English Versions and Introduction by
Willis Barnstone. Although not many of
his poems survive, the sixteenth century
mystic, Saint John of the Cross, is
regarded by many critics as the finest
poet in the Spanish language. Most of
his poems were written during a period
of nine months when he was imprisoned in
the dungeon of a small Carmelite
monastery in Toledo, and their recurrent
motifs are both metaphysical and deeply
Saint John's poetry of fire and love
describes the soul's voyage through dark
night to arrive at final illumination in
an ecstatic union with Absolute Being.
The allegory the poet uses is that of
earthly sensual love, and the poems are
strikingly effective on the immediate
level of personal experience, apart from
their theological meanings.
This modern bilingual edition of
Saint John's poems makes them available
in modern English for the first time.
The new translations by poet Willis
Barnstone capture the almost colloquial
freshness of popular song found in the
originals, in a language which is at
once modern, simple, and reminiscent of
the resonant music of the Spanish.