Dante’s Prayer

I hear the call, Eternal, sound in my heart and in the stars.
Is it timeless or infinity itself? Is its Voice a song?
I do not question, so much yet to understand and I am not able.

I only respond in gratitude, though one-legged in faith still hobbling,
letting go finger by finger my pride,
and taking up, hand after hand, my cross of self-denial.

For this Eternal is Love.


By Purgatorio, Canto 11 of the Commedia, Dante the pilgrim has exited Hell and entered purgatory by permission of the angel at the gate who uses two keys, one silver (remorse) and one gold (reconciliation). As he and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter they are warned not to look back at any point in the journey up through the terraces of purgatory to the Garden of Eden. In Purgatorio, Canto 10, Dante had seen examples of humility. Now on the first and lowest terrace he sees souls of the proud bent over by large stones they carry on their backs, due penance for their sin of Pride, of which there are three kinds: pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power.

Federigo da Montefeltro, Divina Commedia, ca. 1478.
Purgatorio, Canto XI: The Prideful. – Source

Purgatorio is filled with the prayers of souls as they ascend the terraces. And Canto 11 opens with the only complete prayer which is really an expanded version or gloss of The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens

but are not circumscribed by them out of

Your greater love for Your first works above,


Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,

by every creature, just as it is seemly

to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.


Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if

it does not come, then though we summon all

our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.


Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,

offer their wills to You as sacrifice,

so may men offer up their wills to You.


Give unto us this day the daily manna

without which he who labors most to move

ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.


Even as we forgive all who have done

us injury, may You, benevolent,

forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.


Try not our strength, so easily subdued,

against the ancient foe, but set it free

from him who goads it to perversity.”

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto X1, lines 1-21, transl. Alan Mandelbaum
Gustave Doré, Dante Alighieri’s Commedia, The Beatific Vision (1880)

The Commedia ends with Paradiso where Dante receives the beatific vision: “The Love that moves the other stars” (l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle). As Giuseppe Mazzotta notes, Inferno and Purgatorio also end with stelle. “So when Dante says that love moves the sun and other stars, what he’s really doing is placing himself immediately right back on earth, back at the beginning of his quest. He’s here with us looking up at the stars.”

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On the Radio: Jim Morrison

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

William Blake

In Café De Flore and Les Deux Magots
I met him, an actor on an oneiric screen,
a phantom disappearing into a Rimbaud
like an atavistic Lizard King.

Parades of strangers peered through windows
to see this prophet of apocalypse from thin air
construct intrusions of fireflies in the soul
to scatter the camera’s malodorous viewing.

Like an auto-da-fé hissing sparks, or a flambeau
through a swamp, short-lived, threatening night
demons that in Blakean chambers claim abode,
he rose Eden’s loss to sing.

” -Hypocrite lecteur, -mon semblable, – mon frere!” I cry, to see my sorrow
as evidence of becoming, infinite desire in true Desire finding, the Word.


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I wonder where the lost have gone

Dante and Virgil Penetrating the Forest 1824-7 William Blake 1757-1827 (Tate Gallery)

I wonder where the lost have gone
Lost to wonder, lost to touch
When sense is taken, sight is gone
What is found, and what is won.

I wonder if they’re all alone
In the darkness, in the gloom
Or in the sweating ground alone
More is said, and more is done.

Spinning earth no justice takes
For lying tongue or stiff-necked pride;
Warm her microbe-seethed embrace
Of oneness wrought, forgetfulness.

The bodies claimed by coffins lined
Or watery depths or funeral pyres
Souls unearthed new moorings find
As exiled prophets, poets divined.

I wonder where the lost have gone
Apart from mercy, love, and grace
And in their wake what’s left undone
Too late—their choices sealed in stone.


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Sailing into Eternity

“What is all this love for if we have to walk into the dark?” (M.R. James)

This is no country for old women
Scavenging among the shops of younger
Birds feathered-fit for triumphalist high-fives
Impatient of scarecrow’s creaking shoes, masked
Grimace reaching for a tin on a grocer’s shelf.

Pain exacts through sickness and age
Its own price, even as we gingerly kneel
To find the lisolia of those now lost to sight,
Praying hands held aloft, clasping light
In the aftergloom of laughter’s ghosts.

In the heartmoor of these days and nights
Visions appear, and I press forward into the dark
Of words that like crumbs from the children’s table
Fall upon me, as manna, as showers, as stories
Of love that even scarecrows can laugh to tell.


Linda at dVerse asks us to choose one or more words from a list of neologisms to write a poem. Click on Mr. Linky and join in! I've chosen "heartmoor," "aftergloom" and "lisolia," definitions of which are given in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:
Aftergloom: the pang of loneliness you feel the day after an intensely social event, as the glow of voices and laughter fades into a somber quiet.
Heartmoor: the primal longing for a home village to return to, a place that no longer exists, if it ever did.
Lisolia: the satisfaction of things worn down by time, broken in baseball mitts, the shiny snout of a lucky bronze pig, or footprints ground deep into floorboards by generations of kneeling monks.

Rebirth

For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
— Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

There ought not to be anything but that my mind has ordered it so —

So I had been taught — for the mind is designer

Reality but the by-blow, bastard child that diminishes as I diminish

But that the Emperor of Ice-Cream has clay feet

Which stand on eternity’s threshold eyeing a feast.

There the bread and wine of Thy design

Grain and grape sweetly lies upon the tongue

To “taste and see the goodness of the LORD”

Yet nothing tasting if not sanctified by Thy Word

Blood spilled and body broken

Spoken gospel of love heard by a few

Who once nothing being are born in You

Till nothing become sons and daughters

Alive to You.

Originally posted on This Jolly Beggar.

The Valley

hills-of-tuscany-400x252

Everybody wants it:
An eternal summer and a villa—
Carefree life in a hamlet
A larder chock full
Fruit ripe for the picking
Bread rising in the oven
The aroma of sweet comfort
Cut cheese for the sharing
Busy, happy work on the table
Butterflies in the garden
Fresh ocean breezes
Open doors and sun-drenched windows
Neighbors with friendly gossip
to share a bottle of wine with—

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