Posts Tagged ‘Little Gidding’

…as T.S. Eliot puts it:

Who then devised the torment? Love.

Love is the unfamiliar Name

behind the hands that wove

the intolerable shirt of flame

which human power cannot remove.

We only live, only suspire,

consumed either by fire or fire.

It takes great faith to open oneself to this purifying fire, to believe that it is the power of love. The extraordinary thing is that it is often imagined as a fire of roses. Eliot concludes Little Gidding, from which I have just quoted, with these lines:

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

into the crowned knot of fire

and the fire and the rose are one.

In The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald describes the fire of roses into which the princess must plunge her hands to be burned and purified. And Dante uses this metaphor in The Divine Comedy. Where did the fire of roses originate? I supsect it goes back beyond human memory.

Dare we open ourselves to this purifying fire … ?

Madeleine L’Engle
Walking on Water:
Reflections on Faith and Art
(1980, rpt. 2001)


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