The Poems of St John of the Cross; The Spanish text with a translation by Roy Campbell
New York: Pantheon Books Inc., 1951. First edition. Octavo, original black cloth, original dust jacket. Faint mottling to upper margin of boards, gentle bumping to upper corners, short closed tear and minor wear to spine head and flap folds of the jacket. A near-fine copy. Item #860
"CAMPBELL CARRIES US WITH HIM TO SPAIN AND INTO THE PRESENCE OF A SAINT SINGING OF THE LOVE OF GOD"
First American edition of Roy Campbell's splendid translation of St. John of the Cross—winner of the 1951 William Foyle Poetry Prize.
John of the Cross has always been destined, it seems, to stand in the shadow of his great mentor, Teresa of Avila. The two Carmelite saints are inextricably linked together: "Both were endowed with great mystical powers and both were gifted with unrivaled literary skill in depicting the various stages of mysticism" (Thomas Bokenkotter). After becoming enamored with Iberian culture, the South African-born poet Roy Campbell and his wife Mary, together with their two young daughters, converted to Catholicism in Altea, Spain in 1935. Campbell devoted himself to the translation of French, Spanish and Portuguese poetry. The translation of John of the Cross, according to Roger Scruton, "into which he put all his passionate Christian mysticism...has probably been Campbell’s most influential and best-loved work."
The English translation of the poems—presented in Spanish with Campbell's translation on the facing page—introduced John of the Cross to a wider post-war Anglo-American audience. Derived from the Spanish text of Silverio de Santa Teresa, C.D., this edition includes a valuable Preface by the English Jesuit, M.C. D'Arcy, which concludes: "Campbell carries us with him to Spain and into the presence of a Saint singing of the love of God." With Campbell's Dedication to his wife: "These translations are dedicated to Mary." Roy and Mary were returning from Holy Week festivities in Sevilla, Spain when Campbell was killed in a car accident in Portugal in April 1957. Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Roger Scruton, A Dark Horse (The American Spectator, October 2009).