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

The Eighth or Starry Heaven. The Twins
Triumphant Spirits. St. James examines Dante on Hope

If e'er it happen that the Sacred Poem,
to which both Heaven and earth have so set hand,
that it hath made me lean for many years,
o'ercome the fierceness which against me bars
the lovely fold, where as a lamb I slept,
though hostile to the wolves that give it war;
then, with another voice and other fleece
a Poet I'll return, and at the font
of mine own baptism take the laurel crown;
for there I entered first into the Faith,
which makes souls known to God, and Peter later,
because of my belief, thus wreathed my brow.

Then toward us, after this, there moved a light
out of the sphere, from which the first-fruit issued,
which of his vicars Christ once left behind;
and, full of joy, my Lady said to me:
"Look, look! Behold the Baron, for whose sake
men go to see Galicia down on earth!"

As, when a dove alighteth near its mate,
each, by its circling and its cooing, shows
the other its affection; thus I saw
one great and glorious Prince the other greet,
and praise the food
which sateth them up there.
But when their mutual gratulations ceased,
before me each in silence stopped, and flamed
so brightly, that my face was forced to bow.

Then, smiling, Beatrice: "Illustrious life,
by whom the generous liberality
of our basilica was once described,
let Hope resound upon these heavenly heights;
thou know'st that thou didst stand for it, as oft
as Jesus showed most brightness to the three."

"Lift up thy head, and reassure thyself;
for all that cometh from the mortal world
up hither, must be ripened in our rays."

This comfort reached me from the second fire;
hence to the hills I raised mine eyes, which erst
had bowed them down by their excessive weight.

"Since, of His Graciousness, our Emperor wills
that thou, before thy death, shouldst face His Counts
in His most secret hall; that, having seen
the truth in this our court, thou mayst confirm,
both in thyself and other souls, the Hope,
which rightfully enamors men on earth;
say what it is, and how therewith thy mind
is blossoming, and whence it came to thee."
Thus, further, did the second light proceed.

And that kind soul who to so high a flight
had led the feathers of my wings, forestalled
my answer thus:

"No child of greater hope
hath the Church Militant, as in the Sun
is written, which irrądiates all our band,
it, therefore, hath been granted him to come
from Egypt to Jerusalem, and see,
or e'er the period of his warfare end.
Thine other two requests, made not for knowledge,
but so that he may carry back with him
to what extent this virtue pleases thee,
I leave to him, for they will not be hard
for him, nor matter for self-praise; to these
let him reply, and may God's Grace assist him."

Even as in that wherein he expert is,
a pupil readily and willingly
answers his teacher, that his worth be shown;
"Hope is" I said, "a steadfast expectation
of future glory, which by Grace divine
and by preceding merit is produced.
This light from many stars comes down to me;
but he into my heart instilled it first,
who was the Greatest Leader's greatest bard.
For "'Let them hope in Thee, that know Thy Name!'
the latter in his theody declares,
and, if he have my faith, who knows it not?
Then, thou with his instilling, didst so greatly
instill that hope in me with thine epistle,
that, filled with it, I pour your rain on others."

While I was speaking, in the living bosom
of that great fire, a bright effulgence quivered
quickly and often, like a lightning-flash;
and then it breathed: "The love wherewith I still
warm to the virtue which once followed me,
till with the palm I issued from the field,
would have me give my breath to thee again,
that dost therein delight; and I am pleased
to have thee say what promise Hope affords thee."

And I: "The Scriptures, both the new and old
the goal establish of the souls whom God
hath made His friends; this points it out to me.
Isaiah says that each in his own land
will in a double garment be arrayed;
and his own land is this sweet life of ours;
and, in a more explicit way, thy brother
makes this same revelation manifest
to us, where of the snow white robes the treats."

After these words had ended, first was heard
above us, "Let them hope in Thee," whereto
all of the carols made reply; and then
a light became so brilliant in their midst,
that, if the Crab had such a crystal star,
winter would have a month of one sole day.

And as a happy maiden, rising, goes,
in honor of the bride, to join the dance,
and not for any failing on her part;
even so I saw the splendor, brighter grown,
approach the two, who in a wheel were turning,
as it behooved the ardor of their love.
Into the song and music then it entered;
and on the three my Lady kept her gaze,
silent and motionless as would a bride.

"This is the one who on His breast reclined,
who is our Pelican, and from the Cross
selected was, to hold the filial office."
Even thus my Lady spoke;
but no more after did her words withdraw
her eyes from fixed attention, than before.

Even as is he, who gazes at the sun,
and tries to see it partially eclipsed,
and who, because of seing, groweth blind;
such I became before that latest fire,
till this was said: "Why dost thou blind thyself,
to see a thing which hath no being here?
Earth is my body on the earth, and there
will with the others stay, until our number
shall with the eternal purpose correspond.
With both their garments in the blessčd cloister
are those two Lights alone, which hither rose;
and this shalt thou take back unto your world."

Stilled was the flaming circle at these words,
and with them that sweet mixture which was formed
out of the music of the threefold breath,
as, from fatigue or danger to escape,
oars, which had stroked the water just before,
are at a whistle's sound all brought to rest.

Ah, how disturbed in mind I then became,
when I turned round to look at Beatrice,
because I could not see her now, though close
to her I was, and in the happy world!

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