my life shall be a real life

Passages from Confessions (Book X) by Augustine of Hippo (including the passage from which Petrarch takes his inspiration in “The Ascent of Mount Ventoux” and also reminiscent in places of “Holy Sonnet XIV” by John Donne as well as “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins):

These things do I within, in that vast chamber of my memory. For there are near me heaven, earth, sea, and whatever I can think upon in them, besides those which I have forgotten. There also do I meet with myself, and recall myself—what, when, or where I did a thing, and how I was affected when I did it. There are all which I remember, either by personal experience or on the faith of others. Out of the same supply do I myself with the past construct now this, now that likeness of things, which either I have experienced, or, from having experienced, have believed; and thence again future actions, events, and hopes, and upon all these again do I meditate as if they were present.

…Great is this power of memory, exceeding great, O my God—an inner chamber large and boundless! Who has plumbed the depths thereof? Yet it is a power of mine, and appertains unto my nature; nor do I myself grasp all that I am. Therefore is the mind too narrow to contain itself. And where should that be which it does not contain of itself? Is it outside and not in itself? How is it, then, that it does not grasp itself? A great admiration rises upon me; astonishment seizes me. And men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the extent of the ocean, and the courses of the stars, and omit to wonder at themselves.

…But where in my memory do You abide, O Lord? Where do You there abide? What manner of chamber have You there formed for Yourself? What sort of sanctuary have You erected for Yourself? You have granted this honour to my memory, to take up Your abode in it; but in what quarter of it You abide, I am considering. …You are the Lord God of the mind; and all these things are changed, but You remain unchangeable over all, yet vouchsafe to dwell in my memory, from the time I learned You. But why do I now seek in what part of it You dwell, as if truly there were places in it? You dwell in it assuredly, since I have remembered You from the time I learned You, and I find You in it when I call You to mind.

Where, then, did I find You, so as to be able to learn You? For You were not in my memory before I learned You. Where, then, did I find You, so as to be able to learn You, but in You above me? Place there is none; we go both backward and forward (Job 23:8) and there is no place. Everywhere, O Truth, do You direct all who consult You, and at once answer all, though they consult You on various things. Clearly do You answer, though all do not with clearness hear. All consult You upon whatever they wish, though they hear not always that which they wish. He is Your best servant who does not so much look to hear that from You which he himself wishes, as to wish that which he hears from You.

Too late did I love You, O Fairness, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love You! For behold, You were within, and I without, and there did I seek You; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, were not. You called, and cried aloud, and forced open my deafness. You gleamed and shine, and chase away my blindness. You exhaled odours, and I drew in my breath and do pant after You. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.

When I shall cleave unto You with all my being, then shall I in nothing have pain and labour; and my life shall be a real life, being wholly full of You. But now since he whom Thou fillest is the one Thou liftest up, I am a burden to myself, as not being full of You. Joys of sorrow contend with sorrows of joy; and on which side the victory may be I know not. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows contend with my good joys; and on which side the victory may be I know not. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! Lo, I hide not my wounds; You are the Physician, I the sick.

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