On Reading the Commedia 9:The Rose

a white rose opens

a white rose opens

I come now to the final part my sequence of nine poems reflecting on the exprerience of reading, and re-reading Dante’s Commedia. By the end of the Paradiso Dante has taken us to the very limits of human thought and expression, to the brink of a reality which is beyond language, and yet which is the true source of all reality. That source is Love, ‘the Love that moves the sun and the other stars’, and the whole purpose of the poem is that we learn and choose also to be moved by, and find our peace, in that Love.

To describe his journey, Dante used the astronomy of his day, but the truth of his message does not depend on one scientific model, or another, but on what lies behind the reality they model. In this poem I have tried to hint at the exprerience of reading Dante with our own, equally marvelous and mysterious cosmology in mind.

GuiteCommedia3If you have enjoyed reading these poems you may be interested to know that a Special Edition of them has been printed and bound in Florence by Aureo Anello Books. Printed in William Morris Troy Font, in a numbered limited edition of 250, these little chapbooks, with parchment covers, are being offered for a suggested donation of €15,00, to help the work of Anchoress and Dante Scholar Sister Julia Bolton Holloway who helps look after the famous ‘English Cemetry’ in Florence, where Elizabeth Barett Browning and other poets are buried. For Julia’s wonderful suite of web resources for Dante, Mother Julian, and mediaeval theology, start exploring here.  The special page telling you how to obtain Aureo Anello’s limited editions including my Dante poem is here.

I am Grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful image of the rose, as usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play button.

9 The Rose

A white rose opens in a quiet arbour

Where I sit reading Dante, Paradise

Unfolding in me, opens hour by hour,


In sunlight and amidst the hum of bees

On a late afternoon. I think of how

Everything flowers, the whole universe


Itself is still unfolding even now

Sprung from a stem of singularity

Which petals time and space.  I think of how


The very elements that let my body be

Began and will continue in the stars

Whose light and distance frame our mystery,


And how my shadowed heart still loves, still bears

With every beat that animates  my being,

Eternal yearnings through the turning years.


I turn back to the lines that light my seeing

And lift me to the limits of all thought

And long that I might also find that freeing


And enabling Love, and so be caught

And lifted into His renewing Heaven.

Evening glimmers, and the stars come out,


Venus is shining clear, my prayers are woven

Into a sounding song, a symphony,

As all creation gives back what is given


In music made to praise the Mystery

Who is both gift and giver. Something stirs

A grace in me beyond my memory


I close the book and look up at the stars.


If you missed the earlier episodes, here are the links to the other poems in this sequence:

Previous poems in this Dante Series:


1 In Medias Res

2 Through the Gate

3 Vexila Regis


4 De Magistro

5 Love in Idleness

6 Dancing Through the Fire


7  Look up

8 Circle Dance


Filed under imagination, literature, Poems

8 responses to “On Reading the Commedia 9:The Rose

  1. Lawan

    Malcolm –
    I just received mine about two weeks ago when I stopped by to visit Sr. Julia at the cemetery (you know that is also where my remains will lie for eternity). I was so thrilled when she brought it out. It is wonderful. It is now on my desk at the church and brings me joy every time I open it.
    I give you and Sr. Julia my greatest appreciation for the beauty that both of you bring into our world. You are truly gems of our day!

    • malcolmguite

      I’m so glad you’ve got one Lawan, I wish I could have been there to sign it. One day I will read this poem to you both in Florence!

  2. Pingback: On Reading the Commedia 9:The Rose | ChristianBookBarn.com

  3. Thank you so much for this series. I cannot tell you how much I have been helped by these poems & a re-reading of The Divine Comedy will definitely follow for me, hopefully right to the final sphere. I am also glad that I have a friend to discuss it with. I find myself repeating the line “begin the sing exactly where you are” over and over again. It seems to give courage in the dark places but also the encouragement to keep on searching for the glimpses of paradise as you suggested in your reply to my comment recently. Thank you once again.

    • malcolmguite


      • malcolmguite

        Stephen, as that particular line means so much to you it occurs to me that you might like this, a sonnet, encorporating terza rima which I wrote at about the same time also meditating on that same line as ‘advice from the muse’ or the spirit:

        Singing bowl
        Begin the song exactly where you are,
        Remain within the world of which you’re made.
        Call nothing common in the earth or air,
        Accept it all and let it be for good.
        Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
        This moment’s pulse, this rhythm in your blood
        And listen to it, ringing soft and low.
        Stay with the music, words will come in time.
        Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.
        Become an open singing-bowl, whose chime
        Is richness rising out of emptiness,
        And timelessness resounding into time.
        And when the heart is full of quietness
        Begin the song exactly where you are.

  4. I have been reading and rereading this poem ever since you offered it in your reply. Each line seems to speak to my condition & the line that begins & ends it has entered my prayer & also my work with others. I love the image of the empty bowl ready to sing. It stands in such stark contrast to the kind of perception of self and others that begins with an assessment of exactly what lies within the bowl. I think I have shifted the metaphor to the begging bowl here but I think it still works. What your poem offers is consciously to begin from emptiness, I think. The impulsiveness of St Peter that you describe in your sonnet for the conclave also comes to mind here in the same way. The line that intrigues me me in the sense that I don’t quite get it yet but think that I am on the way is the one where you encourage the reader to stay with the music and that the words will come later.

    There are so many riches here so, once again, thank you & by the way, I am encouraging my friends & contacts to read your blog and buy and read your books (as I have). I think you are offering something incredibly important.

  5. Pingback: Holy Saturday: ‘He Comes To Harrow Hell’ | Malcolm Guite

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