Not for All the Beauty

by John of the Cross

English version by Antonio T. de Nicolas
Original Language Spanish

(Poem with a Divine Intention)

Not for all the beauty
will I ever be lost,
but for I-know-not-what
that by fortune I may reach.


The taste of what is finite,
Goes only as far
As to weary the appetite
And destroy the taste;
Thus not for sweetness
Will I ever be lost,
But for I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

The generous heart
Never cares to stop
Where it is easy to cross,
But tries where it is hard;
Nothing satisfies him,
And with faith he climbs so high,
That he tastes I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

He who is pierced by love,
Or touched by the divine,
Has his taste so changed
That to all taste he is dead;
As someone may leave
The food he sees when he is sick,
And craves for I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

Do not be surprised
That taste be thus changed,
For the cause of this evil
Is alien to all the rest;
Thus every creature
Sees itself estranged,
And tastes I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

For as soon as the will
is touched from above,
It cannot be satisfied
But with the divine;
Its beauty being such
That only faith may show it,
For it tastes of I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

Tell me if for such a lover,
You will feel any pain,
For he finds no pleasure
Among created things;
Alone, with no figure or shape,
Without company or even memory,
Except the taste of I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

Do not think that the soul,
That is worth much more,
Finds joy and happiness
In what on earth gives taste;
It is beyond beauty,
In what is, was or will be,
That it tastes I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

Whoever wants to advance
Would better use care
In what is left to gain
Than in what he has already won;
And thus aiming for the heights,
I will always try
For that I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach.

What comes through the senses
And may here be understood
And whatever may be learned,
Even though very high,
Not for all that beauty
Will I ever be lost,
But for that I-know-not-what
That by fortune I may reach. -- Finis.

-- from St. John of the Cross: Alchemist of the Soul: His Life, His Poetry (Bilingual), His Prose, by Antonio T. de Nicolas

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Not for All the