The Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul

- Poem by Saint John of the Cross, adapted into a song by Loreena McKennitt

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

oh 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


Within my pounding heart

which kept itself entirely for him

He fell into his sleep

beneath the cedars all my love I gave

And by the fortress walls

the wind would brush his hair against his brow

And with its smoothest hand

caressed my every sense it would allow


I lost myself to him

and laid my face upon my lovers breast

And care and grief grew dim

as in the mornings 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


Loreena writes in the CD booklet about this song:

May, 1993 - Stratford ... have been reading through the poetry of 15th century Spain, and I find myself drawn to one by the mystic writer and visionary St. John of the Cross; the untitled work is an exquisite, richly metaphoric love poem between himself and his god. It could pass as a love poem between any two at any time ... His approach seems more akin to early Islamic or Judaic works in its more direct route to communication to his god ... I have gone over three different translations of the poem, and am struck by how much a translation can alter our interpretation. Am reminded that most holy scriptures come to us in translation, resulting in a diversity of views.

Music by Loreena McKennitt

Lyrics by St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz), arr. and adapted by Loreena McKennitt

From: The mask and mirror (1994).