Love delights in green places, in the songs of birds and fountains;
But the lover is led across sandy deserts and stone mountains.
He is sent to regions where the night wind freezes and the noon sun sears
To build a throne for his Beloved and make a garden with his tears.
In farness is nearness, in separation is presence;
And suffering is a sword that cuts away pretence.
Desire draws the lover towards a fulfillment which is separation;
Love drives him apart and on to union’s perfect station.
This union alone may be called the Beloved’s grace.
All else is thistle-down that little children chase.
But union is death to a man as it is to a bee:
Seek the Beloved’s pleasure—and in that become free.
Love delights in green places, where birds sing and flowers dream
Along the banks of tears’ meandering silver stream.
The poem is insisting once more on certain requirements which the genuine seeker must pass through. The labour in the desert can become the garden but there is no short cut; there is no way to opt for suffering in order to have reward of enjoyment. Anything that remains self-centred is invalid. There is a flavour of William Blake’s poetic marriage of contraries in these verses – for example,
“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”
(The Clod and the Pebble).
It is a vision of beauty, that the lover builds a garden fit to receive the beloved through tears willingly suffered. That the way to draw near to Him is to bear the burden of our separation from Him. That this grace granted union is the only reality, all the rest childish pastimes. That like the bee that sacrifices himself to mate with his queen we too must die for love.
In the final stanza images of beauty and suffering come together in a fulfilment. We can think of the relationship between the first and last stanzas.