Monday, December 21, 2009

The Solitary Bird

Dichos de Luz y Amor

The conditions of a solitary bird are five.
the first, that it flies to the highest point;
the second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
the third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
the fifth, that it sings very softly.

San Juan de la Cruz

I first saw this as a memorable frontispiece to an unmemorable book. St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) has almost two hundred of these "Sayings of Light and Love". I had little idea, despite author, that this poem was part of a religious work about the contemplative life. The Teresian Carmelites in Austria have a site with a translation by Kavanaugh and Rodriguez (1991, ICS Publications).  This one remains my favorite. It speaks to me of the solitary self-refinement necessary to many callings.

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