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CRUZ, Juan de la

Dark Night of the Soul

One dark night,

fired with love’s urgent longings

— ah, the sheer grace! —

I went out unseen,

my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,

by the secret ladder, disguised,

— ah, the sheer grace! —

in darkness and concealment,

my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,

in secret, for no one saw me,

nor did I look at anything,

with no other light or guide

than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me

more surely than the light of noon

to where he was awaiting me

— him I knew so well —

there in a place where no one appeared.

O guiding night!

O night more lovely than the dawn!

O night that has united

the Lover with his beloved,

transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Upon my flowering breast

which I kept wholly for him alone,

there he lay sleeping,

and I caressing him

there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

When the breeze blew from the turret,

as I parted his hair,

it wounded my neck

with its gentle hand,

suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,

laying my face on my Beloved;

all things ceased; I went out from myself,

leaving my cares

forgotten among the lilies.

O flame of living love

O flame of living love,

that at its deepest centre

wounds now my soul with tenderness!

Since you no more remove,

end then, if you intend to;

tear now the veil of mutual sweetness!

O cautery so sweet!

O wound’s caress!

O soothing hand! O delicate the touching,

that signals life complete,

pays every debt,

changes death to life in its ending!

O fiery light,

in whose resplendencies

deep caves of purest feeling,

that once were eyeless night,

with rarest beauties

shed warmth and light on the loving.

How lovingly, how gently

you return now to my breast

where you live all secret and alone

and filled with virtue’s glory

how your sweetest breath

delicately pierces to the bone!