The Taper, the Tongs, the Devil and Saint Dunstan

(After The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine)

The historical St. Dunstan will benefit us if we study his career with an impartial love of right, and hatred of wrong, wheresoever found.
But the legendary St. Dunstan? He and such as he will do us no good if, overlooking the grave lesson of self-conquest and sin-conquest, we assimilate nothing but tongs and a devil.
(Christina Rossetti, Time Flies: A Reading Diary)
Hear, O Church, of how
On Candlemas day when,
With child, his mother held a taper
With all the church, and all
The tapers were that night quenched,
Save hers.
Hear, O Church, of how
The child then contained in her
Was prophesied to grow
Into a great and holy light
Unto all England.
Hear and learn.
Hear, O Church, of the man
Who worked with his hands
When they were tired of prayer,
Who shaped fiery metal with tongs
Made chalices to stave off
The devil of idleness.
Hear, O Church, of how
The devil one night came
To him in likeness of a woman,
Spoke unto him of vanities, and
Though charming him with her speech,
Could not fool Dunstan.
Hear, O Church, of Dunstan who,
Knowing her for what she was,
Took his fiery tongs in hand,
Caught the devil’s nose with them,
And foiled her with righteous fire.
Hear, O Church, and learn.
Hear, O you who are ashamed,
All of you who cannot tell
The devil from the beautiful,
Who cannot by yourselves kill him
With your own weak handiwork:
Hear and weep; hear and learn.
Hear, O Church, of broken wings,
Smold’ring wicks and bruisèd reeds.
Hear of spirits foiled and scolded,
And of the Servant who alone
Can take the devil’s nose and scold it
With the fire of His only Good.
Hear, O church, and learn this lesson:
Hear of fire and stronger hands,
Which save us in our brokenness.
Learn to listen not to myths:
We cannot learn from, cannot be
The Golden Legend’s Dunstan.

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