DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 27
CHAPTER 27: To the Empyrean
Glory to Father, Son and Holy Ghost!
The full choir of the host of Heaven sang
that hymn so sweetly, I grew drunk on it. 3
Through ears and eyesight rapture entered me.
I seemed to see a smiling universe
of joy unspeakable. With love and peace 6
the four bright torches flamed before my eyes,
the first one growing brighter till it seemed
like Jupiter’s eagle, feathered with stars 9
like those of Mars with rubies at their hearts.
The choir fell silent as the eagle spoke.
“Don’t wonder at me changing. You will see 12
more changes soon. He who in Rome usurps
my place, my place, my place has emptied it
in the eyes of the Son of God! This pope 15
has made my tomb a pit of blood and shit.
Lucifer was expelled from here but now
triumphs below.” Then Heaven was suffused 18
with angry colours that we see in clouds
that face the rising and the setting sun.
My Lady’s colour changed like a chaste girl’s 21
hearing news of a sister’s shame. I think
this Heavenly eclipse the same as seen
when Jesus, crucified, gave up the Ghost. 24
His words continued in a voice as changed
as his appearance was. “The Bride of Christ –
our Holy Kirk – was not fed by my blood 27
nor that of many martyred saints, to gain
gold for the Vatican. Popes Sixtus,
Pius, Calixtus, Urban wept and bled 30
to reach this happy sphere. They did not use
my image on a battle flag in wars
with Christian foes, nor on sealed documents 33
telling the lie that purchasers will not
go to Hell. Do you wonder I’ve turned red?
From here I see in every Christian flock 36
a hungry wolf wearing a shepherds frock!
O God defending us, do you still sleep?
The French popes are prepared to drink our blood! 39
O lovely Origin, what foulness now
engulfs our Kirk? But it will not end thus.
When she was prone, Scipio saved Rome 42
to be the glory of the world. Just so
will Providence bring swift salvation soon.
So you, my son, have now this mighty task. 45
Return to earth and tell what you have learned.
Say it out loud. Don’t hide what I do not.
That is the reason you’re permitted here.” 48
In winter when the sun’s in Capricorn
the flakes of frozen vapour fall to earth.
The coloured forms I saw now paled to white, 51
snowed upward out of sight. I was staring
after them when Beatrice said, “And now
look down to see how far we have revolved.” 54
I did, saw it was noon, viewed the full globe
in a broad arc from Spain to Asia —
from the mad ocean route Ulysses took 57
to seas Europa swam astride a bull.
I could have seen more of earth’s threshing floor
had not the sun below my feet been some 60
degrees ahead. But now I yearned to look
into the eyes of Beatrice, for she
to me was the full sum of Paradise. 63
If art or nature ever made a bait
to catch the eye and occupy the mind,
I never saw any whose charms, combined, 66
could move me from divine delight I found
in my sweet darling’s face. Her glance gave strength
to soar to an even higher Heaven – 69
a swifter zone and yet so uniform
I cannot say just where we entered in.
She knew how love of knowledge masters me, 72
so said with an ecstatic smile from which
God’s meaning seemed to glow the following.
“The stable order of the universe 75
turns round the earth, that one unmoving place,
but here is generated time and space.
This is the mind of God whose love and light 78
creates all. Only the All-Containing
comprehends how everything derives
its motions from this sphere whose centre is 81
everywhere and boundaries nowhere.
Here none can see the roots whose branches sprout
the leaves and blooms and fruits of other spheres. 84
O why has such abominable greed
corrupted all who’ve grown from Adam’s seed?
Innocent love is found in tiny bairns,
yet perishes before their cheeks grow hair 88