Stanza xxxv

In solitude she lived,
And in solitude built her nest;
And in solitude, alone
Hath the Beloved guided her,
In solitude also wounded with love.

IN this stanza the Bridegroom is doing two things: one is, He is
praising the solitude in which the soul once lived, for it was the
means whereby it found the Beloved, and rejoiced in Him, away from
all its former anxieties and troubles. For, as the soul abode in
solitude, abandoning all created help and consolation, in order to
obtain the fellowship and union of the Beloved, it deserved
thereby possession of the peace of solitude in the Beloved, in
Whom it reposes alone, undisturbed by any anxieties.

2. The second is this: the Bridegroom is saying that, inasmuch as
the soul has desired to be alone, far away, for His sake, from all
created things, He has been enamoured of it because of its
loneliness, has taken care of it, held it in His arms, fed it with
all good things, and guided it to the deep things of God. He does
not merely say that He is now the soul’s guide, but that He is its
only guide, without any intermediate help, either of angels or of
men, either of forms or of figures; for the soul in this solitude
has attained to true liberty of spirit, and is wholly detached
from all subordinate means.

‘In solitude she lived.’

3. The turtle-dove, that is, the soul, lived in solitude before
she found the Beloved in this state of union; for the soul that
longs after God derives no consolation from any other
companionship,–yea, until it finds Him everything does but
increase its solitude.

‘And in solitude built her nest.’

4. The previous solitude of the soul was its voluntary privation
of all the comforts of this world, for the sake of the Bridegroom–
as in the instance of the turtledove–its striving after
perfection, and acquiring that perfect solitude wherein it attains
to union with the Word, and in consequence to complete refreshment
and repose. This is what is meant by ‘nest’; and the words of the
stanza may be thus explained: ‘In that solitude, wherein the bride
formerly lived, tried by afflictions and troubles, because she was
not perfect, there, in that solitude, hath she found refreshment
and rest, because she has found perfect rest in God.’ This, too,
is the spiritual sense of these words of the Psalmist: ‘The
sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for
herself, where she may lay her young ones; [277] that is, a sure
stay in God, in Whom all the desires and powers of the soul are

‘And in solitude.’

5. In the solitude of perfect detachment from all things, wherein
it lives alone with God–there He guides it, moves it, and
elevates it to divine things. He guides the understanding in the
perception of divine things, because it is now detached from all
strange and contrary knowledge, and is alone. He moves the will
freely to love Himself, because it is now alone, disencumbered
from all other affections. He fills the memory with divine
knowledge, because that also is now alone, emptied of all
imaginations and fancies. For the instant the soul clears and
empties its faculties of all earthly objects, and from attachments
to higher things, keeping them in solitude, God immediately fills
them with the invisible and divine; it being God Himself Who
guides it in this solitude. St. Paul says of the perfect, that
they ‘are led by the Spirit of God,’ [278] and that is the same as
saying ‘In solitude hath He guided her.’

‘Alone hath the Beloved guided her.’

6. That is, the Beloved not only guides the soul in its solitude,
but it is He alone Who works in it directly and immediately. It
is of the nature of the soul’s union with God in the spiritual
marriage that God works directly, and communicates Himself
immediately, not by the ministry of angels or by the help of
natural capacities. For the exterior and interior senses, all
created things, and even the soul itself, contribute very little
towards the reception of those great supernatural favours which
God bestows in this state; yea, rather, inasmuch as they do not
fall within the cognizance of natural efforts, ability and
application, God effects them alone.

7. The reason is, that He finds the soul alone in its solitude,
and therefore will not give it another companion, nor will He
entrust His work to any other than

8. There is a certain fitness in this; for the soul having
abandoned all things, and passed through all the ordinary means,
rising above them unto God, God Himself becomes the guide, and the
way to Himself. The soul in solitude, detached from all things,
having now ascended above all things, nothing now can profit or
help it to ascend higher except the Bridegroom Word Himself, Who,
because enamoured of the bride, will Himself alone bestow these
graces on the soul. And so He says:

‘In solitude also wounded with love.’

9. That is, the love of the bride; for the Bridegroom not only
loves greatly the solitude of the soul, but is also wounded with
love of her, because the soul would abide in solitude and
detachment, on account of its being itself wounded with love of
Him. He will not, therefore, leave it alone; for being wounded
with love because of the soul’s solitude on His account, and
seeing that nothing else can satisfy it, He comes Himself to be
alone its guide, drawing it to, and absorbing it in, Himself. But
He would not have done so if He had not found it in this spiritual


IT is a strange characteristic of persons in love that they take a
much greater pleasure in their loneliness than in the company of
others. For if they meet together in the presence of others with
whom they need have no intercourse, and from whom they have
nothing to conceal, and if those others neither address them nor
interfere with them, yet the very fact of their presence is
sufficient to rob the lovers of all pleasure in their meeting.
The cause of this lies in the fact that love is the union of two
persons, who will not communicate with each other if they are not
alone. And now the soul, having reached the summit of perfection,
and liberty of spirit in God, all the resistance and
contradictions of the flesh being subdued, has no other occupation
or employment than indulgence in the joys of its intimate love of
the Bridegroom. It is written of holy Tobias, after the trials of
his life were over, that God restored his sight, and that ‘the
rest of his life was in joy.’ [279] So is it with the perfect
soul, it rejoices in the blessings that surround it.

2. The prophet Isaias says of the soul which, having been tried in
the works of perfection has arrived at the goal desired: ‘Thy
light shall arise up in darkness, and thy darkness shall be as the
noonday. And the Lord will give thee rest always, and will fill
thy soul with brightness, and deliver thy bones, and thou shalt be
as a watered garden and as a fountain of water whose waters shall
not fail. And the deserts of the world shall be builded in thee:
thou shalt raise up the foundations of generation and generation;
and thou shalt be called the builder of the hedges, turning the
paths into rest. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from
doing thy will in My holy day, and call the Sabbath delicate, and
the Holy of our Lord glorious, and glorify Him while thou doest
not thine own ways, and thy will be not found, to speak a word:
then shalt thou be delighted in the Lord, and I will lift thee up
above the heights of the earth, and will feed thee with the
inheritance of Jacob thy father,’ [280] Who is God Himself. The
soul, therefore, has nothing else to do now but to rejoice in the
delights of this pasture, and one thing only to desire–the
perfect fruition of it in everlasting life. Thus, in the next and
the following stanzas it implores the Beloved to admit it into
this beatific pasture in the clear vision of God, and says: