02
Dante Alighieri - La Divina Commedia - Paradiso
Courtney Langdon - The Divine Comedy

The First Heaven. The Moon. Reflected Happiness
Inconstant Spirits who failed to keep their Vows

O ye who, in a little boat embarked,
have, fain to listen, followed in the wake
of this my ship, which, singing, ploughs ahead,
go back to see your shores again! Start not
upon the ocean; for, if me ye lost,
ye might, perhaps, be left behind astray.

The seas I sail were never crossed before;
Minerva breathes, Apollo is my guide,
and all nine Muses point me out the Bears.

Ye other few, who early raised your necks
for Angels' bread, on which one here on earth
subsists, but with which none are ever sated,
ye well may start your vessel on the deep
salt sea, if in the furrow of my ship
ye stay, ere smooth again the waves become.
Those glorious ones, who crossed the seas to Colchis,
were not so much amazed, as ye shall be,
when Jason turned a ploughman they beheld.

The innàte and ceaseless thirsting for the Realm
in God's own image made, was bearing us
as swiftly as ye see the heavens revolve.

On high looked Beatrice, and I on her;
and in the time, perhaps, an arrow takes
to light, and fly, and from the notch be freed,
I saw that I had come to where a marvel
turned to itself my sight; hence she, from whom
the working of my mind could not be hid,
as glad as she was lovely, turned toward me,
and said: "Direct thy grateful mind to God,
who with the first star hath united us."

Meseemed as if a cloud were covering us,
as luminous and dense, as hard and polished,
as is a diamond smitten by the sun.
Within itself the eternal pearl received us,
as water, though unbroken it remain,
receives within itself a ray of light.

If body I was (nor can one here conceive
how one dimension could endure another,
which needs must be, if body enter body),
the more should we be kindled by the wish
that Essence to behold, wherein is seen
how once with God our nature was conjoined.
Thère will be seen, what here we hold by faith,
not demonstrated, but will self-known be,
as is the primal truth which men believe.

"My Lady," I replied, "as best I can
do I devoutly render thanks to Him,
who from the mortal world hath severed me.

But tell me what this body's dark spots are,
which cause the folk down yonder on the earth
to tell each other fables about Cain."

She smiled a little, then she said: "If mortals'
opinion therein errs, where key of sense
unlocketh not, surely the shafts of wonder
ought not to pierce thee now;
for thou perceivest
that short are Reason's wings, when following sense.
But tell me what thou think'st thereof thyself."

And I: "What seems to us diverse up here,
is caused, I think, by bodies thin and dense."

And she: "Thou 'lt surely see that thy belief
is sunk in error, if but well thou heed
the arguments I 'll now oppose to it.

The eighth sphere shows you many shining stars,
which both in quality and magnitude,
may be observed to differ in their looks.
If only rarity and density
caused this, among them all one single virtue
would more, and less, and equally be shared.
Virtues that differ needs must be the fruit
of formal principles, and these, save one,
would, by thy way of reasoning, be destroyed.
Again, if thinness caused the dusky spots
which thou dost ask about, this planet would,
in portions, through its bulk its matter lack,
or, as a body what is fat and lean
distributes, so would this one alternate
its volume's leaves. If true the former were,
't would in the sun's eclipses be revealed,
because the latter's light would then shine through,
as when in other thin things introduced.
This does not happen; hence the other one
must be considered now; and should I chance
to quash it, false will thy opinion prove.

If, therefore, it be so that this thin part
extends not through, a limit there must be,
beyond which what is contrary thereto
allows it not to pass; the other's ray
is, hence, reflected, as color from a glass
returns, which back of it concealeth lead.
Thou 'lt now say that the ray seems dimmer there
than in the other parts it is, because
from further back reflected. From this retort
experimenting, which is wont to be
the fountain of the rivers of your arts,
can, if thou ever try it, set thee free.
Thou 'lt take three mirrors; two of them removed
at equal distance from thee, let the third,
placed 'tween them, more remotely meet thine eyes.
Then, turning toward them, let a lamp stand so
between them, as to shine upon all three,
and be reflected on thee from them all.

Though the most distant light will not extend
so much in quantity, thou 'lt see thereby
how it must needs with equal brightness shine.
And now, as at the stroke of burning rays,
what lies beneath the snow is wholly bared
of what were previously its cold and color;
thee, thus remaining in thine intellect,
will I inform with such a living light,
that it will quiver when thou seest it.

Within the heaven of Peace Divine revolves
a body, subject to whose influence lies
the being of whatever it contains.
The next, which hath so many eyes, distributes
that being 'mong the different essences,
distinguished from it, and contained by it.
The other spheres, by various differences,
dispose to their effects and causes those
distinctions which within themselves they have.
These organs of the world so go their way,
as thou perceivest now, from grade to grade,
that from above they take, and downward act.
Give me good heed, as through this argument
I seek the truth thou wishest, that henceforth
thou mayst know how to cross the ford alone.
The holy circles' influence and motion,
as from the blacksmith doth the hammer's art,
must from the blessèd Motors be inspired;
and that heaven which so many lights adorn,
receives its impress from the Mind profound,
which turneth it, and makes thereof a seal.
And as the soul which lives within your dust
unfolds itself through members, which are different,
and unto different potencies conformed;
so likewise, multiplied among the stars,
doth that Intelligence unfold its goodness,
while on its unity itself revolves.
Each different power a different alloy makes,
mixed with the precious body which it quickens,
and with which it unites, as life in you.
Because of that glad nature whence it flows,
the mingled virtue through the body shines,
as, through a living pupil, joy. From this
comes what 'tween light and light a difference seems,
and not from rarity and density;
this is the formal principle which makes,
according to its strength, things dark and bright.

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