“I Thirst for Love”: A Poem by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

000000aaaalittle2One facet of  St. Thérèse that many people are unaware of, was her talent as a poet. In the solitude of her cell at night, by the light of a single candle, she would compose her poems (love songs), thus fulfilling her desire to express, in some small measure, her passionate love for God, her undying gratitude for the immense sacrifices He had made for her, and her longing to be united with the Beloved. Thérèse had discovered one of the most profound truths of our Catholic Faith: every person is special and unique to God. His ‘thirst’ is that each and every one of us should open our own hearts willingly to Him, to accept His Word, to give our own ‘fiat’ of filial obedience. Then we too shall: “…seest thou My loving.”

“The stirrings of the soul can be brought to fruition in seeing life as a never-ending quest toward our heavenly home. Therese pinpointed this concept in her “Little Way.” By desiring a simple life, she exemplified the knack of finding adventure in all the small things. “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.” There is a relief to the bitterness of fallen humanity when we can do as Therese did and not only enjoy the simple, but thrive within it. She made simplicity appealing in that through it, she found immense joy and hope. If we, like her, could view our lives from a transcendental perspective, simplicity and poetics shine through our failings and our victories.” (Fr. Robert Barron)

“I Thirst for Love”

In wondrous love Thou didst come down from Heaven

To immolate Thyself, O Christ, for me;

So, in my turn, my love to Thee is given,

I wish to suffer and to die for Thee.

Thou, Lord, has spoken this truth benign:

“To die for one loved tenderly

Of greatest love on Earth is sign;”

And now, such love is mine, such love for Thee!

Abide, abide with me, O Pilgrim blest!

Behind the hill fast sinks the dying day.

Helped by Thy Cross I mount the rocky crest;

Oh, come, to guide me on my heavenward way.

To be like Thee is my desire;

Thy voice finds echo in my soul.

Suffering I crave! Thy words of fire

Lift me above Earth’s mire, and sin’s control.

Chanting Thy victories, gloriously sublime,

The Seraphim all Heaven cry to me,

That even Thou, to conquer sin and crime,

Upon this Earth a sufferer needs must be.

For me, upon life’s dreary way,

What scorn, what anguish, Thou didst bear

Let me grow humble every day,

Be least of all, always, Thy lot to share!

Ah, Christ! Thy great example teaches me

Myself to humble, honours to despise.

Little and low like Thee I choose to be,

Forgetting self, so I may charm Thine eyes.

My peace I find in solitude,

Nor ask I more, dear Lord, than this:

Be Thou my sole beatitude,

Ever in Thee renewed, my joy, my bliss.

Thou, the great God Whom Earth and Heaven adore,

Thou dwellest a prisoner for me night and day;

And every hour I hear Thy voice implore:

“I thirst – I thirst – I thirst – for love always!”

I, too, Thy prisoner am I;

I, too, cry ever unto Thee

Thine own divine and tender cry:

“I thirst! Oh, let me die of love for Thee!”

For love of Thee I thirst! Fulfill my hope;

Augment in me Thine own celestial flame!

For love of Thee I thirst! Too scant Earth’s scope.

The glorious Vision of Thy Face I claim!

My long slow martyrdom of fire

Still more and more consumeth me.

Thou art my joy, my own desire.

Jesu! May I expire of love for Thee!

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15 Responses to “I Thirst for Love”: A Poem by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

  1. GC says:

    Thanks for this, kathleen. What a treasure.

    My peace I find in solitude,
    Nor ask I more, dear Lord, than this:
    Be Thou my sole beatitude,
    Ever in Thee renewed, my joy, my bliss.

    I suppose now a certain regular commenter here will make the usual remarks concnerning Catholic masochism?

    Like

  2. Toadspittle says:

    “I suppose now a certain regular commenter here will make the usual remarks concnerning Catholic masochism?”

    Nope.
    Doesn’t seem to be all that relevant here.

    (But describing Christ’s sacrifice as “self-immolation” is a bit of a stretch, I think.)

    Like

  3. kathleen says:

    Thank you GC.
    It is amazing what a wealth of spiritual treasures little St. Thérèse left us in her bare 24 years on Earth, nine of them ‘enclosed’ in Carmel!

    Of course the original poem was written in French, so this is just the English translation. To get a poem to express the same meaning its author intended, whilst at the same time following the same beats and rhyming, must be an enormous challenge to the translator.

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  4. Yes, thank you for this. Would it be possible also to have the original French, as St. Therese wrote it? Or do you know where a copy of the French version can be obtained?

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  5. kathleen says:

    Hi Robert! I bought a book of St.Thérèse’s poems, in English, when my mother and I went on pilgrimage to Lisieux in 1997 (the centenary of the death of St. Thérèse).

    I’ve been doing a search on the internet for the original French version, and although I have found lots of the other lovely poems St. Thérèse composed, I’m afraid I cannot find the one shown above, “I thirst for love”! However I do know that its name in French is, ‘Le Cantique de soeur Marie de la Trinite: J’ai soif d’amour‘. Scroll down to number 31 on this link:
    http://bibliotheque.editionsducerf.fr/par%20page/2653/TM.htm

    Perhaps we need to get CP&S’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ (a.k.a. GC) on the case! 😉

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  6. Hi Kathleen, no need to search further. “Le Cantique de soeur Marie de la Trinite: J’ai soif d’amour” is in fact the French version of the poem “I thirst for love.” When I click on number 31 on the link you suggested, a new page opens with the beginning of the poem in French. This page is a sample, like the sample pages that Amazon provides on its website. The rest of the poem is on the following pages which are not part of the sample and cannot be opened. I’m very impressed that you could find this information – MANY thanks. The book the poem is in is not exactly inexpensive, but I plan to buy a copy anyway.

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  7. Kathleen, I just figured out that all of the pages of the poem can be accessed at the link you provided, not just the first page, so the complete poem is available. Again, many, many thanks for this information

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  8. GC says:

    Perhaps we need to get CP&S’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ (a.k.a. GC) on the case!

    Oh drat, I see Robert beat me too it, kathleen.

    Can I ask who the translator was, kathleen? Was it our old friend Monsignor Ronald Knox?

    You’re right about the work of a translator. It makes me think you might be one yourself, dear kathleen.

    The more times I read St Therese’s poem the more I see in it. It’s full of things “to take to heart”, literally, kathleen. So thank you again.

    Like

  9. kathleen says:

    You’re very welcome Robert! Glad to be of help to one of CP&S’s most faithful commenters. 🙂
    _________

    Ah GC, you are too clever! Yes, I have done translation work in the past (Spanish/English) but I must admit to having no official qualifications as a translator. My French is only “schoolgirl French” (i.e., O’Level standard), which is enough to get by but is not fluent. I understand more French than I actually speak.

    I don’t have the book of the Little Flower’s poems with me at present, so I shall have to tell you the name of the translator at another moment, but it is definitely not the great Ronald Knox.

    Yes, there is a lot of deep meaning in this poem, as in so much of St. Thérèse’s other poems and writings. Still, you need to have the right disposition of heart and insight to discover the hidden treasures…. you certainly do dear friend.

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  10. GC says:

    I shall have to tell you the name of the translator at another moment, but it is definitely not the great Ronald Knox.

    Ah kathleen, I’ve saved you some bother. I have discovered the translator and it is Miss Susan L. Emery (1846-1914) of Dorchester in Massachusetts. She converted to Catholicism in 1875 (at roughly 29 years of age?) from what appears to be Episcopalianism (American Anglicanism?). She was on the staff of the Sacred Heart Review and contributed to the American Catholic Quarterly, Catholic World and Harper’s Magazine.

    She seems to have been a marvellous soul as her obituary shows.

    Here are all the poems of St Therese that she translated.

    And her own The Inner Life of the Soul.

    Well kathleen, that’s three busy Catholic women we’ve heard about in the last few days: St Therese, Sister Mary Xavier and Susan L. Emery. What exactly have the boys been doing, I wonder?

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  11. kathleen says:

    GC, very many belated thanks for the above links. What a wonderful holy woman Miss Susan Emery most certainly was!

    You are AMAZING, and an absolute wizard at discovering the answer to everyone’s questions, plus so many hidden gems in the vast wealth of information on the internet! Sherlock Holmes would indeed be proud of you. 😆

    Like

  12. Frere Rabit says:

    Oh dear…. “describing Christ’s sacrifice as “self-immolation” is a bit of a stretch, I think” says Toad.

    A very standard theological concept and phrase, Toad. Try to avoid the intellectual own-goals please: it does distress those of us who enjoy your m,ore intelligent comments.

    🙂

    Like

  13. Toadspittle says:

    Right, Rabit.

    “…tis folly to be wise,” etc…

    I will stick to Cole Porter lyrics.

    Like

  14. Tina Amy says:

    The book The Poetry of St. Therese of Lisieux published by ICS had an English translation by Donald Kinney ocd and the original French in the same book. There are also notes in English for each poem telling when and why Therese wrotw it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: 301 – 2038 – St Thérèse of Lisieux — thejaymo

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