Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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
                       

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