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

The Empyrean. GOD. The Angels and the Blest. The Order of the Rose. The Blessed Children. The Great Patricians

Intent on his delight, that contemplator
the office of a teacher took unasked,
and thereupon began these holy words:

"The one so beautiful at Mary's feet
is she who opened and who made the wound,
which Mary closed again, and then anointed.
In the order which up there the third seats make,
Rachel beneath her sits with Beatrice,
as thou perceivest.

Sarah, Rebecca, Judith,
and she who was that singer's ancestress,
who said when he was grieving for his sin:
"Have mercy on me," thou canst thus behold
downward from rank to rank, as each I name,
and through the Rose decline from leaf to leaf.

Descending from the seventh row of seats,
even as above it, Hebrew women follow,
dividing all the tresses of the Flower;
for in accordance with the attitude
their faith assumed toward Christ, these women form
the wall which separates the sacred steps.

On this side, where full-bloomed the Flower is,
complete with all its leaves, are seated those
who in the Christ that was to come believed;
and on the other, where the semicircles
are interrupted by still vacant seats,
are those who faced toward Christ already come.

And as on this side here the glorious throne
of Heaven's own Lady, and the other seats
beneath it, such a great partition make;
so, opposite, the seat of that great John,
who, ever holy, underwent the desert
and martyrdom, and then two years in Hades;
while Francis, Benedict and Augustine
beneath him were decreed to form the line
with others down to here, from round to round.

And now behold how great God's foresight is;
for each of these two aspects of the Faith
will fill this Garden to the same extent.

And know that downward from the row of seats,
which midway separates the two divisions,
no one is seated for his own deserts,
but for another's, under fixed conditions;
for all of these are spirits who were freed
before they had the power to really choose.
This by their faces thou canst well perceive,
and by their childish voices furthermore,
if, looking at them well, thou listen, too.

Thou doubtest now, and, doubting, thou art silent;
but I will set thee free from that strong bond
wherein thy subtle thoughts are holding thee.

Within the ample nature of this Realm
nothing can any more occur by chance,
than either sadness, thirst or hunger can;
for in accordance with eternal law
is settled all thou seest, so that here
close-fitting to the finger is the ring.
These people, therefore, who before their time
have reached true life, are not without good cause
more excellent, or less, among themselves.
The King, through whom this Kingdom finds repose
in such delight and love, that no one's will
is bold enough to long for any greater;
creating all minds in His own glad sight,
as Him it pleases, dowers each with Grace
in divers ways; here let the fact suffice.
And this is clearly and expressly marked
for you in Holy Scripture by those twins
who in their mother had their wrath aroused.
According to the color of the hair
of that Grace, therefore, must the Light supreme
be worthily accorded as a crown.
Without deserving aught, then, for their deeds,
are these to different grades assigned, which differ
in their innate keen-sightedness alone.
The faith of parents only was, indeed,
with innocence, enough for their salvation,
throughout the centuries of early times.
Then, when the primal ages had elapsed,
males were by circumcision forced to win
the virtue needed by their guileless wings;
but later, when the age of Grace had come,
without the perfect baptism in the Christ,
such innocence was there below retained.

But now look at the face which to the Christ
is most resemblant; for its light alone
can make thee ready to behold the Christ."

I saw such gladness raining down on her,
borne by those holy minds, created such
that they might fly across those altitudes,
that whatsoever I had seen before
ne'er held me with such admiration poised,
nor showed me such resemblance unto God.

And that same love which first descended there,
"Ave Maria, Gratia plena," singing,
spread out his open wings in front of her.
And on all sides the beatific Court
made such an answer to the song divine,
that every face became the more serene.

"O holy father, who for me dost bear
to be down here, and leave the pleasant place,
where by eternal lot thou hast thy seat,
who is that Angel who with such delight
is at our Queen's eyes gazing, and is so
enamored, that he seems to be on fire?"

For teaching I had thus recourse again
to him who was from Mary drawing beauty,
as from the sun the early morning star.

And he to me: "As much self-trust and grace
as can be in an Angel or a soul,
are all in him; and we would have it so;
for he it was who carried down the palm
to Mary, when God's Son upon Himself
was pleased to take the burden of our flesh.

But with thine eyes now follow after me,
as I keep speaking; and note the great Patricians
of this most just and kind Imperial State.
The two that have the happiest seats up there,
because the nearest to Augusta's throne,
are, as it were, the two roots of this Rose.
He that upon the left is at her side,
that Father is, because of whose bold taste
the human species tastes such bitterness;
and on her right thou see'st that ancient Father
of Holy Church, to whom Christ gave in trust
the Keys of this fair Flower. And he who saw,
ere dying, all that fair Bride's troubled days,
who with the spear and with the nails was won,
beside him sits; and at the other's side
that Leader rests, 'neath whom the ingrate folk,
stiff-necked and fickle-minded, lived on manna.

Anna thou seest sitting opposite
to Peter, so content to see her daughter,
that never from her doth she move her eyes,
although 'Hosanna!' singing; o'er against
the oldest Father of a family
Luca sits, who had thy Lady go,
when thou thy brows in downward flight didst turn.

But since apace thy slumber-time is fleeing,
here will we pause, as that good tailor does,
who cuts his gown according to his cloth;
and toward the Primal Love direct our eyes,
that, looking toward Him, thou mayst penetrate
as far into His Splendor as thou canst.
But lest, perchance, by moving thine own wings,
thou shouldst recede, believing to advance,
Grace needs must be obtained for thee by prayer;
Grace from the one who hath the power to help thee;
hence follow after me with thine affection,
that from my words thy heart turn not aside."

He then began the following holy prayer:

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