DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 1
CHAPTER 1: First Ascent
God’s glory moves and shows the universe
shining in some parts more, in others less.
With joy too great for speech I entered Heavens 3
that most receive his light. I must convey
pale shadows of that holy, blissful state
which back on earth I treasure in this song. 6
Virgil and the nine Muses helped me write
of the descent and climb to reach this height.
Sun-king Apollo, you inspired their aid! 9
Now I must beg, please give it to me straight –
turn me into a perfect instrument
so tuned, the Heavens consent to hear me sing 12
about their grandest things, and crown myself
with laurels, the one headgear fit for use
by a true poet or great conqueror. 15
Their fewness demonstrates in human kind
a shameful lack of will. If I succeed,
like spark from which flames leap, some after me 18
may be inspired to write with greater skill.
The sunrise greets us most days of the year
from several degrees to North or South. 21
When solar path touches the other rings
(equators earthly and celestial,
ecliptic and the equinoctial) 24
four circles make three crosses and so bring
more harmony, and Summer can begin.
The sun this morning rose at that good point. 27
When Beatrice looked up at height of noon
no eagle ever fixed upon the sun
a gaze as clear, and since reflected rays 30
rebound to source like pilgrims going home,
twin beams of light now linked her sight and sun.
I copied her. Eden was made for ease 33
of humankind. There it was possible
for me to see what here would make me blind.
Gazing into the solar blaze I saw, 36
like molten silver splashed from crucible,
such fountains of tremendous light I thought
that He Who Can had made an extra sun. 39
I saw too Beatrice now looked upon
the high, eternal, starry, singing wheels
so lowering my eyes to rest on hers 42
I heard them too. Eating a magic herb
changed Glaucus to an ancient Greek sea-god.
The love-light in the face of Beatrice 45
transhumaned me in ways I cannot say.
Of new sensations knowledge cannot speak
unless it learns new words. Did God lift up 48
my eager mind to his eternal sphere?
No rain or river filled so vast a lake
as this whole sky now kindled into flame. 51
The brilliance of its harmony and light
provoked an appetite to know the cause,
so she who understood me perfectly 54
smiling replied before I questioned her,
“Dullard, do you not see you’ve left the earth?
Lightning never flashed faster from a cloud 57
than we ascend to your right place and mine.”
Her smile and words erased perplexities
before I found one more. “But why,” said I, 60
“does solid me rise above lighter things?”
Like mother soothing sickly child she said,
“Order is God’s first law. All that He made 63
have places in eternal excellence, for which
in minerals, plants, animals they strive
instinctively, in people willingly. 66
When ill will leads astray our souls can’t rest
until we reach our given place and are
at last in harmony with all that’s best. 69
We are now soaring to our origin
as naturally as a waterfall
pours down a cliff. Those who forget their place 72
by choosing base delight, are very like
materials no artists can use well,
so dump into the midden heaps of Hell. 75
Guilt cannot weight you. That is why you rise.
Innocent souls who stay below, defy
nature and reason, like a static flame.”
Pausing she turned her eyes toward the sky. 79