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