DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY:PARADISE: Chapter 30
CHAPTER 30: The Empyrean
The sun behind the world’s vast curvature
cast its steep cone of shadow to the height
where constellations gleamed throughout the night 3
until a faint dawn, shining in the East
increased, tilted the shadow to the West.
Sky paled. The stars became invisible, 6
even the Morning Star among the rest.
The light to which I soared with Beatrice
was infinitely brighter than the sun: 9
a radiance that held the universe,
so dazzling that, apart from Beatrice,
I could not see a thing. If all I’ve said 12
in praise of her before was harmonised
in a great anthem of triumphant praise
it could not hint at her new loveliness. 15
I am like one too blinded by Sun’s rays
to recollect its colour and its shape.
From the first day I saw her as a child 18
her beauty made my verses beautiful.
Soon I must cease from making songs to her –
all artists’ inspirations have an end. 21
She would go on to finer fanfares than
my lips can blow. She still spoke as a guide,
giving good words to a departing friend. 24
“We have arisen high above the spheres
of Heaven seen from earth – here all is bright
with purest love and intellect: goodness 27
beatified with absolute delight.
When your eyesight is strengthened once again
you will find in high paradise both ranks: 30
redeemed mankind with angels by their side.”
Suddenly I was shrouded yet once more
by blinding glares of mist and could not see 33
until she said, “Love ruling Paradise
welcomes new souls like this, for it prepares
each candle for a better flame.” At this 36
I felt my mind enlarged beyond itself.
My vision knew nothing would baffle it.
I saw a river of splendid light flow 39
between banks of marvellous Spring flowers.
From that bright stream living sparks leapt into
the blossoms, like rubies setting themselves 42
in gold, then as if drunk with sweet scent, went
plunging back into the glorious flood
from which new living jewels sparkled out. 45
“Your wish to understand what you see here
pleases me the more it grows. To satisfy
that thirst you will now drink these waters first,” 48
my Lady said. “The flashing jewelry
exchanged between the river and the blooms
are shadows of the truths you aught to see. 51
Your mortal sight is not yet purified
enough to let in much reality.”
No baby waking hungry, having slept 54
more than it should, sucks at a mother’s breast
more eagerly than I flung myself down
beside the stream that would improve my eyes. 57
Hardly were the two eyelids wet when both
river and banks expanded to a space
in which the waves and blossoms were dissolved 60
till they exposed a nobler festival —
all courts of Paradise! Glory to God
for giving me the strength of sight and soul 63
to view the triumph of your kingdom there!
Now give me words to speak of what I saw!
The purest light made the Creator seen 66
by all who find their final peace in Him.
It spreads so wide, the orbit of the sun
within it is a very tiny ring. 69
There the First Mover lights the mighty width
from source and summit of its potency
down to its base. As a fine grassy hill 72
might see itself reflected in a lake
my eyes took in surrounding me over
a thousand tiers of petals, God’s white rose – 75
the seats of blesséd souls redeemed from earth.
The lowest level held such piercing light
I gaped at how it reached the topmost height. 78
No natural perspective law worked here
for distance made no detail indistinct.
She who had brought me to this inmost heart, 81
this glowing yellow centre of God’s rose
said, “see the blesséd white-robed multitude
in the arena of our citadel. 84
See how few the thrones remain unfilled.
Notice above one an emperor’s crown.
That is for the noble Henry’s soul, 87
summoned to rightly govern Italy
when she is unfit – a bad child pushing
nurse away, Kirk undermining Crown while 90
pretending to support. Henry will sit
there before you die. God will damn that pope
with Simon Magus in the malebolge
where he will thrust his predecessor down.” 93