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

The Eighth or Starry Heaven. The Twins
St. Peter examines Dante on Faith

"O Fellowship elected to the banquet
of that Blest Lamb, who feedeth you so well,
that ever sated is your appetite;
since, by the grace of God, this man enjoys
a foretaste of what falleth from your table,
or ever death have set his time for him,
heed his immense desire, and on him shed
a little of your dew! Ye from the Source
forever drink, whence cometh what he thinks."

Thus Beatrice; thereat those happy spirits
arranged themselves in spheres on steady poles,
emitting brilliant flames, as comets do.
And ev'n as wheels within the works of clocks
so turn, for one who heeds them, that the first
seems quiet, while the last appears to fly;
even so, since at a different speed they whirled,
those carol-dances, whether swift or slow,
permitted me to estimate their wealth.

From that one which I deemed of greatest beauty,
I saw a fire so happy issue forth,
that none it left of greater brightness there;
then around Beatrice it turned three times
with so divine a song, that even my fancy
repeats it not for me; and so my pen
takes a leap forward, and I write it not;
for our imagination, much more speech,
too bright a color is to paint such folds.

"O holy sister mine, who so devoutly
dost pray to us, thou, by thine ardent love,
withdrawest me from yonder lovely sphere."
When once at rest again, that blessèd fire
turned toward my Lady with his voice, which spoke
as I have said. And she replied to him:

"O thou eternal life of that great man,
to whom of this great joy our Lord bequeathed
the Keys which He brought down; test thou this man
as pleases thee, on questions light and grave
pertaining to the Faith, which formerly
enabled thee to walk upon the sea.
If well he love, well hope, and well believe,
is not concealed from thee, because thy sight
is thither turned where all is seen depicted;
but since this Realm hath through the true Faith won
its citizens, 't is well that, to its glory,
it should befall him now to speak of it."

Even as a bachelor equips himself
- nor speaks, until the master states the question -
to furnish proofs, but not decide the same;
so I, while she was speaking, armed myself,
with every proof, that I might ready be
for such a questioner, and such confession.

"Speak now, good Christian, and declare thyself;
What, then, is Faith?" Thereat I raised my brow
toward the bright light from which these words were breathed;
and then I turned around toward Beatrice,
and she by rapid signals bade me pour
the water forth from my internal fount.

"The Grace which grants that I confess myself
before the first Centurion," I began,
"cause my conceptions to be well expressed."
And I continued: "As the truthful pen
of thy dear brother, Father, who with thee
set Rome upon the right way, wrote of it,
Faith is the substance of the hoped for things,
and the evidence of those that are not seen;
this seems to me its essence." Then I heard:

"Thou thinkest right, if well thou understand
why with the substances he placed it first,
and with the evidences afterward."

Thereat I answered: "Those deep truths which here
are freely making themselves known to me,
from eyes down yonder are so far concealed,
that their existence lies in Faith alone,
and thereupon the lofty Hope is based;
it, therefore, takes the nature of a substance;
and from this Faith one needs must syllogize
without the help of any other sight; it, therefore,
assumes the nature of an evidence."

And then I heard: "If thus were understood
all that for doctrine is acquired below,
there 'd be no room there for the sophist's mind."

These words were breathed from that enkindled love,
which added then: "Already have this coin's
alloy and weight been very well examined;
but tell me if thou hast it in thy purse."

I, therefore: "Yes, so shining and so round,
that nothing in its coinage makes me doubt."

Then issued from the deep light shining there:
"Whence did this precious jewel come to thee,
whereon all virtues else are based?" And I:

"The abundant showers of the Holy Spirit,
outpoured upon the parchments old and new,
a syllogism have formed,
which prove it true
so clearly to me, that, all other proofs
seem inconclusive when compared with it.

"The Ancient Premise and the New," I then
heard asked, "which so conclusive are to thee,
why dost thou take them for the word of God?"

And I: "The proof which showeth me the truth,
are those great works which followed, works for which
Nature ne'er heated iron, nor anvil smote."

Then I was answered: "Say what makes thee sure
that those works e'er occurred? The very thing
which calls for proof, none other, tells thee so."

"If to Christianity the world was turned,"
I said, "unhelped by miracles, then this
is such, that not a hundredth are the rest;
for thou didst poor and fasting go afield,
to sow the goodly plant, which was of old
a vine, and now has turned into a thorn."

This ending thus, the high and holy Court
resounded through the spheres a "God we praise!"
sung to the melody they sing up there.

That Baron then, who thus from branch to branch
had tested me, and now had led me on,
until the final leaves were drawing near,
began again: "The Grace which with thy mind
holds loving converse, hitherto hath oped
thy mouth as it should be; hence I approve
of that which it hath uttered; but it now
behooves thee say what thou believest in,
and whence it has been offered to thy faith."

"O holy father, spirit that dost now
behold what thou didst so believe, that thou
didst outrun toward the tomb far younger feet,"
I thus began, "thou 'dst have me now reveal
the essential part of my sincere belief,
and thou dost also ask the cause of it.

And I reply: In One God I believe,
Sole and Eternal, who, Himself unmoved,
moves all the heavens with Love and with Desire;
and I, for so believing, have not only
proofs physical and metaphysical,
but that truth also yieldeth me its proof,
which hence rains down through Moses, psalms and prophets,
and through the Gospel, and through you, who wrote
after the Flaming Spirit made you shepherds.

And I believe in three Eternal Persons,
and these to be one Essence, so both one
and trine, that they can be conjoined by are and is.

Of the divine profound estate whereto
I now refer, the teaching of the Gospel
sets many times the seal upon my mind.
This is the fountain-head, and this the spark,
which after spreads into a living flame,
and in me glows, as stars do in the sky."

As when a lord, hearing what pleases him,
rejoices in the news his servant brings,
and takes him to his arms, when he is silent;
so, giving me his blessing as he sang,
that Apostolic light, at whose command
I spoke, when I had ceased, thrice girdled me;
so greatly had I pleased him by my words.

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