Stanza xvii

O killing north wind, cease!
Come, south wind, that awakenest love!
Blow through my garden,
And let its odours flow,
And the Beloved shall feed among the flowers.

BESIDE the causes mentioned in the foregoing stanza, spiritual
dryness also hinders the fruition of this interior sweetness of
which I have been speaking, and afraid of it the soul had recourse
to two expedients, to which it refers in the present stanza. The
first is to shut the door against it by unceasing prayer and
devotion. The second, to invoke the Holy Ghost; it is He Who
drives away dryness from the soul, maintains and increases its
love of the Bridegroom–that He may establish in it the practice
of virtue, and all this to the end that the Son of God, its
Bridegroom, may rejoice and delight in it more and more, for its
only aim is to please the Beloved.

‘Killing north wind, cease.’

2. The north wind is exceedingly cold; it dries up and parches
flowers and plants, and at the least, when it blows, causes them
to draw in and shrink. So, dryness of spirit and the sensible
absence of the Beloved, because they produce the same effect on
the soul, exhausting the sweetness and fragrance of virtue, are
here called the killing north wind; for all the virtues and
affective devotions of the soul are then dead. Hence the soul
addresses itself to it, saying, ‘Killing north wind, cease.’ These
words mean that the soul applies itself to spiritual exercise, in
order to escape aridity. But the communications of God are now so
interior that by no exertion of its faculties can the soul attain
to them if the Spirit of the Bridegroom do not cause these
movements of love. The soul, therefore, addresses Him, saying:

‘Come, south wind, that awakenest love.’

3. The south wind is another wind commonly called the south-west
wind. It is soft, and brings rain; it makes the grass and plants
grow, flowers to blossom and scatter their perfume abroad; in
short, it is the very opposite in its effects of the north wind.
By it is meant here the Holy Ghost, Who awakeneth love; for when
this divine Breath breathes on the soul, it so inflames and
refreshes it, so quickens the will, and stirs up the desires,
which were before low and asleep as to the love of God, that we
may well say of it that it quickens the love between Him and the
soul. The prayer of the soul to the Holy Ghost is thus expressed,
‘Blow through my garden.’

4. This garden is the soul itself. For as the soul said of itself
before, that it was a flourishing vineyard, because the flowers of
virtue which are in it give forth the wine of sweetness, so here
it says of itself that it is a garden, because the flowers of
perfection and the virtues are planted in it, flourish, and grow.

5. Observe, too, that the expression is ‘blow through my garden,’
not blow in it. There is a great difference between God’s
breathing into the soul and through it. To breathe into the soul
is to infuse into it graces, gifts, and virtues; to breathe
through it is, on the part of God, to touch and move its virtues
and perfections now possessed, renewing them and stirring them in
such a way that they send forth their marvellous fragrance and
sweetness. Thus aromatic spices, when shaken or touched, give
forth the abundant odours which are not otherwise so distinctly
perceived. The soul is not always in the conscious fruition of its
acquired and infused virtues, because, in this life, they are like
flowers in seed, or in bud, or like aromatic spices covered over,
the perfume of which is not perceived till they are exposed and

6. But God sometimes is so merciful to the bride-soul, as–the
Holy Ghost breathing meanwhile through the flourishing garden–to
open these buds of virtue and expose the aromatic herbs of the
soul’s gifts, perfections, and riches, to manifest to it its
interior treasures and to reveal to it all its beauty. It is then
marvellous to behold, and sweet to feel, the abundance of the
gifts now revealed in the soul, and the beauty of the flowers of
virtue now flourishing in it. No language can describe the
fragrance which every one of them diffuses, each according to its
kind. This state of the soul is referred to in the words, ‘Let its
odours flow.’

7. So abundant are these odours at times, that the soul seems
enveloped in delight and bathed in inestimable bliss. Not only is
it conscious itself of them, but they even overflow it, so that
those who know how to discern these things can perceive them. The
soul in this state seems to them as a delectable garden, full of
the joys and riches of God. This is observable in holy souls, not
only when the flowers open, but almost always; for they have a
certain air of grandeur and dignity which inspires the beholders
with awe and reverence, because of the supernatural effects of
their close and familiar converse with God. We have an
illustration of this in the life of Moses, the sight of whose face
the people could not bear, by reason of the glory that rested upon
it–the effect of his speaking to God face to face. [163]

8. While the Holy Ghost is breathing through the garden–this is
His visitation of the soul–the Bridegroom Son of God communicates
Himself to it in a profound way, enamoured of it. It is for this
that He sends the Holy Spirit before Him–as He sent the
Apostles [164]–to make ready the chamber of the soul His bride,
comforting it with delight, setting its garden in order, opening
its flowers, revealing its gifts, and adorning it with the
tapestry of graces. The bride-soul longs for this with all its
might, and therefore bids the north wind not to blow, and invokes
the south wind to blow through the garden, because she gains much
here at once.

9. The bride now gains the fruition of all her virtues in their
sweetest exercise. She gains the fruition of her Beloved in them,
because it is through them that He converses with her in most
intimate love, and grants her favours greater than any of the
past. She gains, too, that her Beloved delights more in her
because of the actual exercise of virtue, which is what pleases
her most, namely, that her Beloved should be pleased with her. She
gains also the permanent continuance of the sweet fragrance which
remains in the soul while the Bridegroom is present, and the bride
entertains Him with the sweetness of her virtues, as it is
written: ‘While the King was at His repose,’ that is, in the soul,
‘my spikenard sent forth its odour.’ [165] The spikenard is the
soul, which from the flowers of its virtues sends forth sweet
odours to the Beloved, Who dwells within it in the union of love.

10. It is therefore very much to be desired that every soul should
pray the Holy Ghost to blow through its garden, that the divine
odours of God may flow. And as this is so necessary, so blissful
and profitable to the soul, the bride desires it, and prays for
it, in the words of the Canticle, saying, ‘Arise, north wind, and
come, south wind; blow through my garden, and let the aromatical
spices thereof flow.’ [166] The soul prays for this, not because
of the delight and bliss consequent upon it, but because of the
delight it ministers to the Beloved, and because it prepares the
way and announces the presence of the Son of God, Who cometh to
rejoice in it. Hence the soul adds:

‘And my Beloved shall feed among the flowers.’

11. The delight which the Son of God finds now in the soul is
described as pasture. This word expresses most forcibly the truth,
because pasture not only gladdeneth, but also sustaineth. Thus the
Son of God delights in the soul, in the delights thereof, and is
sustained in them–that is, He abides within it as in a place
which pleases Him exceedingly, because the place itself really
delights in Him. This, I believe, is the meaning of those words
recorded in the proverbs of Solomon: ‘My delights were to be with
the children of men;’ [167] that is, when they delight to be with
Me, Who am the Son of God.

12. Observe, here, that it is not said that the Beloved shall feed
on the flowers, but that He shall feed among the flowers. For, as
the communications of the Beloved are in the soul itself, through
the adornment of the virtues, it follows that what He feeds on is
the soul which He transformed into Himself, now that it is
prepared and adorned with these flowers of virtues, graces, and
perfections, which are the things whereby, and among which, He
feeds. These, by the power of the Holy Ghost, are sending forth in
the soul the odours of sweetness to the Son of God, that He may
feed there the more in the love thereof; for this is the love of
the Bridegroom, to be united to the soul amid the fragrance of the

13. The bride in the Canticle has observed this, for she had
experience of it, saying: ‘My Beloved is gone down into His
garden, to the bed of aromatical spices,to feed in the gardens,
and to gather lilies. I to my Beloved, and my Beloved to me, Who
feedeth among the lilies’ [168] That is, ‘Who feedeth and
delighteth in my soul, which is His garden, among the lilies of my
virtues, perfections, and graces.’


IN the state of spiritual espousals the soul contemplating its
great riches and excellence, but unable to enter into the
possession and fruition of them as it desires, because it is still
in the flesh, often suffers exceedingly, and then more
particularly when its knowledge of them becomes more profound. It
then sees itself in the body, like a prince in prison, subject to
all misery, whose authority is disregarded, whose territories and
wealth are confiscated, and who of his former substance receives
but a miserable dole. How greatly he suffers any one may see,
especially when his household is no longer obedient, and his
slaves and servants, forgetting all respect, plunder him of the
scanty provisions of his table. Thus is it with the soul in the
body, for when God mercifully admits it to a foretaste of the good
things which He has prepared for it, the wicked servants of desire
in the sensual part, now a slave of disorderly motions, now other
rebellious movements, rise up against it in order to rob it of its

2. The soul feels itself as if it were in the land of enemies,
tyrannised over by the stranger, like the dead among the dead. Its
feelings are those which the prophet Baruch gave vent to when he
described the misery of Jacob’s captivity: ‘How happeneth it, O
Israel, that thou art in thy enemies’ land? thou art grown old in
a strange country, thou art defiled with the dead: thou art
counted with them that go down into hell.’ [169] This misery of
the soul, in the captivity of the body, is thus spoken of by
Jeremias, saying: ‘Is Israel a bondman or a home-born slave? Why
then is he become a prey? The lions have roared upon him, and have
made a noise.’ [170] The lions are the desires and the rebellious
motions of the tyrant king of sensuality. In order to express the
trouble which this tyrant occasions, and the desire of the soul to
see this kingdom of sensuality with all its hosts destroyed, or
wholly subject to the spirit, the soul lifting up its eyes to the
Bridegroom, as to one who can effect it, speaks against those
rebellious motions in the words of the next stanza.