John Dunn

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Confession to Beatrice

Monday, 24 Aug 2020

John Dunn shows the great poet kneeling in a picture added to Dr John Dunn. Dante bows to Beatrice, Carl Oesterly

The chance encounter changed my life.

In that book which is my memory,
On the first page that is the day when I first met you,
Appear the words, ‘Incipit vita nova: Here begins the new life’.
(Vita Nuova I )

Though I have never attempted to meet you without your consent since our paths diverged, those few days together have had a lasting impact on my life.

Your first knowing glance did not release me as Eros from Chaos. Rather I became subject to Chaos and a slave to Ananke and the fates. Love left me vulnerable as a docile puppy.

I say that when she appeared, in whatever place, by the hope embodied in that marvellous greeting, for me no enemy remained, in fact I shone with a flame of charity that made me grant pardon to whoever had offended me: and if anyone had then asked me anything my reply would only have been: ‘Love’, with an aspect full of humility. (La Vita Nuova XI)

In my mythology you were beatified as the cosmic gospel of salvation - but that was not until I met you in Heaven where first I beheld you with my mind freed from the necessity of possession.

Only then dared I confess:

You have brought me from slavery to freedom, by all those paths, by all those ways over which you had power. Guard your grace, in me, so that my spirit, which you have made whole, may be acceptable to you when it leaves my body. (Paradiso 31)

Eve, you led me into Chaos, but became the highest queen of Heaven and freed me from necessity.

This was the true emergence of Eros - as light.

Freed from the fates, man is so exalted as to be divine.

In this exalted state, burning with love, I was permitted to behold the Holy Virgin. Bertrand prepared me for this experience with the following invocation:

Virgin mother, daughter of your Son, humbled, and exalted, more than any other creature, fixed goal of the Eternal Wisdom; you are She who made human nature so noble, that its own Maker did not scorn to become of its making. The Love, beneath whose warmth this flower has grown, in eternal peace, flamed again in your womb. Here you are the noonday torch of Love to us, and down there, among mortal beings, you are a living springof hope. (Paradiso 33)

Love as possession was Francesca’s Hell.

Through you Beatrice I discovered that love was more than a claim upon another. It took many years… but eventually I learned.

I thought that love was the awakening of Eros and the mirror of Creation; but loss is the true awakening after passion.

I fell in love, but became a slave to Ananke.

Love unrequited offered ‘a living spring of hope’ - new life after the fall.

© John Dunn.

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