Friday, August 30, 2013

That Fountain, Filling, Running, Although It Is The Night.

The sad news this morning of the death of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

I hadn't thought about it quite this way until this morning but I've been a reader of his for decades.  His voice has been a  steady presence in my life and I'm grateful for his writing and the witness of it, especially during the 'Troubles' in the north of Ireland.  

The eleventh canto from his 1984 poem "Station Island" is one of my favorite poems by him.  For me, it is a poetic meditation not only on the poetry of St. John of the Cross but on the fathomless depths of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, that overflowing wellspring of life and love. 

As if the prisms of the kaleidoscope
I plunged once in a butt of muddied water
surfaced like a marvelous lightship
and out of its silted crystals a monk's face
that had spoken years ago from behind a grille
spoke again about the need and chance
to salvage everything, to re-envisage
the zenith and glimpsed jewels of any gift
mistakenly abased...
What came to nothing could always be replenished.
'Read poems as prayers,' he said, 'and for your penance
translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.'
Now his sandalled passage stirred me to this:
How well I know that fountain, filling, running,
although it is the night.
That eternal fountain, hidden away,
I know its haven and its secrecy
although it is the night.
But not its source because it does not have one,
which is all sources' source and origin
although it is the night.
No other thing can be so beautiful.
Here the earth and heaven drink their fill
although it is the night.
So pellucid it never can be muddied,
and I know that all light radiates from it
although it is the night.
I know no sounding-line can find its bottom,
nobody ford or plumb its deepest fathom
although it is the night.
And its current so in flood it overspills
to water hell and heaven and all peoples
although it is the night.
And the current that is generated there
as far as it wills to, it can flow that far
although it is the night.
And from these two a third current proceeds
which neither of these two, I know, precedes
although it is the night.
Here it calling out to every creature.
And they drink these waters, although it is dark here
because it is the night.
I am repining for this living fountain.
Within this bread of life I see it plain
although it is the night.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Charles, that is a lovely translation of St. John of the Cross's poem: Song of the Soul that Rejoices in Knowing God Through Faith"