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Image by Brenda Helen


the madrigal, volume iv

The winds of our own desire

by denise o'hagan

The shade of Francesca da Rimini encounters Dante descending into the second circle of Hell (L’Inferno, Canto V)

Who is this, then, who dares to show his face,
What traffic has he with our fog and gloom,
The ceaseless moans of us deprived of grace?

Let him feel our agony, taste our doom
We, whose chief sin was to succumb to love,
Are now condemned to this eternal tomb.

He pleads for my story, and like a dove
Borne on the soft wings of a summer breeze,
I drift down to him from the shades above.

Has he, perhaps, suffered the same disease,
The allure of love, its consuming flame?
Has his pride been singed in a wish to please?

Sharing our tragedy sharpens my shame:
For my husband’s brother my passions flared,
Oblivious to risk and blind to blame.

It began with a love of legends shared
Which kindled in us yearnings most tender
Though we knew, if revealed, we’d not be spared.

Oh, for those times of intimate splendour
Vanquished by a murderer’s vengeful knife,
Whose rage forbade all hope of surrender.

Our poet may faint at this tale of strife!
We were granted what we sought to acquire,
Now we’re joined forever, yet have no life.

          What exquisite irony that we’ll not tire
          Of being lashed by the winds of our own desire.

Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing in the UK and Australia. In 2015, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, through which she assists independent authors. Her poetry is published widely and has received numerous awards, most recently the Dalkey Poetry Prize 2020.   

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