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