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10 years ago  ::  Feb 17, 2008 - 11:42AM #1
Posts: 124
In the face of the great and beautiful mysteries of God which contemplatives long to apprehend and be penetrated by normal language often seems a pedestrian and inadequate way to capture and reproduce their essence. Poetry then is often associated in various ways with the mystical experience as a way of trying to hold the quicksilver of God in the hand of speech.

Scripture itself contains a beautiful and striking collection of poems much loved by many Christian contemplatives and mystics, the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon or Canticle of Canticles). Tradition sees at least four levels of meaning in each part of this lovely work, the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical (or unitive sense). Many Commentaries have been written on this, most famously by Bernard of Clairvaux

Sometimes the intellect can merely pause in wonder over inspired scripture, Chapter 6

[COLOR="DarkRed"]1 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the bed of aromatical spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
2 I to my beloved, and my beloved to me, who feedeth among the lilies.
3 Thou art beautiful, O my love, sweet and comely as Jerusalem: terrible as an army set in array.
4 Turn away thy eyes from me, for they have made me flee away. Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Galaad.
5 Thy teeth as a flock of sheep, which come up from the washing, all with twins, and there is none barren among them.
6 Thy cheeks are as the bark of a pomegranate, beside what is hidden within thee.
7 There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and young maidens without number.
8 One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. The daughters saw her, and declared her most blessed: the queens and concubines, and they praised her.
9 Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?
10 I went down into the garden of nuts, to see the fruits of the valleys, and to look if the vineyard had flourished, and the pomegranates budded.

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10 years ago  ::  Feb 17, 2008 - 11:45AM #2
Posts: 124
The Carmelite Saint John of the Cross expressed his own mystical perceptions in poetry of rare quality. See Stanzas concerning an ecstasy experienced in high contemplation.-

[COLOR="Green"]I entered into unknowing,
and there I remained unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

1. I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

2. That perfect knowledge
was of peace and holiness
held at no remove
in profound solitude;
it was something so secret
that I was left stammering,
transcending all knowledge.

3. I was so 'whelmed,
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

4. He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

5. The higher he ascends
the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark
which lit up the night;
whoever knows this
remains always in unknowing
transcending all knowledge. ...[/COLOR]
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 17, 2008 - 11:49AM #3
Posts: 124
The Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins on the other hand often had glimpses of the transcendent power behind the visible beauties of the world.
THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.   
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;   
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil   
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?   
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;            
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;   
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil   
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.   

And for all this, nature is never spent;   
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;            
And though the last lights off the black West went   
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—   
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent   
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.   
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10 years ago  ::  Feb 17, 2008 - 12:22PM #4
Posts: 124
While reciting this poem by George Herbert the philosopher Simone Weil had a remarkable encounter with the Divinity

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
        Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        "Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
        "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
        So I did sit and eat.

She recounts it here … weil.shtml

     "In 1938 I spent ten days at Solesmes, from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday, following all the liturgical services. I was suffering from splitting headaches; each sound hurt me like a blow; by an extreme effort of concentration I was able to rise above this wretched flesh, to leave it to suffer by itself, heaped up in a corner, and to find a pure and perfect joy in the unimaginable beauty of the chanting and the words. This experience enabled me by analogy to get a better understanding of the possibility of loving divine love in the midst of affliction. It goes without saying that in the course of these services the thought of the Passion of Christ entered into my being once and for all. 
    There was a young English Catholic there from whom I gained my first idea of the supernatural power of the sacraments because of the truly angelic radiance with which he seemed to be clothed after going to communion. Chance -- for I always prefer saying chance rather than Providence -- made of him a messenger to me. For he told me of the existence of those English poets of the seventeenth century who are named metaphysical. In reading them later on, I discovered the poem of which I read you what is unfortunately a very inadequate translation. It is called "Love". I learned it by heart. Often, at the culminating point of a violent headache, I make myself say it over, concentrating all my attention upon it and clinging with all my soul to the tenderness it enshrines. I used to think I was merely reciting it as a beautiful poem, but without my knowing it the recitation had the virtue of a prayer. It was during one of these recitations that, as I told you, Christ himself came down and took possession of me...Moreover, in this sudden possession of me by Christ, neither my senses nor my imagination had any part; I only felt in the midst of my suffering the presence of a love, like that which one can read in the smile on a beloved face.
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