Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 13


CHAPTER 13: Sun Wisdom


To comprehend, though faintly, what came next,
            keep as you read this, firm in your mind’s eye
            each image as if chiselled upon rock.                 3

Remember all the biggest, brightest stars
            that, piercing misty vapour in the air,
            illuminate the deepest midnight sky                    6

Think of that constellation, the Great Bear
            swinging in so much space round the Pole Star
            no part is hidden by the highest hills.                  9

The axel of the turning universe
            ends in that Pole. Between it and the Bear
            a smaller constellation swings. Think now,       12

both galaxies made of the brightest stars
            and in concentric spheres, not simple rings,
            and oppositely moving round we two.              15

My words can only show this state of things
            as a full noonday sun reveals itself
            reflected in a muddy shallow pool.                   18

They tell you nothing of that golden sound,
            that holy anthem all those wise stars sang,
            grander than paeans to Apollo were.                21

That anthem glorified the Three-in-One,
            divine and natural and singular
            united in our Jesus Christ, God’s son.              24

Their singing, circling halted yet once more.
The lights were pleased to stop and tutor me
as he who’d told me of God’s poorest man      27

(Saint Francis of Assisi) spoke again.
            “One of your doubts about this company
            has been resolved. Sweet charity requires        30

I solve the next you formed too hastily
            when you thought I called Solomon as wise
            as greater men we both revere. Attend!            33
  
All things that cannot die and all that can
            are ideas that our loving God pours out
            in torrents of creative light, whose rays            36
                                          
first form angelic potencies and then
            Nature reflects them in her elements
            so they appear as bodies upon earth.                39

While making visible divine ideas
            Nature’s hand often shakes, so what she makes
            is not quite right. The living upon earth           42

must propagate themselves by birth or seed,
            and doing so, incline to accidents
            obstructing slightly Heaven-sent design.         45
                              
Thus, better and worse fruit may grow on trees
            of the same kind, while similar folk show
            astonishing varieties of mind,                          48

but Highest Love created by Itself
            two prototypes, because a living man
            was first perfected from earth’s dust, and then 51

a second made within a virgin’s womb.
            You have heard how Adam’s side lost a rib
            taken to make his bride, the lovely Eve           54

whose appetite for fruit led to disgrace.
            When a spear-point stabbed our Redeemer’s side
            the dear cost of that sin at last was paid.          57

Adam and Christ were perfect men and so
            none others were as good, I quite agree,
            but think of Solomon and what he said           60

when God enquired, “What should I give to thee?”
            Solomon prayed for knowledge to rule well.
            I only meant that in wise government             63

no men or kings could rise higher than he
since most are far below. Remember this!
Be slow in making judgments, like those men   66

expecting great harvests when unripe corn
stands in the fields before storms lay it low.
A briar bush in Winter shows bare spikes,      69
           
 but in the Spring can bloom into a rose.
            I saw a ship sail swiftly across seas
            then suffer wreck when entering its port.         72

When we see in church one rob the poor-box,
            one contribute alms, do not always judge
            the first Hell-bound, the last sure of Heaven.

One at the end may rise, the other fall.                         76


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