The Divine Comedy: Paradise, by Dante Alighieri

CANTO XXVIII

So she who doth imparadise my soul,

Had drawn the veil from off our pleasant life,

And bar’d the truth of poor mortality;

When lo! as one who, in a mirror, spies

The shining of a flambeau at his back,

Lit sudden ore he deem of its approach,

And turneth to resolve him, if the glass

Have told him true, and sees the record faithful

As note is to its metre; even thus,

I well remember, did befall to me,

Looking upon the beauteous eyes, whence love

Had made the leash to take me. As I turn’d;

And that, which, in their circles, none who spies,

Can miss of, in itself apparent, struck

On mine; a point I saw, that darted light

So sharp, no lid, unclosing, may bear up

Against its keenness. The least star we view

From hence, had seem’d a moon, set by its side,

As star by side of star. And so far off,

Perchance, as is the halo from the light

Which paints it, when most dense the vapour spreads,

There wheel’d about the point a circle of fire,

More rapid than the motion, which first girds

The world. Then, circle after circle, round

Enring’d each other; till the seventh reach’d

Circumference so ample, that its bow,

Within the span of Juno’s messenger,

lied scarce been held entire. Beyond the sev’nth,

Follow’d yet other two. And every one,

As more in number distant from the first,

Was tardier in motion; and that glow’d

With flame most pure, that to the sparkle’ of truth

Was nearest, as partaking most, methinks,

Of its reality. The guide belov’d

Saw me in anxious thought suspense, and spake:

“Heav’n, and all nature, hangs upon that point.

The circle thereto most conjoin’d observe;

And know, that by intenser love its course

Is to this swiftness wing’d. “To whom I thus:

“It were enough; nor should I further seek,

Had I but witness’d order, in the world

Appointed, such as in these wheels is seen.

But in the sensible world such diff’rence is,

That is each round shows more divinity,

As each is wider from the centre. Hence,

If in this wondrous and angelic temple,

That hath for confine only light and love,

My wish may have completion I must know,

Wherefore such disagreement is between

Th’ exemplar and its copy: for myself,

Contemplating, I fail to pierce the cause.”

“It is no marvel, if thy fingers foil’d

Do leave the knot untied: so hard ’t is grown

For want of tenting.” Thus she said: “But take,”

She added, “if thou wish thy cure, my words,

And entertain them subtly. Every orb

Corporeal, doth proportion its extent

Unto the virtue through its parts diffus’d.

The greater blessedness preserves the more.

The greater is the body (if all parts

Share equally) the more is to preserve.

Therefore the circle, whose swift course enwheels

The universal frame answers to that,

Which is supreme in knowledge and in love

Thus by the virtue, not the seeming, breadth

Of substance, measure, thou shalt see the heav’ns,

Each to the’ intelligence that ruleth it,

Greater to more, and smaller unto less,

Suited in strict and wondrous harmony.”

As when the sturdy north blows from his cheek

A blast, that scours the sky, forthwith our air,

Clear’d of the rack, that hung on it before,

Glitters; and, With his beauties all unveil’d,

The firmament looks forth serene, and smiles;

Such was my cheer, when Beatrice drove

With clear reply the shadows back, and truth

Was manifested, as a star in heaven.

And when the words were ended, not unlike

To iron in the furnace, every cirque

Ebullient shot forth scintillating fires:

And every sparkle shivering to new blaze,

In number did outmillion the account

Reduplicate upon the chequer’d board.

Then heard I echoing on from choir to choir,

“Hosanna,” to the fixed point, that holds,

And shall for ever hold them to their place,

From everlasting, irremovable.

Musing awhile I stood: and she, who saw

by inward meditations, thus began:

“In the first circles, they, whom thou beheldst,

Are seraphim and cherubim. Thus swift

Follow their hoops, in likeness to the point,

Near as they can, approaching; and they can

The more, the loftier their vision. Those,

That round them fleet, gazing the Godhead next,

Are thrones; in whom the first trine ends. And all

Are blessed, even as their sight descends

Deeper into the truth, wherein rest is

For every mind. Thus happiness hath root

In seeing, not in loving, which of sight

Is aftergrowth. And of the seeing such

The meed, as unto each in due degree

Grace and good-will their measure have assign’d.

The other trine, that with still opening buds

In this eternal springtide blossom fair,

Fearless of bruising from the nightly ram,

Breathe up in warbled melodies threefold

Hosannas blending ever, from the three

Transmitted, hierarchy of gods, for aye

Rejoicing, dominations first, next then

Virtues, and powers the third. The next to whom

Are princedoms and archangels, with glad round

To tread their festal ring; and last the band

Angelical, disporting in their sphere.

All, as they circle in their orders, look

Aloft, and downward with such sway prevail,

That all with mutual impulse tend to God.

These once a mortal view beheld. Desire

In Dionysius so intently wrought,

That he, as I have done rang’d them; and nam’d

Their orders, marshal’d in his thought. From him

Dissentient, one refus’d his sacred read.

But soon as in this heav’n his doubting eyes

Were open’d, Gregory at his error smil’d

Nor marvel, that a denizen of earth

Should scan such secret truth; for he had learnt

Both this and much beside of these our orbs,

From an eye-witness to heav’n’s mysteries.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dante/d19pa/canto28.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:58