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

The Fourth Heaven. The Sun. Intellectual Happiness
Spirits of Theologians and Philosophers. Solomon's Wisdom

Let him imagine, who would understand
aright what now I saw, (and let him hold
the image like a steadfast rock, the while
I speak), the fifteen stars which vivify
the sky at different points with such clear light,
that vanquished is all denseness in the air;
let him imagine next that Wain, whereto
the bosom of our sky suffices so
both night and day, that, as its pole revolves,
it never disappears; and let him then
imagine furthermore that trumpet's mouth,
which at the axle's point begins, whereon
the first wheel turns; and that all these had made
two constellations of themselves, like that
which Minos' daughter fashioned when she felt
the cold of death; and one to have its rays
within the other, and both to so revolve,
that one moved forward, and the other back;
and he will of the actual constellation
a shadow have, and of the double dance,
which circled round the place where I then was;
for it as far surpasses our experience,
as swifter than the Chiana moves the heaven
which outspeeds all the others. There they praised
nor Bacchus nor Apollo, but three Persons
in one sole nature, the divine, and that,
in but one Person with the human joined.

The song and dance completed each its measure;
whereat those holy lights gave heed to us,
rejoicing thus to pass from care to care.

And then the light, wherein the wondrous life
of God's dear pauper had been told to me,
of those harmonious gods the silence broke,
and said: "Whereas one straw has now been threshed,
and as its seed hath now been stored away,
sweet love inviteth me to beat the other.

Thou think'st that in the breast from which the rib
was drawn, which went to form the lovely cheek,
whose palate cost so much to all the world,
and that in that one which, before and after
the lance had pierced it, made such satisfaction,
as to outweigh all sins,
whatever light
our human nature is allowed, the whole,
was by that Power infused, which made them both;
thou, hence, art marvelling at what above
I said, when I narrated that the good
enclosed within the fifth light had no second.
Ope now thine eyes to what I answer thee;
and thou 'lt see that my words and thy belief
grow one in truth, as in a ring its center.

That which dies not, and that which mortal is,
are naught but that Idea's reflected light,
to which our Sire, by loving, giveth birth;
for that Bright Light, which from its Lucent Source
so flows, that It is not divided from Him,
nor from the Love which with Them is intrined,
out of Its goodness gathers up Its radiance,
mirrored, as 't were, in nine subsistences,
Itself eternally remaining one.
Thence to the lowest creatures It descends
from act to act, and such becomes, that naught
It makes but brief contingencies; and these
contingencies I understand to be
those generated things the moving heavens
produce by means of seed and without seed.
Of these the wax, and that which mouldeth it,
are not of one same kind; hence, underneath
the ideal stamp, they more or less reflect it;
it hence results that, after its own kind,
one selfsame plant bears better fruit and worse;
and that with different natures ye are born.
If tempered to perfection were the wax,
and if the heavens were at their height of power,
the whole light of the seal would be revealed;
but Nature, working as an artist doth,
who hath, though skilled and toward his art disposed,
a trembling hand, e'er gives it with a flaw.
Hence, if the Flaming Love dispose and stamp
the Lucid Vision of the Primal Power,
complete perfection is therein acquired.
Thus rendered worthy of an animal's
complete perfection was the earth of old;
thus also was the Virgin rendered pregnant;
hence thine opinion I as true commend,
that human nature never was, nor will be,
such as it once in those two persons was.

And now, if I no further went, 'How, then,
could he be peerless?' would thy words begin.
But, that what seems not so may now seem clear,
think who he was, and what the cause which moved him
in his request, when 'Ask' was said to him.
I have not spoken so, that thou shouldst not
see clearly that a king he was, who asked
wisdom to be a worthy king; and not
to know the number of the Angels here;
nor whether from a necessary premise,
with one contingent, a necessity
e'er followed as result; nor yet to know
if a first motion needs must granted be,
nor whether a triangle could be made,
with no right angle, in a semicircle.
Hence, if thou note both what I said and this,
a royal wisdom is that peerless vision,
on which the shaft of my intention strikes;
and if to 'hath arisen' thou direct
clear eyes, thou 'lt see that it refers to kings
alone, who many are, and few the good.
With this distinction take thou what I said;
for it can stand with that which thou believ'st
of man's first father, and of our Delight.

And let this e'er be lead unto thy feet,
to make thee, like one weary, slowly move
to both the Yea and Nay thou seest not;
for very low among the fools is he,
who affirms without distinction, or denies,
in one, as in the other, case; because
it happens that a quickly formed opinion
is often in a wrong direction turned;
and then the feelings bind the intellect.
For worse than vainly leaveth he the shore,
who fishes for the truth and hath no skill,
since, such as he set out, he comes not back;
and in the world are patent proofs of this
Parmenides, Melissus, Bryson, aye,
and many who advanced, but knew not whither.
So did Sabellius, Arius and those fools
who to the Scriptures were as sword-blades are,
in making faces crooked, which were straight.

In judging, let not people be too sure,
like him who in the field computes the ears,
or ever they are ripe;
for I have seen
a thorn-bush seem all winter stiff and wild,
and later bear a rose upon its top;
and once I saw a vessel running straight
and swiftly o'er the sea through all her course,
and end by sinking at the harbor's mouth.

Let not dame Bertha or sir Martin think,
on seeing one man rob, and one give alms,
that they behold them as they seem to God;
for that one may get up, and this one fall."

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