to readers through the analogy with the rapture of physical love.

In either sense, this is a beautiful poem, and I am very pleased to share it.

The Poetry Dude

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