Towards A Shining World

Dante and Virgil emerge from hell and begin the ascent of mount purgatory

So now we entered on that hidden Path,
my Lord and I, to move once more towards
a shining world. We did not care to rest.
We climbed, he going first and I behind,
until through some small aperture I saw
the lovely things the skies above us bear.
Now we came out, and once more saw the stars.

To race now over better waves, my ship
of mind -alive again- hoists sail, and leaves
behind its little keel the gulf that proved so cruel.
And I’ll sing, now, about the second realm
where human spirits page themselves from stain,
becoming worthy to ascend to Heaven.
Here, too, dead poetry will rise again.
for now, you secret Muses, I am yours…

Dawn was defeating now the last hours sung
by night, which fled before it. And far away
I recognised the tremblings of the sea.
Alone, we walked along the open plain,
as though, returning to a path we’d lost,
our steps, until we came to that, with vain.
Then, at a place in shadow with the dew
still fought against the sun and, cooled by breeze,
had scarcely yet been send out into vapour,
my master placed the palms of both his hands,
spread wide, likely and gently on the tender grass.
And I, aware of what his purpose was,
offered my tear-stained cheeks to meet his touch.
At which, he made once more entirely clean
the colour that the dark of Hell had hidden.

(The Divine Comedy, I Inferno, lines 133−end, and II Purgatorio, lines 1−8 and 115−29)


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Through The Gate

Begin the song exactly where you are,
For where you are contains where you have been
And holds the vision of your final sphere.

And do not fear the memory of sin;
There is a light that heals, and, where it falls,
Transfigures and redeems the darkest stain

Into translucent colour. Loose the veils
And draw the curtains back, unbar the doors,
Of that dread threshold where your spirit fails,

The hopeless gate that holds in all the fears
That haunt your shadowed city, fling it wide
And open to the light that finds, and fares

Through the dark pathways where you run and hide,
Through all the alleys of your riddled heart,
As pierced and open as his wounded side.

Open the map to Him and make a start,
And down the dizzy spirals, through the dark,
His light will go before you. Let him chart

And name and heal. Expose the hidden ache
To him, the stinging fires and smoke that blind
Your judgement, carry you away, the mirk

And muted gloom in which you cannot find
The love that you once thought worth dying for.
Call him to all you cannot call to mind.

He comes to harrow Hell and now to your
Well-guarded fortress let his love descend.
The icy ego at your frozen core

Can hear his call at last. Will you respond?

Through The Gate by Malcolm Guite


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Meeting Virgil: ‘There Is Another Road’

As I went, ruined, rushing to that low,
there had, before my eyes, been offered one
who seemed -long silent- to be faint and dry.

Seeing him near in that great wilderness,
to him I screamed my ‘miserere’: ‘Save me,
whatever – shadow or truly man – you be.’

His answer came to me: ‘No man; a man
I was in times long gone. Of Lombard stock,
my parents both by patria and Mantuan.

And I was born, though late, sub Iulio.
I lived at Rome in good Augustus’ day,
in times when all the gods were lying cheats.

I was a poet then. I sang in praise
of all the virtues of Anchises’ son. From Troy
he came ‒ proud Ilion razed in flame.

But you turn back. Why seek such grief and harm?
Why climb no higher up at lovely hill?
The cause and origin of joy shines there.’

‘So, could it be’, I answered him, (my brow,
in shy respect bent low), ‘you are that Virgil,
whose words flow wide, a river running full?

You are the light and glory of all poets.
May this serve me: my ceaseless care, the love
so great, that made me search your writings through!

You are my teacher. You, my lord and law.
From you alone I took the fine-tuned style
that has, already, brought me so much honour.

See you there? That beast! I turned because of that.
Help me ‒ your wisdom’s known ‒ escape from her.
To every pulsing vein, she brings the tremor.

Seeing my tears, he answered me: ‘There is
another road. And that, if you intend
to quit this wilderness, you’re bound to take.’

Dante, The Divine Comedy, I Inferno, lines 61−93


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