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"Divine Love"


About this poem

Juana Inés de la Cruz

B. Limosneros, trans.

Something has been troubling me, a care

so subtle, so fleeting, it appears,

that for all that I know of the feeling

I scarcely know how to feel it for me.

   It is love, but a love

that, failing to be blind,

only has eyes to inflict

a far more vivid punishment.

   For it is not the terminus a quo

that afflicts these eyes:

but their terminus being the Good,

so much pain in the distance lies.

   If this feeling that I harbour

is not wrong - but what love is owed,

why do they chastise one

who pays on love's account?

   Ah, such finezas, so rare, so subtle are

the caresses I have known.

For the love we hold for God

is one without a counterpart.

   Neither can such a love,

ever meet with oblivion,

since contraries are not

to be conceived upon pure Good.

   But too well do I recall

having loved in a time now past,

with a quality beyond madness,

surpassing the worst excess;

   yet since this love was a bastard,

of oppositions wed,

swiftly was it undone,

by the flaws that it was cast with.

   But now, ah me, so  

purely is this new love enkindled,

that reason and virtue

are only further fires to feed it.

   Anyone hearing this will ask,

why then do I suffer?

Here an anxious heart responds:

for this very cause, there is no other.

   What human frailty is this,

when the most chaste and naked spirit

may not be embraced

except in mortal dress?

   So great is the longing

we have to feel loved,

that however hopeless it becomes

we are helpless to resist.

   Though it adds nothing to my love

that it be requited

and though I try to deny it --

O how I crave this.

   If it is a crime, I avow it,

if a sin, now it is confessed,

but however desperate my attempts,

I cannot not bring myself to repent.

   Who sees into my secret heart

will bear witness

that the thorns I now endure

are my own harvest.

   And that I am the executioner

of my own desires, fallen

among my longings,

entombed in my own breast.

   I die - who will believe this? - at the hands

of what I most adore,

and the motive of my death is

a love I cannot bear.

   Thus, nourishing my life

on this sad bane,

the death on which I live

is the life I am dying for.

   But courage, heart,

though exquisite be the torments

through whatever fortunes heaven sends,

this love I do not recant.

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