Thursday, December 16, 2010

St John of the Cross 2

The exhibition The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700 was shown in The National Gallery, London and The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC

It was acclaimed and introduced many people to the Spanish Baroque.

One of the most interesting sculptures was of St John of the Cross by Francisco Antonio Gijón (1653–c. 1721) and unknown painter (possibly Domingo Mejías)

Francisco Antonio Gijón (1653–c. 1721) and unknown painter (possibly Domingo Mejías)
Saint John of the Cross
c. 1675
Painted and gilded wood
168 cm (66 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund

After the beatification of St John of the Cross on January 25, 1675, the Carmelite convent of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios near Seville commissioned this life-sized statue from the young Sevillian sculptor, Francisco Antonio Gijón, then only 21

The figure of the saint holds a quill pen in his right hand and, in the left, a book with a model of a mountain surmounted by a cross, which refers to his mystic commentary, "The Ascent of Mount Carmel."

There have been a number of translations into English of the works of St John of the Cross.

One of the translations which has been considered one of the best is that by the Anglo-South African convert poet Roy Campbell (October 2, 1901 – April 22, 1957)

In October 2009, Roger Scruton wrote about Roy Campbell in his article "A Dark Horse" published in The American Spectator. He was hated by the English "left establishment" especially because of his position on The Spanish Civil War

The Wikipedia entry says of Roy Campbell that he "was considered by T. S. Eliot, Edith Sitwell, and Dylan Thomas to have been one of the best poets of the period between the First and Second World wars, but he is seldom found in anthologies today."

Campbell's translations of the poetry by St. John of the Cross were lavishly praised by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges

For more about Campbell`s work, R J Dent has published an essay on Roy Campbell and his work entitled: Violence and exquisite beauty – the aesthetics of Roy Campbell

Here are two poems of St John of the Cross in Spanish with the translations by the late Roy Campbell. The first poem is called "Song of the soul that is glad to know God by faith" The second poem is called "Verses written after an ecstasy of high exaltation" (Source: Geoffrey Burgon : Dos Coros)

'Cantar del alma que se huelga de conoscer a Dios par fe'

Que bien sé yo la fonte que mana y corre,
Aunque es de noche.

Aquella eterna fonte está ascondida,
Que bien sé yo do tiene su manida,
Aunque es de noche.

Su origen no lo sé, pues no le tiene,
Mas sé que todo origen de ella viene,
Aunque es de noche.

Sé que no puede ser cosa tan bella,
Y que cielos y tierra beben de ella,
Aunque es de noche.

Bien sé que suelo en ella no se halla,
Y que ninguno puede vadealla,
Aunque es de noche.

Su claridad nunca es escurecida,
Y se que toda luz de ella es venida,
Aunque es de noche.

Sé ser tan caudalosas sus corrientes,
Que infiernos, cielos riegan, y las gentes,
Aunque es de noche.

El corriente que nace de esta fuente,
Bien sé que es tan capaz y omnipotente,
Aunque es de noche.

'Song of the soul that is glad to know God by faith'

How well I know that fountain’s rushing flow
Although by night

Its deathless spring is hidden. Even so
Full well I guess from whence its source flow
Though it be night.

Its origin (since it has none) none knows:
But that all origin from it arose
Although by night.

I know there is no other thing so fair
And earth and heaven drink refreshment there
Although by night.

Full well I know the depth no man can sound
And that no ford to cross it can be found
Though it be night

Its clarity unclouded still shall be:
Out of it comes the light by which we see
Though it be night.

Flush with its banks the stream so proudly swells;
I know it waters nations, heavens, and hells
Though it be night.

The current that is nourished by this source
I know to be omnipotent in force
Although by night.

'Coplas del mismo hechas sobre un éxtasis de alta contemplación '

Entréme donde no supe,
Y quedéme no sabiendo,
Toda sciencia trascendiendo.

Yo no supe dónde entraba,
Pero, cuando allí me ví,
Sin saber dónde me estaba,
Grandes cosas entendí;
No diré lo que sentí,
Que me quedé no sabiendo,
Toda sciencia trascendiendo.

De paz y de piedad
Era la sciencia perfecta,
En profunda soledad,
Entendida vía recta;
Era cosa tan secreta,
Que me quedé balbuciendo,
Toda sciencia trascendiendo.

Estaba tan embebido,
Tan absorto y ajenado,
Que se quedó mi sentido
De todo sentir privado;
Y el espíritu dotado
De un entender no entendiendo,
Toda sciencia trascendicndo.

El que allií llega de vero,
De sí mismo desfallesce;
Cuanto sabía primero

'Verses written after an ecstasy of high exaltation'

I entered in, I know not where,
And I remained, though knowing naught,
Transcending knowledge with my thought.

Of when I entered I know naught,
But when I saw that I was there
(Though where it was I did not care)
Strange things I learned, with greatness fraught.
Yet what I heard I’ll not declare.
But there I stayed, though knowing naught,
Transcending knowledge with my thought.

Of peace and piety interwound
This perfect science had been wrought,
Within the solitude profound
A straight and narrow path it taught,
Such secret wisdom there I found
That there I stammered, saying naught,
But topped all knowledge with my thought.

So borne aloft, so drunken-reeling
So rapt was I, so swept away,
Within the scope of sense or feeling
My sense or feeling could not stay.
And in my soul I felt, revealing,
A sense that, though its sense was naught,
Transcended knowledge with my thought.

The man who truly there has come
Of his own self must shed the guise;
Of all he knew before the sum.

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