One Winds the Spiral Down


I wrote this poem during this past season of Lent. I was inspired by Malcolm Guite’s reflections on different selections of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. In particular, my inspiration came from Guite’s poem “Through the Gate” and the selection of Dante he entitles “Towards a Shining World” from Inferno (lines 133-end) and Purgatory (lines 115-129). Guite highlights that, like Dante and Virgil, the journey toward God and redemption involves descent. Down is the way up (echoing T.S. Eliot and John of the Cross). Guite sees this as a picture of the Christian life:

[Dante] (and we) must have the courage to descend and face the worst, in ourselves as well as others, if we are to come at last to our heavenly home. But, as we shall see, even in that descent we continually see signs that our Saviour has gone before us.

The Word in the Wilderness (page 82)

This is really encouraging! We follow Jesus as we trek the way down. He leads us down, but back up again. The Cross leads to Resurrection. Guite elaborates further:

Like Jesus, who went to the cross not for pain in itself but ‘for the joys that were set before him’, so we are to make this journey through the memories of pain and darkness, not to stay with these things but to redeem them and move beyond them. And the journey itself is made possible because Christ himself has gone before… We who build so many hells on earth, need to know that there is no place so dark, no situation so seemingly hopeless, that cannot be opened to the light of Christ for rescue and redemption.

The Word in the Wilderness (page 86)

Like Dante coming up from the frozen core of the Inferno and seeing the stars shining above, we too can journey with Jesus in hope that He, the Bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16), will cause us to shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15) as He casts His light over all our darkness (John 1:5). Down is the way up. Journey on, my friends!

One Winds the Spiral Down

One winds the spiral down,
Wearied step after wearied step.
Astonished, aghast – a deep-set frown,
Fruit of a grieved heart, unwept.

Down the way up – they say
A nobler, hoping path. Eyes fixed
On stars, shining, yet descent each day.
Tears blur lighted steps oft missed.

Wipe mine eyes, my soul’s Love,
Holy Encampment, Noonday Sun!
Gentle Father, bring peace! When Thy Dove
Descends, day’s ascent begun.

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