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Saint Teresa of Ávila’s "I Have Surrendered and Given My All"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

Saint Teresa of Ávila

Saint Teresa of Ávila

Introduction and Text of "I Have Surrendered and Given My All"

In the foreword to Eric W. Vogt’s The Complete Poetry of St. Teresa of Ávila, the archbishop of Manila, Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, explains the nature of Teresa's poetry:

The poems of St. Teresa always speak of God. They speak of Him as something as natural as the air one breathes. She does not tender fanciful arguments to prove that God exists. Her poems express to us the reality of God himself because she herself has found Him.

Mystical poetry dramatizes the experience of God-union. The individual soul in perfect union with the Creative Spirit understands the claims of the great prophets that the soul is a divine spark. Saint Teresa's poetry portrays her deep communion with the Divine.

Teresa's "I have surrendered and given my all" (Poem III in Vogt) offers a special dramatization of a mystical vision that the saint experienced which she also describes in her autobiography. During the vision, an angel pierces the saint's heart with a flaming arrow. This vision is immortalized in stone by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

I Have Surrendered and Given My All

I have surrendered and given my all,
and the trade I have made is such
that my Beloved is all for me,
and I am all for my Beloved.

When the sweet Hunter shot me
and left me vanquished
in the arms of love,
my soul, in falling,
was gaining its new life.
Such is the trade I have made,
that my Beloved is all for me
and I am all for my Beloved.

He pierced me with an arrow
dipped in enamoring herbs,
and my soul became
one with her Creator.
Now I want no other love,
for I have surrendered myself to God.
My Beloved is all for me
and I am all for my Beloved.

Yo Toda Me Entregué y Di

Yo toda me entregué y di
y de tal suerte he trocado,
que es me Amado para mi
y yo soy para mi Amado.

Cuando el dulce Cazador
me tiró y dejó rendida,
en los brazos del amor,
mi alma quedó caída;
y cobrando nueva vida,
de tal manera he trocado,
que es mi Amado para me
y yo soy para me Amado.

Tiróme con una flecha
enerbolada de amor,
y mi alma quedó hecha
una con su Crïador.
Y a yo no quiero otro amor,
pues a me Dios me he entregado.
Que es me Amado para mi
y yo soy para me Amado.

(Translated from Spanish by Eric W. Vogt.)

Reading of a slightly different translation

Commentary

Saint Teresa of Ávila’s poem, ”I have surrendered and given my all,” consists of three movements. Each movement includes a repetition that becomes a chant-like refrain, emphasizing the bond between the speaker and her “beloved.”

First Movement: Chant of Unity

I have surrendered and given my all,
and the trade I have made is such
that my Beloved is all for me,
and I am all for my Beloved.

The speaker begins with what may be likened to the chorus of a song. She announces her surrender to her beloved Divine Reality, likening that surrender to a simple trade: she will henceforth be “for [her] Beloved” in return for His being “all for [her].”

The uncomplicated message is that the speaker has united her soul with the great Over-Soul, Divine Creator, or God. Just as all saints, sages, and divine avatars aver, the devotee must love God and give all one’s being to God, in order to attain that Divine Union, which remains mystical in nature, transcending all physical reality in favor of the spiritual level of being

Second Movement: The Metaphorical Arrow

When the sweet Hunter shot me
and left me vanquished
in the arms of love,
my soul, in falling,
was gaining its new life.
Such is the trade I have made,
that my Beloved is all for me
and I am all for my Beloved.

The second movement metaphorically dramatizes the impetus of her union as being shot by an arrow. Instead of a dreaded hunter who kills a deer with an arrow, however, this “hunter” is “the sweet Hunter.” The capitalization of “Hunter” signals the metaphoric employment of the term to conceptualize the Divine Creator.

After having been “shot” by that special arrow, the speaker is left vanquished but instead bleeding out and dying, this speaker is left vanquished “in the arms of love.” She then explains that her soul now falling from its earlier delusive stature is “gaining its new life.” Thus the vast difference between a literal arrow shot into a physical animal and the mystical arrow of love shot into the devotee’s soul. Her soul is now more alive than and aware than ever.

Third Movement: Union of Soul and Over-Soul

He pierced me with an arrow
dipped in enamouring herbs,
and my soul became
one with her Creator.
Now I want no other love,
for I have surrendered myself to God.
My Beloved is all for me
and I am all for my Beloved.

The third movement again dramatizes the arrow-piercing, further announcing that this special arrow had been “dipped in enamouring herbs.” Thus, this arrow had the delicious ability to spring the soul into its eternal oneness with its Creator. The speaker has therefore become aware of her soul’s blissful union with its Divine Beloved Creator.

After the realization that she is now one with the Divine Creator, the speaker has no further need for other loves. The saints and avatars of all faiths have averred that the love of God, of one’s Creator, quenches all thirst for human love. The divinely united souls have only one desire remaining and that is to give that love to others, that is, to share the knowledge that each soul is eternally united with its creator and all that one needs to do is “surrender” and become aware of the unity with that Divine Being.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa"

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa"

Life Sketch

On March 28, 1515, Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born Ávila, Spain, to deeply devout Catholic parents. From early childhood, Teresa was also a deeply spiritual individual.

Teresa would give generously to those less fortunate than she was, and she spent much time in prayer and meditation. Teresa's mother died while Teresa was still quite young, and the devastation of losing her mother motivated the young child to seek refuge in the Virgin Mary.

Monastic Life

For a short while during her teens, Teresa became interested in a worldly life including friendships and innocent flirtations with young men. But worldly pursuits did not satisfy Teresa, because her spiritual longings were stronger than worldly desires, and she found herself more and more drawn to the monastic life.

On Nov. 2, 1535, Teresa entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation at Ávila. Soon after entering the monastery, Teresa became ill. Teresa's father took his daughter to a healer in the small village of Becedas, but the girl did not respond to treatment. So her father moved her to the home of her uncle Pedro de Cepeda.

However, instead of recovering, Teresa became worse, so her father took her back home to Ávila, where she fell into a coma. The future saint remained in a coma for four days; then after she woke up, her legs remained paralyzed for three years.

Union with the Divine

For the next 18 years, Teresa struggled with her spiritual path. She did not give up meditation and prayer, but she felt that she did not know how to become entirely without ego. Still, even during the spiritually dry period, Teresa experienced many mystical experiences.

Finally, at age 39 while meditating and praying before an image of Christ, Teresa felt the ego problem melt away, and from that important moment she realized her union with the Divine.

Questions & Answers

Question: What other poems of Saint Teresa of Ávila are extant?

Answer: Please visit this site, http://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-... , for a list of other poems by Saint Teresa of Ávila. The Complete Poetry of Saint Teresa of Ávila edited by Eric W. Vogt is unfortunately unavailable, but with some research, you might be able to locate a copy.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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