Wednesday, May 20, 2015


CHAPTER 26: Saint John

While dreading blindness from the splendid flame
            that sealed my eyes I heard these words breathed out:
            “You will not be sightless long. Your Lady                3

will mend your vision soon, and until then
            attend my words. Tell me all your desires.”
            Said I, “Sight may return as soon or late                     6

as she requires. My eyes were doors open
            to her. She entered them, starting the fires
            that burn within me still. She is the court,                   9

Alpha and Omega, all the love that
            the Old and New testaments mean to me.”
            He said, “Make that point clearer. Your target,         12

what is that? What is it directs your bow?”
            Said I, “The logic of philosophy
            plus Authority established here, prove                      15

Love stamps it’s form on all that it creates.
That Great Good is the essence of us all.
Nothing exists outside it but stray rays                      18

seeking their souls, as Aristotle  knows,
            Plato demonstrates. Christians also know
            Eternity loves the products of time.                           21

The Bible Author told Moses this, said
            I will make all my goodness pass before
            your eyes, Exodus, Chapter 33.                                24

You wrote that too starting your Gospel with,
            In the beginning was the Word! More than
            any other words, these announce the Love               27

that made the universe is meant for all.”
            Said John, “Human reason and both Scriptures
            all harmonize for you in Beatrice                              30

your strongest love does look to God above.
            Tell me, what other cords tie you to Him?
            Name all the teeth with which love’s biting you.”    33
John the Evangelist, eagle of Christ,
            thus made his purpose plain to me. I saw
            where he was directing my confession.                     36

I began again. “All that bites my heart
            turns it Godward. His charity is seen
            in the death He bore that everyone                            39

might live and enjoy His works forever.
            I hope for that as all believers do.
            Love of lesser things, Beatrice expels.                       42

Only Heaven’s justice remains,” said I.
             As soon as I fell silent through the air
            of Paradise resounded a sweet song                          45

in which my Lady joined with all the rest:
            “Holy, holy, holy.” When piercing light
            breaks through sleep, driving clouds of night away,  48

wakened, we may recoil from what at first
            we see, but need some time to recognise.
            Beatrice by her brightness now dispersed                  51

my darkness. I saw better than before
            and gazed amazed at a fourth brilliance
            shining at our side. My Lady explained,                   54

“This radiance now shows the love he feels
            for being first man made to be like God.”
            As saplings bend before a gust of wind                     57

then spring up straight again by their own force
            so did I while she spoke, first bowing low
            in wonder, then erect, burning to say:                        60

“You only fruit created wholly ripe!
            O ancient father of all folk who are
            your grandsons or daughters! Please tell me what     63

you know I want to know. I will not now
            delay your reply with another word.”
            Sparkles within that splendour made me sure            66

he answered gladly as he said, “I see
            your mind can truly mirror anything
            that is less than God. You are keen to know              69

 how long we lived in earthly paradise –  
and Hell before raised here – and the real cause
            of His wrath – and language in which I spoke.          72

My son, know that Eve and me were exiled
            for not only eating that fruit, but for
            our pride in knowing more than people should.         75

In Limbo we longed to be here for four
thousand, three hundred and two years before
your Lady went there five days ago to                       78

summon Virgil for your aid. When on earth
            I saw the sun go round the zodiac
            nine hundred and thirty times. Long before                81

Nimrod’s folk built what they could not complete
            the tongue I spoke had vanished totally.
            No work of human reason lasts more than                 84

a few centuries. Your minds need Heaven
            to renew them when a generation
starts again. Nature forces speech on men                 87

but lets them please themselves how it will go.
            Before I went to Hell the Supreme Good
            that gives me now such joy I then called El.             90

Later He was as suitably named Jah.
            Mortal doings are much like leaves on trees.
            One goes, another comes. On that mountain             93

rising highest from the sea we lived pure
            then guilty from my first day’s brightest noon
            until the sixth day when the sun declined

leaving we two feeling ashamed at night.”                            97


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