In a Dark Wood [*POEM*]

‘Una Selva Oscura’


You are lost in a dark wood, lost
In darkness impenetrable;
Or on a wild sea, tempest tossed,
Under a sky of black metal.

Will you shake your fist at the sky?
Will you cry out, ‘Not fair! Not fair!’
Will you break down and cry, cry, cry?
Will you wail and tear out your hair? 

No, no, no!—you’ve already done
All that. That’s not the way to go.
You need the warm kiss of the sun
On your flesh. This, you need to know: 

The golden glory of the sun
Shines on forever, dearest friend,
Though from this wood the light has run.
Peace!—longest journeys soonest end.

3 thoughts to “In a Dark Wood [*POEM*]”

    ‘Per Una Selva Oscura’

    You are lost in a dark wood, lost
    In darkness impenetrable . . .

    An allusion to Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ where the first verse introduces the image of the Dark Wood of the World (“una selva oscura”) :

    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.

    Translated by H.F. Cary, the great Victorian translator of Dante:

    “In the midway of this our mortal life,
    I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
    Gone from the path direct . . .”

  2. This poem brings to mind the phrase “dark night of the soul” and the poem by St. John of the Cross (for example, Several verses (in English) might give one a sense of darkness as light well disguised.

    And in the luck of night
    In secret places where no other spied
    I went without my sight
    Without a light to guide
    Except the heart that lit me from inside.

    It guided me and shone
    Surer than noonday sunlight over me,
    And led me to the one
    Whom only I could see
    Deep in a place where only we could be.

    O guiding dark of night!
    O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
    O night that can unite
    A lover and loved one,
    Lover and loved one moved in unison.

    Also competing for mindful attention is the story of the Master Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, which illustrates such soul-centric experience. While studying with the Holy Order of MANS, which both taught and actualized a “path of initiation”, I had such a spiritual experience before an intiation, though mild indeed and worth only passing mention here. Truth be told, I later had a substantially similar episode, more intense and drawn out, going through divorce from my (first) wife after 11 years of marriage. No less spiritual, I think now.

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