Readers of this blog will know that I have what one might call ‘a long term relationship’ with Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, returning to the story again and again at different phases and stages of my life and finding how different episodes and places in that poem, which might itself be described as a roadmap of the soul, illuminate for me, in new ways, what is happening in my life, and perhaps what is happening in all our lives.
In 2013, in my collection The Singing bowl I published a sequence of poems in terza rima called On Reading the Commedia which was a lind of prayer-poetry journal of my own journeys through Dante’s great poem. So as this year is the 700th anniversary of his death I thought i would post these daily, beginning on 14th September the anniversary day itself. May I also just say to my patient and long-suffering readers that I have not forgotten the David’s Crown psalm poems – we had reached 100 of the 150 – but i have been waylaid bu a house move and many other calls on my time. but after I have posted this Dante sequence I will resume regular recordings and commentaries on the David’s Crown poems and finish that sequence for you.
so here is the first of my Dante poems
And so I start again, here in the middle,
The middle of a life I scarcely know,
How many guesses left to get the riddle?
The woods are dark and darker shadows grow.
I followed someone here, but lost her leading,
With nothing but my lostness left to show.
The voice that drew me on is faint and fading
But something else is creeping up behind
Over whose heart, I wonder, are we treading?
My shadow-beasts can scent, though they are blind
All three are here, the leopard, lion, wolf,
My kith and kin, the emblems of my kind.
They’ve come to draw me back across the gulf
Back from the path I wanted to have chosen.
Fall back, they call, you can’t run from yourself
Fall to the place where every hope is frozen…
But not his time, this time I choose to choose
The other path, path of the dead and risen,
To try the hidden heart of things, to let go, lose,
To lose myself and find again the voice
That called and drew me here, my freeing muse.
Begin again she calls, you have the choice,
Little by little, you can travel far,
Learn to lament before you can rejoice
Sing to the shadows, sing and do not fear
But sing them into love little by little
Begin the song exactly where you are.
And so I start again here in the middle
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