Descend, O Dante

by FLORENCE CONVERSE
DESCEND, O Dante, from the Heavenly Rose,
Light our lost way with your star-dusty feet.
We are beset with those devouring foes
You fled, those bestial ancients that repeat
The old familiar tactic of the Beast,
Marking the quarry, cutting off retreat.
Nor leopard, lion, wolf, has ever ceased,
Though you avoided them, to stalk the prey.
Now, woe! we are that prey, we are that feast.
The allegory shifts and symbols stray,
The dramatis personae change their roles,
But menace looms as dark as yesterday.
Worldly delights take daintily their tolls;
Imperial pride, and property for power,
Those primal greeds, haunt still our hungry souls.
We are devoured of sin, and we devour.
Return, O citizen of Heaven, to Earth’s blind hour!
O pilgrim spirit, turn your purgèd eyes
Again to time, from your eternity;
From light unveiled, to shadow and surmise.
Look down upon our storm, O eyes that see
The scattered leaves of all the universe
Ingathered in Love’s Book of Prophecy
Fulfilled. Look down, great exile, and rehearse
With us the steepness of the alien stair;
Taste yet again, with us, the salty curse
Of beggars’ bread. Come from your Otherwhere
Of vision, to us perishing. Descend,
And share again the old distraught despair
Of exiled peoples trapped in hate’s dead end;
Of conquered nations, bogged in hope’s decay;
The desert-dreams of prisoners who pretend
To freedom. Hark, the homing souls astray,
Crying for light! Come, Holy Candle, light our way!