Stanza iv

O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enamelled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?

THE disposition requisite for entering on the spiritual journey,
abstinence from joys and pleasure, being now described; and the
courage also with which to overcome temptations and trials,
wherein consists the practice of self-knowledge, which is the
first step of the soul to the knowledge of God. Now, in this
stanza the soul begins to advance through consideration and
knowledge of creatures to the knowledge of the Beloved their
Creator. For the consideration of the creature, after the practice
of self-knowledge, is the first in order on the spiritual road to
the knowledge of God, Whose grandeur and magnificence they
declare, as the Apostle saith: ‘For His invisible things from the
creation of the world are seen, being understood by these things
that are made.’ [70] It is as if he said, ‘The invisible things of
God are made known to the soul by created things, visible and

2. The soul, then, in this stanza addresses itself to creatures
inquiring after the Beloved. And we observe, as St. Augustine [71]
says, that the inquiry made of creatures is a meditation on the
Creator, for which they furnish the matter. Thus, in this stanza
the soul meditates on the elements and the rest of the lower
creation; on the heavens, and on the rest of created and material
things which God has made therein; also on the heavenly Spirits,

‘O groves and thickets.’

3. The groves are the elements, earth, water, air, and fire. As
the most pleasant groves are studded with plants and shrubs, so
the elements are thick with creatures, and here are called
thickets because of the number and variety of creatures in each.
The earth contains innumerable varieties of animals and plants,
the water of fish, the air of birds, and fire concurs with all in
animating and sustaining them. Each kind of animal lives in its
proper element, placed and planted there, as in its own grove and
soil where it is born and nourished; and, in truth, God so ordered
it when He made them; He commanded the earth to bring forth herbs
and animals; the waters and the sea, fish; and the air He gave as
an habitation to birds. The soul, therefore, considering that
this is the effect of His commandment, cries out,

‘Planted by the hand of the Beloved.’

4. That which the soul considers now is this: the hand of God the
Beloved only could have created and nurtured all these varieties
and wonderful things. The soul says deliberately, ‘by the hand of
the Beloved,’ because God doeth many things by the hands of
others, as of angels and men; but the work of creation has never
been, and never is, the work of any other hand than His own. Thus
the soul, considering the creation, is profoundly stirred up to
love God the Beloved for it beholds all things to be the work of
His hands, and goes on to say:

‘O verdant meads.’

5. These are the heavens; for the things which He hath created in
the heavens are of incorruptible freshness, which neither perish
nor wither with time, where the just are refreshed as in the green
pastures. The present consideration includes all the varieties of
the stars in their beauty, and the other works in the heavens.

6. The Church also applies the term ‘verdure’ to heavenly things;
for while praying to God for the departing soul, it addresses it
as follows: ‘May Christ, the Son of the living God, give thee a
place in the everpleasant verdure of His paradise.’ [72] The soul
also says that this verdant mead is

‘Enamelled with flowers.’

7. The flowers are the angels and the holy souls who adorn and
beautify that place, as costly and fine enamel on a vase of pure

‘Tell me, has He passed by you?’

8. This inquiry is the consideration of the creature just spoken
of, and is in effect: Tell me, what perfections has He created in