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

The Ninth Heaven. Primum Mobile. The Angelic Hierarchies
The Creation, the Nature and the Number of the Angels

When, by the Ram and by the Scales surmounted,
both children of Latona make together
a girdle of the earth's horizon line,
as long as from the moment when the zenith
holds them in equipoise, till from that girdle
both free themselves by changing hemisphere;
only so long did Beatrice keep silent,
a smile her face adorning, as she gazed
intently on the Point which vanquished me.

She then began: "I tell, but do not ask,
what thou art fain to hear, for I have seen it
where every Where and every When is fixed.

Not for the gain of good unto Himself,
which is not possible, but that His Splendor
might in resplendency declare 'I AM,'
in His Eternity, outside of time,
out of all limits else, the Eternal Love,
as pleased Him, in new loves disclosed Himself.
Nor yet ere this did He remain inert,
for neither after nor before, occurred
God's going to and fro upon these waters.

Both form and matter, simple and conjoined,
came into being which had no defect,
even as three arrows from a three-stringed bow;
and as in glass, in amber or in crystal,
a ray so shines, that from the time it comes
till its completion, is no interval;
thus from its Lord did that triform effect
ray forth into its being all at once,
without distinction as to its beginning.

Order was concreate, and for the substances
ordained; and highest in the world were those
in whom activity was brought forth pure.
Pure potentiality the lowest place assumed;
and 'tween these two so strong a bond activity
and potentiality conjoined, that never will it be unbound.

Jerome concerning Angels wrote for you
that their creation was an age-long tract
of time before the remnant world was made;
but written is this truth in many places
by writers of the Holy Ghost; and there
thou 'lt see it, if but carefully thou look;
and reason, too, sees this to some extent,
for it could not acknowledge that the Motors
could be so long deprived of their perfection.

And now thou knowest where and when these loves
created were, and how; hence in thy longing
three ardors have already been extinguished.

Nor, counting, would one reach as far as twenty,
as quickly as a portion of the Angels
disturbed the lowest of your elements.
The rest remained; and with such great delight
began the art, which thou beholdest here,
that never from their circling have they ceased.
The Fall's occasion was the cursèd pride
of him, whom thou didst see oppressed by all
the burdens of the world. Those whom thou here
beholdest, modest were, and recognized
themselves as from that Goodness sprung, which apt
had made them for such great intelligence.
And therefore by illuminating Grace,
and by their merit, was their sight so raised,
that now a full and steadfast will is theirs.
Nor would I have thee doubt, but be assured,
that to receive God's Grace is meritorious,
according as affection opes to it.

And now concerning this consistory,
much canst thou contemplate without more help,
if thou hast apprehended well my words.
But seeing that on earth throughout your schools
men teach that such the Angelic nature is,
that it both understands, recalls and wills,
I'll further speak, that thou the simple truth
mayst see, which there below confounded is,
because the doctrine taught equivocates.

These substances, e'er since the face of God
first gladdened them, have not withdrawn
their eyes therefrom, whence nothing is concealed.
They have no vision which is interrupted,
therefore, by objects new to them, and hence
need not remember by divided thought;
folk, therefore, dream down there, though not asleep,
some thinking that their words are true, some not;
but greater is the latter's sin and shame.

And ye down yonder follow not one path,
when ye philosophize; so much doth love
of show, and being famed for it, transport you.
And yet with even less disdain is this
endured up here, than when the Holy Scripture
is set aside, or turned to wrong account.
No one considers there how much it costs
to sow it in the world, or how much he,
who humbly clings to it, gives pleasure here.
Each strives to call attention to himself,
making his own inventions; these are taught
by preachers, while the Gospel's voice is stilled.
One says that while the Christ was suffering death
the moon turned back, and interposed herself;
and hence the sun's light failed to reach the earth;
others that of its own accord the light
concealed itself, hence its eclipse affected
Spaniards and Hindoos, as it did the Jews.
Florence hath not so many Lapi and Bindi
as fables such as these, which all year long
are shouted from the pulpits everywhere;
hence the poor sheep, who do not know, return
from pasture fed on wind; nor doth the fact
that they see not that they are harmed, excuse them.
Christ did not say to His first company:
"Go and preach idle stories to the world!"
but gave them a foundation for the truth;
and that alone found utterance from their lips;
therefore, when striving to enkindle faith,
they used the Gospel as their shield and lance.
Men now go forth to preach with jests and tricks,
and so, if but a hearty laugh is raised,
the cowl puffs up, and nothing more is asked.
But in its tail there nestles such a bird,
that if the crowd perceived it, it would see
what that forgiveness is, in which it trusts;
therefore such folly hath increased on earth,
that without proof or other attestation,
to any kind of promise men would flock.
Saint Anthony is fattening thus his pig,
and others also fouler far than his,
by paying money void of coinage stamp.

But since a great digression we have made,
turn thine eyes backward to the straight road now,
that thus our way be shortened with our time.

This nature so exceedingly extends
in number, that there never was or speech,
or mortal thought, that could extend so far.
And if thou look at that which is disclosed
by Daniel, thou wilt see that in his 'thousands'
no well determined number is revealed.

The Primal Light, which rays out on it all,
is in as many ways therein received,
as are the lights wherewith It pairs Itself;
hence, since affection follows on the act
which understands, love's sweetness is therein
burning or warm in different degrees.

And now see how exceeding high and broad
is that Eternal Worth, which makes Itself
so many mirrors, whereupon It breaks,
while in Itself, as erst, remaining One!"

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