Feast of St. John of the Cross

December 14, 2007

One Darkest Night

One darkest night I went,
aflame with love’s devouring eager burning–
O fortunate event!–
no witnesses discerning,
the house now still from which my steps were turning.

Hidden by darkness, bent
on flight, disguised, down secret steps sojourning–
O fortunate event!–
Hidden by dark, and yearning,
the house now still from which my steps were turning;

In that most blissful night,
in secrecy, since none had seen my going,
nor did I pause for sight,
nor had I light, for showing
the route, but that which in my heart was glowing.

This only did the guiding,
surer than the blaze when noonday shone,
to where he was abiding–
who was to me well known–
where we would be together and alone.

O night that led me true,
O night more fair than morning’s earliest shining,
O night that wrought from two–
lover, beloved entwining–
beloved and lover one in their combining!
On my new-flowered breast,
to him alone and wholly sanctified,
he leaned and lay at rest;
his pleasure was my guide,
and cedars to the wind their scent supplied.

Down from the tower, breezes
came, while soft fingers winnowed through his hair;
a touch that wounds and pleases
caressed my throat with air,
leaving every sense suspended there.

I stayed, all else forgetting,
inclined toward the beloved, face to face;
all motion halted, letting
care vanish with no trace,
forgotten in the lilies of that place.

— St. John of the Cross
(Translated by Rhina P. Espaillat)

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