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

The Fourth Heaven. The Sun. The Fifth Heaven
Mars. The Happiness of Heroism

In rounded vessels water moves from rim
to center, and from center so to rim,
according as one strikes it from without
or from within. What I am saying here
fell suddenly into my mind, when once
the glorious life of Thomas ceased to speak,
because of the resemblance which arose
between his speech and that of Beatrice,
who, after him, was pleased to speak as follows:

"This spirit needs, although he tells you so
neither by voice, nor ev'n by thinking it,
to reach the root of still another truth.
Tell him, then, if the light, wherewith your substance
is flowering, will remain with you the same
eternally as even now it is;
and if it still remain so, tell him how,
when ye have been made visible again,
it can be such as not to hurt your sight."

As when impelled and drawn by greater gladness,
those who are dancing lift at times their voices,
and give their actions greater sprightliness;
so, at that prompt and reverent request,
the holy circles showed new joyousness,
both in their whirl and in their wondrous song.

He that lamenteth that we die down here
to live up yonder, hath not seen up there
the comfort of the eternal rain. That One
and Two and Three, who ever lives and reigns
in Three and Two and One, uncircumscribed,
and circumscribing everything, was there
by each and all of yonder spirits sung
with such a melody, that it would be
a just reward for any one's desert.

And in the smallest ring's divinest light
I heard a gentle voice, like that with which,
perhaps, the Angel spoke to Mary, answer:
"As long as Paradise's joy shall last,
so long our love will radiate around it
a garment such as this. Its clarity
is patterned on our ardor, and our ardor
upon our vision, and as keen is that,
as is the grace it hath above its worth.
When with our glorious and perfected flesh
we 're clothed again, our persons will give greater
pleasure, because of being all complete;
wherefore, whatever freely given light
the Good Supreme may grant us, will increase -
a light permitting us to see Him; whence
our vision needs must grow; and grow the ardor
which from it is enkindled, and hence grow
the radiance, likewise, which proceeds from this.
But as a burning coal emits a flame,
and by its vivid glow surpasses it,
so that its own appearance is maintained;
so will this brightness which surrounds us now
be vanquished in appearance by the flesh,
which still is covered by the earth; nor will
so great a light avail to weary us,
because our body's organs will be strong
for whatsoe'er is able to delight us."

So quick and careful seemed both choirs to say
'Amen!', that clearly a desire they showed
to have their buried bodies; and not, perhaps,
for their own sakes alone, but for their mothers,
and fathers and the others, who were dear
to them, ere they became eternal flames.

Then round us everywhere, of equal brightness,
outside the luster there, another rose,
like an horizon which is growing clear;
and as new apparitions come in sight
throughout the sky, at early evening's rise,
sÚ that one's vision seems, and seems not, true;
meseemed that new subsistences I there
began to see, and that a ring was forming
outside the other two circumferences.

O thou true sparkling of the Holy Spirit!
How suddenly and glowingly it flashed
before mine eyes, which, vanquished, stood it not!

But Beatrice revealed herself so fair
and smiling, that this vision must be left
'mong those that followed not my memory.
I hence gained strength to raise mine eyes again;
and with my Lady alone I saw myself
borne to a higher grade of blessedness.
I well perceived that I was higher up,
by reason of the star's enkindled smile,
which ruddier seemed to me than is its wont.

With all my heart and with that kind of speech
which is the same in all, I made to God
such holocaust as was befitting this
new grace; and the ardor of my offered self
had not yet been exhausted from my breast,
when I perceived that sacrifice was welcome
and pleasing; for to me there then appeared
splendors between two rays, so bright and red,
that I exclaimed: "O Helios, who dost so
adorn them!" As the Galaxy, bedecked
with smaller and with greater lights, so glimmers
'tween the world's poles, that even the wise are led
to doubt; thus, constellated in the depths
of Mars, those rays described the honored sign,
which in a circle quadrant-joinings make.

My memory overcomes my genius here;
because that Cross so lightened forth the Christ,
that I can find therefor no fit example;
but whosoever taketh up his cross
and follows Christ, will pardon me again
for what I leave, when in that glow he sees
the Christ flash forth. Lights moved about from arm
to arm, and 'tween the summit and the base,
and sparkled brightly when they met, and when
they passed each other. Thus we here see, straight
and crooked, swift and slow, and ever
renewing their appearance, particles
of bodies long and short, as through a ray
they move, whereby at times that shade is streaked,
which folk, to shield them, make with skill and art.

And as a viol or a harp, attuned
with many strings, a pleasant tinkling makes
for one by whom the music is not caught;
so from the lights which there appeared to me,
a melody was gathered through the Cross,
which rapt me, though I made not out the hymn.

I well perceived it was of lofty praise,
because 'Arise!' and 'Conquer!' came to me,
as to who heard, but did not understand.

So much in love with it did I become,
that naught had ever fettered me before
with such sweet bonds. My words, perhaps,
appear too bold, in that they lower set
the pleasure giv'n me by the lovely eyes,
looking in which my longing finds its rest;
but who considers that the living seals
of all fair things do more, the higher up,
and that I had not there looked up at them,
may pardon me for what, to be excused,
I 'm self-accused, and see that I speak true;
for here the holy joy is not excluded,
since, as it mounts, the purer it becomes.

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