From the Basement

May 24, 2010

The Dark Night of the Soul

So it was called by St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic and Catholic monk; that state when a person perceives their soul to be so unworthy and unclean that even God has turned his back. Julia Kristeva, a literary theorist pontificating during the theory heyday of the 1960s-80s, called it abjection, or the state of being cast off. Either phrase works for me.

It’s where I’ve been for the last few days. I’ve been struggling with feelings of abjection for the last few months; last night and today were wretched. I’m starting to come out a bit, but I want to post the lyrics to a song by Loreena McKennitt entitled “The Dark Night of the Soul”; lyrics are taken directly from the poem of the same title composed St. John of the Cross hundreds of years ago.

Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire t’was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other
Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
From o’er the fortress walls
the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lover’s breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the morning’s mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

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