Late have I loved Thee,
O Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved Thee!
For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside;
and I sought Thee outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that Thou hast made.
Thou wert within me, but I was not with Thee.
I was kept from Thee by those things,
yet had they not been in Thee, they would not have been at all.
Thou didst call and cry to me and break open my deafness; and Thou didst send forth Thy beams and shine upon me and chase away my blindness; Thou didst breathe fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for Thee; I tasted Thee, and now hunger and thirst for Thee; Thou didst touch me, and I have burned for Thy peace.
That is a prayer by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430, and no, there is no "1" missing from the beginning of those dates). Check out his burnin' love in this none-too-subtle allegorical painting by Baroque artist Philippe de Champaigne (I love the label, VERITAS, in case we'd miss the point).
St. Augustine, of course, is most famous for the mad sexy sins he described (remorsefully, of course) in his autobiographical Confessions, from which this ravishing prayer is taken. I tried to wade through it once in my teens, like a lot of readers, expecting it to be a bit more salacious than it was, but I never forgot this prayer. I love the lush antiquarian cadence of this translation by F.J. Sheed (of the Catholic publishers Sheed & Ward). But if you prefer a version without "Thees" and "werts," this English translation was given by the Vatican when Benedict XVI quoted the prayer in an address in 2008. It still, fortunately, includes "panting."
Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.
And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.
You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.
You called and cried aloud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.