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

The Empyrean. GOD. The Angels and the Blest. The River of Light. The Mystic Rose. The Throne of Henry VII

The sixth hour glows perhaps six thousand miles
away from us, and now our world inclines
its shadow to a nearly level bed;
mid-heaven the while, which lies so deep above us,
is growing such, that now and then a star
is lost to our perception here below;
till, as the brightest handmaid of the sun
advances further, star by star, the sky,
even to the fairest, closes to our view.

Not otherwise the Triumph, which forever
plays round about the Point which vanquished me,
and seems contained by what Itself contains,
little by little faded from my sight;
my seeing nothing, therefore, and my love
forced me to look again at Beatrice.

If what has hitherto been said of her
were all included in a single praise,
but little would it serve my present turn.
The beauty which I then beheld, transcends
not us alone, but truly I believe
its Maker only can enjoy it all.

And herewith I confess myself o'erwhelmed
more than a tragic or a comic poet
was ever by a crisis in his theme;
for as the sun the sight that trembles most,
so the remembrance of her lovely smile
deprives my memory of its very self.

From the first day when I beheld her face
in this life, till this present sight of it,
I've never ceased from following her in song;
but now must my pursuit desist from tracing
her beauty's progress further in my verse,
as at his utmost every artist must.

Such, as I leave her to a louder cry
than that of mine own trump, which draweth now
its arduous matter to its closing, she,
with a quick leader's mien and voice, resumed:

"We now have issued from the greatest body
into the Heaven which is itself pure Light;
Light intellectual which is full of Love,
Love of true Goodness which is full of Joy;
Joy which transcendeth every kind of Pleasure.

Here both the soldieries of Paradise
shalt thou behold, and one in that array,
which at the Final Judgment thou shalt see."

Like a quick lightning-flash which scatters so
the visual faculties that it prevents

the eye's reacting to the brightest objects;
ev'n so a living Light around me shone,
and left me swathed about by such a veil
of its effulgence, that I lost my sight.

"The Love which calms this last heaven always welcomes
into its midst by greetings such as this,
and thus adapts the candle to the flame."

No sooner had these few brief words of hers
attained mine inner ear, than I perceived
that I was being raised above my powers;
hence, with new sight I so rekindled me,
that there cannot exist so bright a light
that now mine eyes could not endure to see it.

Light in a River's form I then beheld,
which glowed refulgently between two banks,
adorned with wondrous hues of early spring.
And from this River issued living sparks,
which settled everywhere among the flowers,
and looked like rubies set in gold; and then,
as if intoxicated by its odors,
into the wondrous River plunged again,
another coming out, if one went in.

"The deep desire which now inflameth thee,
and urges thee to know what thou art seeing,
the better pleases me, the more it grows.
But of this water it behooves thee drink,
before so great a thirst as thine is slaked."
So said to me the Sunlight of mine eyes.

"The River and the topaz lights, which come
and go," she added, "and the smiling grass
are prefaces foreshadowing their truth;
not that imperfect in themselves they are,
but that deficiency exists in thee,
because thy sight is not yet strong enough."

There is no little child that turns its face
so quickly toward its milk, on waking up
much later than hath been its wont, as I,
to make far better mirrors of mine eyes,
leaned over toward the Stream which only flows
that we therein may be the better made.

Soon as mine eyelids' eaves had drunk of it,
it seemed to me transformed from long to round;
and then, like folk who under masks have been,
and different seem from what they were before,
when once divested of the alien looks,
wherein their self had disappeared; ev'n so
the flowers and sparks had changed themselves for me
into a feast far greater, so that clearly
I now beheld both Courts of Heaven revealed.

O Splendor of my God, whereby I saw
the exalted Triumph of the Realm of Truth,
give me the power to tell what I perceived!

There is a Light up yonder, which allows
its Maker to be seen by every creature
which only hath its peace in seeing Him;
and in a circle's form it spreadeth out
to such extent, that its circumference
would be too broad a girdle for the sun.
Its whole appearance from a ray proceeds
reflected from the summit of the First
Moved Sphere, which from it takes its life and potency.

And as within the water at its base
a hill reflects itself, as if to see
its slopes adorned, when rich with leaves and flowers;
thus, ranged above and all around the Light,
mirrored on o'er a thousand tiers I saw
all that of us have yet returned up there.
And if the lowest row within itself
gathers so great a light, how great must be
this Rose's width in its remotest petals?

Nor did my vision of its breadth or height
lose itself in them, but embraced the whole
extent and inmost nature of this Joy.
There near, nor far, nor add, nor take away;
for there where God unmediated rules,
in no way doth the natural law obtain.

Into the yellow of the Eternal Rose,
which outward spreads in tiers, whose fragrance praises
the Sun which makes an everlasting spring,
was I, like one who, fain to speak, keeps silent,
led on by Beatrice, who said to me:
"Behold how vast the white robed Convent is!
Behold how wide the circuit of our Town!
Behold our benches so completely filled,
that few are now the people longed for here!

On that great seat, whereon thine eyes are fixed
by reason of the crown which rests there now,
or e'er thou sup at this our wedding feast,
shall sit the soul, august to be below,
of that great Henry who shall come to set
Italia straight, ere she shall be prepared.
The blinding greed which now bewitches you
hath made you mortals like a child, who, though
he die of hunger, drives his nurse away.

And in the sacred Forum such an one
shall Prefect be, that he'll not go one road
with him, in open or in covert ways.
But in his holy office he will not
be long endured by God; for hurled he'll be
where Simon Magus is for his reward,
and deeper down shall thrust Alagna's man."

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