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Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Paradiso
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

Introduction to the Paradiso. Invocation of Apollo. Ascent through the Sphere of Fire. The Order of the Universe

The Glory of Him who moveth everything,
penetrates all the Universe, and shines
more brightly in one part, and elsewhere less.

Within the Heaven which most receives His Light
I was; and saw what he who thence descends
neither knows how, nor hath the power, to tell;
for as it draweth near to its Desire,
our intellect so deeply sinks therein,
that recollection cannot follow it.
As much, however, of the holy Realm
as in my memory I could treasure up,
shall now become the subject of my song.

O Good Apollo, for my final task
make me as worthy a vessel of Thy Power,
as Thou dost ask for Thy dear laurel's gift.
One of Parnassus' peaks hath hitherto
sufficed me; but with both of them I now
must start upon the course which still remains.
Enter my breast, and breathe Thou as of old
Thou didst, when from the scabbard of his limbs
Thou drewest Marsyas forth.

O Power Divine,
if Thou but lend Thyself to me so much,
that I may show the blessèd Kingdom's shadow
which in my mind is stamped; to Thy dear tree
Thou 'lt see me come, and crown me with the leaves
my theme and Thou shall cause me to deserve.
So seldom, Father, are there any picked,
to grace a Caesar's or a Poet's triumph,
(the fault of human wills, and to their shame),
that His Peneian leaf should bring forth joy
within the Joyous Delphic Deity,
when for itself it causes one to thirst.

A great flame follows from a little spark;
perhaps with better voices after me
shall men so pray, that Cyrrha will reply.

For mortal men the lantern of the world
rises through divers passes; but from that
which with three crosses brings four rings together,
it issues on a more propitious course,
and in conjunction with a kinder star,
and more in its own image moulds and seals
the mundane wax. A pass almost like this
had made it morning there and evening here;
and all that hemisphere was white, and black
the other side; when Beatrice I saw
turned toward her left, and looking at the sun;
no eagle ever gazed at it so keenly.

And even as from the first a second ray
is wont to come, and upward start again,
as would a pilgrim longing to return;
even so to her act, by mine eyes infused
through my imagination, mine conformed;
and on the sun I gazed beyond our wont.

Much is permitted there, which is not here
allowed our faculties, thanks to the site
created as the human race's home.

Not long did I endure it, nor so briefly,
as not to see it sparkle all around,
as molten iron doth, when out of fire
it issues boiling; day then all at once
seemed joined to day, as if the One who can
had with another sun adorned the sky.

With eyes fixed wholly on the eternal wheels
stood Beatrice; and I on her fixed mine,
from there above removed. Looking at her,
I such became within, as Glaucus did
on tasting of the herb, which in the sea
made him a fellow of the other Gods.

Transhumanizing could not be expressed
by words; let this case, therefore, him suffice,
for whom Grace holds experience in reserve.

If I, O Love that rulest Heaven, was only
that part of me, which Thou didst last create,
Thou know'st, that with Thy Light didst raise me up.

When the rotation Thou, by being longed for,
dost make eternal, drew me to itself
by harmonies distributed and tuned
by Thee, it seemed that so much of the sky
was by the sun's flame set on fire, that rain
nor river ever made so broad a lake.

The newness of the sound, and brilliant light
kindled in me a wish to know their cause,
never with so great keenness felt; whence she,
who saw me ev'n as I behold myself,
opened her mouth to calm my troubled mind,
ere I did mine to question, and began:

"With false imagining dost thou so dull
thyself, that thou perceivest not what else
thou wouldst perceive, if thou hadst thrown it off.
Thou 'rt not on earth, as thou dost think thyself;
but lightning fleeing from its proper place
ne'er ran as thou, that art thereto returning."

If I was by her little smiled-out words
of my first doubt relieved, within a new one
was I the more ensnared; I therefore said:
"Already sated, I had found repose
from great amazement; but I wonder now
how I can these light elements transcend."

Heaving, thereat, a pitying sigh, she turned
her eyes upon me with the look a mother
gives her delirious child; and then began:

"All things, whate'er they be, an order have
among themselves; and form this order is,
which makes the Universe resemble God.
Therein exalted creatures see the trace
of that Eternal Worth, which is the end
for which the mentioned order is created.
Within the ordered state whereof I speak,
all natures have their place with different lots,
as nearer to their source they are, or less;
wherefore toward different ports they wend their way
through the vast sea of being, each endowed
with instinct, granted it to bear it on.
This instinct toward the moon impelleth fire;
this is the motive force in mortal hearts;
this binds together and unites the earth;
nor doth this bow impel those creatures only
which lack intelligence, but those that have
intelligence and love. The Providence
which ordereth all this, with Its own Light
e'er calms the heaven, inside of which revolves
the one that moveth with the greatest speed.
And thither now, as to a place ordained,
that bowstring's power is bearing us along,
which to a glad mark speeds whate'er it shoots.
'T is true that, as a form is frequently
discordant with the intention of an art,
because its matter in response is deaf;
so likewise from this natural course at times
a creature turns away; for power it hath,
though thus impelled, to bend aside elsewhere,
(as one may see fire falling from a cloud),
if, by false pleasure drawn, that primal impulse
turn it aside to earth. If well I judge,
no further shouldst thou wonder at thy rising,
than at a stream thou dost, which to its foot
down from a lofty mountain's top descends.
As great a marvel would it be in thee,
if, rid of hindrance, thou hadst sat thee down,
as rest, on earth, would in a living flame."

Then toward the sky she turned her face again.

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