Dancing Through The Fire

Then stir my love in idleness to flame
To find at last the free refining fire
That guards the hidden garden whence I came.

O do not kill, but quicken my desire,
Better to spur me on than leave me cold.
Not maimed I come to you, I come entire,

Lit by the loves that warm, the lusts that scald,
That you may prove the one, reprove the other,
Though both have been the strength by which I scaled

The steps so far to come where poets gather
And sing such songs as love gives them to sing.
I thank God for the ones who brought me hither

And taught me by example how to bring
The slow growth of a poem to fruition
And let it be itself, a living thing,

Taught me to trust the gifts of intuition
And still to try the tautness of each line,
Taught me to taste the grace of transformation

And trace in dust the face of the divine,
Taught me the truth, as poet and as Christian,
That drawing water turns it into wine.

Now I am drawn through their imagination
To dare to dance with them into the fire,
Harder than any grand renunciation,

To bring to Christ the heart of my desire
Just as it is in every imperfection,
Surrendered to his bright refiner’s fire

That love might have its death and resurrection.

Dancing Through The Fire by Malcolm Guite

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The Refining Fire

Over my suppliant hands entwined, I leaned
just staring at the fire, imagining
bodies of human beings and seen burn.
And both my trusted guides now turned to me.
And the Virgil spoke, to say: ‘My dearest son,
here may be agony but never death.
Remember this! Remember! And if I
led you to safety on Geryon’s back,
what will I do when now so close to God?
Believe this. And be sure. Where you to stay
a thousand years or more wombed in this fire,
you’d not been made the balder by one hair.
And if, perhaps, you think I’m tricking you,
approach the fire and reassure yourself,
trying with your own hands your garments hem.
Have done, I say, have done with fearfulness.
Turn this way. Come and enter safely in!’
But I, against all conscience, stood stock still.
And when he saw me stiff and obstinate,
he said, I little troubled: ‘Look my son,
between Beatrice and you there is just this wall….’
Ahead of me, he went to meet the fire,
and begged that Statius, who had walked the road
so long between us, now take up the rear.
And, once within, I could have flung myself ‒
The heat that fire produced was measureless ‒
or coolness, in a vat of boiling glass.
To strengthen me, my sweetest father spoke,
as on he went, of Beatrice always,
saying, it seems I see her eyes already.’
and, guiding us, a voice sang from beyond.
So we, attending only to that voice,
came out and saw where now we could ascend.
‘Venite, benedicti Patris mei!’
sounded with in what little light there was.
This overcame me and I could not look.

(Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy, II Purgatorio, lines 16−32 and 46−60)

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De Magistro

I thank my God I have emerged at last,
Blinking from Hell, to see these quiet stars,
Bewildered by the shadows that I cast.

You set me on this stair, in those rich hours
Pacing your study, chanting poetry.
The Word in you revealed his quickening powers,

Removed the daily veil, and let me see,
As sunlight played along your book-lined walls,
That words are windows onto mystery.

From Eden, whence the living fountain falls
In music, from the tower of ivory,
And from the hidden heart, he calls

In the language of Adam, creating memory
Of unfallen speech. He sets creation
Free from the carapace of history.

His image in us is imagination,
His Spirit is a sacrifice of breath
Upon the letters of his revelation.

In mid-most of the word-wood is a path
That leads back to the springs of truth in speech.
You showed it to me, kneeling on your hearth,

You showed me how my halting words might reach
To the mind’s maker, to the source of Love,
And so you taught me what it means to teach.

Teaching, I have my ardours now to prove,
Climbing with joy the steps of Purgatory.
Teacher and pupil, both are on the move,

As fellow pilgrims on a needful journey.

De Magistro by Malcolm Guite

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