Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Leopard

Dear readers, you have my apologies for it having been so long since my last post. Here's a poem I just wrote, inspired by Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. It's called "The Leopard":

“And see! not far from where the mountain-side
First rose, a Leopard, nimble and light and fleet,
Clothed in a fine furred pelt all dapple-dyed,
Came gamboling out, and skipped before my feet,
Hindering me so, that from the forthright line
Time and again I turned to beat retreat.”
Dante’s Inferno, Canto I (translated by Dorothy Sayers)

The wood is dark; the path is lost;
And I, half-blinded in the haze—
I turn my heart in reckless round,
To follow after better ways.
But then it comes, the shadow bright,
The beast that haunts my every breath.
It lurks, it laughs, it waits for me,
To drag me to an endless death.
As bright as gold, I yearn for it
When weakness drowns my better sense,
But black as night it is to me—
The lash, the grave, and my offense.
I know my foe, and he knows me,
For long and bitter is our fight.
Sometimes I rout him from the path,
Sometimes he chases me to flight.
We’ve wrestled long, the two of us—
Bloodied am I, but never dead,
Nor shall I now give up the path
To this, my desire and my dread.
Blessed Heaven, if thou can hear,
Oh, send a guide to guard my ways,
To lead me past this threshold black
And raise my steps to higher planes.
There is but one escape for me,
I know it well, but fear the path—
To journey down purgation’s vale
And taste of my appointed wrath.
Then down, then up, the other side,
O blessed mountain of my hope!
Then grace will be my very strength,
The pow’r that pulls me up that slope.
And then, O bright and swift ascent!
Beyond the hill, and far above,
To that which grace assigned for me,
A place within the Maker’s love.
I know the journey well enough,
But still this step awaits me now—
Beyond the leopard’s deadly lair
And to the keeping of my vow.
A breath for strength, a prayer for grace,
Now Heaven’s pow’r my heart revives;
I step into the joy of God,
And I will flay this beast alive.