DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 2
CHAPTER 2: Moon Sphere
Some folk in little boats follow my ship
because they like the story in my song.
Let them turn back toward the shore they know 3
unless their craft is strong. I now go far
over a sea no poet crossed before.
Minerva fills my sails. Apollo steers. 6
The Muses indicate each guiding star.
If you are of the few like me who seek
the bread that feeds but never satisfies, 9
you too may launch your vessel on this sea
using my wake as guide. The Argonauts,
those heroes voyaging for the Golden Fleece, 12
when they saw armed men springing from the soil
after their captain ploughed down dragon teeth
were not as much amazed as you will be. 15
Our inborn thirst for God’s sufficiency
kept Beatrice intent on upper skies,
me intent on her eyes, so up we went 18
as swiftly as we looked, until halted
by a wonderful sight. It stopped us short
as a struck target ends an arrow flight. 21
“Now praise God for His generosity!
This star is nearest earth,” said happily
that fairest one who understood my mind. 24
I saw what lower down could not exist.
Luminous mist enclosed us now inside
a diamond-hard and perfect shining pearl, 27
yet we could move in it as easily
as light rays pass through water in a glass
without a change of character in each. 30
For one or more bodies to occupy
an equally dense body easily
defies earth’s common sense. In Paradise 33
it was satisfies any intelligence.
“Lady,” said I, “my gratitude to He
who saves us from death’s grip will never cease, 36
but why, when viewed from where most people live,
has this pure moon a spotted face? Some say
they can make out Cain and his thornbush there.” 39
Amused she said, “Wits stray when seeking laws
for what they cannot touch. Please tell me now
what you think the cause?” “Varied density?” 42
I suggested. “Looking through dirty air?”
“No,” said she. “God has made all the Heavens
equally good. Air here is free from dirt, 45
and though bodies of light inside these skies
differ in sizes, colours, faculties,
their densities do not. On summer days 48
most things appear equally clear at noon.
At night when you see bodies in one sphere
what you mistake for spots are smaller lights
contrasted with more bright, as in the moon.” 52