Wednesday, March 18, 2015

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

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