Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 20


Chapter 20: The Eagle’s Eye


The sun that fills our eyes with daily light
            curves upward through the sky and down again
            then passes underground and it is night               3

when multitudes of galaxies appear.
            This change from one to many brilliances
            happened when, ceasing speech, that single voice 6

became a mighty choir singing a hymn.
            At times, O love, you’re only seen in smiles.
            How glorious you sounded in that song!               9

I cannot now recall that harmony  
            of holy thought, but noticed when the gems
            enriching the sixth sphere altered their tune,          12

became a murmuring of waters like
            many clear streams trickling from rock to rock.
            As a lute’s plucked strings resonate, I heard          15

murmurs climb the bird’s hollow neck until
            articulate within the beak again
            they spoke these words my heart hungered to hear:18

“Look closely to the part of me that sees!
            Of all the fires I use to make my form
            these sparkling in my head are surely best               21

The pupil of my eye was he whose Psalms
            truly proclaim news of the Holy Ghost.
            He brought the Ark home to Jerusalem.                  24

Five others make my eyebrow’s arch. Trajan
            is beside my beak. To the poor widow
            who lost her son he was most just, and yet              27

damned as an infidel. Gregory’s prayers
            lifted him from Hell so he knows full well
the state of those with Jesus and without.                30

Hezekiah next, whose true repentance
            after divine reproof prolonged his life.
            He knows eternal decrees are unchanged                33
   
on Earth when the right prayers extend our days.
            Next, Constantine who went east, became Greek,
            christened the Roman Empire, giving Rome            36

to the popes. Though these deeds redeemed his soul
            too many have been ruined by the last.
See good King William on my sloping brow,          39

mourned by Naples and Sicily. These weep
            under his brother Charles, son Frederick.
            His shining shows that Heaven loves the just.          42

Who in the erring world below believes
that in this sphere of perfect governors               
pagan Ripheus is fifth guiding light?                        45                        
           
Virgil called him most just of Trojan kings.                        
His soul knew more of Divine Grace than most,
though none have sight that penetrate the whole.     48

Then suddenly the great bird seemed a lark                                      
soaring and singing up the face of space
to hover silently, sweetly content,                             51

a perfect image of eternal joy                                                            
whose will allows all things that are to be.
In my perplexity I felt like glass                                54

that cannot see the colour staining it.                                                 
Failing to wait for wisdom I cried out,
            “How CAN that be?” provoking a great storm,        57

a revelry of vivid flashing light.                                                             
With even brighter eye the bird replied,
            “You see the things I show, not what they are!        60

Like those who know the names of many things,
you cannot grasp their substances unless
            many more words are said. Strong Hope and Love  63

you met in earthly paradise with Faith.      
Faith, Hope and Love occupy Heaven, not
            like men invading men: Heaven invites                    66

good to be part of it. You are amazed                                          
to see in me a Jew and Pagan king,
            but death revealed their souls were Christian.           69
  
Their faith in Hope and Love had been so strong
            they never doubted justice could prevail
on Earth as it prevails in Paradise.                            72

They prayed for that, and so for them it did.
            We, close to God, don’t know all His elect –
cannot know all He knows. This ignorance              75

refines us. We have always more to learn.”
            This eagle’s teaching brought me to accept
my ignorance, pride’s sweetest medicine,                 78

and as he spoke each star around his eyes
            dancingly twinkled, almost seemed to play
            a fine orchestral symphony of sound

to emphasize all he was moved to say.                                 82


to emphasize all he was moved to say.                                                       82

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