Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Dark Night Of The Soul

This last instalment, The Dark Night of the Soul, is probably my favourite from her album, The Mask and Mirror - both lyrically and musically.

The "secret stair" in the lyrics has less to do with a staircase in a monastery, but perhaps more to do with the popular theme of lovers meeting for a late night romantic tryst. In order for this to be possible, the young maiden of the song or poem would have to sneak out of the house, by the "secret stair."

This metaphor is used for the soul in prayer who, by means of contemplation, steals away from the world unnoticed, to meet in loving relationship with God. The dark night refers to the soul's search for God, beyond the confines of the human definitions we have put upon God.

In her liner notes, McKennitt writes:

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 of 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.

The Dark Night Of The Soul

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 Lover's 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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The key to sincerity is Qiyaamullail, because only the sincere wake and stand when others are lying asleep."

[Al-Imam Al-Haddad]