¡Oh hermosura que excedéis

This is a fabulous poem from Santa Teresa de Avila, the seventeenth century Spanish mystic poet and saint. We have to assume that it is a poem of religious ecstasy, but it conveys wonderfully any sense of being overwhelmed by beauty and transcendence from any source. The beauty that goes beyond is the title, and it really does take the reader beyond any conventional notions of beauty with its accelerating rhythm, its tightly compact sequences of paradoxical opposites all leading up to the powerful final conclusion in the last line.

¡Oh hermosura que excedéis!

Santa Teresa de Ávila

¡Oh hermosura que excedéis
a todas las hermosuras!
Sin herir dolor hacéis,
y sin dolor deshacéis,
el amor de las criaturas.

Oh ñudo que así juntáis
dos cosas tan desiguales,
no sé por qué os desatáis,
pues atado fuerza dais
a tener por bien los males.

Juntáis quien no tiene ser
con el Ser que no se acaba;
sin acabar acabáis,
sin tener que amar amáis,
engrandecéis nuestra nada.

From <http://www.ciudadseva.com/textos/poesia/esp/avila/oh_hermosura_que_excedeis.htm&gt;

You have to marvel at how much Santa Teresa packs in to such a short poem, fifteen brief lines (short but not a sonnet, for once). The first stanza elevates the beauty that is the subject of the poem above all other beauties and reinforces the notion with a couple of opposing paradoxes on pain and injury. The second stanza describes the binding together of two unequal things and again there is a tour de force of wordplay around the notions of tying and untying the knots that bind. The final stanza contrasts the human with the divine being as completely apart but joined by the beauty that is experienced. The final three lines are especially masterful with the double paradox and then the magnificent final line – “you magnify our nothingness” – a resounding climax to the fabulous build up that precedes it.

Seventeenth century baroque poetry at its best.

The Poetry Dude


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