Vivo sin vivir en mí 

Here is a mystical religious poem, befitting a Catholic saint, but which is just as remarkable for its mastery of Baroque poetic techniques as it is for the expression of religious searching which is at the heart of this poem. The title refers to verses of a soul which is yearning to see God, and hence the poem sets out the paradox of living physically without spiritual fulfillment, and being in a state like death because death has not come to the poet. The first three lines, placed between the title and the first numbered stanza, establish this theme; the eight stanzas which follow deepen the exploration of this paradox of the journey of faith.

Coplas del alma que pena por ver a Dios.

Vivo sin vivir en mí
y de tal manera espero,
que muero porque no muero.

1. En mí yo no vivo ya,
y sin Dios vivir no puedo;
pues sin él y sin mí quedo,
este vivir ¿qué será?
Mil muertes se me hará,
pues mi misma vida espero,
muriendo porque no muero.

2. Esta vida que yo vivo
es privación de vivir;
y así, es continuo morir
hasta que viva contigo.
Oye, mi Dios, lo que digo:
que esta vida no la quiero,
que muero porque no muero.

3. Estando ausente de ti
¿qué vida puedo tener,
sino muerte padecer
la mayor que nunca vi?
Lástima tengo de mí,
pues de suerte persevero,
que muero, porque no muero.

4. El pez que del agua sale
aun de alivio no carece,
que en la muerte que padece
al fin la muerte le vale.
¿Qué muerte habrá que se iguale
a mi vivir lastimero,
pues si más vivo más muero?

5. Cuando me pienso aliviar
de verte en el Sacramento,
háceme más sentimiento
el no te poder gozar;
todo es para más penar
por no verte como quiero,
y muero porque no muero.

6. Y si me gozo, Señor,
con esperanza de verte,
en ver que puedo perderte
se me dobla mi dolor;
viviendo en tanto pavor
y esperando como espero,
muérome porque no muero.

7. ¡Sácame de aquesta muerte
mi Dios, y dame la vida;
no me tengas impedida
en este lazo tan fuerte;
mira que peno por verte,
y mi mal es tan entero,
que muero porque no muero.

8. Lloraré mi muerte ya
y lamentaré mi vida,
en tanto que detenida
por mis pecados está.
¡Oh mi Dios!, ¿cuándo será
cuando yo diga de vero:
vivo ya porque no muero?

From < Coplas del alma que pena por ver a Dios.>

It is almost a dizzying sequence of illustrations that the poet’s life is like death as long as he does not find the constant presence of God, in which case death would be like the coming of life. The impression is of a hall of mirrors in which no image is fixed, nothing is certain, and there is danger and despair on every side. The tour de force of the repeated imagery of paradox has a cumulative effect, each illustration building on the previous ones, with the repetition of the last line of each stanza, not always in a completely identical form, holds the poem together, bringing it back constantly to the core idea. It is only at the end of the final stanza that the end game is revealed, the poet’s ultimate wish – when will he be able to truly proclaim that he is alive because he is not dead – and because of all that has gone before we, the readers can provide the answer – when his soul is suffused with the presence of God even in the midst of life.

An exceptional poem, by a deeply religious man who is not afraid to explore faith, to wrestle with doubt and despair and make beauty from it. A saint indeed.

The Poetry Dude


2 thoughts on “Vivo sin vivir en mí 

  1. Dude,
    Beautiful poem indeed with deep meaning to those of the Christian faith especially.
    But worthwhile to realise that the poet was St. Teresea ( of Avila ) who I am pretty sure was not a man.
    Adds another level of complexity don’t you think?


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