Wednesday, May 20, 2015

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 23


Chapter 23: The Fixed Stars


As mother bird among the leaves she loves
nests  all night long upon her brood of chicks
then wakes to watch the sky for dawn of day        3

when she will fly to seek their nourishment
            to fill each gaping beak: so Beatrice
            stood gazing at the height of firmament                  6

where the sun seems to move most slow. I saw
            she looked for something new and good: what thing
            I did not know till suddenly the sky                        9

was glorified by splendour flooding in.
            She cried, “O see the host of souls Christ won!     
His harvest from the virtues of the spheres!”         12

I can’t find words for the serenity
            of bliss we both enjoyed at what appeared.
As in a deep blue night the full round moon          15

outshines a myriad of stars, I saw
            a thousand thousand lights kindled by One,
            not only greater far than they combined,                18

but shining through them, lighting up all else.
            With failing sense I heard my dear love say
            “None can resist if they are overwhelmed              21

before the open gates of Paradise.”
            As lightning vanishes into the earth          
my mind was so transported, overcome                 24

I do not know a thing of what came next
until I heard, “Open your eyes, my dear!  
have they gained strength to let you see me smile?” 27

Like waking from a dream I can’t recall
            I faintly heard these words, then heard them clear
with gratitude I never will forget.                           30      

As to her smile, if Polyhymnia
            muse of sacred song, and all her sisters
of poetic art joined with me to help,                       33
  
I could not say a thousandth fraction of
            how her smile lit this part of Paradise.
My verse must leap forward upon this road.          36

Reader, think of my theme! One mortal man
            carries that load. Forgive me staggering.   
This journey needs a ship with daring prow          39

cleaving the ocean waves and captain who,
though weak at times, will never spare himself.
“My face should not be so enchanting that             42

it blinds you to the loveliest flowers
            in garden ever lit by Christian light,”                    
said Beatrice. “Look at the Word of God               45

embodied in a rose! Virgin Mary,
Queen of Paradise, beside twelve lilies –              
            twelve apostles whose scent should draw us all     48

onto the path of truth.” I turned to look.
            Sometimes upon a day darkened by clouds
            we see a slanting shaft of sunlight on                     51

one field of lovely flowers. Now I saw
many fields of loveliness lit by rays                       
flashing from high above. O gracious light,           54

making them visible to one without
the strength to see their source. What courtesy!
            When praying night and morn I say the name       57

of that fair virgin rose. Seeing the ray       
that lit her, I then mystically knew
            it had to be Archangel Gabriel.                             60

And when at last I saw the magnitude      
of that angelic rose, as more sublime
            than all the lesser blooms beside her there            63
                              
as she was more than those on earth below,
there came a torch descending through the sky.
            Circling, it made a glory round her like                66

a halo, like a crown. Music began.  
The sweetest tune that soothes us here below
            would crash like thunder on the ear of those        69
  
who ever knew the music of that sphere, 
            the angels’ coronation song for her,
the pure sapphire who ensapphires Heaven.        72

They sang, “O holy love surrounding joy
            in womb that was the inn where came to be
            One wanted by created folk who need                75

salvation. Now crowned the Queen of Heaven,
            follow your Son to glory in the sphere
highest of all!” The choral music stopped.          78

The crowned rose vanished upward and I saw
all the white radiances raise their flames
like babies stretching chubby arms toward          81      

their mother when she’s suckled them. They sang
their hymn to Heaven’s Queen again. The joy
of that sweet music will be always mine.            84

How great are riches of delight heaped up          
in Heaven’s treasury for those on earth
            who, by their exile, tears and poverty                 87
           
will triumph in the total victory
of God, His Son and Mary, with the saints
of Old and New Testaments, and holder                           

of keys to the gates of so much glory.                            91

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