Having written “Fire and Embrace” I found it easy to have borrowed this entry here from there . . . it goes a long way too have authority over texts so one can use them as one wishes, in ways originally intended or not, everything I see in the world I see again until I see something for the first time, yet in as much as a revision is a visioning again, I am seeing what I have seen before anew, therefore, for another first time what can we say about Dido, about Joan of Lorraine and the Burgundian Flames?
Dido and Joan meet their end similarly–Dido by choice; Joan, not so by choice–unless we say that she could have recanted, could have become complicit against herself, what she believed–why didn’t Joan save herself–was she really able to–would they have allowed her to live–how deep do we want to imagine the evil goes in the trial of Joan. Is it depth we seek, or do we want to know how high the evil went among those who were complicit against her? Is there a genius for visions, for prophecy–what is it that the prophet risks . . .
Dido engaged no prophecies–her love of Aeneas blinded her. Joan’s prophecies were for France. She had the audacity to engage political prophecy which had results; this had to be the work of the devil, or so her political opponents manipulated against her.
In Spanish Abrazar means to embrace, as I have said before in “Fire and Embrace,” and will likely remind others again: abrasar means to set on fire, of course it does, it must, how could it be otherwise in the relationship between the two words? Abrazar, to embrace, abrasar, to set on fire; which came first, the fire or the embrace?
Joan embraced God or did God embrace Joan; after her, Teresa D’Avila speaks of being set ablaze by God, his burning spear piercing her breast. What are we to make out of that? She is coming to us from the sixteenth century, born one hundred years after Joan. We imagine humans had fire before embrace–I’m not so certain. Embracing for warmth, at least, had to precede fire. But then, humans needing to embrace to keep warm before fire were also before Spanish existed.
I set the house on fire; I set my lover on fire with my embraces. To embrace, to set on fire, a coda on how to embrace. Love is always a form of consumption by the flames, always another kind of immolation. There are fires and motions in the soul that cannot be constrained by our being, but these are under constant assault by our culture . . . we must understand this, or is it that we have come to a place where we are unable . . . inability has everything to do with a lack of love.
There is a genius to setting ablaze the one you love–all touch is not the same. To touch, to wound, to be blessed is to be wounded. My lover’s touch sets me ablaze, my lover’s touch wounds me, blesses me, I am blessed, her words are benediction. Every embrace must set the one in your arms on fire, as Dido was set on fire by the embraces of Aeneas, as she had to set herself on fire, literally, in order to put an end to her desire for consummation at the absence of Aeneas. J’ai ete touche par dieux quand je suis touche par mon amour. D’etre touche par Dieux est d’etre blesse.
The Passion of the Christ is not The Emotion of the Christ. There is a mutually exclusive categorical distinction between the two, emotion and passion; it is compassion, not com-emotion. Commotion is another thing altogether. Joan of Lorraine no longer feared the flames of her persecutors, having already been set ablaze by God and his Holy messengers, as Teresa D’Avila knew the burning devotion of God, as all lovers, true, understand and bear this as every woman bears her child, internally, inter-connectedly, with a complete sublimation of all thought.
Donne understood this devotion, or how all devotion of one kind or another is always holy, always a ravishment by fire or the immolation of the divine. Keats is correct in asserting that there is a holiness to the hearts affections; could any of us live as intensely in his senses and his sensibilities, his mind/soul and body as did Keats; do any of us feel or do we only just emote. Again, Donne understood this when he asks his Three-personed God to ravage him . . . is he asking God to rape him spiritually, an invitation removes the stigma of rape? Play acting with God is dangerous, is it not? But we have to see where Donne is going with this and from where he is coming.
Dido had left Tyre with her following of Phoenicians and settled and built what was to become Carthage on the Tunisian shores of North Africa on the Mediterranean. Carthage would rival Rome in the Western Mediterranean and in points east for nearly two hundred years, and it was not until the death of Carthage, the annihilation of everything Carthaginian at the end of the Third Punic War could you say that Rome had its advent.
The descendants of Aeneas had to wage war repeatedly against Carthage, had to seek the annihilation of everything Carthaginian because the memory of Dido was too much to bear. Her choice to perish in the flames is not in effect different from Joan’s choice. Everything she left in her wake had to be possessed or destroyed. We want to say that Joan could not have chosen to live, that she could not have chosen to free herself of burgundian persecution, even if they were not laying traps for her in a trial that had been fixed prior to its commencement. Joan, though, still chose her fate; her actions, her honesty in testimony established this course inevitably, we could say. Yet, she still chooses what Dido had chosen, to choose or not to choose, this is not a question, it is impossible to avoid choosing, every refusal to choose is in itself a choice.
Choice is essential as I like to say . . . you do know what this has to do with, this idea of choosing, having the right or the responsibility or the burden of choosing? This notion that everything left must be possessed or destroyed is as invariably true for us today, as it has been humanly true for always, at least potentially for us today because we do fear this truer feeling more than we even give lip service to respecting it, admiring it, believing in it.
The Serpent in the Garden speaks to Eve with forked tongue, no? How to assemble the pieces that fall from the framed jig-saw puzzle hanging in the hall . . . the missing pieces in the puzzle are easily replaced, but what if all the jig-saw puzzle pieces were to fall at once like rain falls in a torrential storm?
Desire becomes act, an act that is being in itself, another actuality pure. Dido chooses her death appropriately; would you or I do the same? Could we love as intensely?