Parallels 7 – Modernist Petals

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

– fragment of T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men

‘No, that is too small, too particular a name. We cannot attach
the width and spread of our feelings to so small a mark. We have
come together (from the North, from the South, from Susan’s farm,
from Louis’ house of business) to make one thing, not enduring–for
what endures?–but seen by many eyes simultaneously. There is a
red carnation in that vase. A single flower as we sat here
waiting, but now a seven-sided flower, many-petalled
, red, puce,
purple-shaded, stiff with silver-tinted leaves–a whole flower to
which every eye brings its own contribution.

– fragment of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

Even as I go down the rose, petal by petal, naming their proper names, you can see, descending from level to level, Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and Ruth, her from whom came David the singer, third in descent, who cried out, from grief at his sin: “Miserere mei: Pity me.’ And down from the seventh, and beyond, again the Hebrew women, separating the flower’s tresses, since they are the wall, that parts the sacred stairway, according to how faith in Christ was realised.

On this side, where the flower is full-blown, in all its petals, those, who believed in Christ to come, are sitting. On the other side, where there are empty seats among them, are the semi-circles of those whose eyes were turned towards the Christ who had come. And as the glorious throne of Heaven’s Lady, and the seats below her, make such a partition, so, next to her, does that of the great Baptist, John, who, ever holy, suffered the desert and a martyr’s death, and then Limbo, for two years space, until Christ came there: and, below him, the separating line, assigned to Francis, Benedict, Augustine, and the others from circle to circle, down to here.
– fragment of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Paradiso Canto XXXII:1-36 The Two Halves of the Rose


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