Stanza iii

In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

THE soul, observing that its sighs and prayers suffice not to find
the Beloved, and that it has not been helped by the messengers it
invoked in the first and second stanzas, will not, because its
searching is real and its love great, leave undone anything itself
can do. The soul that really loves God is not dilatory in its
efforts to find the Son of God, its Beloved; and, even when it has
done all it could it is still not satisfied, thinking it has done
nothing. Accordingly, the soul is now, in this third stanza,
actively seeking the Beloved, and saying how He is to be found;
namely, in the practice of all virtue and in the spiritual
exercises of the active and contemplative life; for this end it
rejects all delights and all comforts; and all the power and wiles
of its three enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh, are
unable to delay it or hinder it on the road.

‘In search of my Love.’

2. Here the soul makes it known that to find God it is not enough
to pray with the heart and the tongue, or to have recourse to the
help of others; we must also work ourselves, according to our
power. God values one effort of our own more than many of others
on our behalf; the soul, therefore, remembering the saying of the
Beloved, ‘Seek and you shall find,’ [59] is resolved on going
forth, as I said just now, to seek Him actively, and not rest
till it finds Him, as many do who will not that God should cost
them anything but words, and even those carelessly uttered, and
for His sake will do nothing that will cost them anything. Some,
too, will not leave for His sake a place which is to their taste
and liking, expecting to receive all the sweetness of God in
their mouth and in their heart without moving a step, without
mortifying themselves by the abandonment of a single pleasure or
useless comfort.

3. But until they go forth out of themselves to seek Him, however
loudly they may cry they will not find Him; for the bride in the
Canticle sought Him in this way, but she found Him not until she
went out to seek Him: ‘In my little bed in the nights I have
sought Him Whom my soul loveth: I have sought Him and have not
found Him. I will rise and will go about the city: by the streets
and highways I will seek Him Whom my soul loveth.’ [60] She
afterwards adds that when she had endured Certain trials she
‘found Him.’ [61]

4. He, therefore, who seeks God, consulting his own ease and
comfort, seeks Him by night, and therefore finds Him not. But he
who seeks Him in the practice of virtue and of good works, casting
aside the comforts of his own bed, seeks Him by day; such an one
shall find Him, for that which is not seen by night is visible by
day. The Bridegroom Himself teaches us this, Saying, ‘Wisdom is
clear and never fadeth away, and is easily seen of them that love
her, and is found of them that seek her. She preventeth them that
covet her, that she first may show herself unto them. He that
awaketh early to seek her shall not labour; for he shall find her
sitting at his doors.’ [62] The soul that will go out of the house
of its own will, and abandon the bed of its own satisfaction,
will find the divine Wisdom, the Son of God, the Bridegroom
waiting at the door without, and so the soul says:

‘I will go over mountains and strands.’

5. Mountains, which are lofty, signify virtues, partly on account
of their height and partly on account of the toil and labour of
ascending them; the soul says it will ascend to them in the
practice of the contemplative life. Strands, which are low,
signify mortifications, penances, and the spiritual exercises, and
the soul will add to the active life that of contemplation; for
both are necessary in seeking after God and in acquiring Virtue.
The soul says, in effect, ‘In searching after my Beloved I will
practise great virtue, and abase myself by lowly mortifications
and acts of humility, for the way to seek God is to do good works
in Him, and to mortify the evil in ourselves, as it is said in the
words that follow:

‘I will gather no flowers.’

6. He that will seek after God must have his heart detached,
resolute, and free from all evils, and from all goods which are
not simply God; that is the meaning of these words. The words
that follow describe the liberty and courage which the soul must
possess in searching after God. Here it declares that it will
gather no flowers by the way–the flowers are all the delights,
satisfactions, and pleasures which this life offers, and which,
if the soul sought or accepted, would hinder it on the road.

7. These flowers are of three kinds–temporal, sensual, and
spiritual. All of them occupy the heart, and stand in the way of
the spiritual detachment required in the way of Christ, if we
regard them or rest in them. The soul, therefore, says, that it
will not stop to gather any of them, that it may seek after God.
It seems to say, I will not set my heart upon riches or the goods
of this world; I will not indulge in the satisfactions and ease of
the flesh, neither will I consult the taste and comforts of my
spirit, in order that nothing may detain me in my search after my
Love on the toilsome mountains of virtue. This means that it
accepts the counsel of the prophet David to those who travel on
this road: ‘If riches abound, set not your heart upon them,’ [63]
This is applicable to sensual satisfactions, as well as to
temporal goods and spiritual consolations.

8. From this we learn that not only temporal goods and bodily
pleasures hinder us on the road to God, but spiritual delight and
consolations also, if we attach ourselves to them or seek them;
for these things are hindrances on the way of the cross of Christ,
the Bridegroom. He, therefore, that will go onwards must not only
not stop to gather flowers, but must also have the courage and
resolution to say as follows:

‘I will fear no wild beasts and I will go over
the mighty and the frontiers.’

Here we have the three enemies of the soul which make war against
it, and make its way full of difficulties. The wild beasts are the
world; the mighty, the devil; and the frontiers are the flesh.

9. The world is the wild beasts, because in the beginning of the
heavenly journey the imagination pictures the world to the soul as
wild beasts, threatening and fierce, principally in three ways.
The first is, we must forfeit the world’s favour, lose friends,
credit, reputation, and property; the second is not less cruel: we
must suffer the perpetual deprivation of all the comforts and
pleasures of the world; and the third is still worse: evil tongues
will rise against us, mock us, and speak of us with contempt. This
strikes some persons so vividly that it becomes most difficult for
them, I do not say to persevere, but even to enter on this road at

10. But there are generous souls who have to encounter wild beasts
of a more interior and spiritual nature–trials, temptations,
tribulations, and afflictions of divers kinds, through which they
must pass. This is what God sends to those whom He is raising
upwards to high perfection, proving them and trying them as gold
in the fire; as David saith: ‘Many are the tribulations of the
just; and out of all these our Lord will deliver them.’ [64] But
the truly enamoured soul, preferring the Beloved above all things,
and relying on His love and favour, finds no difficulty in saying:

‘I will fear no wild beats’
‘and pass over the mighty and the frontiers.’

11. Evil spirits, the second enemy of the soul, are called the
mighty, because they strive with all their might to seize on the
passes of the spiritual road; and because the temptations they
suggest are harder to overcome, and the craft they employ more
difficult to detect, than all the seductions of the world and the
flesh; and because, also, they strengthen their own position by
the help of the world and the flesh in order to fight vigorously
against the soul. Hence the Psalmist calls them mighty, saying:
‘The mighty have sought after my soul.’ [65] The prophet Job also
speaks of their might: ‘There is no power upon the earth that may
be compared with him who was made to fear no man.’ [66]

12. There is no human power that can be compared with the power of
the devil, and therefore the divine power alone can overcome him,
and the divine light alone can penetrate his devices. No soul
therefore can overcome his might without prayer, or detect his
illusions without humility and mortification. Hence the
exhortation of St. Paul to the faithful: ‘Put you on the armour of
God, that you may stand against the deceits of the devil: for our
wrestling is not against flesh and blood.’ [67] Blood here is the
world, and the armour of God is prayer and the cross of Christ,
wherein consist the humility and mortification of which I have

13. The soul says also that it will cross the frontiers: these
are the natural resistance and rebellion of the flesh against the
spirit, for, as St. Paul saith, the ‘flesh lusteth against the
spirit,’ [68] and sets itself as a frontier against the soul on
its spiritual road. This frontier the soul must cross,
surmounting difficulties, and trampling underfoot all sensual
appetites and all natural affections with great courage and
resolution of spirit: for while they remain in the soul, the
spirit will be by them hindered from advancing to the true life
and spiritual delight. This is set clearly before us by St. Paul,
saying: ‘If by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you
shall live.’ [69] This, then, is the process which the soul in
this stanza says it becomes it to observe on the way to seek the
Beloved: which briefly is a firm resolution not to stoop to
gather flowers by the way; courage not to fear the wild beasts,
and strength to pass by the mighty and the frontiers; intent
solely on going over the mountains and the strands of the
virtues, in the way just explained.