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Poems of Saint John of the Cross

Poems of Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591), known as the mystical doctor, was one of the founders of the Order of the Carmelites. With great sensitivity, he drew on his mystical experience to realize his famous poems. Discover three magnificent poems by Saint John of the Cross.

The Dark Night

On a dark night,
 Kindled in love with yearnings

 –oh, happy chance!–

 I went forth without being observed,

 My house being now at rest.

 In darkness and secure,

 By the secret ladder, disguised

 –oh, happy chance!–

 In darkness and in concealment,

 My house being now at rest.


 In the happy night,

 In secret, when none saw me,

 Nor I beheld aught,

 Without light or guide, save that which burned in my


 This light guided me

 More surely than the light of noonday

 To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–

 A place where none appeared.

 Oh, night that guided me,

 Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,

 Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,

 Lover transformed in the Beloved!

 Upon my flowery breast,

 Kept wholly for himself alone,

 There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,

 And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

 The breeze blew from the turret

 As I parted his locks;

 With his gentle hand he wounded my neck

 And caused all my senses to be suspended.

 I remained, lost in oblivion;

 My face I reclined on the Beloved.

 All ceased and I abandoned myself,

 Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

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Living Flame of Love

 O living flame of love
 that tenderly wounds my soul

 in its deepest center! Since

 now you are not oppressive,

 now consummate! if it be your will:

 tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

 O sweet cautery,

 O delightful wound!

 O gentle hand! O delicate touch

 that tastes of eternal life

 and pays every debt!

 In killing you changed death to life.

 O lamps of fire!

 in whose splendors

 the deep caverns of feeling,

 once obscure and blind,

 now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,

 both warmth and light to their Beloved.

 How gently and lovingly

 you wake in my heart,

 where in secret you dwell alone;

 and in your sweet breathing,

 filled with good and glory,

 how tenderly you swell my heart with love. 

Spiritual Canticle

This poem composed of 40 stanzas expresses, like the Songs of Songs in the Bible, the quest for the Beloved and the encounter, with the symbolism of spiritual marriage. Here are the first five stanzas:

Where have You hidden Yourself,
 And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?

 You have fled like the hart,

 Having wounded me.

 I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

 O shepherds, you who go

 Through the sheepcots up the hill,

 If you shall see Him

 Whom I love the most,

 Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.

 In search of my Love

 I will go over mountains and strands;

 I will gather no flowers,

 I will fear no wild beasts;

 And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

 O groves and thickets

 Planted by the hand of the Beloved;

 O verdant meads

 Enameled with flowers,

 Tell me, has He passed by you?

 A thousand graces diffusing

 He passed through the groves in haste,

 And merely regarding them

 As He passed

 Clothed them with His beauty.

The other famous holy poets of Carmel

Many of the great figures of Carmel have developed a talent for poetry and writing in general. The poems of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus are particularly famous. Little Theresa had drawn much inspiration from her spiritual father, Saint John of the Cross, to write her poems. The poems of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (better known by her name Edith Stein) are very profound and inspire meditation.

On Hozana pray with Saints of Carmel

Do the poems of John of the Cross touch you and lead you to pray? With Hozana, discover the most beautiful prayers and poems of the Carmelite saints and pray with them.

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