Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Quarry of Love

A free version of St John of the Cross’ poem ‘Tras de un amoroso lance' on which I have been spending quite a bit of time.

Jesses slipping, I rose,
ringing up circles of hope,
rising, rising, to stoop,
to strike my quarry of love.

Hidden by height, unknown,
concealed in cloud, unknowing,
and still rising, rising,
cast off on a quest divine.
With flight feathers failing,
with air thinning, breath straining,
rising, rising, to stoop,
to strike my quarry of love.

Hooded by light, blinded,
at the highest pitch sited,
as if dusk had now fallen,
in radiant darkness,
in a love-fuelled forlornness,
rising, rising, to stoop,
to strike my quarry of love.

Hobbled by night, confined,
resigned to my hunt’s failure,
in self abnegation
calling ‘I cannot go on’,
falling, falling away,
and yet somehow still rising,
rising, rising to stoop,
to strike my quarry of love.

Hallowed by flight ending
in a kill astonishing,
with hope vindicated,
a thousand chances in one.
On fresh-caught love gorging,
still mantled by hope, as when
rising, rising to stoop,
to strike my quarry of love.


In the diligent exercise of mystical contemplation, leave behind the senses and the operation of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being and non-being, that you may arise, by unknowing, towards the union, as far as it is attainable, with him who transcends all being and all knowledge.  For by the unceasing and absolute renunciation of yourself and of all things, you may be borne on high, through pure and entire self-abnegation, into the super-essential radiance of the divine darkness.      ‘The Mystical Theology’ Pseudo-Dionysius (the 6th century tradition the poet is expounding).

Hawking for the heron was regarded as perhaps the noblest and most thrilling form of the sport: the heron with its large wings and light body, could rise in sheer, almost perpendicular rings, and when alarmed would make for the upper air; the falcon, in wide, sweeping circles because of its great weight, strength and speed, would gradually overtake the heron, perhaps in the very clouds, soaring high above to dive for the quarry.      ‘The Poems of St John of the Cross’ John Frederick Nims.

The influence of the popular poetry of Old Castile on John of the Cross... has often been noted... The villancico was a poem with a refrain, often sung, the theme of which was formulated in an envoy, the envoy reappearing, at times in slightly different forms, as refrain...   [He] drew... on the secular poetry of Garcilaso de la Vega... and on its transformation ‘a lo divino’ that Sebastian de Cordoba... published in 1575... [where] Sebastian modified the texts in order to apply to divine love what they said of human love.      ‘Poetry and Contemplation in St John of the Cross’ George H Tavard (and the opening four lines of this poem is borrowed from Garcilaso).

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