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

The Seventh Heaven. Saturn. St. Benedict
The Eighth or Starry Heaven. The Twins

Oppressed with stupor, to my Guide I turned,
as would a little child who always runs
for help to where he most confides; and she,
as doth a mother who at once assists
her pale and breathless offspring with her voice,
whose wont is to assure him, said to me:

"Knowest thou not that thou art now in Heaven?
and know'st thou not that all of Heaven is holy,
and that of good zeal cometh all done here?
To what extent the song, as well as I
by smiling, would have changed thee, thou canst now
imagine, since the cry has shocked thee so;
in it, if thou hadst understood its prayers,
already were that vengeance known to thee,
which thou shalt see before thou die. Our sword
up here cuts nor in haste nor tardily,
save as to one it seems, who waits for it
with either apprehension or desire.

But turn thyself around toward others now;
for many illustrious spirits shalt thou see,
if, as I tell thee, thou direct thine eyes.

Mine eyes I then directed as she pleased,
and saw a hundred little spheres which, gathering,
by mutual rays each other fairer made.
Like one I was, who checks within himself
the goad of his desire, and dares not ask,
so great his fear lest he may ask too much.

The largest and most lustrous of those pearls
came forward thereupon, to sate my wish
concerning it.
Within it then I heard:
"If thou, as I do, couldst behold the love
which burns among us here, thy thoughts would be
expressed; but lest, by waiting, thou delay
thy lofty aim, I'll answer now the thought
which causes thee to so restrain thyself.

That mountain on whose slope Casino stands,
was once frequented on its top by folk,
who both deluded were and ill-disposed.
And he am I, who first up yonder bore
the name of Him, who carried down to earth
the truth which here exalteth us so much;
and such abundant grace upon me shone,
that I withdrew the neighboring villages
from that vain worship which seduced the world.
These other fires were all contemplatives,
men who were kindled by the heat which brings
the flowers and fruits of holiness to birth.
Here is Macarius, Romuald is here,
and here are those my brethren, who remained
in cloisters, and who steadfast kept their hearts."

And I to him: "The affection shown by thee,
in talking with me, and the kindliness
I see and note in all your burning flames,
have opened wide my trust, even as the sun
dilates the rose, whene'er its petals ope
as widely as they can. Because of this
I pray thee, father; do thou, then, inform me
if I am worthy to receive such grace,
as to behold thee with thy face unveiled."

Then "Brother," he replied, "thy great desire
in the last sphere above shall be fulfilled,
where all thine others are, and mine as well.
Every desire is perfect there, mature
and whole; in that sphere only is each part
where it has always been; for it is not
in space, nor turns on poles, and up to it
our Ladder reaches; and because of this
it steals itself away beyond thy ken.
Jacob, the patriarch, beheld it stretch
thus far its upper portion, when of old
laden with Angels it appeared to him.
But from the earth, to climb it, no one now
removes his feet, and my monastic rule
remains but as a means of wasting paper.
Walls which of old an abbey used to be,
have now become the dens of thieves, and cowls
are sacks now, filled with naught but wretched meal.
But heavy usury doth not rebel
against God's will, as much as doth the fruit
which renders so insane the hearts of monks;
for, whatsoe'er the Church may hold in trust,
is all for those that ask it in God's name,
and not for relatives, or what is worse.
So soft the flesh of mortals is, that good
beginnings do not last as long below,
as from an oak's until its acorn's birth.
Peter began with neither gold nor silver,
and I, with prayers and fasts began my convent,
as Francis, with humility, did his.
And if thou look at each of these beginnings,
and then consider whither each hath run,
thou 'lt see that what was white hath turned to brown.
Jordan turned backward, and the water fleeing
when God so willed, were much more wonderful
to see, in fact, than succor would be here."

He thus addressed me; to his company
thereat returning, they together closed;
then, like a whirlwind, all were upward rapt.

The gentle Lady up that Ladder's rounds
urged me behind them by a sign alone,
her virtue so o'ercame my natural weight;
nor here below, where one goes up and down
by natural law, was motion e'er so swift,
as to be equal to my pinions' flight.

So may I, Reader, once again return
to that celestial triumph, for whose sake
I oft bewail my sins and smite my breast;
thou hadst not drawn away and put thy finger
as quickly into fire, as I beheld
the sign which follows Taurus, and was in it.

O glorious stars, O light, that pregnant art
with mighty virtue, from which I acknowledge
all of my genius, whatsoe'er it be;
with you was born, and in your midst was hiding
he who is father of all mortal life,
when first I breathed the Tuscan air; and then,
when grace had been bestowed upon me here
to enter that high wheel which turns you round,
your region was the one allotted me.
To you my sighing soul devoutly prays,
that it may now acquire the power it needs
for that hard task, which draws her to itself."

"To Ultimate Salvation thou art now
so near," in answer Beatrice began,
"that clear should be thine eyes, and keen their sight.
Therefore, ere further thou in-it thyself,
look downward, and behold how great a world
I have already set beneath thy feet;
so that thy heart, as joyous as it can,
may show itself to that triumphant throng
which happy comes through this ethereal sphere."

Then with my vision I returned through one
and all seven spheres, and this globe I beheld
such that its mean appearance made me smile;
hence that opinion I approve as best
which deems it least; and just may he
be called, who sets his thought on something else.

Latona's daughter I enkindled saw
without the shadow which was once the cause
of my believing her both rare and dense.
The countenance, Hyperion, of thy son
I here sustained; and saw how near to him
both Maia and Dịne round him move.
And after this, the temperance of Jove
appeared to me, between his son and sire;
and clear the reason for their change of place.
All seven of them were thus revealed to me,
how great they are, how swift, and far apart
in their abodes. The little threshing-floor
which maketh us so fierce, was as a whole
revealed to me, from hills to river-mouths,
while I was circling with the eternal Twins.

Back to the lovely eyes I then turned mine.

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