This is the complete original version of the Spiritual Canticle, by Saint John of the Cross, including the translation into english. It is one of the most beatiful and profound poems ever written in spanish. The Canticle has two versions. This is version B, composed of forty stanzas. In version A, the order of the stanzas -only 39- is slightly different.  But the meaning of both is the same: they tell of the way which the soul must follow in order to be one with its Beloved, which is God.

After the text, I include some brief notes. They are obviously insufficient for such a deep and complex text. The reader must be aware of the fact that, for each one of the versions of the Canticle, John of the Cross wrote two long writings in prose-more than two hundred pages each- in order to explain the spiritual and mystical meaning of the poem.

Not to tell that the original rythm and music of the poem are very difficult to find in the translation. Anyway, for the reader who has some knowledge of the spanish language, the translation will help him greatly in order to discover that magnificent harmony an identify it with the meaning of the poem.

SAN JUAN DE LA CRUZ – SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS

Canciones entre el alma y el Esposo – Stanzas between the soul and the Bridegroom  conocidas con el nombre de – known as

CANTO ESPIRITUAL – THE SPIRITUAL CANTICLE

Edward Burne-Jones – Sponsa de Libano (1891) – wikipaintings.org

 

ESPOSA
1. ¿Adónde te escondiste,
Amado, y me dejaste con gemido?
Como el ciervo huiste,
habiéndome herido;
salí tras ti clamando y eras ido.
BRIDE
1. Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
2. Pastores los que fuerdes
allá por las majadas al otero,
si por ventura vierdes
aquel que yo más quiero.
decidle que adolezco, peno y muero.
2. Shepherds, you who go up
through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see him I love most,
tell him I am sick,
I suffer, and I die.
3. Buscando mis amores
iré por esos montes y riberas;
ni cogeré las flores
ni temeré las fieras,
y pasaré los fuertes y fronteras.
3. Seeking my Love
I will head for the mountains and for watersides,
I will not gather flowers,
nor fear wild beasts;
I will go beyond strong men and frontiers.
PREGUNTA A LAS CRIATURAS
4. ¡Oh bosques y espesuras
plantadas por la mano del Amado!
¡oh prado de verduras
de flores esmaltado!,
decid si por vosotros ha pasado.
QUESTIONS TO THE CREATURES
4. O woods and thickets,
planted by the hand of my Beloved!
O green meadow,
coated, bright, with flowers,
tell me, has he passed by you?
RESPUESTA DE LAS CRIATURAS
5. Mil gracias derramando
pasó por estos sotos con presura
y, yéndolos mirando,
con sola su figura
vestidos los dejó de hermosura.
ANSWER OF THE CREATURES
5. Pouring out a thousand graces,
he passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
with his image alone,
clothed them in beauty.
ESPOSA
6. ¡Ay!, ¿quién podrá sanarme?
Acaba de entregarte ya de vero;
no quieras enviarme
de hoy más ya mensajero,
que no saben decirme lo que quiero.
THE BRIDE
6. Ah, who has the power to heal me?
now wholly surrender yourself!
Do not send me
any more messengers,
they cannot tell me what I must hear.
7. Y todos cuantos vagan
de ti me van mil gracias refiriendo,
y todos más me llagan,
y déjame muriendo
un no sé qué que quedan balbuciendo.
7. All who are free
tell me a thousand graceful things of you;
all wound me more
and leave me dying
of, ah, I-don’t-know-what behind their stammering.
8. Mas ¿cómo perseveras, ¡oh vida!,
 no viviendo donde vives
 y haciendo porque mueras
 las flechas que recibes
 de lo que del Amado en ti concibes?
8. How do you endure O life,
not living where you live,
and being brought near death
by the arrows you receive
from that which you conceive of your Beloved?
9. ¿Por qué, pues has llagado
 aqueste corazón, no le sanaste?
 Y, pues me le has robado,
 por qué así le dejaste
 y no tomas el robo que robaste?
9. Why, since you wounded this heart,
 don’t you heal it?
 And why, since you stole it from me,
do you leave it so,
and fail to carry off what you have stolen?
10. Apaga mis enojos,
 pues que ninguno basta a deshacellos,
 y véante mis ojos,
 pues eres lumbre dellos,
 y sólo para ti quiero tenellos.
10. Extinguish these miseries,
since no one else can stamp them out;
and may my eyes behold you,
because you are their light,
and I would open them to you alone.
11. Descubre tu presencia,
y máteme tu vista y hermosura;
mira que la dolencia de amor,
que no se cura
sino con la presencia y la figura.
11. Reveal your presence,
and may the vision of your beauty be my death;
for the sickness of love
is not cured except
by your very presence and image.
12. ¡Oh cristalina fuente,
si en esos tus semblantes plateados
formases de repente
los ojos deseados
que tengo en mis entrañas dibujados!
12. O spring like crystal!
If only, on your silvered-over faces,
you would suddenly form the eyes
I have desired,
which I bear sketched deep within my heart.
13. ¡Apártalos, Amado,
que voy de vuelo!
ESPOSO
Vuélvete, paloma,
que el ciervo vulnerado
por el otero asoma
al aIre de tu vuelo, y fresco toma.
13. Withdraw them, Beloved,
I am taking flight!
BRIDEGROOM
Return, dove,
the wounded stag
is in sight on the hill,
cooled by the breeze of your flight.
ESPOSA
14. Mi Amado, las montañas,
los valles solitarios nemorosos,
las ínsulas extrañas,
los ríos sonorosos,
el silbo de los aires amorosos;
BRIDE
14. My Beloved, the mountains,
and lonely wooded valleys,
strange islands,
and resounding rivers,
t
he whistling of love-stirring breezes,
15. la noche sosegada
en par de los levantes de la aurora,
la música callada,
la soledad sonora,
la cena que recrea y enamora.
15. the tranquil night
at the time of the rising dawn,
silent music,
sounding solitude,
the supper that refreshes, and deepens love.
16. Cazadnos las raposas,
que está ya florecida nuestra viña,
en tanto que de rosas
hacemos una piña,
y no parezca nadie en la montiña.
16. Catch us the foxes,
for our vineyard is now in flower,
while we fashion a cone of roses
i
ntricate as the pine’s;
and let no one appear on the hill.
17. Detente, cierzo muerto;
ven, austro, que recuerdas los amores,
aspira por mi huerto
y corran sus olores,
y pacerá el Amado entre las flores.
17. Be still, deadening north wind;
south wind, come, you that waken love,
breathe through my garden,
let its fragrance flow,
and the Beloved will feed amid the flowers.
18. ¡Oh ninfas de Judea!,
en tanto que en las flores y rosales
el ámbar perfumea,
morá en los arrabales
y no queráis tocar nuestros umbrales.
18. You girls of Judea,
while among flowers and roses
the amber spreads its perfume,
stay away, there on the outskirts:
do not so much as seek to touch our thresholds.
19. Escóndete, Carillo,
y mira con tu haz a las montañas
y no quieras decillo;
más mira las compañas
de la que va por ínsulas extrañas.
19. Hide yourself, my love;
turn your face toward the mountains,
and do not speak;
but look at those companions
going with her through strange islands.
ESPOSO
20. A las aves ligeras,
leones, ciervos, gamos, saltadores,
montes, valles, riberas,
aguas, aires, ardores
y miedos de las noches veladores:
BRIDEGROOM
20. Swift-winged birds,
lions, stags, and leaping roes,
mountains, lowlands, and river banks,
waters, winds, and ardors,
watching fears of night:
21. Por las amenas liras
y canto de serenas os conjuro
que cesen vuestras iras
y no toquéis el muro,
por que la esposa duerma más seguro.
21. By the pleasant lyres
and the siren’s song, I conjure you
to cease your anger
and not touch the wall,
that the bride may sleep in deeper peace
22. Entrado se ha la esposa
en el ameno huerto deseado,
y a su sabor reposa,
el cuello reclinado
sobre los dulces brazos del Amado.
22. The bride has entered
the sweet garden of her desire,
and she rests in delight,
laying her neck
o
n the gentle arms of her Beloved.
23. Debajo del manzano,
allí fuiste conmigo desposada,
allí te di la mano,
y fuiste reparada
donde tu madre fuera violada.
23. Beneath the apple tree:
there I took you for my own,
there I offered you my hand,
and restored you,
where your mother was corrupted.
24. Nuestro lecho florido,
de cuevas de leones enlazado,
en púrpura tendido,
de paz edificado,
de mil escudos de oro coronado.
24. Our bed is in flower,
bound round with linking dens of lions,
hung with purple,
built up in peace,
and crowned with a thousand shields of gold.
25. A zaga de tu huella
las jóvenes discurren al camino,
al toque de centella,
al adobado vino
emisiones de bálsamo divino.
25. Following your footprints
maidens run along the way;
the touch of a spark,
the spiced wine,
cause flowings in them from the balsam of God.
ESPOSA
26. En la interior bodega
de mi Amado bebí, y, cuando salía
por toda aquesta vega,
ya cosa no sabía
y el ganado perdí que antes seguía.
BRIDE
26. In the inner wine cellar
I drank of my Beloved, and, when I went abroad
through all this valley
I no longer knew anything,
and lost the herd that I was following.
27. Allí me dío su pecho,
allí me enseño ciencia muy sabrosa,
y yo le di de hecho
a mí sin dejar cosa;
allí le prometí de ser su esposa.
27. There he gave me his breast;
there he taught me a sweet and living knowledge;
and I gave myself to him,
keeping nothing back;
there I promised to be his bride.
28. Mi alma se ha empleado
y todo mi caudal en su servicio;
ya no guardo ganado,
ni ya tengo otro oficio,
que ya sólo en amar es su mi ejercicio.
28. Now I occupy my soul
and all my energy in his service;
I no longer tend the herd,
nor have I any other work
now that my every act is love.
29. Pues ya si en el ejido
de hoy más no fuere vista ni hallada,
diréis que me he perdido,
que andando enamorada,
me hice perdidiza, y fui ganada.
29. If, then, I am no longer seen
or found on the common,
you will say that I am lost;
that, stricken by love,
I lost myself, and was found.
30. De flores y esmeraldas,
en las frescas mañanas escogidas,
haremos las guirnaldas,
en tu amor florecidas
y en un cabello mío entretejidas.
30. With flowers and emeralds
chosen on cool mornings
we shall weave garlands
flowering in your love,
and bound with one hair of mine.
31. En solo aquel cabello
que en mi cuello volar consideraste,
mirástele en mi cuello
y en él preso quedaste,
y en uno de mis ojos te llagaste.
31. You considered that one hair
fluttering at my neck;
you gazed at it upon my neck
and it captivated you;
and one of my eyes wounded you.
32. Cuando tú me mirabas,
su gracia en mi tus ojos imprimían:
por eso me adamabas,
y en eso merecían
los míos adorar lo que en ti vían.
32. When you looked at me
your eyes imprinted your grace in me;
for this you loved me ardently;
and thus my eyes deserved
to adore what they beheld in you.
33. No quieras despreciarme;
que, si color moreno en mí hallaste,
ya bien puedes mirarme
después qu me miraste,
que gracia y hermosura en mí dejaste.
33. Do not despise me;
for if, before, you found me dark,
now truly you can look at me
since you have looked
and left in me grace and beauty.
34. La blanca palomica
al arca con el ramo se ha tornado,
y ya la tortolica
al socio deseado
en las riberas verdes ha hallado.
34. The small white dove
has returned to the ark with an olive branch;
and now the turtledove
has found its longed-for mate
by the green river banks.
35. En soledad vivía
y en soledad ha puesto ya su nido,
y en soledad la guía
a solas su querido,
también en soledad de amor herido.
35. She lived in solitude,
and now in solitude has built her nest;
and in solitude he guides her,
he alone, who also bears
in solitude the wound of love.
36. Gocémonos, Amado,
y vámonos a ver en tu hermosura
al monte y al collado,
do mana el agua pura;
entremos más adentro en la espesura.
36. Let us rejoice, Beloved,
and let us go forth to behold ourselves in your beauty,
to the mountain and to the hill,
to where the pure water flows,
and further, deep into the thicket.
37. Y luego a las subidas
cavernas de piedra nos iremos
que están bien escondidas,
y allí nos entraremos,
y el mosto de granadas gustaremos.
37. And then we will go on
to the high caverns in the rock
which are so well concealed;
there we shall enter
and taste the fresh juice of the pomegranates.
38. Allí me mostrarías
aquello que mi alma pretendía,
y luego me darías
allí tú, vida mía,
aquello que me diste el otro día:
38. There you will show me
what my soul has been seeking,
and then you will give me,
you, my life, will give me there
what you gave me on that other day:
39. El aspirar del aire,
el canto de la dulce filomena,
el soto y su donaire
en la noche serena,
con llama que consume y no da pena.
39. The breathing of the air,
the song of the sweet nightingale,
the grove and its living beauty
in the serene night,
with a flame that is consuming and painless.
40. Que nadie lo miraba …
Aminadab tampoco parecía;
y el cerco sosegaba,
y la caballería
a vista de las aguas descendía.
40. No one looked at her,
nor did Aminadab appear;
the siege was still;
and the cavalry,
at the sight of the waters, descended.


El texto castellano proviene de Obras Completas de San Juan de la Cruz (B.A.C., Madrid 1989). The english translation is found in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, by Kieran Kavanaugh OCD and Otilio Rodríguez, OCD, revised edition 1991.

San Juan de la Cruz

Notes:  

1. These stanzas begin with a person’s initial steps in the service of God and continue until the ultimate state of perfection is reached, which is spiritual marriage. They refer, consequently, to the three states or ways of spiritual exercise (purgative, illuminative, and unitive) through which a person passes in advancing to this state, and they describe some of the characteristics and effects of these ways.

2. The initial stanzas treat of the state of beginners, that of the purgative way. The subsequent ones deal with the state of proficients, in which the spiritual betrothal is effected, that is, the illuminative way. The stanzas following these refer to the unitive way, that of the perfect, where spiritual marriage takes place. This unitive way of the perfect follows the illuminative way of the proficients. The final stanzas speak of the beatific state, that sole aspiration of a person who has reached perfection.

Copyright of the translation: ICS Publications. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this copyright notice is included. Maintained by the Austrian Province of the Teresian Carmel. The icon of St. John of the Cross, whose image is included after the Canticle was painted by the Discalced Carmelites in Harissa (Libano). The pictures were 0riginally printed by Il Messaggero di Gesù Bambino di Praga, Arenzano (Genova), Italy.
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© Lino Althaner