Stanza xxxi

By that one hair
Thou hast observed fluttering on my neck,
And on my neck regarded,
Thou wert captivated;
And wounded by one of my eyes.

THERE are three things mentioned here. The first is, that the love
by which the virtues are bound together is nothing less than a
strong love; for in truth it need be so in order to preserve them.
The second is, that God is greatly taken by this hair of love,
seeing it to be alone and strong. The third is, that God is deeply
enamoured of the soul, beholding the purity and integrity of its

‘By that one hair
Thou hast observed fluttering on my neck.’

2. The neck signifies that strength in which, it is said,
fluttered the hair of love, strong love, which bound the virtues
together. It is not sufficient for the preservation of virtues
that love be alone, it must be also strong so that no contrary
vice may anywhere destroy the perfection of the garland; for the
virtues so are bound up together in the soul by the hair, that if
the thread be once broken, all the virtues are lost; for where one
virtue is, all are, and where one fails, all fail also. The hair
is said to flutter on the neck, because its love of God, without
any hindrance whatever, flutters strongly and lightly in the
strength of the soul.

3. As the air causes hair to wave and flutter on the neck, so the
breath of the Holy Ghost stirs the strong love that it may fly
upwards to God; for without this divine wind, which excites the
powers of the soul to the practice of divine love, all the virtues
the soul may possess become ineffectual and fruitless. The Beloved
observed the hair fluttering on the neck–that is, He considered
it with particular attention and regard; because strong love is a
great attraction for the eyes of God.

‘And on my neck regarded.’

4. This shows us that God not only esteems this love, seeing it
alone, but also loves it, seeing it strong; for to say that God
regards is to say that He loves, and to say that He observes is to
say that He esteems what He observes. The word ‘neck’ is repeated
in this line, because it, being strong, is the cause why God loves
it so much. It is as if the soul said, ‘Thou hast loved it, seeing
it strong without weakness or fear, and without any other love,
and flying upwards swiftly and fervently.’

5. Until now God had not looked upon this hair so as to be
captivated by it, because He had not seen it alone, separate from
the others, withdrawn from other loves, feelings, and affections,
which hindered it from fluttering alone on the neck of strength.
Afterwards, however, when mortifications and trials temptations
and penance had detached it, and made it strong, so that nothing
whatever could break it, then God beholds it, and is taken by it,
and binds the flowers of the garlands with it; for it is now so
strong that it can keep the virtues united together in the soul.

6. But what these temptations and trials are, how they come, and
how far they reach, that the soul may attain to that strength of
love in which God unites it to Himself, I have described in the
‘Dark Night,’ [254] and in the explanation of the four stanzas
[255] which begin with the words, ‘O living flame of love!’ The
soul having passed through these trials has reached a degree of
love so high that it has merited the divine union.

‘Thou wert captivated.’

7. O joyful wonder! God captive to a hair. The reason of this
capture so precious is that God was pleased to observe the
fluttering of the hair on the soul’s neck; for where God regards
He loves. If He in His grace and mercy had not first looked upon
us and loved us, [256] as St. John saith, and humbled Himself, He
never could have been taken by the fluttering of the hair of our
miserable love. His flight is not so low as that our love could
lay hold of the divine bird, attract His attention, and fly so
high with a strength worthy of His regard, if He had not first
looked upon us. He, however, is taken by the fluttering of the
hair; He makes it worthy and pleasing to Himself, and then is
captivated by it. ‘Thou hast seen it on my neck, Thou wert
captivated by it.’ This renders it credible that a bird which
flies low may capture the royal eagle in its flight, if the eagle
should fly so low and be taken by it willingly.

‘And wounded by one of my eyes.’

8. The eye is faith. The soul speaks of but one, and that this has
wounded the Beloved. If the faith and trust of the soul in God
were not one, without admixture of other considerations, God never
could have been Wounded by love. Thus the eye that wounds, and the
hair that binds, must be one. So strong is the love of the
Bridegroom for the bride, because of her simple faith, that, if
the hair of her love binds Him, the eye of her faith imprisons Him
so closely as to wound Him through that most tender affection He
bears her, which is to the bride a further progrees in His love.

9. The Bridegroom Himself speaks in the Canticle of the hair and
the eyes, saying to the bride, ‘Thou hast wounded My heart, My
sister, My bride; thou hast wounded My heart with one of thy eyes,
and with one hair of thy neck.’ [257] He says twice that His heart
is wounded, that is, with the eye and the hair, and therefore the
soul in this stanza speaks of them both, because they signify its
union with God in the understanding and the will; for the
understanding is subdued by faith, signified by the eye, and the
will by love. Here the soul exults in this union, and gives thanks
to the Bridegroom for it, it being His gift; accounting it a great
matter that He has been pleased to requite its love, and to become
captive to it. We may also observe here the joy, happiness, and
delight of the soul with its prisoner, having been for a long time
His prisoner, enamoured of Him.


GREAT is the power and courage of love, for God is its prisoner.
Blessed is the soul that loves, for it has made a captive of God
Who obeys its good pleasure. Such is the nature of love that it
makes those who love do what is asked of them, and, on the other
hand, without love the utmost efforts will be fruitless, but one
hair will bind those that love. The soul, knowing this, and
conscious of blessings beyond its merits, in being raised up to so
high a degree of love, through the rich endowments of graces and
virtues, attributes all to the Beloved, saying: