Wednesday, May 20, 2015

DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY:PARADISE: Chapter 28


Chapter 28: The Angelic Sphere


As she who had Imparadised my soul
            described the wretched human state below
            I gazed into her eyes. They snared me. She        3

was everything I loved and wished to know.
            When looking in a mirror, if we see
            a sudden brightness shine behind our head         6

we turn to find out why. I now did that
            and saw a point of radiance so bright
            I had to close my eyes or loose my sight             9

till I received the strength to look. Sometimes
            the sun appearing through the mist will cast
            a halo round itself. This light had one –             12

a spinning ring of glory, rainbow-like,
            and round that ring a second ring; round that
            a third. I counted nine concentric rings.             15

The inmost, closest to Intensity
            of Light, was swiftest and their speed decreased
            with the much greater vastness of their arc,       18

and the inmost was incandescently
            brightest because (I think) nearest that Point,
            that Scintilla, that Essence of all light.               21

 My lady saw how great my excitement,
            and to ease it said, “From that one Point hangs
            all the Heavens of Paradise and all                    24

of nature’s law. Of course the closest ring
            is driven fastest by the burning love
            that impels the rest.” Said I, “Of course, and     27

if the universe showed the arrangement
            of these wheels I would be satisfied, but
            in the sensual world where I was born,             30

the spheres are more divine the further from
            the earth, which is the jail of Lucifer.
            If I am here to learn all good men can,              33

 even in this angelic sphere in which
light and love are the only boundaries,
I must be taught why the earthly order              36                           

is reversed.”  Said she, “That your fingers
cannot untie this knot is no surprise,
since hardly anybody tries. Since your              39

searching mind demands satisfaction, test
            it on this. The size of spheres depends on
            how much of virtue occupies their parts.           42

More excellence creates more blessedness,
            more blessedness makes bigger bodies when
            the parts are perfect too, therefore this zone      45

which gives all motion to the universe
            holds most of those who both love and know.
            If you assess the virtue, not the look                 48

of spirits who appear to you as spheres
            the correspondence of intelligence
            and magnitude will become obvious.”              51

As north-east gales clear our Italian skies
            sweeping the clouds away and Heaven smiles
            in all the beauty of it’s pageantry,                     54

my Lady’s answer did the same for me –
            I saw the truth as plain as Heavens stars.
            She fell silent and each Heavenly light             57

in those nine zones, like iron filings flung
            into flames, sparkled brighter and rang out
            a hymn of praise to the Fixed Point that held    60                 

each in their place upon a spinning ring,
            a hymn as glad as it will always be.
            Beatrice, seeing my new confidence                 63                            

said, “The inmost circles to the Point hold
            the Cherubim, Seraphim and also
            the Thrones of Sacred Aspect who complete    66

the first trio. All angels take delight
            to the extent that their sight penetrates
            the truth in which all intellects find rest.            69
  
From this it can be seen that blessedness
            depends on acts of vision, not of love
            which follows it. Depth of vision gives measure 72   

of merit got by Gods Grace and right will,
            and thus we graduate from step to step.
            The second trio in this flowering,                      75

this endless spring no autumn will destroy,
            sing their hosannas in a threefold choir:
            of the Dominions and Virtues and Powers.       78

 Last trio in this mighty festival –
 Principalities, Archangels, Angels
 who spend eternity at play. All these                81

by gazing up to God prevail below,
            in ranks that Dionysius described.
            Pope Gregory disagreed with him till                84

opening his eyes in Heaven, he laughed
            to see how wrong he’d been. Where that pure Saint
mistook the Heavenly Host, no wonder

at first you found their discipline obscure.”                   88

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