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

The Second Heaven. Mercury. The Happiness of
Beneficent Activity. Ambitious Spirits

"Hosanna, O Thou Holy God of Hosts,
that with Thy Clarity dost brighter make
the happy fires of these celestial realms!"

As thus to his own song he turned himself,
by me that substance was seen singing now,
o'er which a double light two-folds itself;
and to their dance both that one and the rest
addressed themselves; and then, like swiftest sparks,
with sudden distance veiled themselves from me.

In doubt I was, and to myself kept saying:
"Tell, tell it to her; tell" I said, "my Lady,
who with her sweet distillings slakes my thirst!"

That reverence, though, which masters all of me
by the mere syllables of be and ýce,
bowed me like one that 's overcome by sleep.
A short while Beatrice endured me thus;
then, lighting up my face with such a smile,
as, even in fire, would bless one, she began:

"As I am unmistakably aware,
how a just vengeance could have been avenged
with justice, hath occasioned thee to doubt;
but I shall quickly liberate thy mind;
hence listen, for my words will now bestow
on thee the present of a mighty truth.

By not accepting for the power that wills
a helpful curb, the man who was not born,
damning himself, damned all his progeny;
wherefore the human race lay sick below
in serious sin for many centuries,
until the Word of God was pleased descend
to where the nature, which had wandered far
from its Creator, to His Self He joined,
by the mere act of His Eternal Love.

Now turn thy sight to what is argued now!
This nature, thus united to its Maker,
was, as when first created, pure and good;
but through its own fault was in banishment
exiled from Paradise, because it turned
out of the path of truth and its own life.
As to the suffering, therefore, which the cross
afforded, none so justly ever bit,
if measured by the nature thus assumed;
and likewise none was ever so unjust,
considering who the person was that suffered,
within whom such a nature was conjoined.
From one act, therefore, issued things diverse;
for one same death pleased both the Jews, and God;
it caused the earth to quake, and opened Heaven.
No longer strange should it appear to thee
henceforth, when it is said a just revenge
was by a just court afterward avenged.

But I perceive that now, from thought to thought,
thy mind is in a knot tied up, from which
with great desire it seeks to free itself.
Thou sayest: 'What I hear I clearly see;
but from me hidden is why God should will
for our redemption just this way alone.'
Buried, my brother, lieth this decree
from all men's eyesight, whose intelligence
hath not in love's flame reached maturity.
However, inasmuch as on this mark
great is the gazing, and but little seen,
I 'll say why this one was the worthiest way.

Goodness Divine, which spurneth from Itself
all envy, burning in Itself, so sparkles,
that Its eternal beauties It displays.
Whatever from It is immediately
distilled, hath afterward no end; for when
It sets Its seal, Its stamp is not removed.
Whatever from It is immediately
rained down, is wholly free, for that lies not
under the power of secondary things.
Since most like It, it gives It greatest pleasure;
because the Holy Fire which lighteth all things,
is brightest in what most resembles It.
The human creature is by all these things
advantaged; hence, if one of them be lacking,
it needs must fall from its nobility.
Nothing but sin deprives it of its freedom,
and maketh it unlike the Highest Good,
hence little is it whitened by Its Light;
and to its dignity it ne'er returns,
unless, where sin has emptied, it fill up,
for evil pleasures, with just penalties.
When in its seed your nature wholly sinned,
it was of all these dignities deprived,
as well as banished far from Paradise;
nor could they be regained by any path,
if with due subtlety thou pay attention,
except by crossing one of these two fords:
either that of His courtesy alone,
God should forgive it, or that by itself
mankind should for its folly make amends.

Fixed as attentively upon my words
as thou art able, thrust thou now thine eye
within the Eternal Counsel's deep abyss!

Since finite, man could never make amends,
because unable in humility,
by new obedience, to descend as far,
as, disobeying, he had meant to mount;
and this the reason is why man was barred
from making satisfaction by himself.
It, hence, behooved that God by His own ways
should reinstate man in his perfect life,
by one, I mean, or else by both at once.
But since so much more grateful is the work
a workman does, the more it represents
the goodness of the heart from which it comes,
Goodness Divine, which on the world imprints
Its seal, was pleased to move by all Its paths
to raise you up again. Nor hath there been,
nor will there ever be, by either way,
between the first of days and last of nights,
so high and so magnificent a plan;
for God was far more bountiful in giving
Himself, to make man fit to raise himself,
than had He only of Himself forgiven;
therefore all other means had fallen short
of Justice, if the Son of God had not
humbled Himself, incarnate to become.

But, wholly to fulfill thine every wish,
I 'll now go back to clarify one point,
that thou mayst see as plainly there as I.

Thou say'st: 'I see that water, nay, I see
that fire and air and earth, and all their mixtures
become corrupt, and but a little while
endure; and yet created things were these!
If, therefore, what was said above were true,
safe from corruption ought these things to be.'

The Angels, brother, and the perfect world,
in which thou now art, may be called created,
such as they are, in their perfected state;
the elements, however, thou hast named,
and those things which by means of them are made,
by a created virtue are informed.
Created was the matter which they have;
created was the informing influence
in all these stars, which round about them move.
The rays and motion of the holy lights
draw from pure matter's potentiality
the soul of every brute and every plant.
But without agency doth Kindliness
Supreme breathe your life forth, and with Itself
enamors it so greatly, that thereafter
it always longs for It. And, furthermore,
thou canst from this infer your resurrection,
if thou recall how human flesh was made,
when both of man's first parents were created."

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