The Fire and the Rose

Penance of Mary Magdalene, El Greco, c. 1585/90, Museu del Cau Ferrat, Barcelona

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.


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 by either fire or fire.
--T. S. Eliot,
from "Little Gidding"

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