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St. John of the Cross Poem: A Brief Analysis on Dark Night Of the Soul

Updated on March 19, 2013

St. John of the Cross ( 1524-1591)

St. John of the Cross was a Carmelite monk named Juan de Yepes y Alvarez born on June 24, 1524. He was a mystic, priest, and a major figure of the Counter Reformation movement. As a devout friar, and a reformer of the Carmelite Order, he is viewed as one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites.

He was ordained as priest in 1567, and worked as a helper for Saint Teresa until December 2, 1577 when he was taken prisoner by his superiors. His work toward reform had upset the status quo and he suffered a brutal experience that included whipings and severe isolation. During his incarceration he composed part of his famous poem Spiritual Canticle, and his ordeal and spiritual faith became evident in his subsequential work. He died on December 14, 1591 and was canonized 1726 by Benedict Xlll.

His poetry and writings are important pieces of mystical Spanish literature, and St. John is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. In his works, St John describes and outlines the steps of mystical ascent, a process that leads one from the world of distractions to the reunion of the soul and God, and ultimate peace

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Dark Night of The Soul

Dark Night Of the Soul

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.


A brief Analysis

"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"

In this moment of the poem, the narrator has been struck by the beloved, and this line describes his reaction. Despite being momentary dazed, he remains by the "beloved's" side.

Knowing that this poem is the description for the spiritual suffering one experiences in their quest to become closer to a divine power and purged of sin; the imagery is very powerful.

Spiritual love between humanity and divinity is represented as physical love, God as the beloved, and the faithful as the lover. The Lover seeks out his Beloved, and once found, he is struck and dazed by the one he sought out. Despite this, he remains, fully giving himself, surrendering to the moment ( divinity ) and releasing his cares to the world.

To me this entire poem represents faith.

This poem remind me a lot about the New Thought Movement, and the beliefs they hold, and I wonder how many similarities between their beliefs and that of St. John of the Cross exist.


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      bill Jr oliver 2 years ago

      Love dark night