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Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee

Bernard of Clairvaux
translated by
Edward Caswall1


Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!

O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show!
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

O Jesu, Light of all below!
Thou Fount of life and fire!
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

Thee will I seek, at home, abroad,
Who every where art nigh;
Thee in my bosom’s cell, O Lord,
As on my bed I lie.

With Mary to Thy tomb I’ll haste,
Before the dawning skies,
And all around with longing cast
My soul’s inquiring eyes;

Beside Thy grave will make my moan,
And sob my heart away;
Then at Thy feet sink trembling down,
And there adoring stay;

Nor from my tears and sighs refrain,
Nor Thy dear knees release,
My Jesu, till from Thee I gain
Some blessed word of peace!


O Jesu, King most wonderful,
Thou conqueror renown’d!
Thou sweetness most ineffable,
In whom all joys are found!

Stay with us, Lord; and with Thy light
Illume the soul’s abyss;
Scatter the darkness of our night,
And fill the world with bliss!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine;
Then earthly vanities depart;
Then wakens love divine.

Jesu! Thy mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousandfold
Whatever we can say;

That love, which in Thy Passion drained
For us Thy precious Blood,
Whence with Redemption we have gained
The vision of our God!

May every heart confess Thy Name,
And ever Thee adore;
And seeking Thee, itself inflame,
To seek Thee more and more!

May every soul Thy love return,
And strive to do Thy will;
And, running in Thine odours, learn
To love Thee better still!

Thou, who hast lov’d me from the womb,
Pure source of all my bliss!
My only hope of life to come,
My happiness in this!

Grant me, while here on earth I stay,
Thy love to feel and know;
And when from hence I pass away,
To me Thy glory show.

And, O my Jesu, pardon me,
Unfit to speak Thy praise,
Yet daring thus, for love of Thee,
My trembling hymn to raise.


Jesu, the soul hath in Thy love
A food that never cloys;
A sacred foretaste from above
Of Paradisal joys.

Celestial Sweetness unalloy’d!
Who eat Thee, hunger still;
Who drink of Thee, yet feel a void,
Which naught but Thou can fill.

Thrice happy he, who loving Thee,
Doth Thy true sweetness know;
All else becomes but vanity
Thenceforth to him below.

O Jesu, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above,
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Enchanting it with love.

For Thee I yearn, for Thee I sigh;
When wilt Thou come to me,
And make me glad eternally
With the blest sight of Thee?

O Jesu, Love unchangeable,
For whom my soul doth pine!
O Fruit of life celestial!
O Sweetness all divine!

O kindness, infinite, supreme!
My joy and true repose!
O depth of charity extreme,
Which no abatement knows!

’Tis good that I my love should give
Save Thee to none beside;
And dying to myself, should live
For Jesus crucified!

O my sweet Jesu, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee I send!
To Thee mine inmost spirit cries,
My being’s hope and end!

Thy presence with me I desire,
Wherever I may be;
This, Lord, is all that I require
For my felicity!

Thy kiss is bliss beyond compare,
A bliss for evermore;
O, that Thy visits were less rare,
And not so quickly o’er!


Now have I gained my long desire,
Now what I sought is mine;
Now is my heart, O Christ, on fire
With Thy pure love divine!

Blest fire! which no extinction knows,
Which never flags or fails;
But greater still and greater grows,
And more and more prevails!

Blest love, which flows eternally,
With wondrous sweetness fraught;
Which tasteth most delightfully
Beyond the reach of thought!

This fire, this love, are now my own,
And to my vitals cleave;
And through mine inmost marrow run,
And in my bosom heave.

O joy! O ecstasy of bliss,
More felt than understood!
What pleasure can compare with this,
To love the Son of God?

O Jesu! spotless virgin flower,
Our love and joy! To Thee
Be praise, beatitude, and power
Through all eternity.

Come, O Thou King of boundless might!
Come, Majesty adored!
Come, and illume me with Thy light,
My long-expected Lord!

O fairest of the sons of day,
More fragrant than the rose!
O brighter than the dazzling ray
That in the sunbeam glows!

O Thou whose love alone is all
That mortal can desire!
Whose image does my heart enthrall,
And with delight inspire.

Jesu, my only joy be Thou,
As Thou my prize wilt be;
Jesu, be Thou my glory now,
My hope, my victory.


O Thou, in whom my love doth find
Its rest and perfect end;
O Jesu, Saviour of mankind,
And their eternal friend!

Return, return, pure Light of Light,
To Thy dread throne again;
Go forth victorious from the fight,
And in Thy glory reign.

Lead where Thou wilt, I follow Thee,
And will not stay behind;
For Thou hast torn my heart from me,
O Glory of our kind!

Ye Heav’ns, your gates eternal raise,
Come forth to meet your King!
Come forth with joy, and sing His praise,
His praise eternal sing!

O King of glory! King of might!
From whom all graces come;
O beauty, honour, infinite,
Of our celestial home!

O Fount of mercy! Light of Heaven!
Our darkness cast away;
And grant us all, through Thee forgiven,
To see the perfect day.

Hark! how the Heav’ns with praise o’erflow;
O priceless gift of blood!
Jesus makes glad the world below,
And gains us peace with God.

In peace He reigns—that peace divine,
For mortal sense too high;
That peace for which my soul doth pine,
To which it longs to fly.

Christ to His Father is returned,
And sits upon His throne;
For Him my panting heart hath yearned,
And after Him is gone.

To Him praise, glory, without end,
And adoration be;
O Jesu, grant us to ascend,
And reign in Heav’n with Thee!


Lyre and Wreath, used under license from www.123rf.com (santi0103/123RF Stock Photo)

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Image credit: Copyright: santi0103/123RF Stock Photo
Used under license
  1. If the number of verses is surprising (since most hymnals have five verses at most from this poem), we refer the reader to Caswell’s The Masque of Mary, and Other Poems, where his translation of this work spans pages 287 to 296. Caswell titled his translation St. Bernard’s Hymn, or The Loving Soul’s Jubilation.
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