NIGHT OF STARS
To Don Loarte
When I behold the sky
With stars innumerable sprangled bright
And then the Earth descry
Encompassed with night
Buried in sleep, oblivion infinite,
Sorrow and love arise
And with a burning fever fill my breast,
And ever from mine eyes
The tears flow without rest,
Till my tongue speaks at length, by grief oppresed:
O dwelling of great might,
Temple of lovely light incomparable,
My soul that to thy height
At birth aspired, what spell
Doth in this dark, low prison-house compel?
What mortal folly thus
From truth's possession can remove our sense,
So that oblivious
Of thy blest gifts, it thence
Strays and seeks tinselled joys and vain pretence?
Man lives imprisoned
In sleep and recks not of his destiny
While still with silent tread,
At Heaven's swift decree,
Hour after hour his life doth from him flee.
Ah mortal men awake
And turn your thoughts intent upon your loss!
Shall souls divine forsake
Such blessings for the cross
Of life unreal and dull delusion's dross?
O skyward lift your eyes,
Unto this heavenly eternal sphere!
And you will then despise
The vain delights that here
Offers our life, its every hope and fear;
Petty, if we compare
The fleeting span of this low earthly scene
With that great region where
In noblest forms are seen
What is and what shall be and what hath been.
Who sees the eternal fires
With fixed laws move on their heavenly way,
How each with each conspires:
Uneven their array,
Yet, varying, they one ordered scheme obey;
How in the moon's clear train,
As she her silver sphere doth onward move,
Goes light of wisdom's rain,
And, gleaming there above,
Follows, serenely fair, the star of love.
But blood-red angry Mars
Choses unto himself another way,
While, girt with thousand stars,
Jupiter, clear alway,
Benignly calms the heavens with his loved ray;
And yonder in the height
Whirls Saturn, father of the Age of Gold,
And after him the bright
Stars in fair choir enrolled
Their light and all their treasures still unfold;
Who may all this descry
And pleasure still in this vile Earth retain,
Who will not groan and sigh
To rive the imprisoning chain
Lo here dwells sweet content,
Peace reigns, and on a rich and lofty throne
Sits holy love, and blent
Together in its zone
Delight and honour are evermore at one.
Here beauty infinite
Unveils itself, and light, quintessence pure,
Transparent gleams: no night
Its radiance may obscure,
Spring's flowered splendour here is ever sure.
O fields of truth most fair!
O meadows verily ever fresh and bright,
Mines full of riches rare!
O fountains of delight!
Deep valleys with a thousand blessings dight!
Fray Luis de León
Translation by Aubrey F. G. Bell