Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 18


CHAPTER 18: From Mars to Jupiter


My ancestor, reflecting Paradise,
            seemed in a pleasant dwam. I, blending thoughts
            bitter and sweet, grew gradually calm.                 3

My guide leading me Godward said, “Time now
to change your mind. Think, I am leading you                                                    
to He who heals the pains of every wrong.”        6

I turned toward her lovely voice and saw
            more love within her eyes than I can tell,
            not just because I distrust words I use,                 9

but all I felt in Heaven has grown dim.     
            I only knew, gazing on Beatrice,
            this was the only thing I wished to do                12

when, smiling she said, “Hear your good Grandsire!
            Learn that my eyes don’t hold all Paradise.”
As strong emotion will transform a face             15

new brilliance in my Grandsire’s vivid light
            told me that there was more he wished to say.
            “In this fifth sphere the tree with living top        18

is always fruitful, never sheds its leaves,
            which are heroic spirits from the earth.
            Your verses must be brightened by their fame.  21

Watch the crossbeam on which our Saviour hung.
            Each soul I name will glow like lightning there.”
            When he said, “Joshua,” the lightning flashed,  24

nor did I hear the word before the light.
            As he said, “Maccabaeus,” one light spun
            fast as a top whipped into ecstasy.                      27

My eyes pursued like falcons in their flight
Charlemagne, Roland, Robert Guiscard,
Renuard the Saracen Crusader,                         30

Duke Godfrey King of Jerusalem and
            William of Orange. Other fighting saints
            also drew my attention through the cross,          33
  
and then my Grandsire swooped back up to join 
            these mighty glories in their harmonies.
            Looking back to Beatrice for a sign                   36      

of what came next, I saw her eyes so clear,                                              
so joyful, she surpassed in loveliness
            even herself before. I felt as free                        39

as man in whom virtue and wisdom grew,                                               
or a good woman freed from wrongful shame.
            We swung in wider arcs among white lights     42

of the vaster, higher sphere called Jupiter.                                                           
            Language commanded in this temperate star,
since words make shared love possible              45

for folk not brutes. Good Latin was the speech                                        
of this sixth planet, used by the Roman
            Empire, Catholic Church, Law, Sciences.         48

I saw lights soaring like great flocks of bird                                  
and forming shapes that, flowing through themselves,
            became the letters of the alphabet.                     51

In swathes of living light they shaped a D,                                                           
            then I, then L. Singing and soaring they
            suddenly ceased flight. Silence ensued.              54
                  
O sacred Pegasus! You Christian steed                                                                 
that raises humble souls to genius,
            you true imagination that creates                        57

vigour and unity in men and states!                                              
Let me spell out the letters, one by one,
            as they appeared, and so pronounce their sense. 60

I read DILIGITE JUSTITIAM                                                          
            QUI JUDICATIS TERRAM, words which mean
Love justice, you who judge the earth! Lights then 63

congregated within that final M,
            making all Jupiter a galaxy
            of gold and silver jewels. After, between                66

 the two sharp summits of the M I saw
            thousands of other lights descend, settle
and sing (I think) of God convening them.             69
  
Like sparks that leap from burning log when kicked
– sparks in which fools see auguries – these lights,
            both large and small, rose up between those peaks.72

When each had settled in its place I saw
the shape of an enormous eagle’s head,
sides of the M its downward sweeping wings,       75

a shape designed by He who taught each bird
            the way to build a nest. These blesséd souls        
by movements made a lily’s shape appear              78

within the eagle’s breast. O splendid star!
            How many and how bright the gems of light                               
making it plain justice is consequence                    81

of the high Paradise You decorate.
            I pray the Mind that started everything                                       
will mend the Papacy broken in two.                     84

From there comes the black smoke that dims Your beams
            and leads Christians astray. You must be                                     
angered once again to see Your temple                  87

built by martyrs, changed to a den of thieves
where Salvation is bought and sold by popes                  
who, rather than make war with spear and sword, 90

make it by refusing the Holy Bread
            meant for all Christened souls, to those they call             
foes in battles to seize and tax more land.              93

You Popes who write now only to condemn,
            start believing that Saint Peter, also
Apostle Paul are not finally dead.                          96

Well may you say, “My heart belongs to John,
             the saint whose head Salome once danced off.
             Forget the Fisherman, forget Paul too!                                         

Give me gold coins stamped with the Baptist John!”        100
           

  




             


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