DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 7
CHAPTER 7: Beatrice Explains
“To Heaven’s greatest height now praise our God
who gloriously brightens with his rays
good hearth-fires everywhere on holy days!” 3
So sang that bright soul, dancing as he sang,
that ruler who had striven to connect
justice on earth and Heaven’s government. 6
In happy play the other shining souls
danced with him too, until like shooting stars
they disappeared by being far away 9
and left me brooding in perplexity.
I well knew Beatrice could quell my doubts
so Tell her! Tell her! sounded in my head, 12
but reverence had overcome my tongue.
Parts of her name (be, is) still strike me dumb.
She did not leave me thus, for with a smile 15
that would have cheered a burning man she said,
“You do not see why justice should demand
vengeance upon revenge for ancient sin? 18
Listen and hear true doctrine straight from me.
Adam, the only man not born but made,
was given all good things men can enjoy 21
but could not bear one curb upon his will
so damned himself and we who spring from him.
Long ages passed before the Word of God 24
descending, worked to free us from this ill.
By one act of amazing love God took
body with we who have rejected Him, 27
became a sinner too, deserving death
like me and you, and in Gethsemane
sadly embraced that foul necessity, 30
accepting Roman law so none can say
our Maker never felt our suffering.
If human need for death is understood 33
indeed Christ’s death was good. If we respect
His righteousness, nothing was more unjust.
From that great act came opposite effects – 36
Christ’s death desired by God and Jewish priests,
for which earth quaked and Heaven opened wide,
and Solomon’s great temple was destroyed. 39
I fear your thoughts are fankled in a knot
you can’t untie. Although my words are clear
why God redeemed us thus is dark to you. 42
Brother, it is dark to everyone
with minds unripened by the sun of love.
I’ll say it all again in other words. 45
God’s excellence is never envious,
so all the souls he makes possess like Him
eternal life, like Him, freedom of choice. 48
These gifts are lost by people choosing sin.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God; believed
rejecting God would make them equal him, 51
thus they exchanged eternity for time.
Justice cannot ignore so bad a crime
which all folk born of women re-enact, 54
so gaps between ourselves and Paradise
are far too big for penitence to fill
by any single act of human will 57
though penitence is certainly required.
Only a miracle could reconcile
justice with mercy, and at last it came. 60
God’s overflowing goodness made His Word
human, like us; offered new birth, new life,
eternally to all who follow Christ 63
and grasp their cross – forgive who do them wrong –
love enemies and promise not to sin.
What better thing to save us could God do 66
than show all people how we ought to live?
I see you want more news of sacred things,
a thirst I’ll satisfy before you ask. 69
What troubles you is instability.
God made the earth and water, fire and air
so must have made them pure as Paradise – 72
pure as these starry spheres, this shining space
through which we rise. Why on earth do all things
change, age, sicken, die and rot? Here is why. 75
Our God himself did not directly make
all of the world below. Live plants and beasts
are generated in His elements 78
by things he made before. Sunlight is one.
Yet on the sixth day of the Genesis
He breathed His own soul into human clay. 81
All other earthly life will suffer death.
Men, women are the great exception,
created by His love to love Him back
eternally, after resurrection.” 85