DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 14
CHAPTER 14: From Sun To Mars
Water contained by bowl flows out to rim
if pebble is dropped in. When rim is struck
the water ripples back. The flow of words 3
from shining Thomas reached our ears then stopped
As if struck by a thought, Beatrice spoke.
“Dear Sir, more words are needed by this man 6
who does not know what he should ask. I do.
All Paradise is made of light, souls too.
On the last day who must unite again 9
with their old fleshly bodies raised from dust,
even their eyes. How will they see without
(at least at first) intolerable pain?” 12
This question, eager and devout, aroused
in the wise stars a storm of tuneful mirth.
With swifter melody they danced in form 15
of blossoms, falling snow, butterfly wings,
for with these words I try and fail to tell
the lovely, wondrous things this dance conveyed 18
until Saint Thomas said, “The miracle
of Resurrection painlessly restores
all the First Will intended us to be, 21
with bodies free as minds too seldom are,
except for those of the angelic kinds,
and of Our Father, only One In Three, 24
Eternal, Natural and Singular
replenishing, refreshing such as we.”
Then the full chorus of the solar choirs 27
sang what the sainted Thomas said three times,
sang it so beautifully that the sound
will satisfy the ferventest desires 30
of all who come to merit Paradise.
From out the central globe spoke Solomon,
his voice as archangelically soft 33
as if announcing Mary’s pregnancy.
“When bodies finally complete our souls
we will surpass in brightness what you see, 36
as flaming coals surpass black stones from mines.
And yet we shall not be consumed because
God’s virtue wills we share in His delight.” 39
So quick were both the choirs to sing Amen
I knew they longed to have their bodies back
not for themselves alone. They wished to see 42
mothers, fathers, more they had dearly loved
in times before they were immortal flames;
And then I saw beyond the outer sphere 45
a new horizon form of equal stars
like galaxies seen here when day is done,
but these were shining round our undimmed sun! 48
The brilliance was more than I could bear,
banishing both my sight and memory.
Only the fair and smiling Beatrice 51
survives from later visions of the sun.
We reached a higher zone of Paradise
when I at last recovered use of sight. 54
The planet with the glow of ruddy light
which to the heathen indicated war,
kindled in me a need for sacrifice. 57
In words of heartfelt silent inner prayer
(the only speech all share) I pled with Christ
to take this thing I am and fought to give 60
with every living particle of will,
then found my offering acceptable.
The Crucifix appeared within that star, 63
its beams from side to side, from foot to top
wide as a crossroads made of the same stuff
as, bridging the night sky, that thoroughfare 66
from pole to pole the gleaming Milky Way.
This cross so flamed forth Christ, my memory
defeats my skill to speak of it, but all 69
who lift the cross of Christ and follow him
will forgive me for what I cannot say
about His vision flashing in the dawn. 72
From arm to arm, summit to base and back
light travelled, sparkling as they met and passed,
some swift or slow, some dazzling, and some dim 75
because they sparkled less but happiness
was equally in all. Harp and viola
combine so well we cannot tell apart 78
what each gives melody. The moving lights
gave out a hymn whose words I did not catch
and yet the whole conveyed arise and win 81
so sweetly none had ever bound my soul
in such enchanting chains of lovely sound,
though not preventing sight of Beatrice
whose beauty grew more pure with each ascent. 85