Que bien se yo la fonte que mane y corre,

San Juan de la Cruz, using poetry here to expound on faith. In his case, of course, Catholic faith, but I think the same mechanisms and ideas must apply to all faiths, although this is not a complete description. The poem is more than a description, it is a celebration of the joys and fulfillingness of having and expressing faith. As the title suggests, the poet’s soul is singing.

Cantar del alma que se huelga conoscer a Dios por fe

Qué bien sé yo la fonte que mane y corre,
aunque es de noche.

Aquella eterna fonte está escondida,
que bien sé yo do tiene su manida,
aunque es de noche.

Su origen no lo sé, pues no le tiene,
mas sé que todo origen de ella tiene,
aunque es de noche.

Sé que no puede ser cosa tan bella,
y que cielos y tierra beben de ella,
aunque es de noche.

Bien sé que suelo en ella no se halla,
y que ninguno puede vadealla,
aunque es de noche.

Su claridad nunca es oscurecida,
y sé que toda luz de ella es venida,
aunque es de noche.

Sé ser tan caudalosos sus corrientes.
que infiernos, cielos riegan y las gentes,
aunque es de noche.

El corriente que nace de esta fuente
bien sé que es tan capaz y omnipotente,
aunque es de noche.

El corriente que de estas dos procede
sé que ninguna de ellas le precede,
aunque es de noche.

Aquesta eterna fonte está escondida
en este vivo pan por darnos vida,
aunque es de noche.

Aquí se está llamando a las criaturas,
y de esta agua se hartan, aunque a oscuras
porque es de noche.

Aquesta viva fuente que deseo,
en este pan de vida yo la veo,
aunque es de noche.

From <http://www.oshogulaab.com/MISTICOSCRISTIANOS/sanjuancruz6.htm&gt;

The poem is organized in a series of three line stanzas, apart from the first, which is just two lines. The first two lines set up the structure of the whole poem with the contrast between what the poet knows (the spring which gives forth running water ie God), and the darkness of night. So, in the darkness, it is only faith which can bring knowledge of the divine and the elements of divine creation.

Each of the following stanzas is an illustration of this in three lines, with the repetition of “aunque es de noche” emphasizing the message and binding together the structure of the poem. The extended metaphor is that God or divine creation is a well or spring from which emerges all that is good, beautiful, vibrant and life-giving. And the only way to experience this is through faith, since it is always night and only faith can counter darkness and ignorance.

The poet’s faith is expressed as knowledge, with the repetition of “I know” throughout the poem. For him, faith is a matter of personal discovery through introspection, not a doctrine imposed by external authority. This is the aspect of St. John of the Cross which makes his poetry very human and accessible, despite him writing at a time and in a place when and where the imposition of Catholic religious dogma caused much suffering and oppression (this was the age when the Spanish Inquisition was very active.)

The Poetry Dude


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